CJ til-shel ‘husband’ = Lower Chehalis + Lower Chinookan

I preach the “linguistic archaeology” gospel…

Screenshot 2022-04-29 081516

The neighbors (Image credit: Chinook Indian Nation)

Wherein a single word can tell you entire parables, yeah verily.

JK Gill of Portland published many, many editions of his Chinook Jargon dictionary. The one from 1884 is the earliest that I’ve found so far to contain an entry “til-shel” ‘A husband’.

If you have much of an acquaintance with the Jargon, you know that this not a common word. I don’t know of it from any other source, nor from any example sentences.

But there’s one thing I do know.

“Til-shel” is Lower Chehalis Salish tənšə́n‘my husband’.

(It breaks down to tə- ‘Inalienably Possessed by a Speech-Act Participant’ n- ‘my’ šə́n ‘husband’. Your husband is apparently yours forever, in that language.)

You of course noticed that the word has “N” sounds in it, in Lower Chehalis, but “L” sounds in the Chinuk Wawa dictionary. What’s up?

The only language in the vicinity of the mouth of the Columbia River, where Lower Chehalis is spoken, that alternates “N ~ L”, is … Lower Chinookan.

The ethnographic record tells us that Lower Chinookans lived among Lower Chehalis speakers on the north side of the Columbia and on Shoalwater Bay.

With Native outsiders (however you define that), we’re told, those Lower Chinookans spoke Lower Chehalis.

What seems a reasonable inference to my mind is that the Lower Chinookan accent in Lower Chehalis included the “N ~ L” alternation.

We even see possible traces of that mutual influence in modern Lower Chehalis, for example in the “yes/no” question word yə́xʷsn ~ yə́xʷsl.

Thus, til-shel in a Jargon dictionary evidently preserves a Chinookan pronunciation of a Salish word.

Par for the course in the Native languages that form the core of the earliest Chinuk Wawa!

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?