Lower Chehalis stəʔíxʷciɬ and 3 parallels with Chinuk Wawa

I’ve mentioned many times the outsized, but under-researched, role of Lower Chehalis Salish in forming “Chinook Jargon”.

For example, “Chinook” is originally the Lower Chehalis name for a mixed Chinookan-Lower Chehalis town!

And the influences run both ways; Lower Chehalis speakers normally negate a sentence (that is, they say ‘not’) by using Chinuk Wawa hílu.

While I was doing some of my research on ɬew’ál’məš, i.e. the Lower Chehalis name for themselves and their language, I detected some of these ripples crossing over each other in a single word.

An elder reported the word

stəʔíxʷciɬ
‘male fish of any sp[ecies]’

This can be straightforwardly understood as the compound of:

  • stəʔíxʷ ‘man; male’, based on the root for ‘hunting, catching’
  • cíɬ ‘food; generic term for fishes’, based on the root for ‘eat’

Literally, then, ‘man-food’ or ‘man-fish’.

hungry man

(Image credit: Safeway)

But you see it doesn’t mean ‘man-food’ as in ‘grub for guys’.

Nor does it mean a ‘merman’.

Instead, exactly as we find in Chinuk Wawa, a compound of ‘man’ + a noun = the biologically male-gender version of that noun. Thus we only find these compounds based on words for largish living things. Compare CW mán-musmus ‘bull’ and mán-tilixam ‘menfolks’.

Let’s also take note of the placement of stress, which my research indicates is typical of compounding in Lower Chehalis. The first member of the compound is “only” a modifier of the second member (what kind of fish? a male fish), and yet it attracts the main stress. This too is a feature shared with Chinuk Wawa’s noun + noun compounds; more examples include dála-haws ‘bank’ (literally ‘money-house’) and k’ánawi-stik ‘shinny stick’ (lit. ‘oak-stick’).

Note the use of the Lower Chehalis word for ‘Fall salmon’ as the generic for all ‘fishes’ (and for ‘food’). This is typical of Coast Salish and parallel to Chinuk Wawa sámən ‘salmon; fish’. This stands in contrast with Shoalwater-Clatsop Lower Chinookan t-k’íwələlqɬ which means only ‘fish(es)’, but evidently not any particular type of fish.

So by my count, there are at least 3 strong parallels between Lower Chehalis and Chinook Jargon in this one compound word stəʔíxʷciɬ. The semantics (how the meaning of the word is internally structured) and the phonology (aspects of its pronunciation) reflect a close relationship between the two languages.

There’s no reasonable way to discern how much each of these parallelisms originated in Lower Chehalis versus coming from the Jargon. Due to their remaining in close contact for as much as 228 years, they’ve been mutual influences for that whole time.

I think it’s very worth our while to keep expanding awareness of the importance of Lower Chehalis Salish in the history of Chinuk Wawa.

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?