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.

What do you think?