A Lower Chinookan source for Imperative ɬush (pus) X …

There may be a real interesting trend of Nootka Jargon words historically getting enlisted to loan-translate natively Chinookan grammatical patterns, in Chinuk Wawa…


(Image credit: Goodreads)

Here’s another one.

CW uses the NJ-derived ɬúsh ‘good’, sometimes followed by the Irrealis/Subjunctive marker pus (pretty much = ‘if’), to form imperative sorts of verb expressions.

This includes stuff that some linguists might call optatives, hortatives — long story short, expressions that say that you are trying to “will” something to be true.

I see a couple of ways that Natítanui (Shoalwater-Clatsop Lower Chinookan) traditionally formed expressions that were parallel in structure and meaning to this. Presumably these existed long, long before any Chinuk Wawa that we know of.

WAY #1: tgət’úkti (~’good’) + Verb


Lines 11 & 14 ‘good I do’ (‘I will shoot that swan’), ‘good I swim’ (‘I will swim’) — Boas 1894:14 (20)


‘good I desert it’ (‘I will desert my child’) — 1894:185 (189)

good you make them for me

‘good you make them for me’ (‘Make one for me’) — 1894:68 (82)

NOTE: This same structure exists in Kathlamet Lower Chinookan. As far as I can tell from a brief look through the Kiksht Upper Chinookan “Wishram Texts” published by Edward Sapir, the closest structure to the above in that language means “it’s good that X is happening/has happened”. Which is rather different from the expression of a wish. I’m not yet finding any parallel construction in Clackamas Upper Chinookan, either.

This tgət’úkti is an ancestor of an early, now little-known CW word for ‘beautiful, pretty’, by the way (t’úkti). I strongly suspect it’s a reduplication, composed of 2 roots. The first would be related to Way #2 below, and the second to the root we know in CW’s íkta ‘thing; what?’ — thus, ‘good thing’.

WAY #2: t’ayá (‘good/well’) + ‘if’ + Verb


‘good if you dive’, ‘good [Q] if I dive?’ (‘dive’, ‘shall I dive?’) — 1894:12 (19)

NOTE: The equivalent structure exists in Kathlamet Lower Chinookan, and it’s pretty frequent (níšt t’ayá). I have not yet detected a similar constructin in Upper Chinookan languages, where it’s not as easy to search the published texts for sequences such as ‘good if’, as they’re only given a fluent English translation rather than a Boasian word-for-word gloss.

Caveat: t’ayá + ‘do/make’, without an ‘if’ between them, gives a different reading, analogous to CW mamuk-ɬúsh ‘to clean up, to tidy up’:

good they make it

‘good they make it’ (‘they clean [the corpse]’) — 1894:254 (257)

they good they make it 3 sleeps

‘they good they make it 3 sleeps’ (‘You must carry her to another town where they know how to cure those who have been dead three days’) — 1894:155 (159)

Tying all of this up for the time being, I once again perceive Lower Chinookan to be a very likely source for a pervasive Chinuk Wawa structure.

Note that I’ve previously observed SW Washington Salish languages to have a similar structure too. In my previous post about that, I provisionally concluded that Salish was the most likely source for the CW command formation. Now it looks more like “good if” is an areally common way of speaking on the far lower Columbia.

What do you think?