sáʔ-formations in SW WA Salish…do they have something to do with Chinuk Wawa?

A root for ‘make’ that occurs mostly in compounds naturally makes me think of Chinuk Wawa’s mamuk- / munk- Causative prefix.

satsop nuclear facility-img_2155

The mothballed “Whoops” nuclear power plant in Satsop, WA (image credit: satsop.com)

I’m talking about the root sá(ʔ).

This is a distinctly SW Washington Salish (“Tsamosan”) root. It’s common to find roots in this branch of Salish that aren’t shared with the rest of that language family. (But perhaps compare, in another Olympic Peninsula Salish language, Klallam sá ‘to order (to do)’ or sáʔ ‘to lift’.) 

When not used as a simple inflected root, all occurrences of sá(ʔ) involve an incorporated object nominal (either a “lexical suffix” or an independent noun, including CW loans). 

Here’s the distribution of sá(ʔ) in SW WA Salish languages:

    • Plenty in Upper Chehalis.
    • A significant quantity in Lower Cowlitz (even though the known data on that language is fairly scarce).
    • Few obvious occurrences in Lower Chehalis; the possible ones are either Up/Cz loans (such as the place name sác(‘)əpš ‘Satsop’ [literally ‘it makes a stream’]), or better analyzed in other ways (such as s-ac-úl’əč ‘stomach used as container’ [literally ‘Noun-Stative-container’]); there are at least as many instances of x̣ə́l (a root that goes back to Proto-Salish; see under Quinault).
    • None in Quinault, which instead makes analogous formations starting with the root x̣ə́l (if you’re familiar with the southern-dialect CW word x̣íləməɬ ‘to work; job, work’, you know a Lower Chehalis-sourced cousin of that root).

This makes it look as if forms using the seemingly innovative sá(ʔ) root are restricted to the inland corridor from Lower Cowlitz territory (around Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River) northward to Upper Chehalis land (towards Fort Nisqually, southern Puget Sound). Therefore, we cannot reconstruct sá(ʔ) back even to Proto-SW WA Salish times.

And whether or not there’s a causal relation involved, that distribution correlates with a major zone of frontier-era Chinuk Wawa usage, at the time when CW was rapidly creolizing, becoming many people’s main language and exerting a great deal of influence on neighboring Indigenous languages. So maybe, just maybe, sá(ʔ)- forms represent some influence from CW mamuk- (‘make-‘) expressions.  

Here are some examples of it in use, from Upper Chehalis:

  • With lexical suffixes:
    • sáʔ+wiɬ-t-n ‘make a canoe’
    • səʔ+ál’či-n- ‘load (a horse)’
  • With incorporated nouns:
    • sá•ʔ+q’əlax̣an’ ‘make a fence’, with a Salish noun that also became part of CW
    • sá•+saplíl-n ‘knead dough’, with a CW loan noun

An additional note about Lower Chehalis: our language team observed community use of a greeting that might be a sá(ʔ) form, having possibly a connection with Chinuk Wawa. We’d originally heard this word as something like sanácti, but I’m currently wondering if it’s analyzable, in linguists’ quasi-math notation, as: 

‘make+big/elder-you.Perfective.Object-3rd.person.Perfective.Subject=3rd.person.Plural‘, that is,
‘they make you an elder’, having a sense of
‘they honor/respect you, you are honored/respected’.

(We know that Upper Chehalis and Lower Cowlitz both use this same root for ‘big; elder’, frequent throughout SW WA Salish, in verbs for ‘respect; have sympathy; be proud of’.) This would already seem to be a loanword (just because it includes sá(ʔ)), and it would have a strongly Jargon sound to it, for two reasons.

First, it uses a 3rd-person subject ‘they’ to express the Passive voice, as CW does, rather than the normal Salish Passive suffix -tm. Second, it would exactly parallel (or “calque”) the known frontier-era northern Chinuk Wawa expressions mamuk-hayas(h) (lit. ‘make-big’) and mamuk-tayi (lit. ‘make-chief’) for ‘respect, venerate, etc.’

So maybe this was an Indigenous metaphor in common use. Whether it originated within CW or otherwise is indeterminate. 

[Editing to add, with a hat tip to Peter Jacobs whom I mention in a comment below, that it’s worth considering whether sáʔ-, etc., helped inspire Chinuk Wawa’s mamuk-/munk- Causative formation.]

What do you think?