Boas 1892: Many discoveries in a short article (Part 4: ‘to carry on back’)

Let’s once again get straight to our word of the day in this mini-series.

carry on back

A fanciful rendition of t’úʔich (image credit: The Races of Mankind, 1875)

In Franz Boas’s little but important 1892 article “The Chinook Jargon” in Science, he reports a newly observed Chinuk Wawa word from the lower Columbia River area:

tō’itc ‘to carry on [one’s] back’

His phonetics aren’t very exact there; we know from lots of available data that this is t’úʔich (if we write it in Grand Ronde alphabet).

Like most of the words reported in Boas’s piece, this too came from the Lower Chehalis Salish language. Along with Lower Chinookan, that’s the co-language of the “Chinook” villages that gave birth to Chinook Jargon.

This word means, in Lower Chehalis, just what Boas tells us: t’úʔ ‘to carry; to place’ -ich ‘on a person’s back’.

Q’ltí (Charles Cultee) was the Shoalwater Bay elder who supplied all of this information to Dr. Boas, and he was defining these words to him in Chinuk Wawa, the only language they both knew. Q’lti presumably told Boas something like “t’úʔich, kakwa pus wáwa “lúlu kʰapa pʰík’w”,” that is, “t’úʔich, it’s as if to say “carry (it) on (the) back”.” (pʰík’w is another word that Q’lti had to teach to Boas.) I’m loving how this mini-series is leading us to evidence of how an extremely fluent speaker — Q’lti appears to have been a language genius — used the resources of Chinook Jargon to explain Chinook Jargon!

This is a shining example for our Jargon teachers of today to follow.

As to why I say this word comes from Lower Chehalis: First off, the preponderance of the evidence already shows us words that are distinctly LC (definitely different from the sister Salish languages) coming into Jargon. Second and more specifically, though, I’ve checked the dictionaries of those languages, and I indeed find totally different expressions for ‘carry on back’ in Cowlitz, Upper Chehalis, and Quinault. Plus, they use their cognate of LC’s t’úʔ in ways unlike LC usage.

Maybe you’ve already had the thought that this t’úʔich look mighty similar to Chinuk Wawa’s t’úʔan ‘to have’. You’re right about that! In fact, the two CW words are etymologically related, being built on the same Lower Chehalis root. (t’úʔan = t’úʔ ‘store away’ plus -an which is essentially ‘it’ in LC).

Stay tuned for more of this good stuff!

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