European languages as one inspiration for GR CW long vs. short pronouns?
Let me start with a disclaimer.
A diversity of pronouns! (Image credit: North Shore Pride)
I’m not too sure anyone has thought of this this way before?
Much has been written, by about 6 people in the world anyway, about the fascinating & unique presence in Grand Ronde, Oregon’s Chinuk Wawa of sets of “long” & “short” personal pronouns. (E.g. mayka & ma for ‘you’.) No other Jargon dialect has the short forms.
It might be more accurate to say it as some Grand Ronde folks seem to put it. If I’m not mistaken, they consider that there are “long”, “medium”, and “short” forms of the personal pronouns. (E.g. mayka, may, & ma.)
I know for sure that it’s been suggested the short forms are due to the greater influence of Chinookan-language speakers in the GR reservation community, founded 1855-1856. [Editing to add: Interestingly, at Grand Ronde, you had Upper Chinookans playing a big role in Jargon, whereas before this, Lower Chinookans were more relevant.] Those folks’s languages contained both the “long” forms such as máyka, which were separate words used as predicates/topicalized forms (and which were the historic source of CW’s pronouns), and extremely short forms which were prefixes — e.g. m- ‘you’, mi- ‘your’, etc. And Chinookans had an awareness that the /may/ in /mayka/ was the ‘you’ part, which in Chinookan hosted various suffixes e.g. -ka ‘only’ or -t’ax̣ ‘also’.
So that’s a good etymological source to suggest for the variation in length among GR CW pronouns.
There’s something broadly similar in the Southwest Washington Salish languages that also played a considerable role in forming Chinuk Wawa, e.g. with predicative, stressed word ʔə́nc ‘I’ vs. affixal, unstressed -əc ‘me’ & enclitic =čn ‘I’ in Lower Chehalis.
The additional idea that I have about models for this variation in CW is inspired by reading Geddes’s book “A Study of an Acadian French Dialect“. On page 115, that writer speaks of French pronouns having “weak or unemphatic” forms further subdivided into Nominative, Dative, and Accusative cases, vs. “strong or emphatic” forms — e.g. for the 3rd person singular masculine, “weak” il / lui / le versus “strong” lui. (A present-day linguist might note that il / lui / le are “clitics” that are attached to a predicate, whereas “strong lui” is an independent phonological word.) He also gets into a parallel distinction in the possessive pronouns (pages 122-123) and demonstratives (pages 123ff).
This made me reflect on my first language, English, which similarly distinguishes a stressed, topicalized pronoun form from unstressed ones. Here’s a random example from fiction —
“You go right ahead and die,” I told him. “Me, I‘m having a fine time living.” There, “me” is “strong” and “I” is “weak”.
Now, it’s a known fact that the Grand Ronde reservation community from an early date included not just Indigenous-language speakers such as Chinookans and Salish, but also relatives who spoke Canadian/Métis French, and speakers of English ranging from government employees to Settlers and more.
So my current thinking about why Grand Ronde, exceptionally among Chinook Jargon varieties, innovated a “long vs. short pronouns” distinction — the syntactic model or if you will, the “metaphor” behind that set of Jargon pronouns — is that lots of languages in the community spoke that way.
Not only “lots of languages in the community”, but lots of lgs in the world.
To me, if something is exceedingly common world-wide, it doesn’t need any particular explanation in the pidgin/creole. It’s just something that lgs tend to do. (and in this case, that includes creoles, but not so much pidgins — so if we find it in a creole, at least I would expect it to have developed during or after the “expansion phase”. i.e. vernacularisation/nativisation)
After all, no one would (I hope) ascribe the presence of vowels and consonants in a contact lge to the input varieties.
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Sounds plausible. And thanks for emphasizing that the ka in naika, maika, yaka, nesaika, mesaika and tlaska means ‘only’ and I suppose the ‘ta’ in ‘tlaksta’ means also
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Wow, that’s a great supposition, Sam! I’ll want to look into that. The word for ‘who’ might indeed be parsed in Chinookan as…
-ks- ???human being??? (compare maybe the common -uks ‘human plural’ suffix)
…giving a total meaning like ‘someone else’s person’.
The Chinookan languages really do have a strong pattern of composing words out of lots of very small meaningful parts. (They’re kind of like Dene/Athabaskan, Tlingit, and Eyak that way.)
Another word that I suspect of historically containing the Chinookan ‘also’ suffix is Chinook Jargon’s wə́x̣t ‘also; another; more’.
My one small demurrer to these observations is that the full flowering of short-form CW (if you will) – the na/ma set being restricted to subject position preceding predicates and possessed nouns; truncated or full forms permissable in all other positions – is not only (as you observe) unique to Grand Ronde; it is also fully exemplified only from members of a Clackamas Chinookan extended family. Of course, it’s not like we have a representative sample. Two members of one family: one an older-generation Clackamas speaker, the other a younger-generation Clackamas non-speaker. Other Grand Ronde speakers used these forms sporadically, in combination with the long and truncated forms. I think it quite plausible that truncated forms would have found their way into wider creole Jargon usage; but I also think an argument can be made for a Chinookan motivation (via “secondary substratum influence”) for the patterning of the na/ma set. Not that I want to go down that particular rabbit-hole right now!
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All of this is useful info, thanks for sharing it, Henry.
The historical development of Grand Ronde CW continues, of course. With the revitalization of the language, another factor is leading to the shorter “na/ma” and “nay/may”-type forms having a vastly greater presence in CW nowadays than in the past: folks value speaking a distinctly GR form of the language. So, now virtually everyone who learns CW from CTGR materials is amplifying this formerly minor feature!
I love languages that change! (That’s a deep linguistics joke…)
@Mikael Parkvall — thank you! You’re right. In fact all languages whose grammars I have a working impression of do make this distinction between stressed, topicalized pronouns and unstressed, nontopicalized ones (regular old arguments). This is true even of languages like Chinese and Vietnamese, which have no special form of the pronoun, but can put it into a special Topic position.
So the semantic inspiration for this CW feature is a non-issue, and the same distinction exists in non-Grand Ronde CW (where it’s made by stressing and/or moving the sole, “long”, pronoun shape to the front of the sentence to topicalize it).
And thus, we can specify that the GR “long(/medium)/short” pronoun distinction is only of morphological importance. We can show that this set of shapes are inspired by the presence of (Upper) Chinookan in the Reservation community.
Beyond that, an argument can be made that the universal presence of topicalized vs. non-topicalized pronouns in every GR language reinforced and encouraged the use of the nayka/nay/na sort of distinction. That’s a logically strong argument, but as my currently favorite sci-fi writer says, it’s sort of “a distinction without a difference”. It adds no new information.
Having specified all of that —
You make me aware that I wrote today’s post in order to raise awareness of CW’s history. As is so often the case with contact languages, it’s the social factors that are crucial to know about.
Regarding ”It adds no new information” (I agree of course), it is all easy to think that lgs add something new because that’s what speakers ”wanted”, or that they ”felt” they ”needed” it. Just as it is to think of biological evolution in terms of ”will” or ”need”. Many of us probably do that as a kind of shorthand, even though we know it is not literally true. Both in biology and lx, things usually ”just happen”, and some of that is allowed to survive.
Newly creolised lgs might be a partial exception though, since the pidgin has so little ”stuff” in it that expansion is needed in order to cope with the new communicative and pragmatic burdens that are placed on the lge. After all, linguistic expansion typically goes hand in hand with domain-wise expansion.
One of my favourite quotes on this subject is not very well known, but I think it has a nice ring: Manessy (1995:36) said that grammatical features in creoles (i.e. in the expansion phase) ”ne se développent pas pour que les gens se comprennent mieux, _mais parce qu’_ils se comprennent mieux”. In the early pidgin phase, you can’t afford much luxury or ”niceties”, but once basic communication is assured (when people ”se comprennent mieux”), the budding creole can allow itself to take on communicatively superfluous excentricity.
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Wonderful quotation! I’ll have a go at translating it to English for a lot of my readers — pidgin languages sometimes turn into creole languages, adding new grammatical features that “don’t develop so that people can understand each other better, but because they understand each other better.” And I think there’s great truth in that.