Boas 1892: Many discoveries in a short article (Part 1: ‘to accompany’)

In a separate article on the word < howh >, I pointed out an obscure Chinuk Wawa word that you might write as x̣áwənsʔi, meaning ‘let us’ (‘let’s!’).


ACCOMPANY US! (Image credit: South Salish Mighty Masks)

Now let’s take the time to examine the many other newly discovered (in 1892) treasures of the Jargon that are reported in the same article in Science by Franz Boas.

Very many of these “newfound” words are from the Lower Chehalis Salish language of Shoalwater Bay, Washington, where Boas had done a significant amount of research with Native elder Q’ltí a.k.a. Charles Cultee.

First in this mini-series:

< ā’Ec > ‘to accompany’

This is apparently áysh if we spell it Grand Ronde-style. Boas’s < E > should represent a schwa sound, but here it must be a mistake for his < e >, which usually corresponds to /i/ or /y/. His < c > is a “sh” sound.

I’ve found this same form once in my Lower Chehalis data, in wəɬ-ʔáyš-əcčən ‘I’ll accompany you’ (a word from Q’lti, in Boas’s field notes). 

Compare, in the neighboring sister languages, these related forms:

  • Quinault Salish, a causative form ~ ʔáyš[-]txʷ ‘take away’
  • Cowlitz Salish, ʔáyaš– / ʔáy̓x‘follow, go with’
  • Upper Chehalis, ʔáy̓šni– ‘accompany’

I’m pretty confident that all of these forms derive from a combination of the known root ʔáy ‘exchange’ with the lexical suffix –šn(i) ‘foot’. [Editing to add: the Lower Chehalis form of that suffix in this word is quite likely /šʔ/, but Boas didn’t always hear glottal stops well. And, as a loan into Chinuk Wawa, it seems unlikely to me that this word would have held onto that unusual consonant cluster.] 

In other words, ‘accompany, go with, follow’ is an Indigenous metaphor in Salish, literally ‘swap feet with’ someone. We find similar metaphorical uses of the ‘foot’ suffix in these languages’ words for ‘chase’, ‘follow’, ‘pursue’, etc., one of which also wound up in Chinuk Wawa.

Bonus fact:

Speaking of Grand Ronde CW, I figure you could define this “new” word as ɬátwa kʰánumákwst (‘go together with’), which is likely how Q’lti explained áysh to Boas. (The Jargon was their only shared language.) It’s also the normal way to express ‘accompany’ up there in the northern dialect.

This áysh has exactly the same meaning, but, as we normally find with later additions to the Jargon vocabulary, it’s a shorter, more efficient, and more specific word than the language previously had.

Have you ever tried defining a Jargon word in Jargon, to someone who didn’t know that word yet?

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?