‘Alder’ as ‘paddle-wood’
I’ve previously written about origins of Chinook Jargon’s ísik-stík (‘paddle-wood’) as the name of a tree species…
Alnus rubra (image credit: NativePlantsPNW)
…and I’ve shown how certain Indigenous languages of the old CJ heartland call various species ‘paddle-tree’.
The 2012 Grand Ronde Tribes dictionary tells us this phrase is used for the ‘ash tree…the locally preferred wood for carving paddles’.
Now here’s another species in the mix.
I keep noticing in Coast Salish languages of Washington state, there are words for ‘alder tree’ that are extremely similar in that they (may) mean ‘paddle-tree’:
- Group 1:
- Lower Chehalis ləm̓-áɬ ‘alder’, which puts me in mind of lalám ‘paddle’ (from Chinuk Wawa, which got it from Métis French la lame, which goes back to Latin for ‘blade’); there’s also a SW Washington Salish verb root lam- ‘blaze (fire); sticking one’s tongue out’ (!). To be a CW-loaned root, lalam would’ve had to be reanalyzed by fluent Salish speakers as a reduplication of lam. The -áɬ is a variant of -n̓ɬ ‘plant, tree’, denasalized in a historical process that’s very frequent in Salish.
- Upper Chehalis has essentially the same word, lam[-]áɬ ‘alder’.
- Group 2:
- Cowlitz caqʷ[-]áʔł ‘alder’ which I can’t help comparing with cáqʷł ‘paddle, oar’, which I have suggested traces back to a Quileute loanword for ‘canoe’.
- Lushootseed sək̓ʷəb-ác ‘alder’, compare with the evidently Klallam/Lushootseed/?CW? < sak-talm > ‘paddle’, but no similarity with any documented common Lushootseed words for ‘paddle’. I’ve previously noted that < sak-talkm >, too, may trace to that Quileute loanword.
- Group 3: Klallam s[-]qʷúŋ[-]əłč ‘alder’ root analyzed as ‘alder’ but I compare with x̣ʷúʔŋ[-]ət ‘paddle’, which I suspect uses etymologically the same root as Klallam x̣íŋ- ‘grab’.
I’ve found no Proto-Salish term for ‘alder’ found in (Peter and Iris Bakker’s index to) Aert Kuipers’ 2004 “Salish Etymological Dictionary”. So I’m unable to judge whether any of the above are very old, or whether they’re all perhaps inspired by Chinuk Wawa’s isik-stik.
One thing I’m reasonably confident in suggesting is that the pattern of calling various species ‘paddle-tree’, the same structure as we see in CW isik-stik, is widespread and likely quite old.