Be there, go there: get right on it
Among the countless facts of Chinuk Wawa that only become clear once you leave dictionaries behind…
(Image credit: English Baby)
…and examine connected speech such as stories and conversations…is this one.
CW motion verbs, and location “be”-verbs, carry the implication of a particular location.
So in stories and such, I translate q’úʔ (BC teaching alphabet: k‘o’) ‘arrive’ as ‘got there’. Likewise:
- ɬátwa (tlatawá ‘go’) is typically ‘go there’,
- cháku (chako ‘come’) usually means ‘come here’,
- kúri (kooli, in its sense ‘to travel; move’) carries the idea of ‘travel somewhere’
- míɬayt (mitlait; ‘be located’), which in actual usage is often equivalent to ‘stayed there’, ‘sat there’,
- mítxwit (mitwhit, ‘stand’), often ‘be standing there’
The point in listing all of these examples together is to say, you don’t need to mention the destination or location of the verb, if that place is already clear!
This has big effects on how sentences are put together, making them pretty different from what you typically hear in English. (Just to draw a contrast with the language that most of my current readers use daily.)
Plus, this whole implied-location thing very much resembles Chinook Wawa’s “silent it” pronoun.
That inanimate / nonspecific 3rd-person has extremely similar implications for the structure of sentences, relieving us of any need to say out loud the nonhuman subject or object of a clause. Again, this is so if the identity of that thing is already established in the hearer’s mind.
So, generalizing: Chinook Jargon has a broad preference, or habit, of leaving out words for things that are considered obvious in the context of conversation.
Today’s lesson, in turn, ties right in with an observation that I’ve previously shared here. In unscientific wording, it’s this: DON’T TALK FLOWERY in CW.
This language is a lean, mean, efficient machine — as are all languages. It does have colorful metaphors (southern-dialect tatís ‘flower(s)’, for instance, also means ‘pretty things (to wear)’), and there’s been some decent poetry and song lyrics in it. But the Jargon doesn’t well tolerate you spewing out words that have little connection with, or that delay, a purposeful communication.
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