1792: Galiano’s expedition, and a controlled experiment in pidgin formation

There’s an admirable awareness of Indigenous people’s languages in this early contact account…

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The famous portrait of Chief Tetacus (Makah) who circumnavigated Vancouver Island with the Spaniards, 1792, by José Caedero (image credit: Pinterest)

Even without understanding the local people, these Spanish visitors accurately distinguished unrelated languages, and pointed out which tribes contained folks who understood bits of the “Nootka” language.

Today I’m looking at the book:

Relacion del viage hecho por las goletas Sutil y Mexicana en … 1792, para reconocer el estrecho de Fuca; con una intr. en que se da noticia de las expediciones executadas anteriormente por los Españoles en busca del paso de Noroeste de la América” (Madrid, Spain: Imprenta Real, 1802; no author noted in the book). (That is, “Narrative of the voyage made by the schooners Sutil and Mexicana in … 1792, to reconnoiter the Straits of Fuca; with an introduction in which news is given of the expeditions undertaken previously by the Spanish in search of the Northwest Passage of the Americas.”) 

I found this book fairly easy reading with my mostly self-taught Spanish. It’s not as old-fashioned as some English-language books of the same era that I’ve read in my research.

And the writer is pretty perceptive, as I was saying.

In addition, it’s refreshing to read the perspective of explorers from another cultural background than the British & Americans who dominate the written record of early Euro-American contact with Pacific Northwest coastal nations.

A general remark for starters — as with other Spanish sources on Nootka, the word for ‘chief’ is always Tais/Tays, with the final -s that’s reminiscent of the Spanish noun pluralizer or the Nuuchahnulth diminutive.

Now to the contents related to linguistic communication. After these, I’ll explain why these are so very important to Chinook Jargon research, and to “contact linguistics” overall.

Page CI of the introduction — [about the expedition of Bodega y Quadra, 1779] —

Los intérpretes tomados en Bucareli no pudieron hacerse entender de los Indios del monte de S Elías, quienes instáron á nuestros navegantes á entrar en un puerto que denomináron de Santiago.

The [Haida] interpreters taken in Bucareli [Bay, Prince of Wales Island area, Alaska] could not make themselves understood by the [Yakutat Tlingit] Indians of Mount S. Elías [Alaska], who urged our navigators to enter a port that they called Santiago [Port Etches, Prince William Sound area, south-central Alaska].

Page CXXIX — Caamaño — at Nootka in 1792 —

La mañana misma del 6 llegó á la fragata una canoa en que iba Jammisit con otros Indios principales cantando todos la paz, y con señales de alegria y festividad parecia que querian disipar en nuestra gente el enfado y resentimiento por el anterior suceso: entráron con rezelo á bordo, hiciéron varias demostraciones de amistad, regaló el xefe á Caamaño una piel de nutria, cambió con él su nombre, y despues de haber comido mucho pan y bebido mucho vino se fueron todos cantando la paz dexando el buque con muy mal olor.

On the morning of the 6th, a canoe in which [Nuuchahnulth Chief] Jammisit was traveling arrived at the frigate with other leading Indians, all singing peace, and with signs of joy and festivity, it seemed that they wanted to dissipate in our people the anger and resentment for the previous event, they entered with suspicion on board and made several demonstrations of friendship, the chief gifted Caamano a sea otter skin, exchanged names with him, and after having eaten much bread and drunk much wine all departed singing peace leaving the ship with a very bad smell.

(Now to the narrative of Bodega y Quadra’s own voyage.)

May 12, 1792 — pages 14-15 — arrival at “Nutka” (Yuquot/Nootka), “el Xefe ó Tais Macuina” (Chief Maquinna) visits, straightaway recognizes crew members Valdés, Vernaci, and Salamanca, who had been at Nootka the year previous, and embraced them with displays of great satisfaction.

Page 17 — Maquinna eats on board every day, using a fork and knife like the most polished European; he drinks wine but warns others about it, saying to limit how much they drink of “aquel licor que llamaba agua de España” — ‘that liquor that he called Spain water’ — presumably in pidginized Nuuchahnulth, as we find such words in the vocabularies below, and his quaint phrasing wouldn’t be commented on if he were using normal Spanish words.

page 18 — More about naming customs and meanings of names. The chief

Quicomacsia…en el año de 91…se llamaba Quicsioconuc, y por haber casado con una hija de un Tais de los Nuchimases habia variado de nombre, tomando otro (á nuestro entender) de mas suposición. Nunca pudimos comprehender en qué consistia esta diferencia…

Quicomacsia … in the year [17]91 … was named Quicsioconuc, and because he married a daughter of a Tais of the Nuchimases [Kwakwaka’wakw] he had changed his name, taking another (to our understanding) of more assumption. We could never understand what this difference consisted of…

Page 19 — An example of some of the communication by hand gestures mixed with apparently pidginized Nuuchahnulth:

Tlupananulg, igualando dos dedos de la mano, siempre nos decia que él se diferenciaba tan poco de Macuina como aquellos dos dedos entre sí…

Tlupananulg, matching two fingers of the hand, always told us that he was as little different from Macuina as those two fingers from each other …

Page 23 — An example of the syntax of pidginized Nuuchahnulth, again mixed with gestures and as usual with limited comprehension by the Europeans:

…Macuina, que vino á acompañarnos como tenia de costumbre, nos dixo en su idioma, acompañado del de la accion, que su talento sabia hacer expresivo, que no habiamos hecho la salida en ocasion oportuna, y que quedaba á su cuidado el determinarla con acierto. Nosotros accedimos á su oferta considerando que los Indios que viven de la pesca, para la que emplean embarcaciones tan débiles como son sus Canoas, han de haber observado mucho los carices, y deben tener del tiempo tanto conocimiento como nuestros mejores pescadores. Pero Macuina significó que sus oraciones á Cuautle le darian una confianza mayor que su inteligencia, y en la misma casa del Comandante las entonó con la mayor devocion: nosotros no pudimos comprehender mas que las palabras Cuautle-Clus-nas, esto es, Dios, buen tiempo…Los Mischimis le oian con la mayor devocion…

…Macuina, who came to accompany us as usual, told us in his language accompanied by that of action which his talent knew how to make expressive, that we had not made the departure on a timely basis and that it was left to his care to determine it correctly. We assented to his offer considering that the Indians who live from fishing, for which they use boats as weak as their Canoes, must have observed the appearances [of things] a lot and must have as much knowledge of weather as our best fishermen. But Macuina meant that his prayers to Cuautle would give him a confidence greater than his knowledge, and in the same house of the Commander he intoned them with the greatest devotion: we could not understand more than the words Cuautle-Clus-nas, that is, ‘God good weather’…The Mischimis listened to him with the greatest devotion…

Page 24 —

En este dia vino una Canoa de fuera con varios naturales pidiendo auxilio al Comandante Don Juan de la Bodega contra una embarcacion que en la boca de Buena Esperanza habia atacado una ranchería de Indios, matando siete, hiriendo á otros, y despojando á los demas de las pieles de nutria que tenian: traian un herido para que lo curase el Cirujano; y Macuina se interesaba con el Comandante para que se tuviese cuidado de él, y para que procediese al castigo de los agresores. Segun se pudo comprehender el buque era la Fragata Americana la Columbia, su Capitan Gray, á quien indicaban los Indios con la señal de que era tuerto: circunstancia que sabiamos recaia en dicho Capitan. Decian que no habiendo querido los naturales convenir en el cambio de pieles con los Europeos, se habian estos valido de la fuerza para obligarlos. 

On this day a Canoe came from outside with several natives asking Commander Don Juan de la Bodega for help against a boat that at the mouth of Buena Esperanza had attacked a settlement of Indians, killing seven, wounding others and stripping the rest of the sea otter skins that they had: they brought a wounded man to be cured by the Surgeon; and Macuina was interested that the Commander take care of him, and should proceed with the punishment of the aggressors. As far as could be understood, the boat was the American frigate Columbia, its captain Gray, whom the Indians indicated with signs that he was one-eyed, a circumstance that we knew befell said Captain. They said that since the natives had not wanted to agree to the exchange of skins with the Europeans, they had used force to oblige them.

galianos map

Galiano’s map (image credit: Hubert Howe Bancroft, “History of British Columbia“)

Page 25 — Macuina speaks

Vimos un dia entrar á Macuina en la casa del establecimiento con un semblante que manifestaba la inquietud de su corazon. “He sentenciado, dixo, á muerte á uno de mis Mischimis por haber cometido la maldad de hacer uso de una muchacha de nueve años en lo escondido de los bosques: ahora estarán executando el castigo: yo he venido acá por no sufrir el dolor de oir sus lamentos.” Quando determinó volverse á la ranchería dixo a nuestros Oficiales si querian ayudarle á socorrer la pobre familia del ajusticiado, dándole algun pan ú otra cosa que pudiese serle útil.

One day we saw Macuina enter the house of the establishment with a face that manifested the restlessness of his heart. “I have sentenced, he said, to death one of my Mischimis for having committed the evil of making use of a girl of nine years’ age under cover of the forest: now they will be executing the punishment: I have come here in order to not suffer the pain of hearing his laments.” When he decided to return to the ranchería, he asked our officers if they wanted to help him help the poor family of the executed person by giving them some bread. or something else that might be of use to them.

•••

Otro dia un criminal sentenciado á muerte por el mismo Xefe fue a buscar la proteccion de Don Juan de la Bodega, echándose á sus pies. Se la ofreció este Comandante, y quando aquel fue á visitarle, le pidió la gracia para su cliente. “Se la concedo, dixo, pero no volverá á unirse con los mios; quédate con él, hazle cortar el pelo y vestir como los tuyos; y no olvides esta accion, por si alguna vez pido yo igual gracia para alguno de estos.”

Another day a criminal sentenced to death by the Chief himself went to seek the protection of Don Juan de la Bodega, throwing himself at his feet. This Commander offered it to him, and when that man went to visit him [the Chief], he asked for the grace for his client. “I grant it to him, he said, but he will not join my people again; stay with him, have him cut his hair and dress like yours; and do not forget this action, in case I ever ask for the same grace for any of these.”

Page 30 — language of the Makahs (at the location where the Spaniards are to found the new establishment of Núñez Gaona) —

Aunque su idioma es muy diferente, entienden el Nuqueño, y sus costumbres al parecer son las mismas que las de los naturales de aquella Isla.

Although their language is very different, they understand Nootkan, and their customs apparently are the same as those of the natives of that island.

Page 31 — An unclear offer —

Un muchachito se ofreció á traer mugeres, que segun pudimos inferir eran algunas esclavas, así como lo son los muchachos que ven den en los mismos términos que en Nutka.

A little boy offered to bring women who, according to what we could infer, were some slaves, as are the boys who they sell on the same terms as in Nutka.

Page 32 — Makah Chief Tetacus’s wife has a European name; I’m not sure I fully understand the writer’s remark about it:

Despues dixo en la Sutil, que era su muger la que quedaba en la Canoa que estaba al costado; la llamaban María, nombre que hubiera parecido corruptela ó defecto de pronunciacion si no se hubiera atendido con cuidado á la de Tetacus.

Late he said in the Sutil that it was his wife who was left in the Canoe that was at the side; they called her María, a name that would have seemed corrupted or defective in pronunciation if she had not been carefully attended to that of Tetacus.

Page 35 — Chief Tetacus:

Miraba atentamente las maniobras, buscaba el laboreo de los cabos, indagaba sus nombres, y rara cosa escapaba á su exámen, procurando no hacerse molesto, interponiendo con sus preguntas algun agasajo, y dando algunas noticias de los usos de su pais, y de los nombres de varias cosas que él creia nos podian interesar.

He looked attentively after the maneuvers, he looked for the working of the capes, he inquired their names and scarcely a thing escaped his examination, trying not to make a pest of himself, interposing with his questions some choice tidbit and giving some news of the usages of his country and the names of various things that he believed could interest us.

Page 37 — Cordova Bay people (W̱SÁNEĆ Salish!) understand Nuuchahnulth:

Saliéron varias Canoas pequeñas de la Costa proxîma á dicha Punta, y dimos algunos abalorios á los Indios de tres de ellas que atracáron á bordo. Entendian el lenguage Nuqueño, y uno de los Marineros de la Sutil conoció que uno de aquellos naturales habia sido en el año anterior de los mas empeñados en robar la lancha del Paquebot San Cárlos. Nos dirigimos al Puerto de Córdoba donde Tetacus indicaba debia quedarse, y á que daba el nombre de Chachimutupusas

Several small canoes left the coast near said point, and we gave some beads to the Indians of three of them who landed on board. They understood the Nootkan language, and one of the sailors of the Sutil realized that one of those natives had been in the previous year one of the most determined to steal the launch from the mailboat San Cárlos. We went to the Port of Córdoba where Tetacus indicated he should stay, and to which he gave the name of Chachimutupusas.

PAGE 41 — Varias palabras del idioma que se habla en la Boca S. del Canal de Fuca y sus equivalentes en castellano ‘Various words of the language spoken at the southern mouth of the Straits of Fuca and their equivalents in Spanish’. (This is Makah apparently — likely of Galiano’s and/or his crew’s own collecting, separate from the Mociño material that dominates the end of this book. So this set of words needs to be added to my coming Dictionary of the Nootka Jargon!)

varias palabras

Agua          ‘water’          Ihaac [sic]

Allí          ‘over there’          Alii 

El Cielo          ‘the sky’          Taciu hamach 

Concha de Monterey          ‘abalone’          Guindá 

Cuerda          ‘rope’          Zumocuanelo 

Dar un tajo          ‘to rip, tear’          Licitle 

Estrellas          ‘stars’          Lluisac 

Humo          ‘smoke’          Lacuec 

Lengua          ‘tongue’          Taquisamach 

Llorar          ‘to cry’          Clejacle 

Luna          ‘moon’          Glajuashashitle 

Montes          ‘mountains’          Govachas 

Nadar          ‘to swim’          Suushuc 

No entiendo          ‘I don’t understand’          Aya mas 

Páxaro          ‘bird’          Ucutap 

Palo de embarcacion          ‘boat’s mast’          Claquesum 

Vela de id          ‘boat’s sail’          Glisapic 

Ponerse el Sol          ‘(for the) sun to set’          Upat daquia 

Punzar El Sol          ‘(for the) sun to rise (? literally ‘punch’)‘          Zujucitle Daquia 

Tierra llana          ‘flat land’          Sisabache 

Tierra en que se siembra          ‘land where one sows (plants seeds)’          Guisimut 

Norte          ‘north’          Tuishi 

Nordeste          ‘northeast’        Cuasini  

Oeste          ‘east’          Balegsti 

Oir          ‘to hear’          Dados 

Oreja          ‘ear’          Pipi 

El ave semejante a un águila que pintó Tetacus          ‘the bird resembling an eagle that Tetacus painted’          Suayuk

Page 57 — having visited Canal de Güemes, the ship visits Cala del Descanso ‘(little) Bay of Rest’ (Nanaimo). The local Salish “idioma es enteramente diferente del de Nutka, y hacen aun mayores esfuerzos y aspiraciones guturales, por lo que nos pareció mas dificil de aprender” (‘is entirely different from that of Nootka, and they make even greater guttural efforts and aspirations, from which it struck us as harder to learn’). The Spanish couldn’t get these folks to relax and trust them; does this speak to bad previous experiences of Europeans, or lack of previous contact? 

Page 65 — Punta de Lángara (Point Grey on the BC mainland, Skwxwú7mesh/Squamish country) — the local language is similar to the preceding; folks are more outgoing and curious toward the Spaniards, “Repetian con grande facilidad quanto se les decia” (‘They repeated with great ease as much as was said to them’ … they made many signs, gave us to understand that we would find foodstuffs and an abundance of water.

Page 69 — the northern arm of Canal de Floridablanca (Burrard Inlet) which the natives call Sasamat.

Page 76 — People of the Angostura de los Comandantes (Bute Inlet-Sechelt-ish) are similar in most ways including language to the recently met Natives.

Page 81 —

“Los Indios recibiéron a los citados Comandantes con la mayor amistad, y les diéron á entender que no se expusieran con la Lancha á pasar el Canal, porque serian sumergidos sin recurso en los remolinos que habia en él…”

The Indians received the aforementioned Commanders with the greatest friendship and gave them to understand that they should not expose themselves with the Boat to a passage in the Canal because they would be submerged without recourse in the eddies that existed in it…’

Page 90 — the Natives approach with a skin, take the Spaniards’ failure to stop to trade (due to rough surf at the moment) as hostility; this is near Cordero Channel — Kwakwaka’wakw land.

Page 92 — In the area of Chancellor Channel, Kwakwaka’wakw country, northeast Vancouver Island:

Por la tarde vinieron en tres Canoas varios naturales, algunos de los quales entendian el idioma de Nutka, distinguiéndose uno, que desde luego empezó á hacer de Intérprete en los tratos. Conocian á Macuina y á otros Xefes de aquel distrito, y aun el modo que se les veia en los ajustes y la eleccion de prendas en los cambios lo daban á entender y manifestaban que tienen trato con ellos.

‘In the afternoon, several natives came in three canoes, some of whom understood the language of Nootka, one of them distinguishing himself, who course began to act as an Interpreter in the dealings. They knew Macuina and other Chiefs of that district, and even the manner of their appearance in the settings and the choice of [European] garments in the exchanges made it understood and manifest that they have dealt with them.’

Page 93 — Same general area, in or near the lands of the Nuchîmases: 

Así que fondeamos vinieron a los costados de las Goletas varias Canoas con naturales, de los quales los mas entendian el idioma de Nutka y mostraban haber tratado mucho con los Europeos, de quienes habian adquirido diversos efectos.

‘Once we anchored there came to the sides of the Schooners several Canoes with natives, of whom the most understood the language of Nutka and showed that they had dealt a lot with the Europeans, from whom they had acquired various effects.’

Page 95-97 — Nuchimas (Kwakwaka’wakw) country —

El 4 vino á bordo una Canoa con Cauti, jóven de buena presencia que nos dixo era Tais Nuchîmas y poderoso en aquella comarca. Nos dió noticias de la Lancha con viveza y agrado natural, explicándose muy bien en el idioma de Nutka: se extendió nuestra conversacion á tratar de Macuina y de algunos otros Xefes de aquel distrito que él conocia. Y pareciéndonos muy conducente ganarnos la amistad y confianza de este Caudillo, le regalamos cumplidamente en ambos buques; resultando que se despidiese muy contento, ofreciéndonos volver acompañado de un Tais, llamado Sisiaquis, dueño de muchas tierras sobre la Costa del N.

‘On the 4th, a Canoe came aboard with young Cauti, a youth of good presence, who told us he was a Nuchimas Tais and powerful in that region. He gave us news of the Boat with liveliness and natural pleasure, explaining himself very well in the language of Nutka. Our conversation extended to dealing with Macuina and some other Chiefs of that district that he knew. And it seeming very conducive to win the friendship and trust of this headman, we gave him a good gift on both ships, resulting in him saying goodbye very happy, offering to us to return accompanied by a Tais, named Sisiaquis, owner of many lands on the northern coast. 

Page 100 — same area:

Un Indio le engañó prometiendo enseñarle la salida; pero así que le puso en lo mas intrincado del laberinto desapareció. 

‘An Indian tricked him by promising to show him the way out; but once he had put him in the most intricate of the labyrinth, disappeared.’

Page 102 — Same area:

Sisiaquis vino á bordo con dos de sus Indios, y nos dió a entender que Nutka quedaba al SE., y que por la mar llegariamos pronto á aquel Puerto. Nos pidió que pasaramos por sus rancherías, donde podriamos dormir, nos regalaria, y sus mugeres nos servirian como hacian con otros Viageros, que por las señas que daba eran los Comerciantes y madores Ingleses, quienes les pagan con cantidad de cobre este agasajo.

‘Sisiaquis came on board with two of his Indians, and gave us to understand that Nutka was to the SE, and that by sea we would soon arrive at that port. He asked us to pass through his villages, where we could sleep, he would give us gifts, and his women would serve us as they did with other Travelers who, by the signs he gave, were the English merchants and shipowners, who paid them with a quantity of copper for this treat.’

Pages 106-107 —

Nuestro corto trato con los Indios del Puerto de Güemes no nos proporcionó otra utilidad que la compra de algunos salmones frescos; pues no pudimos adquirir de ellos noticia alguna interesante.

Our brief dealings with the Indians of Port Güemes did not provide us with any other use than the purchase of some fresh salmon, since we could not acquire any interesting information from them.

Page 112 —

Decia Macuina que las habia vendido al Capitan Meares á diez por plancha en el año de 1788; y en el dia se da una plancha de media arroba por cada piel de primera calidad.

Macuina said he had sold them (sea otter skins) to Captain Meares at ten per sheet [of copper] in the year 1788; and nowadays a half-arroba [about 6 kg] sheet is given for each skin of first quality.

Page 117 — Nutka is not a real place name; it’s called Yucuatl (Yuquot) by the locals, and the closest resemblance to any Nuuchahnulth word known by the writer is Nutchî ‘mountain’.

Page 123 — the great majority of the information available about the Yuquot (Nootka) people is what Mosiño separately collected during this same voyage:

Somos deudores á nuestro compatriota D. Francisco Mosiño de casi todos los conocimientos y noticias que poseemos relativos á los habitantes de Nutka, con quienes tuvo Mosiño largo trato y comunicacion durante el tiempo que en compañía del Capitan de Navío D. Juan de la Bodega y Quadra permaneció en Nutka en clase de Naturalista adicto á la expedicion del mando de aquel Oficial en el verano de 1792. El discernimiento de este sugeto benemérito, su constancia, la inteligencia que llegó á adquirir del idioma Nutkeño, la intima amistad que contraxo con los Insulares mas caracterizados y mas expertos de la poblacion, y su larga residencia en ella son títulos que exigen de nuestra imparcialidad la preferencia que damos á sus investigaciones sobre las nuestras.

‘We are indebted to our compatriot Mr. Francisco Mosiño for almost all the knowledge and news that we have regarding the inhabitants of Nutka, with whom Mosiño had long contact and communication during the time that in the company of Captain Juan de la Bodega y Quadra he remained. in Nutka in the class of Naturalist addicted to the expedition of the command of that Officer in the summer of 1792. The discernment of this worthy individual, his perseverance, th’ knowledge that he came to acquire about the Nutkeño language, the intimate friendship that contracted with the most characterized and expert Islanders of the population, and his long residence among them are titles that demand from our impartiality the preference we give to his investigations over ours.’

Page 178-183 — Apparently copied from Mosiño, as is the bulk of the book beyond page 123 — a vocabulary of the Nootka, that is, Yuquot dialect of Nuučaan’uɬ, language. (To be compared with Mosiño’s; see my separate posts about his book.)

vocabulario 178

vocabulario 179

vocabulario 180

vocabulario 181

vocabulario 182

vocabulario 183

On the importance of these data:

Take the observations of the expedition journalist and Mosiño together, and the contrast is revealing. In fact, I’ll claim it’s a “natural” scientific experiment demonstrating how pidgin languages come into existence!

The crew of the sailing ships, which stayed in near-constant motion as they surveyed their way all around Vancouver Island, had only brief interactions with any Indigenous nation they met, even with those who they could tell spoke some of the “Nootka” language. No deep understandings were reached, and no substantial information was exchanged verbally, nor, for that matter, by signs/hand gestures.

Meanwhile, Mosiño, remaining at Yuquot (Nootka Sound) for that entire span of months, developed an impressive degree of communication with the local people. He learned, as you see in the pages reproduced just above, quite a quantity of Nuuchahnulth vocabulary. In his narrative, he recounts a comparatively rich sustained interaction with the Native people, one that he makes clear was imperfect, but which we can see was still exponentially more effective than what the “Relacion del viage…” author reports.

In this, I see proof of what I have constantly claimed as the necessary conditions for a pidgin to form:

  • Sudden (new),
  • and sustained,
  • but non-permanent contact,
  • in which the parties are motivated to communicate efficiently.
    • Typically, the mutual “motivation” can be seen as economic — they want material goods from each other.
      In the science fiction I’ve read, the parties might seek only (or additionally) to swap information, and sometimes real pidgin-generating situations have involved much-sought-after knowledge, such as a new religion…but that’s usually free of charge.
    • The “efficiency” can be estimated in terms of demography (usually one party is effectively sedentary and usually outnumbers the other, which is usually mobile and thus small). 

(The sorts of contacts we’re talking about, let’s note, exclude e.g. motivations of intermarriage, which usually are between two comparably sedentary populations, whose contact is thus of a more permanent nature. Spouses become interpreters, as in the traditional pre-European-contact Pacific Northwest, and pidgin languages are a nonsensical idea. Because there are then no pidgins, no creoles can develop from them. “Mixed”-grammar languages are slightly more probable, but those too have typically traced back to the sudden contacts that characterize modern colonial states.)

“SUDDEN”: The Yuquots and Mosiño (plus whichever Spanish crew had been left behind with him) had previously had no contact with each other.

“SUSTAINED”: Nor had there been a prolonged European presence in the area since Captain Cook’s ships were the first to visit, in 1778. But with the long stay of Mosiño at Yuquot, the game changed.

“NON-PERMANENT”: Record-shattering as its length was, Mosiño’s residence was only temporary in intention and fact.

“MOTIVATED” to communicate efficiently: Mosiño was assigned to stay at Yuquot for the explicit purpose of coming to understand as much as possible about Nuuchahnulth life and lands. He was equipped with trade goods that were rare and precious to the Native people. These people exponentially outnumbered him. So the Nuučaan’uɬ language was the optimal medium of speech, with the Yuquots pretty clearly simplifying it for Mosiño’s benefit, likely in a synergistic and mimetic response to his stumbling efforts at copying its great phonological and morphological complexities.

I’ve found no good evidence of a “Nootka Jargon” prior to 1792, and then, in Mosiño’s personal narrative, suddenly ample evidence of such a pidgin in use between him and the Yuquots.

Meanwhile, those who remained aboard the Sutil and the Mexicana, continuing to travel the region, can be seen as the “control group”. And with them, there’s extremely little evidence of any coherent Nuuchahnulth (nor other) pidgin — despite the fact that the “Relacion del Viage…” indicates they did already have an acquaintance with Nuuchahnulth words.

So, as I say, we’re enormously lucky to have 2 separate accounts of the 1792 Spanish visit to Vancouver Island, because the contrast between them can be claimed to prove a theory of why and when pidgin languages come into existence.

And at this stage in my research into the earliest First Nations & Euro-American contacts on the PNW coast, 1792 looks like the earliest we can argue for any pidgin to have existed out here. (Reiterating what I’ve written elsewhere, this means Chinuk Wawa did not yet exist.)

For more about “natural experiments”, another one of which is the hugely differing responses of various government jurisdictions to the COVID-19 pandemic, click here.

Bonus fact:

That Spanish unit of weight, arroba, seen above is also the modern word for the “at sign” that we use all the time in email. Why? Because the traditional symbol for it was indeed “@”!

Qué piensas de esto?
What do you think?