chákwa explained?

There’s so much Lower Chehalis Salish influence, largely undocumented before my research, in Chinuk Wawa.


(Image credit: Youtube)

In the Grand Ronde tribal community, one variant pronunciation of the well-known word cháku ‘to come (here)’ is chákwa. This is shown in their excellent 2012 dictionary of Chinuk Wawa.

I don’t know of this pronunciation occurring anyplace else.

The two linguistic explanations for it that I can think of are these:

1. An extremely old surviving variant 

It’s theoretically possible that this chákwa existed back in “Nootka Jargon” times, in the late 1700s, before we know Chinuk Wawa to have existed yet.

There are documented “Nootka” (tribal and/or pidginized Nuučaan’uɬ) words from that time that bear a resemblance to chákwa, both in form and in meaning. For instance,

  • < Chooquatlik > ‘This is the way’,
    comparable with modern Nuu. čukʷa•ƛ̓ik ‘come along!’
  • < Chookquakutsaponeeak > ‘an invitation to enter a house’,
    comparable with modern Nuu. čukʷa•k hini•ʔiƛ ‘come on, you folks’

The difference in pronunciation and stress reduces this etymology’s appeal for me. The long Nuu. vowel a•, for reasons that would induce snores among most of you, would attract the word stress.

So we’re talking about trying to compare a form like chukwá with cháku.

I don’t at this moment recall having seen a word like chukwá in any of the old Nootka word lists, though the 2012 Grand Ronde Tribes CW dictionary cites such a form from Ross Clark’s 2001 paper.

(Reminder: We still need to create a master “Nootka” vocabulary compiling all of the earliest word lists, say from circa 1778 to 1843.)

2. Lower Chehalis influence again

Lower Chehalis speakers (apparently Clatsop etc. Lower Chinookans) demonstrably influenced Grand Ronde, and general lower Columbia River, CW quite a lot.

Could they have happened to use the Jargon word chaku to form a normal Low. Cheh. command form, which would then be cháku-aʔ, i.e. chákwaʔ. 

We have a good number of known CW words that include this Imperative suffix from Low. Cheh., such as yeʔlan ‘help’ and, I suspect, níxwá ‘please (etc.)’.

The main issue here is that final glottal stop. But guess what, it was present in the Lower Chehalis imperatives that gave us the 2 CW words I just mentioned — and it dropped out of both of those. So, not much of an issue. (It was preserved in Grand Ronde CW úmaʔ ‘feed’, though.)

I can also point out that numerous Lower Chehalis words show every sign of having been borrowed into Lower Chinookan (the tribal language before Chinuk Wawa) for centuries. One such loan that we know of is that níxwá

In return, Lower Chinookan words have been loaned into Lower Chehalis, too, in spades.

So it seems to me that chakwa, if it’s not just a one-off, goofy pronunciation from Grand Ronde, is explainable as additional Lower Chehalis influence.

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?