Negated Characteristic wik-kəmtəks-

Now that I’ve gone and given you a complete list of expressions that Father St Onge’s 1892 manuscript dictionary shows for the < komtoks- > HabitualCharacteristic” prefix…

Ignorantia juris non excusat.

(Image credit: TheLadyParty)

…I should do the same for its mighty interesting negative counterpart.

St O indeed compiles quite a number of expressions beginning with wík kəmtəks- (literally ‘not-know-), the negated counterpart to the above.

By the way, this structure and its positive version are primarily Southern dialect, used in the greater Columbia River area. 

Interestingly, the wík here is not fundamentally a prefix. By this, I mean that wík is the usual Southern-dialect negator of predicates, including all verbs. And kəmtəks is fundamentally a verb ‘to know (how)’.

The tricky thing is that kəmtəks has “grammaticalized” into an innovative Characteristic prefix. The many negated occurrences of it, which we’re about to look at, might at first blush seem like a separate, compound, negative prefix wik-kəmtəks-.

But I maintain that what we see, in each instance, with the presence of wík is not itself prefixal. It’s an unremarkable, usual occurrence of the southern dialect’s generic predicate-negator. So each of these expressions today is literally saying ‘not prone to ___’, wik kəmtəks-___.

(If the kəmtəks-___ Characteristic structure existed in the northern dialect, we would predict its corresponding negative would be hilu kəmtəks-___.)  

Up front, I can specify that there are a few strings written as < wek-komtoks- > by St Onge (he uses lots of dashes!) that can equally well, or better, be read with literal meanings ʹnot know(ing)…ʼ

Some wind up seeming more like relative clauses — ‘(a person) who doesn’t know such-&-such’ — instead of the basically declarative Stative-verb phrases that we’re talking about today. Here are a couple from St Onge, who (perhaps relevantly) translates each with a word that can be taken as a noun in English:

  • < wek-komtoks-pus-komtoks-nawitka >
    [wík kə́mtəks pus kə́mtəks nawítka]
    not know if know indeed
  • < wek-komtoks-man >
    [wík kə́mtəks mán]
    not know man
    (that is, a woman who does not “know” men)
  • < wek-komtoks-la >
    [wík kə́mtəks lá]
    not know law
    ʹlibertine, lawless, incontrolable [SIC], felon’
    (so, someone who does not recognize the law) 
  • < wek-komtoks-pepa >
    [wík kə́mtəks pípa]
    (someone who doesn’t know writing)

Further proof, I think, of the exceptional nature of the preceding, more literal, expressions is that they can be found in compounds, such as these two instances of [wík kə́mtəks lá] modifying a head noun; these phrases use exactly the same words as relative clauses would, but in a different order from them:

  • < wek-komtoks-la-man >
    [wík kə́mtəks lá]-mán
    [not recognizing law]-man
    A relative clause using these words would be mán [wík kə́mtəks lá], ‘a man who doesn’t recognize the law’.
  • < wek-komtoks-la-tai >
    [wík kə́mtəks lá]-táyí
    [not recognizing law]-leader
    The same words used as a relative clause would be táyí [wík kə́mtəks lá], ‘a leader who doesn’t recognize the law’.

A few of the expressions found incorporate a direct object, either a noun or an utterance:

  • < wek-komtoks-mokamok-lom >
    [wík kəmtəks-[mə́kʰmək lám]]
    not Characteristically-drink alcohol

  • < wek-komtoks-tlap-tanas >
    [wík kəmtəks-[t’ɬáp-tənás]]
    not Characteristically-[get-child]     

    (‘not liable to get pregnant’)
  • < wek-komtoks-wawa-wek >
    [wík kəmtəks-[wáwa-wík]]
    not Characteristically-[say-no]


Anyway, here below are the majority of St Onge’s < wek-komtoks- > phrases, the ones that he translates as adjectives, shown first in his own spellings. Many have a single head word: 

  • < wek-komtoks-hihi > 
    [wík kəmtəks-híhi]
    not Characteristically-laugh
    ʹsober, mirthless, sternʹ
  • < wek-komtoks-kapshwala >
    [wík kəmtəks-kápshwála]
  • < wek-komtoks-klahowiam >
    [wík kəmtəks-ɬáx̣áwyam]
    not Characteristically-pity
    ʹinexorable, pitilessʹ
  • < wek-komtoks-kwas >
    [wík kəmtəks-k’wás]
    not Characteristically-be.afraid
    ʹfearless, doughty, daunt[less], dare-devil, brave, audacious, bold, courageous’
  • < wek-komtoks-masache >
    [wík kəmtəks-másháchi]
    not Characteristically-be.evil
    ʹinoffensive, harmless, sinless’
  • < wek-komtoks-mimlust >
    [wík kəmtəks-míməlust]
    not Characteristically-die
  • < wek-komtoks-pait > 
    [wík kəmtəks-pʰáyt*]     (pʰáyt* is an old CW root not known in the Grand Ronde dictionary)
    not Characteristically-fight
    ʹpacific, peacefulʹ
  • < wek-komtoks-peie >
    [wík kəmtəks-pʰéyé*]    (pʰéyé* is an old CW root not known in the GR dictionary)
    not Characteristically-pay
    ʹdead-headʹ [SIC, i.e. ‘deadbeat’]
  • < wek-komtoks-saleks >
    [wík kəmtəks-sáliks]
    not Characteristically-be.angry
    ʹdispassionate, pacificʹ
  • < wek-komtoks-til >
    [wík kəmtəks-tʰíl]
    not Characteristically-be.tired
  • < wek-komtoks-tleminwhit >
    [wík kəmtəks-t’ɬəmínxwət]
    not Characteristically-deceive
    ʹhonest, guileless, accurateʹ

Some have a complex head word, as with these two instances of the frequent CW tə́mtəm structure:

  • < wek-komtoks-hihi-tomtom > 
    [wík kəmtəks-[híhi-tə́mtəm]]
    not Characteristically-laughing-heart
  • < wek-komtoks-klai-tomtom >
    [wík kəmtəks-[kʰiláy-tə́mtəm]]
    not Characteristically-crying-heart


It appears perfectly fine to have an inflected head word, taking Imperfective aspect hayu-, Inchoative aspect chako-, Causative voice mamuk-, etc.:

  • < wek-komtoks-aiu-mokamok > 
    [wík kəmtəks-[háyú mə́kʰmək]]
    not Characteristically-[a.lot/often eat] 

    (‘not tending to eat a lot/often’)
    / [wík kəmtəks-hayu-mə́kʰmək]
    not Characteristically-Progressive-eat

    (‘not tending to be eating’) 
  • < wek-komtoks-aiu-wawa > 
    [wík kəmtəks-[háyú wáwa]]
    not Characteristically-[a.lot talk] 

    (‘not tending to talk a lot’) 
    / [wík kəmtəks-hayu-wáwa]
    not Characteristically-Progressive-talk

    (‘not tending to be talking’)
    ‘laconic; taciturn’
  • < wek-komtoks-chako-h^oloima > 
    [wík kəmtəks-chaku-x̣lúyma]
    not Characteristically-Inceptive-be.different

    (‘not tending to become different’)
  • < wek-komtoks-chako-kaiwa > 
    [wík kəmtəks-chaku-q’áyʔwa]
    not Characteristically-Inceptive-be.crooked

    (‘not tending to get crooked’)
  • < wek-komtoks-chako-til-tomtom > 
    [wík kəmtəks-chaku-[tʰíl-tə́mtəm]]
    not Characteristically-Inceptive-be.tired-heart

    (‘not tending to get tired in spirit’)
  • < wek-komtoks-mamuk-tanas >
    [wík kəmtəks-mamuk-tənás]
    not Characteristically-Causative-be.a.child

    (‘not tending to make babies’)
    ʹsterile animal’
  • < wek-komtoks-mamuk-tlahowiam >
    [wík kəmtəks-mamuk-ɬáx̣áwyam]
    not Characteristically-Causative-pity
    (‘not tending to have pity’)


St. Onge also shows us head words that consist of an adverb plus a verb, either intransitive or with an incorporated object: 

  • < wek-komtoks-kaltas-hihi > 
    [wík kəmtəks-[kʰə́ltəs-híhi]]
    not Characteristically-idle-laugh

    (‘not tending to laugh just for fun’)
  • < wek-komtoks-kaltas-mash > 
    [wík kəmtəks-[kʰə́ltəs-másh]]
    not Characteristically-idle-spend
    ʹsaving, thriftyʹ
  • < wek-komtoks-kaltas-mash-ikta > 
    [wík kəmtəks-[[kʰə́ltəs-másh] íkta]]
    not Characteristically-idle-spend-anything
  • < wek-komtoks-tlet-mamuk >
    [wík kəmtəks-[drét-mámuk]]
    not Characteristically-[rightly-act]

  • < wek-komtoks-tlush-nanich >
    [wík kəmtəks-[ɬúsh-nánich]]
    not Characteristically-[well-watch.out]

    ʹheedless, careless, thoughtlessʹ

There are some truly indeterminate cases, very interesting to contemplate, which may refine our understanding of this structure. In the following case, the ambiguity occurs because shím is mostly an adjective in the Grand Ronde dictionary, but there are historical indications of its being a noun for some speakers: 

  • < wek-komtoks-shem >
    [wík kəmtəks-shím]
    not Characteristically-be.ashamed

    [wík kə́mtəks shím]
    not know shame          

    …both translated as ʹindecent, impudent, immodest, forward, bold, brazen, saucy, shameless’

One last example, which I admit is challenging to analyze but which I believe fits here, is the following, due to the ambiguity of < aias-mákuk > between a possible noun háyásh mákuk ‘big price’ and a possible adjectival stative verb hayas-mákuk ‘very expensive’. More research is needed on mákuk expressions of price in CW…

  • < wek-komtoks-kansih-aias-makuk > 
    [wík kə́mtəks qʰə́nchi [háyásh-mákuk]]
    not know how(.much) big-price

What do you think?