Is pchíx̣ ‘green’ related to tipsu ‘leaf’?
This is the first article idea that ever came to me in a dream…
(Image credit: The Atlantic Magazine)
…So I for one am not expecting much from it 🙂
But the concept kept on invading my dreams the other night:
What if Chinuk Wawa’s típsu ‘grass; leaf; plant’ and pchíx̣ ‘green/blue’ are etymologically related to each other?
Both are from the Chinookan language family.
- típsu is an exclusively Lower Chinookan word, not occurring in Clackamas or Kiksht (Upper Chinookan languages) as far as I’ve discovered. In Chinookan, it means ‘grass’ only. Its structure there is known to be tə́-psu ~ tə́-pshu, that is, a plural “gender” prefix and a “bound root” (no pun intended, just meaning that it can’t be used as a freestanding word, it has to take a prefix), apparently denoting a herbaceous botanical organism.
- pchíx̣ is pan-Chinookan, varying from pchə́x̣ in Shoalwater-Clatsop to ptsáx̣ way up the Columbia. It’s an independent word all by itself.
As regards Chinookan pchə́x̣, I don’t known for sure of any (supposed) suffix that would be shaped, by the rules of those languages’ phonology, –ə́x̣ or -x̣ or -ax̣, thus leaving a root pch ~ pts that would be comparable with psu ~ pshu. There is a “customary action (usitative)” suffix written by Franz Boas as -x in Shoalwater-Clatsop that goes at the very end of a verb…
In turn, we ideally ought to be able to separate out a (supposed) suffix -u from ps[-]u ~ psh[-]u. Is there any such suffix in Chinookan? I dunno.
But I have the persistent impression that Chinookan languages make use of a relatively small set of roots, variations on which (by consonant mutations, affixation, reduplication, etc.) get put to a great many diverse uses.
Maybe our supposed *ps* root is one such entity.
In Nisga’a there is a word “hap’iskw” meaning “grass, hay”, but it is quite obviously derived from the verb “hap” ‘to cover’ and the antipassive suffix “-?Eskw”. The word for ‘green’ is “mihlatkw” which is related to “mihla” ‘bile’.
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“Hap’iskw” is stressed on the root “hap”; “mihlatkw” and “mihla” on the “a”. Another semantically related word is “y’ans” ‘plant, leaf, which may be distantly related to “y’aq” ‘to hang’.
None of these words is likely to be related to the Chinookan ones.
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