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)
    [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 –]
  • mémeʔ ‘mother’ (mama(n))
    [could be from CJ; Salishanized with Affective suffix –]
  • 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]
  • 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]
  • lsel ‘salt’ (le sel)
  • lkəmin ‘flour soup’ (la gamine)
    [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]
  • lwen ‘oats’ (l’avoine)
    [could be from CJ]
  • lyam ‘devil’ (le diable)
    [could be from CJ]
  • lyen ‘cloth, calico’ (le lin ‘linen’? the /l/ => /y/ change suggests e.g. Thompson Salish influence)
  • kapy ‘coffee’ (café)
    [could be from CJ or English]
  • 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, mandah) entered interior BC languages via the historically important horse/mule “packers”]
  • k°úso ‘pig’ (cochon)
    [could be from CJ]

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.

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