Chinuk Wawa təmstiyu, from Salish with Métis + Chinookan input

The Chinuk Wawa noun təmstiyu ‘arrowwood’ has stuck in my mind for quite a while, as have many others that “feel” Salish to me.

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təmstiyu-úlali? (Image credit: NW Wild Foods)

Zenk, Johnson, & Hamilton 2010 appropriately trace it to Clackamas Chinookan i-də́mštiyu ‘serviceberry’. That’s a reasonable match for Demers, Blanchet, & St Onge’s 1871 Chinuk Wawa tomsteo ‘arrowwood’. Nothing in the phonetics causes me much concern.

But, I haven’t found a comparable form in other Chinookan languages, whether that’s due to an accidental gap in documentation or to a geographical consideration.

If the latter, then location will have significance. Words (other than numerals) that I’ve suggested are old Salish loans into Chinookan routinely cluster downriver, primarily in Clatsop-Shoalwater & secondarily in Kathlamet. If they appear in a third Chinookan language, that’ll be the nearest Upper Chinookan language, Clackamas. Virtually never does the farthest upriver relative, Kiksht, have Salish words.

The Salish content that I might suspect is in təmstiyu is:

  • a root like the known t’ə́m ‘tie’ (the most frequent meaning; also seen in Chinuk Wawa t’amuləch ‘barrel’) and
  • the lexical suffix -styəp ‘grass, plant’

In modern Lower Chehalis, we in fact have tə́mstiw ‘wild black currant’ from Emma Luscier. That’s a great match with the CW/Clackamas forms. It’s phonologically distorted, if you will, from my first hypothesis of a native Salish form. And tə́mstiw is not clearly analyzable in modern Salish. Almost as if it had been “borrowed back” from Chinookan after being mutated!

I highly doubt Hutyéyu (Tillamook) as the source, because the final /p/ should have historically developed into /h/ there. (As it did in the name of the language, which starts with *pút ‘correct’.)

The sound change of Salish */əp/ > Chinookan /əw~u/ that’s required here is plausible. We certainly see a noticeable amount of variation in Lower Chinookan and in SW WA Salish among /b~p~m~w~xʷ/.

-t(‘)əmstiyu / -dəmštiyu, I have to also say, would be a weirdly long Chinookan root. Nor can I see a way to parse it as a complex stem in Chinookan. (Not that I grasp Chinookan morphology quite as well as I do SW WA Salish!)

A final point — semantics.

Why is it that ChW təmstiyu is ‘arrowwood’, but Clackamas i-də́mštiyu is ‘serviceberry’, while Lower Chehalis tə́mstiw is ‘wild black currant’? Nobody would mistake these plants for each other. ‘Arrowwood’ can be a common name in English for various shrubs, viburnum being one, but I imagine also yew and so forth.

‘Arrowwood’ also calls to mind the Métis French bois d’arc, literally ‘bow wood’. Recall that there’s ongoing confusion around ‘bow’ and ‘arrow’ within Chinuk Wawa. The bois d’arc in the Mississippi Valley was ‘Osage orange’ but by necessity it would denote some other species for the Métis Canadians in the PNW, perhaps one having dark berries. Their bois de flèche ‘arrowwood’ was dogwood, which we also have in the PNW, but that one has no berries.

Altogether, I see ChW təmstiyu as a word likely to trace from SW WA Salish, and likely to denote a shrub with edible dark-colored berries. Its gloss as ‘arrowwood’ very likely preserves another scrap of the ubiquitous Métis heritage that we find in the Jargon.

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?