“Iaka ukuk”, a LeJeuneism
I just want to go on record about a particular, very distinctive, expression seen quite a lot in the pages of Kamloops Wawa and associated books.
(Image credit: Walmart)
< Iaka ukuk > is how it’s spelled when you transliterate it from the beautiful, historic Chinuk-pipa alphabet of British Columbia.
This would be yaka úkuk in Grand Ronde’s style of spelling, literally ‘(s)he this’ or ‘this is her/him’.
But this phrase isn’t used or known at Grand Ronde, or generally in the southern dialect, or indeed outside of Kamloops.
I don’t find it in e.g. Demers – Blanchet – St Onge 1871 (the Chinuk Wawa dictionary and catechism based on circa 1838 usage), or in anybody else’s Chinuk Wawa writing. I’ve looked for it in various spellings of both words, such as < yahka okoke > and so on. Let me know if you have any better luck than me.
Here are some examples of it in use…I won’t overanalyze the linguistics of it, just giving a simple translation:
O ST! Naika ayu sik tomtom kopa
‘Oh God! I feel distressed at’
ukuk masachi naika mamuk; iaka ukuk
‘these evil things I’ve done; these are‘
masachi naika mamuk[,] iaka ukuk pi naika
‘the evils I’ve done, it’s these that are why I’ve’
lost sahali ilihi; iaka ukuk masachi
‘lost Heaven; it’s these bad things’
‘that I’ve done…’
— page 48 of the “Chinook Manual” (Kamloops, 1896)
…mamuk gitop naika lisi
…wake up my lazy
tomtom(,) iaka ukuk kakwa wik naika chako
heart, this is how I haven’t gotten
— page 66 of the same book
For 25 years I’ve puzzled over this expression’s origin, and at this point I’m concluding that it’s unique to Father JMR Le Jeune, the publisher of Kamloops Wawa and introducer of CW literacy to southern interior BC.
I think its use of the animate 3rd person pronoun yaka is a clue that this is once again Le Jeune’s “French accent” showing in his Jargon.
It’s reasonable to understand that it doesn’t mean ‘she’ or ‘he’ in the contexts where < iaka ukuk > shows up; rather it’s “it”, which in French is il, which in other contexts means ‘he’!
I was thoroughly confused the first few times I came across this expression. I’ve always translated “iaka ukuk kakwa…” / “iaka ukuk pi..” in my head as “It’s because of this that…”.
It always felt French to me, maybe from something like “parce que” or “c’est ce qui fait..”. The “iaka ukuk” seems to me to be him translating something like “c’est ça” in his head anyway.
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In the spirit of the Chinuk Wawa Meme Review, I reckon the ultimate insider joke would be a photo of Le Jeune with the caption iAKA UKUK!
It’s a pretty common expression in the Bible History. I know that Le Jeune wrote that out, but do you know if Durieu made the translation as they always seem to indicate anyway? It would mean that it wasn’t neccesarily just Le Jeune saying it then. Maybe Durieu taught it to Le Jeune even.
Yes, a fair point. We need to have a look at Durieu’s own Chinuk Wawa materials in the archives, to compare. They are there, waiting for us.
There actually are some Grand Ronde examples of this pattern. E.g. (citing from our 2012 dictionary):
p. 440/ ya ɬush kʼwas ya uk na təmtəm wik-ɬush ‘he was very concerned that that heart of mine is in very bad condition.’ Unusual word-order used here (I think) as a focusing device; as I suggested In the grammar sketch I compiled: “Here, uk tells us that təmtəm is to be taken as a noun; while the second ya singularizes the referent, framing it as a concrete thing – in context, the physical organ.” (təmtəm has so many possible meanings, as we all know.)
p. 438/ ɬas təmtəm uk bastən ɬaska uk hayash tilixam ‘the whites think that they are the superior people (race)’. Exemplifying uk as a relative pronoun: ‘the one(s) that . . .’
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hayu masi for these contrasting examples — that is, unlike the Le Jeune ones, these can easily be understood. Your first example has a subject “ya” (he, of ‘afraid’) followed by a complement clause (‘that my heart is…’). Your second one has a subject “ɬaska” of ‘are the superior people’. Le Jeune’s “iaka ukuk”, quite differently, is typically sentence-initial and, as Alex observes, broadly corresponds to French “c’est”, “il est”, etc.
It’s kind of gratifying to reach a level of familiarity with Chinuk Wawa where we can detect people’s “voices” and their idiosyncracies. I remember pointing out the odd “iaka ukuk” locution to you and Tony about 15 or 20 years ago, and it turns out it has remained weird 🙂