Native people’s voices in “Kamloops Wawa” (Part 2: silent “IT” in an ad)

A entrepreneurial man writes from a Nɬeʔképmx village to offer salmon for sale…


(Image credit: Spuzzum Nation)

…His letter is closely paraphrased by the newspaper editor.

I’ll add just a footnote or two, with the second one repeated to drive the point home:

joseph thompson kw 78

< Joseph Thompson. > Shosip Tomson kopa
                                      ‘Joseph Thompson in’ 
Spisom iaka mamuk pipa kopa nsaika. Iaka wawa: Alta ayu
‘Spuzzum wrote to us. He says: Now lots of’ 
samon mitlait kopa Spisom. Aiak iaka tlap ayu. Iaka sillim
[1] [2]

‘salmon are at Spuzzum. He can easily get plenty of them. He’s selling them’ 
iht sitkom tala, pus klaksta tilikom tiki [2], pi iaka komtaks

‘for a half-dollar each; if any people want some, and (if) he knows’ 
klaska nim, iaka aiak mash [2] kopa trin pi [2] aiak chako kopa iht 

‘their name, he’ll put them right on the train and they’ll come right away, in one’ 


sillim [1] is a pretty cool recent (1890s) English loan into BC Chinook Jargon, from “sell ’em”. This tends to nudge aside the older CJ word makuk, which was vaguer, covering ‘buying’, ‘selling’, and ‘trading’. However, sillim doesn’t specifically mean ‘sell them’, or ‘sell him’, etc. It’s just a pidgin English verb for ‘sell’. Now, on to footnote 2!

Footnote [2] ‘is placed in this letter everywhere that the writer (or the editor?) is using the highly-fluent Jargon pronoun that I often call “silent IT”. It’s actually a broader indefinite pronoun, covering all sorts of inanimate objects — whether singular or plural — as well as ideas like ‘some (of it/them)’. The first 3 occurrences of this pronoun in the above text are objects, which is the most typical use. But the last occurrence is as a subject, which is also grammatically normal.

— from Kamloops Wawa #78 (May 14, 1893), page 79

Bonus fact:

You can read another of Joseph Thompson’s Chinuk Pipa letters on my website, about some unfortunate ways of dying.

Kata maika tomtom? What do you think?