The extremely compelling “Nootka Jargon” word list from Jewitt 1815
In a very early (1815) edition of his memoir of Vancouver Island captivity (1803-1805), John Rodgers Jewitt added a nice one-page vocabulary of Nuuchahnulth……It’s clearly not a copy from anyone else’s, making it a highly valuable document of a time when there was no known clear boundary line between “Nootka Jargon” and Chinuk Wawa.
[I’ve taken to putting “Nootka Jargon” into scare quotes, due to my research indicating that this lingo was a rather nebulous critter, a moving target, a chimera. Stay tuned.]
Jewitt’s list on page  has a number of indications of pidginization, I’d say.
E.g. the terms for ‘son’ and ‘daughter’ are parallel in structure to Chinuk Wawa’s (each having a literal meaning of ‘little man’ and ‘little woman’).
And ‘to go to fish’ is ma-mook-su-mah (literally ‘make fish’, just as CW expresses the harvesting of any natural resource with mamuk-NOUN), so maybe that metaphor too traces back earlier than CW.
For fun, I’ve put in red the phrases below that look syntactically interesting as potential models for early Chinuk Wawa.
Southern Wakashanist friends, I ask you to carefully look through this little lexicon and comment in detail on it…
A list of Words in the Nootkian Language,
the most in use.
Check-up, Man. Toop-helth, Cloth.
Klootz-mah, Woman. Cham-mass, Fruit.
Noowexa, Father. Cham-mas- (Sweet or pleasant
-sish (to the taste
Tanassis, Child. Moot-sus, Powder.
Katlahtik, Brother. Chee-pokes, Copper.
Kloot-chem-up, Sister. Hah-welks, Hungry.
Tanassis check-up, Son. Nee-sim-mer-hise, Enough.
Tanassis kloots-mah, Daughter. Chit-ta-Yek, Knife or dagger.
Tau-hat-se-tee, Head. Klick-er-yek*, Rings.
Kassee, Eyes. Quish-ar, Smoke.
Hap-se-up, Hair. Mar-met-ta, Goose or duck.
Neetsa, Nose. Pook-shit-tle, To blow.
Parpee, Ears. Een-a-qui-shit-tle, ( To kindle
( a fire.
Choop, Tongue. Ar-teese, To bathe.
Kook-a-nik-sa, Hands. Ma-mook-su-mah, To go to fish.
Klish-klin, Feet. Ar-smootish- (
–check-up, ( A warrior.
Oophelth, Sun or Moon.
Tar-toose, Stars. Cha-alt-see-klat-tur- ( Go off or
–wah, (go away.
Toop-elth, Sea. Ma-kook, To sell.
( Give me
Cha-hak, Fresh water. Kah-ah-pah-chilt, ( something.
Queece, Snow. Oo-nah, How many.
Noot-chee, Mountain or hill. I-yah-ish, Much.
Klat-tur-miss, Earth. Kom-me-tak, I understand.
Een-nuk-see, Fire or fuel. I-yee-ma-hak, ( I do not under-
Muk-ka-tee, House. Em-ma-chap, To play.
Wik, No. Kle-whar, To laugh.
He-ho, Yes. Mac-kam- ) Do you want to buy.
Mah-hack, Whale. Kah-ah-coh, Bring it.
Klack-e-miss, Oil. Sah-wauk, One.
Quart-lak, Sea-otter. Att-la, Two.
Coo-coo-ho-sa, Seal. Kat-sa, Three.
Moo-watch Bear [sic, for ‘Deer’]. Mooh, Four.
So-har, Salmon. Soo-chah, Five.
Toosch-qua, Cod. Noo-poo, Six.
Pow-ee, Halibut. At-tle-poo, Seven.
Kloos-a-mit, Herring. At-lah-quelth, Eight.
Chap-atz, Canoe. Saw-wauk-quelth, Nine.
Oo-wha-pa, Paddle. Hy-o, Ten.
Chee-me-na, A fish-hook. Sak-aitz, Twenty.
Chee-men, Fish-hooks. Soo-jewk, One hundred.
Sick-a-minny, Iron. Hy-e-oak, One thousand.
When I read Jewitt several years ago I noticed that at the start he talks about how he had a lot of trouble in his Latin class, saying he had some sort of impediment that made it hard for him to pronounce it. Maybe today we might say he was dyslexic? Though I guess he says he was doing well in writing English, so maybe it’s something else specific to learning languages. Anyway I wonder if this impacted his word list at all.
He also says he wasn’t motivated to learn Latin, and nothing motivates one more to learn a language than the circumstances he faced at Nootka though!
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I bet he was talking pidgin Latin to his teacher & getting rapped on the knuckles!
onas-tl’ei aka-yei rai-tei os-pei awa-wei ‘kosho-rom-wawa’ pi okok ankati ticha hwip yaka. 🙂
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Dave, I agree with your overall point that Jewitt’s short wordlist shows signs of pidginization. Here are some more specific comments on particular concepts.
(1) ‘son’, ‘daughter’. In contrast to its sister languages Ditidaht and Makah, modern Nuuchahnulth has no words for ‘son’ or ‘daughter’. Instead, the words ḥaaw̓iłaƛ ‘young man’ and ḥaakʷaaƛ ‘young woman’ are used for these meanings. Since this is the usage across Modern ncn, I assume that it was in Jewitt’s time too. His phrases |tanassis-check-up|, |tanassis-kloots-mah| strike me as pidginified. (Though I should point out that even in natural ncn, the words čakup ‘man’, łuucsma ‘woman’ are used as general modifiers meaning ‘male’, ‘female’.)
(2) ‘go fishing’. Jewitt’s phrase |ma-mook-su-mah| ‘to go to fish’ is also not good ncn, according to my experience. Nuuchahnulth and its sister Westcoast languages have many suppletive verb pairs where a specific intransitive verb is related to a more general transitive verb. For example, the intransitive verbs čiic, c̓iiƛc̓iiya, t̓aaƛt̓aaya describe specific styles of fishing (‘trolling’, ‘dip-netting’, ‘jigging’), while the transitive verb ʔuʔuʔiiḥ ‘harvesting it’ covers harvesting food in general. Similar are intransitive mamuuk ‘working, weaving’ and transitive ʔuutaq ‘working on it’. Jewitt’s |ma-mook-su-mah| looks quite unlike this native system.
(3) ‘give me’. As for Jewitt’s phrases |kah-ah-pah-chilt| ‘give me something’, |kah-ah-coh| ‘bring it’, I interpret these as #kaaʔa p̓ačiƛ ‘give me give’, and #kaaʔa ʔaḥkuu ‘give me this, here’, both of which sound like pidgin ncn. Even today, p̓ačiƛ is a very formal word, not for everyday giving. One might say in ncn kaaʔa ʔaḥn̓ii ‘give me that by you’, but kaaʔa ʔaḥkuu is strange.
(4) ‘go away’. Concerning Jewitt’s |cha-alt-see-klat-tur-wah|, modern ncn čaʔaałči ƛatw̓aa is a good sentence, but it means ‘go paddle!’, not ‘go away’.
(5) ‘warrior’. I wish I could say more about |ar-smootish-check-up|, but I can’t connect |ar-smoot| to anything that I know.
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Your comments are invaluable, thanks very much Adam. I’ve long maintained that someone with a sufficiently sophisticated grasp of NCN could tell us a whole lot about what I think of as the “linguistic archaeology” of early contact uses of that language, and of Chinuk Wawa’s proto-history. I’m very glad you’re here reading and commenting!
BTW, ‘go paddle’ reminds me of the Yiddish expression my friend’s mom supposedly used to throw at him when he was overly demanding, “geh kacken” (go poop)!
It’s my pleasure, Dave. I can’t match your prolificity, but I’m finding your steady posts very stimulating to my own thinking. FYI Henry K and I are working on a review of ncn words in the hypothetical Nootka Jargon. To be continued 🙂
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Plenty more pidginized NCN coming, by the way. I’ve been working through a stack of early narratives.
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I am currently listening to the audio book version of Jewitt’s book and am very, very interested and fascinated in this history. I constantly make notes while listening and then research these notes on the Internet, which led me to this site. I’ve looked at maps and aerial images of Nootka Sound and tried to follow the tribes travels to Tahsis and learn the area. I’ve read about fishing, whales, food, words, etc. I’ve tried to envision the long houses on the shore of Friendly Harbor while looking at the aerial photos. I’ve watched YouTube videos of boats going through this area and people hiking the area. Language history (archaeology) is very interesting to me. I do know that language can change over time and some of these words and phrases could have been in use during Jewitt’s time but have since fallen out of use or been homogenized since then My family immigrated from Finland to the US around 1900 and the language they spoke and my parents and grandparents spoke was “1900” Finn, essentially frozen in time. Modern Finns visit and don’t recognize many of the words or phrases because they have changed or fallen out of use in Finland since that time. One example is Kala Mojakka (Fish Stew) is used in the northern Midwest and modern Finns have said there is no such word for fish stew. Well, upon more research they find this is an old term for fish stew used in certain parts of Finland. Could this be the case with some of the words and phrases that Jewitt recorded?
Keep up the good work, this is most interesting!
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Hi Will, thanks for taking the time to leave your thoughtful comment here.
The languages have definitely changed, as you’re right to point out. Investigating this can get really interesting, because some of the change is in the grammar and some is in certain words changing meaning or getting forgotten. Add in the constant fact that some of the oldest documentation of PNW languages was by folks who really didn’t understand them…and it’s one big puzzle to work through.
So, yes, for a number of reasons I’d expect modern Nuuchahnulth speakers to have lots of difficulty making heads or tails of what Jewitt wrote down. We can tell for sure that a lot of it is accurate (but garbled). Some of it, though…gosh knows 🙂
PS, talk about historical change in languages, I was pleased to recognize the Finnish word for ‘fish’, “kala” as being related way back to Hungarian “hal”. Really different, but if you squint…
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