tə́qsin ‘follow; pursue’ from Lower Chehalis Salish

Chinuk Wawa tə́qsin ‘follow; pursue’ in the 2012 Grand Ronde Tribes dictionary: “Of obscure origin. Possibly from a local Salishan form with the transitive suffix -n.”


Charles Cultee, an important Lower Chehalis and Lower Chinookan speaker (image credit: Chinook Nation)

I agree with that evaluation.

Henry Zenk told me the other day that this dictionary entry is missing the information that we know the word from elder John Hudson, documented in 1928 by Melville Jacobs.

I’d like to add even more details.

For concepts of ‘chase, follow’, etc., here are relevant forms in the 4 SW Washington Salish languages:

  • Cowlitz —
    • (A) ‘follow; chase’ tál'[-]š-l’s
    • (B) ‘follow; go with’ ʔáya[-]šn- (root ʔáya[-]x-)
  • Upper Chehalis —
    • (A) ‘follow; chase’ tá[-]š[-]is-
    • (B) ‘go along; follow’ ʔáy'[-]šni-
  • Quinault —
    • (B) ‘follow’ appx. ʔə́[-]šən,
    • (C) ‘chase’ appx. (t-)sá(ʔ)ɬ[-]əm, sál'[-]əm
    • (D) ‘follow’ appx. tə́q[-]xʷəʔ[-]ni ~ təq[-]xʷə́ʔ[-]ni
  • Lower Chehalis —
    • (D) ‘follow, chase’ tə́q-šʔ-ən / tə́q-šən-ən

In the (A) forms, the root tá(l̓) is also known in Lower Chehalis, in the meaning ‘accompany’. (It’s in a Lower Chehalis word for a ‘chaperone’ that appears to literally mean ‘take along a heron/crane’, you know, a big bird that just stands around on one leg! And remember, birds are foolish.) The suffix -š means ‘(by) foot; leg’. The suffix -l’s / -is is the ‘Developmental’, indicating a change of state. So these (A) forms mean literally ‘to wind up (or manage to) accompany someone by foot’.

In the (B) forms, the root ʔáya / ʔáý / ʔə́ means ‘exchange; trade; etc.’ We find additional variants of the ‘foot, leg’ suffix, -šn(i) / -šən. So these (B) forms mean literally ‘to trade feet with someone’. Again a body-part reference!

In the (C) form I suspect the Quinault root sá(ʔ)ɬ / cá(ʔ)ɬ / sál’ is the one we know in the sister languages as ‘foot/leg’. So we have a literal meaning of ‘to foot/leg’ (after someone). Using a root instead of a suffix, we again have that body-part reference!

In the (D) form, the root tə́q (to the best of my understanding) means something like ‘shut’. So again, a body-part reference: ‘to shut (the distance to?) someone by foot’.

The Lower Chehalis (D) form is the etymology I’m suggesting for the Chinuk Wawa word tə́qsin — which strikes me as a “foreign” pronunciation of the Salish word.

I wanted to present all of the above forms to demonstrate that there’s a pervasive Indigenous metaphor in SW WA Salish for ‘follow; chase’, where you’re “doing something by foot”.

My guess is that in Salish, this expression might be reserved for people following or chasing people; it seems to me that other verbs are used for “the chase” in the sense of hunting animals.

Now for the obligatory check of the other major Indigenous language groups in the historic Chinuk Wawa heartland, so see if they might’ve contributed to the CW word for ‘follow, chase, etc.’

The languages of the Chinookan family use a totally different root wa- for ‘pursue, follow, chase’:

Lower Chinookan:


Screenshot 2022-03-29 095219

Boas 1910:659 (no occurrences of ‘chase’ noted)


Screenshot 2022-03-29 100023

Boas 1894:242 (in the English translation given, ‘they follow them again’, which probably reflects Charles Q’lti translating into Chinuk Wawa as wəx̣t łaska təqsin łaska) (no occurrences of ‘chase’ noted)

Upper Chinookan:


Screenshot 2022-03-29 100632

‘again he chased it’, Jacobs 1958:111; same root is used for ‘follow’ (e.g. page 139)


Screenshot 2022-03-29 101002

Sapir 1909:80-81; same root is used for ‘follow

The languages of the K’alapuyan family use a root yuw for ‘chase, follow’, bil for ‘follow’, etidu for ‘follow’.

So it appears certain that Grand Ronde Chinook Jargon’s tə́qsin ‘follow, pursue’ is a lower Columbia River Salish word, and specifically from Lower Chehalis.

Bonus fact:

There are no earlier ChW words for ‘chase; follow; pursue’ in Samuel V. Johnson’s 1978 compendium (dissertation); Horatio Hale 1890 gives < pe nika chaco kahkwa > ‘I will follow’ (literally ‘and I (will) come (along) in that way’.

In the later / Northern dialect, particularly in BC, we can find ‘follow; chase’ expressed as kuli kimt’a literally ‘run after’; it’s very common.

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?