‘Not thus’ and such

Here’s a small collection of Chinuk Wawa expressions, some of which I do think, and some I don’t think, trace their lineage back to Lower Chinookan negations.

it was not thus to be

(Image credit: LOC.gov)

Let’s get right into it. Here “Boas 1894” is Franz B’s publication of Q’lti’s (Charles Cultee’s) Shoalwater-Clatsop stories as “Chinook Texts”.


CW wík-kákwa ‘not thus, not like that/this, not so, not the same’:

This formation seems to parallel an indigenous Lower Chinookan expression, níkšt íka:

not thus

‘our chief’s son [SIC] would not have done so’ — Boas 1894:139 (143)


‘…if they would not act as they do’ (lit. ‘not thus’) — Boas 1894:177 (182)

CW wík-líli ‘not (for a) long (time)’:

This too seems to parallel a Chinookan phrase, níkšt iúɬqti:

not long widow

‘shortly after becoming a widow’ (lit. ‘not long-ly’) — 1894:256 (258)

Note that we can contrast that negated iúɬqt[-]i ‘long-ly’ with a positive líli ‘for a long time’:


‘Now they remained there a long time’ (lit. ‘long they stayed’) — 1894:11 (18)

Also observe that the above 2 phrases are used in a related construction, cf. CW’s negative wík-líli pi ‘soon’ (literally ‘not long (and)’)…


‘he must die within a short time’ (lit. ‘not long-ly and’) 1894:198 (206)

…and CW’s positive líli pi ‘after quite some time’ (lit. ‘long.time and’) :


‘after some time [they two] went home’ (lit. ‘a long time and’) 1894:10 (17)


CW wík-ɬúsh (literally ‘not good’)…

The 2 main uses of this in CW are paralleled in 2 Lower Chinookan usages, first a predicative adjective ‘to be not-good, i.e. to be bad’: 

not good

‘her husband’s relatives are not pleased’ (lit. ‘not good become their hearts’) — 1894:256 (258)

And second, a sort of apprehensive or prohibitional ‘it’s not good if X happens’:


‘It would not be well if he would not get tired’ (lit. ‘not good when/if’) 1894:95 (103)


It appears that perhaps there’s not a Chinookan antecedent to ‘soon’ (CW wík-líli, lit. ‘not-long.time’). In the English translations in Boas 1894, ‘soon’ is often just an artifact of Boas’s translations, and then doesn’t reflect anything that’s said in the Lower Chinookan story…


‘soon her sister returned home’, but there’s no ‘soon’ there — 1894:76 (86)

…and other times ‘soon’ correlates with Chinookan mánxi (ka), which CW did not inherit:


‘soon he saw a whale’  (lit. ‘a little then’)1894:25 (33)

(Instead, CW says tənəs-líli pi (lit. ‘little-long.time and’).)


Similarly, CW wík-sáyá ‘almost’ doesn’t appear to correlate with any Lower Chinookan expression — perhaps this is no surprise, as both wík and sáyá are originally Nuuchahnulth imports into CW. So perhaps wík-sáyá can be dated to the pidgin “Nootka Jargon” that was imported to Chinook land by seagoing Euro-American traders…!  


‘almost’ — 1894:60

…note also, for fun, a Chinookan word for ‘almost not’:

almostnot‘they had almost been unable’ (‘almost not’) — 1894:45 (55)


Finally, it would seem that CW wík-skúkum (lit. ‘not strong’) ‘weak’ has no parallel, either, in Chinookan:


‘weak’ — 1894:212

A couple of notes in summary:

There is a pervasive pattern where Chinuk Wawa wík- expressions (using that Nuuchahnulth-derived negator) calque preexisting Chinookan phrases. 

Not all CW wik- phrases, though, are this sort of loan translation, and so some of them appear to be newer inventions within Nootka Jargon or else in Chinuk Wawa. 

Finally — this post, like so many that I write, took one heck of a lot of research, as well as plenty of formatting labour. I’m considering adding a “DONATE” button to this website. Would you support my work?

What do you think?