X’unei’s wonderful Lingít dictionary

X‘unei Lance Twitchell edited another really fine dictionary of the Lingít language that you can freely access from your computer…


I wonder if this might be a Lingít description of Chinuk Wawa too? 😀

It’s the “Tlingit Dictionary” (Juneau, AK: University of Alaska Southeast, 2017).

X‘unei describes it as a “living dictionary”, so I anticipate that it will change as people make suggestions.

Some things that I love about this book, because it does them right when almost everyone does them wrong:

  • It’s a friendlier cultural resource than most dictionaries, for instance in that it lists the clans “on both sides” under each village’s Native name. This is similar to my draft “ethnographic” dictionary of Kamloops-area Chinuk Wawa, where I include all names that speakers mention, along with background information on locations, known activities, and such. 
  • It draws from more sources than previous dictionaries have used.
  • It has entries for “Ø” (null / silent) morphemes! ❤
  • It has entries for the affixes, not just roots or full words.
  • The morphological structure of each entry is explained, along with its literal meaning, which frequently shows you the metaphors and beliefs involved in speaking fluent Lingít.
  • Native words for modern life are included, such as ‘telephone’ and ‘daycare’.
  • More loanwords are included than in many dictionaries, and we’re told e.g. that the word for ‘Alaska’ demonstrably comes from Unangam (Aleut).
  • More guidance on usage is given, so e.g. an entry on one word for ‘tail’ will tell you when a different term for ‘tail’ is used.

Not all of the certain & possible Chinuk Wawa borrowings are noted as such in this dictionary, though. (And, as in so many PNW dictionaries, some are instead inaccurately labeled as coming from English and so on.) So I’ll list the words I’m noticing, that we’ve also seen in the Jargon.

(Previously I’ve listed a number of “covert” Chinook Jargon loans into Tlingit, in the form of calques / metaphors.)

anahoo ‘turnip, rutabaga’ — Chinuk Wawa lenamu etc.

áabíns ‘apple’

áanjís ‘oranges’

chéiwís ‘cherries’

Cháanwaan ‘Chinese’

dákde át ‘thing heading offshore, esp. wind’ (this is a Tlingit word, but John Muir’s Alaskan Chinook Jargon vocabulary includes it as < tucktay > ‘seaward’)

dáanaa ‘dollar; silver dollar; silver; money; coin’ — CW dala

dée ‘tea’ 

gawdáan ‘horse’ — CW kʰiyutən

Ginjichwáan / Kinguchwáan ‘Canadian; British’ — CW kʰinchoch

gishoo ‘pig’ — CW kushu

gút ‘dime’ — CW bit

góon ‘gold’

gwéechís ‘peaches’

gwéens ‘beans’

káa ‘car’

k’anáaxán ‘fence’ — CW q’əlax̣ən

k’únts’ ‘potato’ (Not a Jargon word, but I have to point this out! Similar-shaped words for this post-contact crop were shared along the NW coast from Salish country to Lingít lands; they usually have a /q/ sound, so this here looks as if its pronunciation was influenced by a folk-etymology with Lingít –k’únts’i ‘testicles’.)

lookanáa ‘person who acts crazy or possessed | member of a secret society whose trademark is acting bestial and eating dogs’ — not necessarily CW, but a widely shared spiritual practice and word, the dlugwana wolf religion, from a widely known Kwak’wala word.

nadáakw ‘table’ — CW latab

nahéin ‘stick game’ — CW (s)lahal, from a typically Southern Vancouver Island-area pronunciation as lahe(e)l

nakwnéit ‘priest’ — CW lipʰlet

nawéin ‘oats’ — CW lawen

náaw ‘liquor; booze; alcohol; alcoholic beverage’ — CW lam

sakwnéin ‘bread’ — CW saplel

s(h)góon ‘school’

sgóonwaan ‘student; pupil’ — CW skul-man

sitgawsáan ‘noon’ (note, the entry for taat sitgawsáani ‘midnight’ erroneously tries to analyze that compound noun as a purely Tlingit taat + sit-gaw-sáan-i → ‘night + ?’, but it’s really just ‘night’s noon’ using this CW loan) — CW sitkum-san

s(h)toox ‘stove’

shgóonaa ‘schooner’

shtéen káa ‘steam engine; train’ — BC/Alaska CW stim-ka(r)

tuwaakú ‘tobacco’

ts’íkts’ík ‘cart; wheelbarrow’ — CW ts’ikts’ik

wanadóo ‘sheep; domestic sheep’ — CW lamatu

wasóos ‘cow’ — CW musmus

washéen ‘engine; motor’

wásh ‘mush; oatmeal; porridge’

Waashdan Ḵwáan (compound noun) ‘American’; the entry’s etymological note says [literal meaning is] | “People of Boston” and that ” «Waashdán» comes from English “Boston” — however, the normal Lingít development of English Boston or Chinuk Wawa bástən would be *gwaasdan*, so I believe Waashdan is more directly from English Washington (D.C.), albeit also with probable influence from bástən. On the other hand, some loanwords turn out to have irregular sound developments in this language, cf. anahoo above, which we might expect to be *nanawoo*. (Ḵwáan is a Tlingit word for ‘people’.)

wáachwaan ‘police officer; watchman; guard’ 

wínk ‘milk’ (cow’s milk)

Bonus fact:

If you have leisure time to browse through a dictionary that’s as deep as this one, you’ll find many, many metaphors and ways of phrasing things that occur in languages throughout the Pacific Northwest. That is, not all such expressions have to be imagined to have come from Chinuk Wawa’s influence, when they denote stuff that’s been in the people’s lives for millennia. For example, there’s an entry…

tleinlé (particle) • variants: tleinlí, tlél unalé, tlél, 
nalé, tlelé, tlelí • almost | “itʼs not far”

…so, this is telling us that this Lingít word means ‘almost’ in everyday speech, and that it etymology is from pieces that mean ‘it’s not far’. Both the meaning and the source metaphor are identical to Chinuk Wawa’s wík-sayá — but we have no reason to suppose that CW is the inspiration for the Tlingit expression. Many PNW cultures have had similar ways of talking for an extremely long time before CW’s known existence.

qʰáta mayka tə́mtəm? What do you think?