Quinault Salish traces of Chinuk Wawa

When you’re looking through a dictionary or other document about an Indigenous language of the Pacific Northwest, beware of remarks intended to be helpful, but that are often misleading.


(Image credit: Rod Van Mechelen)

Often you’ll see a word notated as coming “from English” when it’s really from Chinuk Wawa, such as lá ‘law’ in the Quinault dictionary. This gets humorous when the word is from CW, and not really from English in any sense, such as Quinault lasúp ‘soup, borrowed from English’!

Here I’m not tallying up the Quinault words that are identical to Chinuk Wawa words that we think came from Quinault’s very close relative, Lower Chehalis Salish, such as ‘ear’. Let’s be aware, though, that a number of these words represent post-contact items, such as ‘bottle’, and are probably borrowed from LCS and/or CW. 

I’m also leaving out loans that I think may have come into Quinault after the Chinuk Wawa era, e.g. ‘crackers’ from English.  

There are definitely quite a few “calques” in Quinault, using native Salish material to express what were obviously Chinuk Wawa phrases — Today I haven’t made a thorough effort to identify those. Examples of what I’m talking about there are

  • pamás-jítsəq ‘flu or cold’, from CW kʰúl-sík (literally ‘cold-sickness’),
  • mə́t’ɬ-pépa ‘to read’ (literally ‘look.at-paper/written.thing’), and
  • sɬəgwəlmísh tí ‘Indian tea’, which is reminiscent of the Métis French expression le thé moskeg and refers to the same plant. 

The following words are phonologized by me into an approximation of the Grand Ronde Tribes alphabet for Chinuk Wawa. (The 1971 Quinault dictionary by Ruth Modrow uses quite a different writing system, which I find less easy to read.) Some of the unstressed “i” sounds here might be better analyzed as schwas, /ə/.

You’ll see a pattern of Quinault having taken in some CW words and mutating their meanings over time, an indication that those words came in quite long ago. 

So here’s my list of Chinuk Wawa traces in Quinault Salish, and their interesting paths of development:

  • gwách[-]mən[-]i ‘watch it’ (wach-man was a widespread CW noun for a kind of local police officer; here Quinault seems to have reanalyzed it as a verb containing a native Salish suffix of perception -mən)
  • híkchəm ‘handkerchief’
  • iléktik ‘electric’ — I list this post-frontier word only because Jay V. Powell has published an article that includes lektlik as Chinuk Wawa from the same geographical region
  • kápi ‘coffee’ 
  • kapú ‘coat’ 
  • kíwtən ‘horse’
  • kwúl ‘gold’ 
  • kwúkw ‘to cook’
  • kwúshu ‘pig’
  • kwáta ‘two-bits or a quarter in money’
  • k’áynuɬ ‘tobacco’ 
  • lá ‘law’
  • láys ‘rice’
  • lalám ‘oars’
  • lalupá ‘ribbon’
  • lasúp ‘soup’ 
  • latám ‘table’
  • lə́m ‘rum’ (!) 
  • likáy ‘spotted horse’ 
  • lijúp ‘demon, satan, devil’
  • limutú ‘wool’ (originally ‘sheep’ in CW), also in ləmutú[-]kapú ‘sweater’ which is a nice compound of CW nouns that we haven’t seen before, literally ‘sheep-coat’
  • liplít ‘minister’ (Quinaults were mostly evangelized by Protestants, but they use this originally Catholic French word)
  • lisítaluy ‘squash’ … from French la citrouille ‘pumpkin’… perhaps an indication of Métis contact … a noun that we also find in Clackamas Chinookan near Fort Vancouver
  • lishál ‘shawl’
  • maljíʔi ‘to marry’
  • mási ‘thank you (to God only)’ (another sign of Indian Shaker Church influence)
  • míy[-]u ‘bee’ seems to be a pronunciation of English ‘bee’ plus the native Quinault diminutive suffix; perhaps borrowed via CW
  • músmus ‘cow’
  • ním ‘cost’ (in CW originally ‘name’), as in ʔəs[-]ním sáli níls ‘it costs 2 dollars’ (the most likely etymology here is CW)
  • pástən ‘white men’;
    probably also partly responsible for páshtən ‘store’ (where you buy things) by a folk etymology of
    • tásh[-]tən /
    • tásh[-]tən[-]ulɬxw (‘selling house’ according to the dictionary, another calque from Chinuk Wawa) /
    • (in an apparently truncated form) tash[-]úl ‘store’
      (it’s a virtual guarantee that any stores in the frontier era were operated by Americans / White people, i.e. bástən in CW)
  • pátlach[-]əm ‘to reach anything close by or across the table’ (!) (i.e. ‘pass’?; a Quinault nativization of CW pa(t)lach ‘give’) 
  • pə́nish ‘to punish’, also used in an audio recording of Christian preaching that I have, so it may have come in via the powerfully influential Indian Shaker religion which used Chinuk Wawa to spread its message among the tribes
  • pípa ‘paper’ but more often having the obviously Chinuk Wawa meaning of ‘written thing’, e.g. in ti pípahəns ‘Bible’ (the dictionary has an entry -hən ‘ownership, refers to God only’ which actually tells me that this phrase is ti pípa-hən-s ‘the paper-Inalienable.Possession-his’, because only God could inalienably possess anything that’s written). There’s a separate word meaning the physical material ‘paper’ that’s constructed of native Salish parts. 
  • píl[-]ɬən ‘church bell’ must be a borrowing of ‘bell’, a word that we sometimes see in the BC use of the Jargon’s northern dialect
  • píns ‘beans’, a word borrowed into languages throughout the PNW, sometimes via Métis French and sometimes via CW and/or English
  • písh ‘fish’
  • pít ‘a “bit”, 12½ cents’ in the expression sáli t pít ‘two bits’
  • pulís ‘police’, probably borrowed during the early reservation era and therefore from or via Chinuk Wawa
  • púm / lipúm ‘apple’ … note the variable presence of the French definite article … perhaps an indication of Métis contact
  • púʔsh ‘cat’, I think also mísh ‘lion’ is a variant pronunciation of this
  • sánti ‘week’ and sometimes, but not always, the word for ‘Sunday’ which is also expressed by a native Salish construction for ‘sacred day’
  • sántuspli ‘Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit’, from the Indian Shaker religion’s use of Chinuk Wawa (ultimately from Fort Vancouver-era Canadian French saint-esprit)
  • skúl[-]am ‘school’ (a Quinault nativization of the CW verb ‘to study’)
  • stik[-]shú ‘shoe’ 
  • súkwa ‘sugar’
  • súp ‘soap’
  • tákta ‘doctor’
  • tála ‘money’
  • táwn ‘town’
  • təkí ? ‘to owe; a bill’ (from CW tiki / older pronunciation was təq’i(x̣)
  • tí ‘tea’
  • tíntin ‘hour; music’, a version of this showing up also in tíl ‘to ring’, nativized as a verb tíl[-]əmaɬ ‘ringing’, thence a noun tíl[-]əmal[-]a ‘telephone’, cf. tílipún ‘telephone’ 
  • tí tanas ‘son (Jesus)’ (Indian Shaker Church influence)
  • tsapolíl ‘bread’ 
  • x̣íx̣aʔa ‘just an expression used when you are surprised at something’ … besides resembling other native interjections of surprise ending in /aʔa ~ aha/, this looks to be a form of the SW Washington Salish root for ‘sacred’, so we can compare the known Métis French mild cuss word sacré!  

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?