Tl’ap- ‘wind up doing, manage to do’ is old in CW

Many or most occurrences of t’łáp ‘to catch, to get, to receive’ in Chinuk Wawa clearly indicate someone intending — and working hard — to get hold of a physical object.

catch sick

The ‘catch illness’ metaphor is in English too (image credit: Venngage)

Thus, we see in Louis-Napoleon St Onge’s 1892 dictionary manuscript phrases like:

  • t’łáp-chíkʰamin-mán ‘miner’ (literally ‘get-metal-man’)
  • t’łáp-kʰapa-lepʰiyésh ‘insnare’ (‘get-with-trap’)

(I’m putting all cited words into the spelling style of the 2012 Grand Ronde Tribes dictionary today.)

However, there are also a lot of expressions involving t’łáp that don’t involve a physical thing being acted on, and/or don’t suggest intentional effort.

A number of those phrases are frequent enough that lexicographers have treated them as idioms, deserving of their own entries in a dictionary.

Demers-Blanchet-St Onge 1871, from 1840s data in the southern dialect, gives us these:

  • t’łáp-pʰéy ‘to be punished, have justice done’ (‘get-pay(back)’)
  • t’łáp-wáwa ‘learn a language’ (‘get-speech’)

St Onge 1892, likewise from southern CW but from 1870s data, includes:

  • t’łáp-sík ‘contagion’ (‘get-illness’)
  • tʹłáp-wín ‘inhale’ (‘get-breath’)

Chinook Book of Devotions 1902, from the northern dialect:

  • t’łáp-shím ‘be shamed’
  • t’łáp-háyú-tə́mtəm ‘be amazed’
  • t’łáp-tʰáym ‘find the time to do something’
  • t’łáp-łax̣á(w)yam ‘become pitiful’
  • t’łáp-hayu-kʰláy-tə́mtəm ‘become despondent’

Grand Ronde 2012 gives us these:

  • t’łáp-pílpil ‘to menstruate’ (‘get-blood’)
  • t’łáp-tenás ‘to give birth, have a baby’ (‘get-child’) … this phrase is well-known in northern dialect as well

My point here is that t’łáp- often appears to have a more-or-less prefixal, grammatical function, in all known eras of CW and across the dialects. That function is what I call ‘Out of Control’ in my dissertation on Kamloops Chinuk Wawa. (The label was inspired by Salish linguistics.) Its meaning can be characterized as the verbal subject’s managing to do something, or winding up experiencing something, without really having control over the outcome.  

This t’łáp- stands in meaningful contrast with a couple other expressions: most notably another change-of-state prefix, chaku- ‘become’ (which focuses more on the inception of a state/situation), but also ískam ‘to accept, to choose (to do) something’. 

One strong trend is that the t’łáp- expressions have to do with mental and bodily conditions (prototypically of human individuals). The chaku- formation, in my experience, tends to be used with everything else, from body parts to inanimate and abstract things.

Thus we have the above listed t’łáp- phrases for whole-body events, but expressions like chaku-kákshit yaka líma ‘his arm got broken’ (from a Kamloops Wawa article I was reading recently). 

This distinction is stronger in the northern dialect, and in older documentations, than in the recent data from Grand Ronde. The 2012 GR dictionary indicates that most changes of state are put as chaku- formations there. 

In any case I find it illuminating to show yet another likely instance where early-creolized CW developed a fairly elaborate grammar system. There’s been a tendency among those linguists who are even aware of Chinuk Wawa to suppose that the language “started out” quite minimal and only became “more complex” when it creolized at Grand Ronde Reservation. That’s an oversimplification.

What do you think?