Wík-QUESTIONWORD is a traditional Chinookan phrase, half-disguised

It’s true that I have touched on elements of this before, but today I think I can prove a strong Lower Chinookan pattern behind some common CW phrases…


The Shoalwater-Clatsop Lower Chinookan (SCLC) “Chinook Texts” told by Q’lti (Charles Cultee) have a frequent expression näkct qada ‘[in no way]; not at all’. There’s no direct equivalent found in the documented Kiksht Upper Chinookan that I searched through, which I’ll be using as a check on whether stuff is native to Chinookan, as that’s the most distant dialect from Q’lti’s. Chinuk Wawa has an exactly parallel expression, wík-qʰáta, albeit meaning ‘cannot’ and instead using an imported negative word of Nuučaan’uɬ / Nootka Jargon origin:


‘The chief did not reply…’ — page 42 (54)


‘He…did not succeed at all’ — page 61 (78)

Compare this with the similarly constructed SCLC näkct qa’nsix· ‘not (any)how’ — Kiksht has the direct equivalent of this, k’áya qx̣ánchix̣ ‘never’, and CW is again in parallel with its wík-qʰə́nchi ‘never’:


‘…you must never strike it with a stick…’ — page 97 (104)

There’s also SCLC näkct ikta ‘nothing’ — Kiksht again has a totally parallel form, k’áya dán: — CW too has wík-íkta ‘nothing’:


‘They did not kill anything…’ — page 97 (104)

We find also ‘nobody’, näkct Laksta –Kiksht k’áy idə́lxam — CW wík-ɬáksta / hílu-ɬáksta:

nakct laksta

‘nobody must speak about it’ (a broad translation) — page 135 (141)

For another expression of this type, although SCLC has no documented form, Kiksht has ‘never again’ in the expected form, k’áya wít’ax̣that is, what southern-dialect Chinuk Wawa says as wík wə́x̣t ‘not again’. (In CW you can also say wík-qʰə́nchi wə́x̣t ‘never again’.)

In short, I believe these CW negated expressions are old (some of them are preserved in northern-dialect areas such as BC, where otherwise the word hílu has taken over as the negator).

And I find it implausible that the above Chinookan expressions are just “calques” on Chinuk Wawa, seeing as how they’re found using totally native Chinookan material from one end of Chinookan territory to the other.

Finally, I believe they’re specifically from Lower Chinookan, as Upper uses some root forms that diverge more from the shapes that CW inherited. This is of course what we’d expect, as Chinuk Wawa took shape, as far as we’ve ever seen, in Lower Chinookan land, from the seacoast upstream to Fort Vancouver.

Truly the point of interest, at any rate, is that the Lower Chinookan phrases got taken into Chinuk Wawa as a pattern, into which the foreign-origin CW negator wik was substituted. In the terminology that I’ve often used on this site, you could say that that Jargon pattern traces back to an Indigenous metaphor.

A fun side note: expressions for ‘nowhere’ are not to be found in the SCLC or Kiksht sources; why do you suppose it’s so?

What do you think?