“silooi”, another Jargon loan, nativized in Secwepemctsín

The other day I wrote about the word “shmamuk”…


(Image credit: Etsy)

…which is slang for sexual intercourse, known via BC English from Secwépemc (Shuswap Salish) people.

That word is a borrowing of Chinook Jargon mámuk (literally ‘to do; to make’), nativized with the addition of the Salish noun-marking prefix s-.

Now I’ve found “silooi”:

Iskom drit sil, silooi, linin < “linen” >…
‘Choose real fabric, “real cloth“, linen…’

— Kamloops Wawa #129 (June 1895), page 88

The s- in this silooi is not a prefix. It’s part of a Secwepemctsín Salish nativization of the Chinuk Wawa loan sil ‘cloth’, not previously documented in the literature on this language of the Kamloops-area Native people.

It’s a little bit interesting that the Kamloops Wawa‘s Father Le Jeune wrote it with the Chinuk pipa letter for “s”, not with the one for “sh”; Secwepemctsín tends to pronounce /s/ as “sh”, so this may be a clue to how those Salish folks pronounced Chinuk Wawa, preserving the CW /s/ sounds.

Silooi carries the Salish suffix -(ə)ʔúy / -(ə)ʔúʔy ‘real, par excellence’ (Kuipers 1974:285, “The Shushwap Language: Grammar, Texts, Dictionary”). This suffix is also used, interestingly enough, in the neighboring Nɬeʔkepmxcín (Thompson Salish) word semeʔuy ‘Englishman’, the ‘real white person’. (That root typically means either ‘French/Métis’ or ‘white people’ generally in Interior Salish languages.)  A cognate suffix shows up in the St’át’imcets (Lillooet Salish) ethnic term lilwat7úl ‘the Lower St’át’imc people’, ‘the real Lillooets’.

It appears Le Jeune fully expected his readers to recognize this word silooi when he borrowed it back (!) into CW.

It’s not the first time I’ve found a word in a Salish language that we didn’t know from later-compiled research works — that’s actually a common experience when working with relatively old, but ample, textual material.

This is one more of the many instances of the close relationship between Secwepemctsín speakers and Chinook Jargon.

You could think of this as a parallel to how Pacific Northwest English handled many of the CJ borrowings it took in.

PNW English often syntactically modified those loans, as in our dialect word “siwashed” (a synonym for other slang expressions, including being “86’ed” from a bar). There, a Jargon noun for ‘Native person’ was not just “converted” (“zero-derived”, to some linguists) into a verb, but also given a passive-voice suffix -ed.

It goes to show you, lots of cultures were affected by frequent use of Chinook Jargon.

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