SO MANY Métis words in interior PNW languages (Part 3: Secwepemctsín)

If we list all the words that might be from French in the Secwepemctsín language, we see historical Métis influence.


Candidate for the most multi-cultural word in today’s article (image credit: Peach Ridge Glass)

I went through the Dictionary section of Aert H. Kuipers’s reference book, “The Shuswap Language: Grammar, Texts, Dictionary” (The Hague: Mouton, 1974) and did this.

Even words that may have come into that Salish language of south-central British Columbia from Chinook Jargon are in the following list. Again, the idea is to list everything that could have come in from French via whatever channel — and then to evaluate what we find.

Here’s my complete list, in Kuipers’ idiosyncratic IPA-chart-oriented alphabetic order. Here, sounds made at the front of the mouth come first in his alphabet…

As always it’s probable there are more French loans in “Shuswap” that simply haven’t been documented in references that I have.

I’ll point out to you any words that are also known to us from Jargon reference works. Chinuk Wawa reached this area later than Métis French “of the mountains” did, though:

  • pe ‘and, but’ (puis); Kuipers says it’s probably also present in pe[-]wl ‘nevertheless, after all, all the same’ (wl ‘until’)
    [could be from CJ, but we virtually never find CJ conjunctions loaned into other languages]
  • pépeʔ ‘father’ (papa)
    [could be from CJ; Salishanized with Affective suffix –]
  • pətáq ‘potatoes’
  • mémeʔ ‘mother’ (mama(n))
    [could be from CJ; Salishanized with Affective suffix –]
  • mlam ‘heal; marry; baptize’, a native root; Kuipers notes the likely influence of “French se marier” here, but really it’d be Chinook Jargon malyí
  • npwen ‘(name of a tribe); Stonies’ (Assiniboine)
    [ultimately an Ojibwe word, said to be a French version thereof, and perhaps thus a Métis word although I can’t find it in dictionaries of Michif etc.; here perhaps Salishanized as though it was heard as using Salish s- ‘Nominalizer’]
  • lpwtey ‘bottle’ (la boutaille)
    [could be from CJ]
  • lpelt ‘shovel’ (la pelle)
    [could be from CJ; seemingly Salishanized with a suffixoid -t, which we also see in Secwepemc pronunciations of some CJ words]
  • s-lplot-m ‘a baseball-like game’ (la pelote)
  • lpik ‘digging-pick’ (pickaxe) (le pic)
  • lpyos ‘hoe’ (la pioche)
    [could be from CJ]
  • lməcip ‘unidentified tribe; “half-breed”; Iroquois band at Yellow Head Pass’ (also cites James Teit’s < lématcif or -ip(le(s) Mét(ch)if(s))
  • lti ‘tea’ (le thé)
    [could be from CJ]
  • ltep ‘table’ (la table)
    [could be from CJ]
  • ltant ‘tent’ (la tente)
  • lsal / lsol ‘shawl’ (la châle)
    [could be from CJ], with a note that “the form with o may have been influenced by Engl[ish] shawl”
  • lsel ‘salt’ (le sel)
  • lkəmin ‘flour soup’ (MFr la gamine [apparently ‘rough/coarse flour’]; Kuipers speculates, as have others, that it might be from a French la commune, which I believe no one has ever provided evidence for)
    [could be from CJ]
  • lkəlet ‘bread’ (la galette)
    [Interior Salish languages often change Métis French /g/ or /k/ to /q/; see ‘chicken’ below]
  • lkalt-m ‘to gamble’ (les cartes)
  • lk°əto ‘cotton’ (le coton)
  • lq’°uq° ‘chicken’ (le coq)
    [could be from CJ] (due to its nativized phonetics, I’d think this is a relatively old borrowing, thus perhaps more likely from Métis French than from Chinook Jargon, though both are good candidates)
  • lwen ‘oats’ (l’avoine)
    [could be from CJ]
  • lyam ‘devil’ (le diable)
    [could be from CJ]
  • lyen ‘cloth, calico’
    (Aert Kuipers suggests French le lin ‘linen’?
    I have to point out 2 things:
    The /l/ => /y/ change suggests e.g. Thompson Salish influence;
    And, if this word had come from le lin with its final nasalized vowel, it would’ve been pronounced more like ~ *lyé*, so a more likely source is Métis French la laine ‘wool’, which indeed is borrowed into lots of Indigenous languages farther to the north in the Pacific Northwest.)
  • kapy ‘coffee’ (café)
    [could be from CJ or English]
  • kənmlik ‘Canim Lake (lake and [“Indian”] Reserve)’
  • kntíne ‘leather bag carried on horseback’ (cantine?)
    [Kuipers also notes English ‘container’ — I’d also consider Spanish cantina, as a few Spanish words (e.g. mula, mulo, mandah) entered interior BC languages via the historically important horse/mule “packers”; “bota bags” also come to mind]
  • k°úso (Deadman’s Creek dialect k°óso) ‘pig’ (cochon)
    [could be from CJ]
  • k°óteʔ ‘quarter (coin)’ … almost certainly from CJ, as it’s extremely frequent in the old Kamloops Wawa newspaper before English was widely spoken by Indigenous people
  • c-k°l-k°úk’°l ‘metal money; small change’ (Kuipers has this as a form of the root k’°úl ‘to make’ etc., but the oddly specific, acculturated meaning of this word, suggests to me a development involving [a reduplicated form of] CW kul ‘gold’)

About this word list, I’d just add a higher-level observation.

Although there is some indeterminacy between Métis French & Chinuk Wawa as a source for many of the entries (and in either case you’re ultimately looking at an MF source), the set of concepts expressed is extremely similar to what we’ve found among the more obviously Métis-sourced French in Dakelh Dene (“Carrier” Athabaskan), the northern neighbour of Secwepemctsín.

And, we know that Secwépemc country is the location of fur-trade era forts and associated households of Métis workers’ families.

This pattern is repeated with other Interior tribal languages, as I’ll be showing you in future articles here.

So it looks like we have good proof that again it’s Métis people who supplied this considerable bunch of vocabulary to a Native language of BC.

The Métis left quite a mark, eh?

Bonus fact:

Actually, it’s all but certain that some of the words listed today came originally to Secwepemctsín from Métis French of the Mountains (circa 1810-1858+), and then were reinforced when Chinuk Wawa was brought to interior BC with the 1858+ gold rushes.

In the real world, words frequently have multiple etymologies and convoluted histories — but thanks to what I call “linguistic archaeology”, we are able to uncover and recover those histories.

Extra bonus fact:

This is a language that has a number of evocative words for Métis people.

  • s-pətk°λ-ʔúʔy translated as ‘Frenchman’ DC (s-c-pték°λ ‘myth, legend’; -ʔúʔy ‘real; the prototypical example of __’)
  • tnsíne ‘ “wild people” ‘ SC; note from James Teit further defines this as ‘Iroquois band at Yellow Head Pass’ (Tête Jaune Pass, BC), by definition Métis; see the next word
  • lməcip ‘unidentified tribe’ AL; note from James Teit defines this as ‘half-breed’ and identifies it with ‘Iroquois band at Yellowhead Pass’; from MFrench le(s) Métchif(s)

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
Kosay ti pens?
What do you think?