How Father St. Onge’s “Chinuk Pipa” texts link early-creolized with Northern Jargon (Part 2A of 2)

Father Louis-Napoléon St. Onge’s “History of the Old Testament”, written in Chinuk Pipa alphabet (“shorthand”) and published in BC’s Kamloops Wawa newspaper in the 1890s, is one of the many “missing links” between southern and northern Chinuk Wawa. 


(Image credit: Grammar of Grace)

(Separately from this mini-series, I’ll put up an article on how we can tell that the book St. Onge edited for publication in 1871 is really and truly Fort Vancouver-era, and therefore highly Métis-influenced, Chinuk Wawa.)

For today’s installment, we have a pretty lengthy reading selection of St Onge’s writing as published in the BC “Chinuk Pipa” alphabet, in Kamloops Wawa #34 (10 July 1892), pages 14-24.

There are clear traces all over this text of KW’s editor, Father Le Jeune, having edited it for intelligibility. Part of that issue has to have been that St. Onge was now “old” by the standards of the era — about 50 years of age, and infirm. He seems to have lost a bit of his fluency in Jargon, sometimes reaching for ways to express himself, and in the process sporadically relying on wordings known from more recent, less fluent, popular writers!

But today’s text shows all sorts of identifying marks of St. Onge’s own genuine, excellent southern-dialect jargon from the frontier era:

  • The handwriting is distinct from that of Le Jeune, for example in that many occurrences of the Chinuk Pipa letter “u” (a circle with a small line inside) are realized more as ovals than as circles.
  • Numerous spellings differ from Kamloops Wawa‘s, i.e. Le Jeune’s; for example he sometimes has spos rather than pus ‘when; if’.
  • Word choices differ from Le Jeune’s in ways consistent with St. Onge’s known habits (as known from e.g. his 1892 dictionary ms.), for example kuli kax kax instead of kuli kah ‘to wander’, and stox instead of mash ‘forgiven’.
  • The syntax is a closer match for older documented styles such as that in the Demers and Blanchet dictionary and catechism, which St. Onge edited for publication, for example in the cooccurrence of content and polar questions in kax na ‘where?’, literally ‘is it where (or not)?’ [sic].

Here I won’t be commenting on everything of interest — do your own research on the Catholic editorial remarks that were added to these Bible stories — but I’ll highlight in bold, and add footnotes, to point out the southern lexicon in this document. (Only the first occurrence of each such word.) This will give you a quick idea of how hard this History was for the BC, therefore northern dialect-speaking, readers to understand.

Take notice also, this reading selection is longer than I’d remembered, but I want to show you a hefty sample to convince you of the many “southernisms” in St. Onge’s attempt at northern Chinuk Wawa. So I’ll break this post up into “Part 2A”, “Part 2B”, and “Part 2C”.

My symbol “Ø” is the “silent IT” pronoun, used in all dialects of Chinuk Wawa, but never pointed out until a 2007 publication of mine. 

Okay, let’s read:


< AGE I. >


< containing 2083 years >

< The Creation of the World >

< A[nno].M[undi]. > ST iaka mamuk kanawi < A[nno].C[hristi]. >
Year of the World.     God made everything.     Year of Christ.

kopa chi ilihi ikta.                                            Ilip ShK chako
in the new world things.                            before Jesus came here.

< 1 > sno.                                                        < 4 000 > sno.
1 year.                                                               4,000 years.

< 1. > Ilip ST iaka mamuk saxali ilixi pi
1.        At first God made Heaven and 

ukuk ilixi. Wik ikta mitlait kopa okok* ilixi, pi
this earth. Nothing existed on this earth, and
     {hílu is normal in northern CW to say ‘nothing’}

polakli* mitlait kanawi kax. Alta ST iaka wawa:
dark was everywhere. Then God said: 

“Tlus chako lait.” Pi aiak lait mitlait
“Light should come along.” And right away light was 

kanawi kax. Iaka mamuk kakwa kopa ilip son.
everywhere. He did like this on the first day. 

< 2. > Kopa mokst son iaka mamuk ukuk tlus
2.        On the second day he made that nice 

saxali kopa kax nsaika nanich ayu ikta tlus.
sky up where we see lots of things that are pretty. 

Kopa tlon* son iaka mamuk chako kanawi chok
On the third day he brought all the water 

kopa ixt, kiwa ilip kopit tlimtlimin mitlait, pi
into one thing, because at first there was just mud, and
     {kopa ukuk is common northern ‘because’; tlimin(tlimin) (Ilihi) for ‘mud’ (literally ‘soft(-soft) (earth)’) is unknown in the north}

iaka wawa pos* okok* tlimintlimin chako drai. Kopa
he told that mud to dry up. To 

chok iaka paxlach nim: sal chok, pi kopa okok
the water he gave a name: ocean, and to that 

tlimintlimin iaka paxlach nim: ilixi. Kakwa chako
mud he gave a name: land. That’s how there came to be 

tlxop* chok < “Springs” >, tanas kuli chok
water (‘springs’), little running waters
‘hole’ is unknown in the north; kuli chok ‘running water(s)’ is understandable but not found in my northern data}

< “brooks” >, pi aias chok klaksta wax kopa
(‘brooks’), and the big rivers which pour into
     {klaksta is limited to animate reference in almost everyone’s Chinuk Wawa; St. Onge seems to be trying to copy the northern usage of it as a sort of determiner (e.g. ‘which woman? / any woman’) while retaining the original sense of the word, ‘who’}

sal chok.
the ocean. 

< 3. > Alta ST iaka wawa kopa ilixi, pi iaka
3.        Then God talked to the land, and he 

mamuk chako kanawi ikta tlus pos makmak,
made everything that’s good to eat appear, 

kaltash stik, mitxwit stik, pi kanawi tlus
(and) ordinary treesstanding trees, and every kind of good
{Both expressions are more or less intelligible to a northern speaker, but these phrases are standard only in the south, where they mean ‘bushes’ and ‘trees’}

tipso pus tlus xam pi tlus nanich.
plant for good smells and good to look at.
     {In both dialects, tlus nanich normally means ‘be careful; take care of; pay attention’}

Kopa lakit son ST iaka mamuk son, mun,
On the fourth day God made the sun, moon, 

tsiltsil klaksta mamuk lait ilixi.
(and) the stars, which light up the earth. 

Kopa kwinam son iaka mamuk kanawi fish kopa
On the fifth day he made all the fish in 

chok, pi kanawi kalkala klaksta flai kopa win.
the water, and all the birds which fly with the wind. 

< 4. > Kopa taxam son ST iaka mamuk kanawi
4.        On the sixth day God made all of 

kotin < “animals” > klaksta mitlait pi kuli kopa
the animals which live and run around on
     {‘Animals’ in the north is usually mawich (literally ‘deer’); sometimes kalakala (literally ‘birds’)}

ilihi, pi kimta iaka wawa: “Tlus spos
the earth, and afterward he said: “How about
     {spos is rather rare in my northern data; pus is usual}

nsaika mamuk man, pi iaka alki taii kopa kanawi
we make a man, and some day he’ll be chief to all of 

okok ikta nsaika chi mamuk.” Alta iaka iskom
these things we’ve just made.” Then he picked up 

tlimin ilixi, pi iaka mamuk Ø kakwa man iaka itluil,
some mud, and he made it like a man’s body, 

pi iaka paxlach tomtom kopa iaka, pi iaka mitxwit.
and he gave a heart to him, and he stood up. 

Alta iaka paxlach nim Adam kopa iaka: kakwa
Then he gave the name Adam to him: as 

pos wawa: Iaka chako kopa ilixi: ilixi iaka.
if to say: He comes from the earth: he’s earth. 

ST iaka nanich kanawi ikta iaka chi mamuk
God looked at everything he’d just made 

pi klaska [SIC] aias tlus, pi iaka kaltash mitlait kopa
and they were beautiful, and he sat around on
     {klaska ‘they’ is reserved for animate/human referents in both northern & southern Chinuk Wawa, so its use for ‘things’ here is odd}

sinmokst son, pi iaka styuil kopa iaka,
the seventh day, and he prayed to himself, 

pi [kakwa]* wik klaksta mamuk kopa okok son,
and that’s why nobody works on that day, 

kiwa ST iaka kaltash mitlait kopa iaka.
because God sat around on it. 

< 5. > Alta nsaika wik tlus nanich ukuk sinmokst
5.        Now we don’t pay good attention to that seventh
     {The usual sentence negator in northern dialect is hilu; wik is decidedly southern}

son. Nsaika tlus nanich ilip son, iaka nim Sondi
day. We pay good attention to the first day, named Sunday, 

kiwa ShK iaka gityup [SIC] kopa mimlust [SIC] kopa okok son,
because Jesus woke up from death on that day, 

kakwa ST iaka mamuk man kopa taxam son.
just like God made a man on the sixth day. 

Wixt kakwa kopa taxam son “Gud Fraidi”
Also like that, on the sixth day, ‘Good Friday’, 

iaka tanas iaka mamuk tlap* “ < redeemed >”
his child caused the finding (‘redeemed’)
     {This Christian expression from older southern dialect isn’t found in the north, and its meaning isn’t really obvious if you don’t already know it}

nsaika kopa masachi, pi kakwa Adam iaka
of us from bad things, and that’s like how Adam’s 

itluil chako kopa ilixi spos ilo mitlait
body came from the earth to have no 

masachi kopa iaka. Wixt kakwa ShK.
bad things in him. Jesus is also like that. 

Chi Adam iaka chako man kopa Mali [SIC] kopa
As soon as Adam became a husband to Mary [SIC] with

klaksta ilo mitlait masachi.
whom there were no bad things. 


< Happiness of Adam and Eve in Paradise. >

< 6. > Spos ST iaka kopit mamuk saxali pi
6.        When God was done making the sky and 

ilixi, iaka mamuk ixt aias tlus tlus [SIC] ilixi,
earth, he made a certain very good good land, 

iaka nim Paradais, kopa kax iaka mamuk chako
called Paradise, over where he brought along 

kanawi xlwima mitxwit stik, pi lipom stik.
all the different standing trees, and apple trees.
     {This word for ‘apple; fruit’ isn’t found in the north, where the English-sourced apil(s) is universally found; some local speakers of Métis French would probably understand it, though. The reason we know lipom only from the Fort Vancouver setting down south might be simple — although various pre-Settlement era fur-trade posts grew some crops, only in the south were perennial crops like fruit trees cultivated.}

Sitkom kopa klaska iaka mamuk ixt lipom stik.
In the middle of them he made a certain apple tree. 

Spos klaksta makmak okok mitxwit stik
If anyone ate that standing tree’s 

iaka lipom, iaka chako komtaks tlus pi masachi.
apples, they’d learn good things and bad things.
     {A decidedly Christian expression, again not completely obvious in its meaning to a northern speaker} 

ST iaka wawa kopa Adam: “Tlus maika makmak
God said to Adam: “You should eat  

kanawi okok mitxwit stik iaka lipom, pi okok stik
all these standing trees’ apples, but this tree 

klaksta lipom mamuk komtaks tlus pi masachi
whose apple teaching good things and bad things, 

wik kansix alki maika makmak [Ø]: spos maika
never ever eat it: if you 

makmak [Ø], nawitka maika alki mimlust.”
eat it, you’ll definitely die some day. 

< 7. > Alta ST iaka mamuk chako kanawi
7.        Then God brought along all 

kotin kopa Adam pos iaka paxlach nim kopa kanawi
the animals to Adam for him to give names to all of 

klaska. Pi Adam iaka kopit ixt, pi kakwa
them. And Adam was all alone, and so 

ST iaka wawa: “Wik tlus pus man iaka
God said: “A man shouldn’t 

kopit ixt mitlait: tlus nsaika mamuk ixt
be all alone: let’s make a certain 

tilikom pos mamuk xilp iaka.” Alta iaka mash
person to help him.” Then he put 

skukom* musom kopa Adam, pi spos iaka til musom
a strong sleep on Adam, and when he was heavily asleep 

iaka iskom ixt iaka itlinwil < “ribs” >. Spos
he picked out one of his ribs. When
     {This older southern word is unknown in the north, where I find rib(s)}

Adam iaka gityup kopa musom, ST mamuk
Adam woke up from sleeping, God 

chako okok klutmin [SIC] kopa iaka, pi iaka paxlach
brought alone this women for him, and he gave 

nim Iv kopa iaka, kakwa pos wawa: Iaka
the name Eve to her, as if to say: She 

kanawi tilikom klaska mama.
is everyone’s mother. 

< 8. > Spos Adam pi Iv klas [SIC] mitlait kopa
8.        When Adam and Even lived in 

Paradais, ST kwanisim tlus nanich klaska
Paradise, God always took care of them 

kakwa iaka tanas, pi klaska aias tlus mitlait,
like his children, and they lived really well,

wik klaska komtaks klaxawiam: wik klaska
they didn’t live a pitiful existence; they weren’t
     {This use of komtaks to show habitual/characteristic acts goes way back in the southern dialect, but I haven’t found it in the north} 

sik, pi wik kata pus klaska alki mimlust;
sick, and there was no way they might ever die; 

pos klaska kwanisim tlus nanich ST
if they kept on paying good attention to God’s 

iaka wawa.


< The angels and the fall of our first Parents. >

< 9. > Ilip ankati kopa Adam pi Iv, ST iaka
9.        Even longer ago than Adam and Eve, God 

mamuk aias ayu lisash: lili klaska aias
made a great many angels: for a long time they were very
     {This hayas-háyú for ‘very many’ is quite southern. In the north we normally find drit ayu ‘really a lot’.}

tlus, pi alta klaska chako masachi, kiwa
good, but then they got bad, because 

Lusifir klaska taii, iaka paxlach masachi
Lucifer their chief gave bad 

tomtom kopa klaska. Lusifir iaka twax
hearts to them. Lucifer’s
     {t’wáx̣ is southern only; the north says lait}

“lait” kakwa son, pi iaka aias skukom, pi kakwa
light was like the sun, and he was very powerful, and so 

iaka mamuk tomtom iaka skukum pus mash ST
he decided he was strong enough to throw God 

kikwili. Iaka aias komtaks tliminxwit pi iaka
down. He was an expert at telling lies and he 

paxlach iaka saxali tomtom kopa ayu lisash(.)
gave his arrogant heart to many angels. 

ST iaka mash taii lisash Maikil, pi iaka
God sent the chief angel Michael, and his

tlus lisash pos mamuk pait kopa masachi
good angels(,) for fighting against the bad
     {A normal northern verb for ‘fight’ is saliks, which also means ‘be angry’ in both dialects }

lisash, klaska tolo kopa Lusifir pi klaska
angels, they won against Lucifer and they 

mash iaka pi kanawi iaka tilikom kopa kikuli paia
threw him and all his people into the underground fire(.) 

Lusifir iaka nim alta chako Sitan.
Lucifer’s name now became Satan. 

< 10. > Sitan, spos iaka mitlait kopa kikuli
10.        Satan, when he was in the underground 

paia pi iaka aias klaxawiam, pi spos iaka
fire and he was miserable, and when he 

chako komtaks Adam pi Iv mitlait pi klaska
found out Adam and Eve were living and 

aias tlus tomtom kopa Paradais, alta
very happy in Paradise, that’s when 

iaka chako sik tomtom kopa klaska, pi iaka
he got upset about them, and he 

aiak mamuk tomtom pus mamuk chako masachi
soon decided to turn 

okok mokst tlus tilikom, iaka klatwa kopa ilixi
those two good people bad, he went to the earth 

pi iaka iskom olok iaka itluil, kiwa ankati
and he took up a snake’s body, because the oldtime
     {My northern Chinuk Wawa data only has snik for ‘snake’}

tilikom wik klaska kwash kopa olok.
folks weren’t afraid of snakes. 

< 11. > Ixt son, spos Iv iaka nanich kopa
11.        One day, when Eve looked at 

okok lipom klaksta mamuk komtaks tlus pi masachi,
that apple which teaches good things and bad things, 

olok iaka chako wik saia, pi iaka wawa: “Pos
the snake came near, and he said: “What might it be 

ikta maika wik makmak okok tlus lipom?” Iv iaka
that you’re not eating this nice apple?” Eve
     {In the north, pus ikta is just a synonym of ikta ‘what?’ As I’ve previously written, pus ikta is quite southern, probably tracing back to (Métis) French pour quoi (literally ‘for what’)}

kilapai wawa: “Kiwa ST iaka wawa, spos
answered: “Because God says, if 

nsaika makmak okok lipom, nsaika alki nawitka mimlust.
we eat that apple, we’ll definitely die some day.(“)

Olok iaka xixi kopa ukuk, pi iaka wawa:
The snake laughed at this, and he said: 

“Wik kakwa. Wik kansix alki msaika mimlust.
“That’s not how it is. You folks will never die. 

ST iaka tliminxwit. Iaka drit komtaks spos
God is lying. He really knows that if 

msaika makmak okok tlus lipom msaika alki chako
you folks eat this nice apple you’re going to have 

xalak siaxust, pi msaika alki kakwa ST,
your eyes open up, and you’ll be like God, 

kiwa msaika alki chako komtaks kanawi ikta
because you’ll find out everything 

tlus pi masachi. Iv iaka wixt nanich
that’s good and bad.(“) Eve looked again 

kopa lipom: iaka aias tiki komtaks kanawi ikta
at the apple: she was itching to know everything that’s good 

pi spos iaka skukom nanich, iaka ilip skukom
and when she looked real hard, she 

tiki makmak [Ø]. Pi alta iaka iskom [Ø] pi iaka
wanted to eat it even worse. And then she picked it and she 

makmak [Ø] pi iaka paxlach [Ø] kopa Adam klaksta wixt
ate it and she gave it to Adam who also 

makmak [Ø]. Kopa okok klaska chi chako masachi.
ate it. From that they had just turned bad. 

< 12. > Spos klaska kopit makmak [Ø], alta klaska
12.        When they were done eating it, that’s when their 

siahost chako halak, pi chi klaska komtaks
eyes got opened, and suddenly they knew 

klaska aias tsipi. Wik klaska komtaks ikta
they’d really messed up. They didn’t know about anything 

tlus, kopit masachi klaska komtaks, pi klaska
good, it was only bad things that they knew, and they 

chako aias shim, kiwa chi klaska nanich
got terribly ashamed, because suddenly they could see 

klaska mitlait ilo ikta shat pi kot kopa
they had no kind of shirts or coats on

klaska itluill*. Klaska mamuk ipsut kopa
their bodies. They covered up in 

kaltash stik < “bushes”> klaska iskom
the ordinary trees(,) they got hold of 

mitxwit stik tipso, pi klaska mamuk kakwa
some standing trees’ leaves, and they made like 

shat* pus mamuk ipsut klaska itluil.
shirts to cover up their bodies. 


More to come.

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?