Ai vs. siahush in northern CW, or, the grass vs. the prairie

The northern dialect of Chinuk Wawa happened later.


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Why does that matter?

Well, take a look in this Bible passage, at the differences between the earlier CW < siahush > (siyáxus ‘eye(s), face’) and the later CW borrowing < ai > ‘eye(s)’.

“ESV” = English translation from, and “DDR” translation is by me.  



Ikta mamuk, maika nanich tanas tipso
what causes, you see small grass 
ESV ’41 Why do you see the speck’ 
DDR ‘Why do you look at the blade of grass’ 

kopa maika tilikom iaka ai, pi wik maika
in your relative her/his eye, but not you 

ESV ‘that is in your brother’s eye, but do not’ 
DDR ‘in your relative’s eye, but you don’t’ 

nanich iht aias stik mitlait kopa
see a.certain big stick located in 

ESV ‘notice the log that is in’ 
DDR ‘see a certain log that’s in’ 

maika ai?
your eye? 

ESV ‘your own eye?’
DDR ‘your eye?’ 

Pi kata maika wawa kopa maika tilikom:
and how you say to your relative: 

ESV ’42 How can you say to your brother,’ 
DDR ‘And how is that you say to your relative:’ 

=Tlus maika mash ukuk tanas tipso
good you remove that little grass 

ESV ‘‘Brother, let me take out the speck’ 
DDR ‘ “Take out that blade of grass…’

mitlait kopa maika ai.
located in your eye.

ESV ‘that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye?’
DDR ‘…that’s in your eye”?’

Mokst siahush man, tlus maika ilip
two face person, good you first 
ESV ‘You hypocrite, first’ 

DDR ‘Two-faced person, you should first’

mash ukuk aias stik mitlait kopa maika
remove that big stick located in your 

ESV ‘take the log out of your own’ 
DDR ‘remove that log that’s in your’ 

ai, pi iawa maika nanich pus mash
eye, and then you see remove 

ESV ‘eye, and then you will see clearly to take out’ 
DDR ‘eye, and then you’ll see (well enough) to remove’ 

ukuk tanas tipso mitlait kopa maika
that little grass located in your 
ESV ‘the speck that is in your brother’s’
DDR ‘that blade of grass that’s in your’ 

tilikom iaka ai.
relative her/his eye. 

ESV ‘eye.’
DDR ‘relative’s eye.’

— from pages 162-163 of “Chinook Book of Devotions throughout the Year” (Kamloops: 1902)

I’m sure you can see already how this passage illustrates the huge pattern in northern CW, where English played a bigger role in influencing the language. Newer English words came in, having more specific meanings than the older CW words they were synonymous with.

Because they had more specific meanings, these new English loans only partially replaced the earlier Jargon synonyms. So, here, we see < ai > replacing part of the meaning of < siahush >, so that we now have a word for ‘eye(s)’ as distinct from a word that can now be used for ‘face’.

And as a consequence, ther writer (JMR Le Jeune) is able to use ‘face’ in a distinct, highly expressive idiom < mokst siahush > ‘hypocritical’ (literally ‘two-face(d)’)! 

And this wasn’t a one-time borrowing of < ai >. We’ve seen this word elsewhere in BC Chinuk Wawa, for example when Kamloops Wawa advised new learners of the Chinuk-Pipa shorthand to not make its letter “A” (a small circle) so tiny as to be “a black eye”!

Bonus fact:

I like how Le Jeune used his high fluency in Jargon to paraphrase the Bible’s original wording about a ‘speck’ or ‘mote’ in your brother’s eye, instead referring to something that BC folks could identify with — a (piece of a) ‘blade of grass’. That’s good Chinooking, my friends! 

Also: now that we have a contrast between siahush and ai, we can make a translated version of Billy Idols’ 1980s song, “Eyes without a Face” 😀 

What do you think?