“Translations from the Chinook Jargon…are…my own” (sigh)

Just a super unfortunate choice made by too many wannabe authorities has been “Here, I’ll translate from/to Chinook Jargon, without being a speaker of it!”

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It means ‘bad grammar’ in Chinook, right? (Image credit: Language Log)

Don’t get me started!

Okay, well, it appears I’ve gotten started.

I won’t here list the offenders, but know this — they include people who have profited monetarily by testifying in huge court trials, become respected community leaders through this phony trick, and worked as authors and researchers who have advanced their careers by peddling crappy, wrong Chinook “knowledge”.

These are people who drank the Kool-Aid about “Chinook having no grammar” and therefore being simple & easy. Drank it without questioning it. Did you ever notice how Kool-Aid drinkers are always wrong?

Here’s only one of the uncountable egregious offenders, which I’ve chosen because her work doesn’t much intersect with mine, so I’ve got very little at stake in critiquing her:

Adele Perry’s PhD dissertation “Gender, Race, and the Making of Colonial Society: British Columbia, 1858-1871” (York University, 1997).

From someone who professes to treat original materials with respect, her words here jar my sensibilities:

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Adele Perry is not a known scholar or speaker of the Jargon. Did no one on her dissertation committee question this?

She footnotes this knowledgeable-sounding claim as follows:

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I’ve read, and personally encountered, a large number of folks who assumed they’d do just fine with a Chinook dictionary in one hand and an old text in the language in the other.

They always failed. The smartest among them then approached me for help. Hire a linguist!

Here’s one instance of Perry’s translation work, which mercifully is limited to a single short sentence, and happens to be fairly accurate:

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And the footnotes to it:

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There’s extremely little quoted Chinuk Wawa in Perry’s dissertation, in fact, but it’s unclear how much CW she used in her research without citing it. The overt damage is limited, but the potential for false conclusions is very real.

All of this is very easy to avoid. Hire a linguist!

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?