Chinookan páɬ, CW pʰáɬ, Quinault pál(-), SW WA Salish pə́ɬ

Here’s a cool set of related words in SW Washington (“Tsamosan”) Salish:

thick and full

(Image credit: Youtube)
  • Quinault:
    • pál ‘when the cup is full’, i-pál-a ‘when the cup is overflowing’
    • pə́ɬ-ɬ ‘thick’
  • Lower Chehalis: pə́ɬ, pə́ɬ-əɬ ‘thick’ (literally ‘thick’ and ‘very thick’)
  • Cowlitz: pə́ɬ ‘thick’
  • Upper Chehalis: pə́ɬ-ɬ ‘thick’

How are these words related? That’s what I want to detail for you today.

The ‘thick’ words all share the same root, reconstructible to a shared earlier stage (“Proto-Tsamosan”) as *pə́ɬIn turn, this goes back to ancient Proto-Salish, says Aert H. Kuipers’ 2004 dictionary: *pəɬ ‘thick’. So this root is as old as we can possibly demonstrate any Salish material to be.

The ‘full’ words in Quinault are more directly relatable, I argue, to the Lower Chinookan “particle” — I prefer “adverb” — páɬ that gave us Chinuk Wawa’s pʰáɬ, both meaning ‘full’. There’s a significant proportion of Chinookan people in the modern Quinault Indian Reservation community, going back a century and a half, and I detect quite a variety of recent but profound influences from them in the modern Quinault Salish language.

So we’re looking at 2 different roots, when viewed within the present-day stratum of SW WA Salish data. ‘Thick’ is not the same concept as ‘full’, can we agree?

But, I use the word “stratum” to clue you in that I’m going to get into what I call “linguistic archaeology” now.

Chinookan páɬ ‘full’ actually occurs throughout that language family, in all 4 languages. By historical linguists’ logic, it’s therefore reconstructible to Proto-Chinookan. However, I hypothesize that like a number of other words it was borrowed, long ago, from a Salish language or languages that, in traditional times, directly neighbored Chinookan.

We know that prior to the “historical” period (so-named from a Settler perspective of course), Salish was in direct contact with Chinookan not only on the lower Columbia River (i.e. the Coast Salish languages Lower Chehalis and Cowlitz), but also much farther upstream (presumably ancestral forms of the Interior Salish languages Nxaʔamxcín (Moses-Columbian-Wenatchi).

There’s no root meaning ‘full’ in Salish that resembles this páɬ, I should clarify. But, given the large amount of Salish-loan-looking stuff in Chinookan, which often has slightly different meanings from the Salish original — par for the course when borrowing happens — my Salish radar pings at the correspondence with pə́ɬ ‘thick’.

Add it all up, and modern Quinault Salish can be said to have 2 different vintages of the same Salish root. One is truly ancient and it still means ‘thick’. The other is newer, having been filtered through Chinookan and loaned back into Quinault, and it means ‘full’.

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?