“Toque” and Métis vowels
Just a thought about vowels ‘n’ toques ‘n’ Métis people.
(Image credit: Etsy)
kind of round hat, c. 1500, from Middle French toque (15c.), from Spanish toca “woman’s headdress,” possibly from Arabic *taqa, from Old Persian taq “veil, shawl.” (etymonline)
Looks pretty clear that toque was originally said with an “o” sound in French.
As we know, though, the word has a long “u” sound in modern English, as in Chinuk Wawa’s latúk / lachúk.
French words don’t as a rule undergo this vowel shift as they come into English. I’ve seen the reverse. (Lots of speakers of my home dialect, the English of Spokane, Washington, say /bokéi/ for ‘bouquet’!) But such shifts are the exception.
A setting where the shift /o/ > [u] is common enough, though, is in Métis French, including the French component of southern Michif (the mixed Cree-French language). I assume it’s heard in informal North American French in general, but the connection here is that most francophones in the CW world were of métis heritage. Those folks must’ve pronounced “toque” as if it were “touque“.
So here again we see the thorough Métis / Canadian French influence in Chinook Jargon.
That alternative pronunciation, lachúk, is especially notable for what it says about Métis vowels. In much North American French speech, the consonant /t/ can mutate into this “ch” sound [tš]. But this can happen only when it’s directly followed by a “high, front” vowel, either /i/ or the vowel traditionally written as < u > in French, which is phonologically notated as /y/ or /ü/. That’s a whole different vowel from what we know in “toque” /tuk/, which has the “high, back” vowel /u/ instead. So, evidently, there was historically some variation among French speakers in the Pacific Northwest between “to(u)que” and “tuque“!
Languages preserve history.
Long live linguistic archaeology!
”I assume it’s heard in informal North American French in general”.
I could be wrong, but so far as I recall, it is in fact (disregarding isolated lexical items, of course) specific to Métis French (and to the French component of Michif).
A likely explanation seems to lie in Cree having a smaller vowel inventory than French.
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Seems to me I’ve seen similar o~u variation in Acadian French, though, which I haven’t seen described as being massively influenced by Indigenous languages.
Carrière (1941) mentions ‘ouisme’ in Acadian, citing forms godron/goudron, pomon/poumon, roler/rouler, and claims that they are vestiges of 16th century variable French pronunciation between /o/ and /u/.
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True. I simply forgot about Acadia. Again citing only from my ageing memory (bear in mind that I’m older than I’ve ever been before), I think the Acadian thing can be traced to French dialects, whereas the Laurentian counterpart is due to contact.
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1-The Acadian raising of stressed /o/ to /u/ only takes place if the following consonant is nasal, and thus is irrelevant for this word. Incidentally, I suspect Acadian has been influenced by indigenous languages much more deeply than what the textbooks tell us, but that is neither here nor there (it will be for me though, as I will be teaching an advanced course on Acadians/Acadian French in January, so expect me to write better informed comments on Acadian French over the coming months).
2-For this particular word, if the etymon is general Laurentian French “la tuque” (/latyk/), there is no need to assume a specifically Metis French phonology. Since “tuque” instead of “toque” is first attested in writing in French in 1726, it is perfectly reasonable to assume this is the etymon of the Chinook Wawa word.
3-On the other hand, the variation between latúk/lachúk does indeed suggest that the latter goes back to /latsyk/ (with Laurentian assibilation). and the former to a “la toque” /latok/ form, which would have lacked assibilation. Now, Metis French does indeed realize stressed /o/ as /u/, so PRIMA FACIE you might think that /latuk/ is a specifically Metis French etymon.
4-But not all that shines is gold: We cannot exclude the possibility that /latuk/ was originally */latok/, borrowed from non-Metis French (or, for that matter, from Metis French at some point before stressed /o/ was raised to /u/) and in fact owes its /u/ to contamination from the “lachúk” form within the history of Chinook Wawa.
5-In short: there are no certain grounds for claiming that this word is specifically Metis French in its phonology.