A deeper analysis of Franchère’s 1820 CW vocabulary, + an early French loan discovered

Quite interesting stuff, even on our umpteenth rereading of it!


While I’ve previously written about the Astorian Gabriel Franchère’s vocabulary of early Chinuk Wawa (data from 1811-1814), I haven’t yet examined its syntax. Nor has this been done much with any of the first CW lexicons, so I’ll follow today’s post with one on Alexander Ross’s rather extensive early CW lexicon.

The word list of Franchère 1820 it is what we expect at this point, a substantial Chinookan-dominant component over a skeleton of Nootka Jargon. That’s not news. (In my post about Alexander Ross’s lexicon, I’ll have more material to get analytical about the etymological sources of things.) 

But I feel I should show you what we can discern of the grammar of early CW from his word list.

First, there’s this to consider:

< Itallilum >, dix. (’10’)

< Ekoun-icht >, onze. (’11’)

< Ekoun-makust >, douze, (’12,’)
et ainsi de suite. (‘and so on [for the numerals 13-19]’.)

Which would seem terribly bizarre, from our knowledge of later Chinook Jargon, where ’11’ through ’19’ are formed as ’10 and 1′, ’10 and 2′, etc. This demands a clarification, likely due to an editor’s and/or typesetter’s uncomprehension. Franchère is in fact telling us that early CW ’11’ was < Itallilum Ekoun-icht >, exactly as Natítanui (Shoalwater-Clatsop Lower Chinookan) phrases it (here’s ‘12‘ in that language, and here’s ‘14‘ in neighboring Kathlamet) — and exactly the same construction as in later CW.

Similarly, Franchère’s CW ’20’ is < Makust Thlalt >, and although it uses a different form for ’10’ it’s still based on the same root as seen above — and again it’s the identical syntax to CW’s mákwst-táɬlam ‘two tens’. (Compare ‘20‘ in Kathlamet, ‘30‘ in Natítanui, etc., also with the same syntax, and using the same allomorph of ’10’ as Franchère’s CW.)

Franchère’s CW vocabulary list ends with a number of phrases. I kind of think his < Ste-Kech >, je t’aime (‘I love you’), may be simply the already known early pronunciation of CW’s tq’íx̣ ‘love, like, want’ — later tíki. But his demonstrably multi-word phrases and clauses all have, like the higher numerals just discussed, essentially identical syntax with our later CW.

I qualify this with “essentially” because his CW does not always have a separate word for the subject pronoun, as you’ll see. And I think there’s a discernible reason for that lack, in early CW: Chinookan languages incorporate the pronouns as prefixes within each verbal word, and Chinookan speakers and foreigners alike may have had the devil of a time deciding which part of a verb to chop off to make the simplified CW form of many a word!

I’ll mark the seemingly Chinookan-derived verbs (which didn’t survive into later CW) in orange…they deserve a separate, future study, but I feel confident in saying that they themselves look pidginized, e.g. hardly any of them contain the Chinookan ‘singular you’ subject prefix -m-.

< Kakhpah émoreya? > où vas-tu? (‘Where are you going?’) — later CW:
qʰá mayka ɬátwa?

< Kantchik alachoya? > quand pars tu? (‘When are you leaving?’) — later (southern) CW:
qʰə́nchi mayka ɬátwa?

< Kantchik euskoya? > quand reviendras-tu? (‘When will you return?’) — later (southern) CW:
qʰə́nchi mayka k’ílapay?

< Nixt énethlitkal > tu ne comprends pas. (‘You don’t understand’) — later CW:
wík/hílu mayka kə́mtəks.
(I’m not finding a Lower Chinookan source for this word; cf. Natitanui aɬkɬxčámaa ‘they understood him’.)

< Mitliaight o okok > or maybe < Mittaight o kok > assieds-toi là. (‘Sit there.’) — later CW:
míɬayt yawá/kʰapá.

< Tane tsé koulama > montre-moi ta pipe. — later CW:
mamuk-nánich nayka mayka lapíp.

  • Small caveat: I haven’t yet figured out what < Tane tsé > corresponds to in Chinookan; in Natítanui I find iamxuninimaya ‘I shall show you’. Could < Tane > by any chance reflect French donne?
  • < Koulama > has to be ‘pipe’, a previously undocumented Canadian/Métis French loanword (‘calumet’), which we also find as k’álama in Clackamas Upper Chinookan (without any Chinookan gender prefixes, so obviously a loan), as  aya-k’álamat ‘his pipe’ in Kiksht Upper Chinookan, as chalámat in Sahaptin, also found in Nez Perce as I recall. That upriver-only Indigenous language distribution of an old North American French word for a trade item, the calumet ‘peace pipe’, suggests it was borrowed in overland fur-trade days (1) before CW took in a lot of French influence from 1825+, and (2) before CW spread up the Columbia circa 1840. Note the significant variation in the first consonant of it, in the various Native languages — a sign that they’ve had the word for a relatively long time. CW prefers French lapíp for ‘pipe’. 

(I will show in the following article on Alexander Ross’s early CW word list that French is effectively nonexistent in that stage of the Jargon.)

< Patlatch nain maika? > veux-tu me la donner? (‘Do you want to give it to me?’) — later CW:
pálach na mayka? ‘Will you give it?’

< Ikta mika makoumak? > Que veux-tu manger? (‘What do you want to eat?’) — later CW:
íkta mayka mə́kʰmək ‘What are you going to eat?’

< Thlounasse olilé > peut être des fruits. (‘Maybe some fruit.’) — later CW:
t’ɬúnas úlali ‘Maybe some fruit.’

< Nix, quatiasse moulak thlousk > Non, donne-moi de la viande. — later CW:
wík/hílu, pá(t)lach nayka múlak(,) ɬúsh. ‘No, give me some elk, it’ll be good.’
(Note, in early CW, Franchère tells us that < moulak > is the generic word for ‘deer’, presumably meaning any deer-like animal, cf. English-speaking sources like Capt. Charles Bishop in 1795 writing about Chinooks bring him ‘moose-deer and fallow-deer’. The Lower Chinookan stem for ‘give’ is -ut-)

Insofar as we can follow Franchère’s French translations of the mysterious Chinookan-sourced verbs, it really does appear that early CW already had the following syntactic traits known to us in later CW:

  • Adjective-Noun word order (and specifically the Quantity-Units word order in the higher numerals),
  • Negator placed first in the clause,
  • Subject-Verb-Object word order,
  • placement of “WH-” question words at the start of the clause,
  • the post-clitic “Yes/No” question marker =na,


What do you think?
qʰáta mayka tə́mtəm?