1888: A sermon by Myron Eells (part 4)

We’re up to page 35 of Horatio Hale’s book “An International Idiom” today…


(Image credit: genius.com)

Which brings the continuation of Reverend Myron Eells’s 1888 sermon in Chinuk Wawa that we’ve been studying.

Just as I’ve been doing, I’ll show you Eells’s CW spellings; in the next line is a Grand Ronde-style spelling of it; then you see Eells’s word-by-word gloss, and his fluent English translation. My comments come after this portion of the sermon.

…tillikums. Spose nesika klahowya kopa dolla, pe halo
tílixam-s. spus nsayka ɬax̣áwya kʰupa dála, [1] pi hílu 
…nations. If we are poor in money, if not

‘…nations. If we are poor and have not’

mitlite hiyu dolla, kloshe nesika potlatch tenas dolla.
míɬayt háyú dála, ɬúsh nsayka pátɬach tə́nas [2] dála.
have much money, good we give little money.

‘much money, we should give a little money.’

Kahkwa Jesus yaka wawa.
kákwa djísəs yaka wáwa. 
So Jesus he said.

‘Such is the teaching of Jesus.’

     Klonas nesika delate mitlite halo dolla. Spose kahkwa,
     t’ɬúnas nsayka dléyt mítɬayt hílu dála. spus kákwa, 
     Perhaps we really have no money. If so,

     ‘Perhaps we really have no money. Then’

kloshe nesika pray kopa Saghalie Tyee kloshe yaka help
ɬúsh nsayka préy [3] kʰupa sáx̣ali-táyí(,) ɬúsh [4] yaka hélp 
good we pray to Heavenly Chief kindly he help

‘we should pray to God that He will help’

okoke siyah leplet. Spose nesika mamook kahkwa,
úkuk sáyá liplét. spus nsayka mámuk kákwa, 
those distant missionaries. If we do thus,

‘those far-off missionaries.’ [Remainder of line is untranslated by Eells.]

Jesus yaka iskum nesika wawa. Kahkwa nesika help kopa 
djísəs yaka ískam nsayka wáwa. kákwa nsayka hélp kʰupa [5]
Jesus he receives our words. So we help in

‘Jesus will accept our prayers. Thus we shall help to’

lolo Jesus yaka wawa kopa konoway illahee konoway
lúlu djísəs yaka wáwa kʰupa kánawi ílihi kánawi-
carrying Jesus his words to every nation every

‘carry the teaching of Jesus to all countries every[-]’



     Mesika kumtux kopa talkie Sunday nika halo mitlite
     msayka kə́mtəks(,) kʰupa táʔanɬki [6] sándi, nayka hílu mítɬayt 
     You know on sermon [SIC] Sunday I did not stay

     ‘You know that last Sunday I was not’ 

kunamoxt mesika. Nika mitlite siyah kopa ikt illahee yaka
kanumákst masayka. nayka mítɬayt sáyá(,) kʰupa íxt ílihi yaka 
with you. I stayed far-off in a place its

‘with you. I was far away, at a place’ 

nem Walla Walla. Pe kahta nika klatawa? Alta nika
ném walawala. pi qʰáta [7] nayka ɬátwa? álta nayka 
name Walla Walla. And why {did) I go? Now I

‘called Walla Walla. And why did I go?’ [The rest of the line is untranslated by Eells.]

mamook kumtux mesika. Kwinnum tahtlum cole ahnkuttie,
mamuk-kə́mtəks masayka. [8] qwínəm-táɬlam kʰúl ánqati, 
make know you. Five ten winters ago,

‘                          Fifty years ago’

Boston leplet chaco kopa siyah illahee, kopa Walla
bástən liplét cháku kʰupa sáyá-ílihi, kʰupa wala-
American missionaries came to far country, to Walla

‘American missionaries came from a distant land to Walla’ 

Walla illahee. Klaska tikegh mamook teach siwash kopa
wala ílihi. ɬaska tíki mamuk-tích [9] sáwásh kʰupa [10]
Walla country. They would make teach Indian about

‘Walla. They wished to tell the Indians of’

Jesus yaka wawa. Delate kwinnum tahtlum cole ahnkuttie
djísəs yaka wáwa. dléyt qwínəm-táɬlam kʰúl ánqati 
Jesus his words. Just five ten winters ago

‘the Gospel of Jesus. Just fifty years ago’

klaska mamook church yahwa. Kahkwa alta Christian
ɬaska mámuk chə́rch [11] yawá. kákwa álta krístyan 
they made church there. So now Christian

‘they founded a church there. So now the Christian’

tillikums tikegh chee mamook kloshe time. Kwinnum…
tílixam-s tíki chxí [12] mámuk ɬúsh-tʰáym. [13] qwínəm…
people wish just make good time. Five….

‘people desired to have a celebration.’ [The last CW word is part of our next installment. — DDR] 


ɬax̣áwya kʰupa dála [1] is a neat new way of distinguishing among the various meanings of ɬax̣áwya (Eells’s normal northern-dialect variant of ɬax̣áwyam). It says “ɬax̣áwya in dollars”, i.e. monetarily ‘poor’, as opposed to ‘pitiful’ and so on, which ɬax̣áwya can also mean. 

pátɬach tə́nas [2] dála — I wanted to take a moment to say it’s hard to specify what Eells’s pronunciation of < tenas > was. Many Settlers said [ténəs], or [tenǽs], etc. etc.

préy [3] kʰupa sáx̣ali-táyí(,) ɬúsh [4] yaka hélp — préy is a new northern-dialect synonym for ‘pray’ in Jargon, recently borrowed from English to replace earlier southern terms that had been lost in CW’s “migration” northward (terms which may in addition have been less clear or less precise in their meaning). I’ve suggested adding a comma into the CW sentence to clearly show that we’re being shown quoted speech, i.e. the exact words that are being prayed to God; Eells’s fluent-English translation obscures this fact. I want you to know that this structure, directly quoting a request — e.g. saying “I asked her, will you do that” instead of e.g. saying “I asked her to do that”, is very common in PNW Indigenous languages. And it’s common in CW. 

hélp kʰupa [5] lúlu — Here Rev. Eells’s main language, English, shows its influence. He’s literally saying in CW ‘help to bring’, using a preposition just as one does in English, but in Jargon that ‘to’ would be better expressed by the subjunctive marker pus

táʔanɬki [6] sándi: This is literally ‘yesterday Sunday’, if you’re a southern-dialect speaker. But published dictionaries give evidence that northern speakers used táʔanɬki for ‘last’ (i.e. ‘previous’). What strikes me, though, is that Eells seems unfamiliar with this word; his literal gloss has ‘sermon Sunday’ for this phrase, as though he thought < talkie > was the Chinese Pidgin English that was commonly heard in the West!

pi qʰáta [7] nayka ɬátwa? It’s very common to find ‘why?’ being expressed as qʰáta in CW. This word (which fundamentally means ‘how?, how is it so?’) is perhaps the earliest-known way in CW of asking someone to explain their reasons for doing something. Later-developed and clearer synonyms includes Grand Ronde’s creolized pus-ikta? (‘for what?) and ikta-pus (‘what-for’), and northern ikta mamuk (‘what makes/causes it’)?

álta nayka mamuk-kə́mtəks masayka [8] — Because Eells doesn’t provide a fluent translation for this sentence, I will: ‘Now I will explain to you folks.’ / ‘Now I will inform you folks’. The causative verb mamuk-kə́mtəks doesn’t always mean ‘teach’ in the northern dialect, and in fact it frequently means ‘to tell news, to make someone aware, to inform’, and so on. See the next footnote. 

mamuk-tích [9] — See the preceding footnote; here we have nice proof that mamuk-kə́mtəks means something besides the usual southern-dialect sense of ‘teaching’. We have here instead the newly borrowed English word ‘teach’! I have the impression that northern speakers also had a word ticha ‘teacher’ in their CW, but unfortunately I’m not locating the reference source that I thought I’d seen that in.

kʰupa [10] djísəs yaka wáwa — I’m just going to repeat my previously made point that the multi-purpose preposition < kopa > in CW does not properly translate the English ‘about’, in the sense relating to information transfer. Here again Eells is influenced by English. The above-mentioned word qʰáta ‘how’ is perhaps the most commonly used equivalent in Jargon usage that I’ve encountered.  

chə́rch [11] is a new loan from English into the northern dialect. The older southern dialect expressed this idea with pʰliyé-háws ‘prayer-house’.

tíki chxí [12] mámuk: The inclusion of chxi ‘just now; newly; start to’ here kind of threw me off-balance. It sounds odd to me in Jargon, but maybe Eells was sort of thinking in English, where we might say ‘throw a party’ or ‘have a ball’, with a sense of spontaneous joyful activity? See the next footnote. 

ɬúsh-tʰáym [13] — See the previous footnote. This expression is new to us, and I really think it’s a direct translation from English: ‘a good time’. Google Ngram Viewer is making me believe that “a good time” was a phrase at its peak of popularity when Eells wrote this sermon. Note, too, that he’s using the word tʰáym, which I feel was more common in northern CW than in southern.


We once again see Eells speaking fluent and evocative, but still noticeably English-influenced, Chinuk Wawa in this sermon. He’s an excellent example of a longtime Settler resident in the PNW who has adapted well to his environment. 

What do you think?