Aiguille à peau?! Or more Chinookan-Salish?
One proposed French etymology that we can toss right out is the following flight of imagination…
Bloodletting needles: the top result in a Google image search on “aiguille à peau”, November 27, 2020
In his “Philology” volume that’s part of the report of the US Exploring Expedition, Horatio Hale (1846:639) terms the etymology of Chinuk Wawa’s word < kiapōt > (k’ípʰwat), meaning ‘needle; sew’, “doubtful”. “Doubtful” is 19th-century talk for ‘uncertain’.
Here’s his entry for it:
While he doesn’t feel the confidence necessary to include this word among CW’s French-etymology lexemes, he suggests “qu[aere] aiguille à peau?“. Quaere, or query, means in effect “perhaps”. The rest is French for ‘needle for skin’; I imagine it could be more idiomatic to write aiguille à peaux (‘…for skins’).
There are many too many problems with this suggestion for it to work:
- What happened to the initial vowel of the French word aiguille? CW doesn’t drop segments in this position.
- The correspondence of /k’/ : /g/ would be unique for a European loanword.
- The French word has /üi/ at the end, and we have little to no evidence that CW would render this as /i/.
- The CW word’s final /t/ would be totally unexplainable if the source word were French.
- Morphological: Most French loan nouns carry a definite article along with them into CW; in the absence of an initial /l/ in the word, *aiguille…* is a weirdie.
- Syntactic: Extremely few entire French phrases successfully got integrated into Chinuk Wawa. (I can think of loup marin > ‘sea wolf’ ⇒ < lumaran > ‘seal’, reported by Hale; t’as pas honte ‘you have no shame’ ⇒ < tapahote > ‘shame’, l’habit court ⇒ lapikwo ‘frock, short coat’.) So all things considered, we should be skeptical of any claim about another phrasal loan.
- Semantic/pragmatic: It’s unclear to me that aiguille à peau has ever been a commonly used phrase in French varieties. Various tries at Google searching are giving me the sense that this is quite a rare pairing of words.
All of this is more than sufficient to disprove a French etymology for k’ipʰwat.
Besides, there’s a solid-enough etymology for it in Chinookan languages, as the Grand Ronde Tribes 2012 dictionary shows: there are Clackamas (Upper Chinookan) nouns i-k’ipwa ‘awl’ and a-k’ipwa ‘needle’.
I’ve also found a Kathlamet (Lower Chinookan) verb iɬgíyupčx ‘they sewed [it] together’, which perhaps contains a related root (-giyup?).
These notes lead us to an observation made in the 2012 Grand Ronde dictionary — that the Chinookan nouns lack the final /t/ seen in the CW form. GR 2012 suggests tentatively that -at is a Chinookan derivational suffix. They point to Dell Hymes’ 1955 dissertation on Kathlamet, which calls this -at “of uncertain significance” in its occurrences in words for ‘his anus’ and ‘his feet’. This is a reasonably plausible view.
I might just add a suggestion: If this suffix is unanalyzable in Chinookan, then it’s perhaps a morpheme borrowed from an unrelated language such as neighbouring Salish. Indeed, in Lower Chehalis Salish for example, a common derivational suffix occurring at the end of nouns is -t(‘) ‘Instrumental’, i.e. ‘a thing used for’ this-or-that. Such a meaning would work perfectly in a word like ‘awl’ or ‘needle’, perhaps built on a root ‘sew, stitch’ that I may have found above. (Moreover, these local Salish languages also use the Instrumental suffix in words for ‘anus’ that literally mean ‘farting-instrument’.)
Once again, I’m putting forth the observation that etymologies of Chinuk Wawa words often are partly or wholly indeterminate between Chinookan and Salish.
One thing is certain — CW ‘needle; sew’ is not among the many Canadian French loans in the language!
I agree that this word cannot be of French origin. The French word for “awl”, ‘(une) alène’, was known regionally, as in “Coeur d’alène” ‘heart of an awl’ (a nickname for stingy, uncharitable people). The tool (oEuropean manufacture) was of common use among the people handling animal skins, so there was no need for anyone tto make up a French phrase for it. In any case, the CW word is not phonologically compatible with the alleged French origin.
But needles or awls of pre-contact manufacture (most likely from sharp bones, as known in many archeological sites from many places in the world, going back thousands of years) must have long existed in order to be used to assemble animal skins for clothing, baga, blankets, teepees and otherr items, so the CW word must have come from a Native language, its meaning enlarged or shifted to refer to the imported metal awl.
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