Boas 1892: Many discoveries in a short article (Part 8: ‘grandchild’)

In Franz Boas’s neglected masterpiece, the one-page article “The Chinook Jargon“, we learn another Salish-sourced word…

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Image credit: The Indian Express

It’s certainly not from Chinookan, nor from K’alapuyan et al.

It’s this:


‘Grandchild’, < kōiʹm > in the Chinuk Wawa of Shoalwater Bay (Willapa Harbor), Washington.

Boas educates us that this word came from “Chihalish”, the local Lower Chehalis Salish language.

In our data on that language, we have kʷ(ə)ʔím ‘grandchild; granddaughter’. The closely related sister SW Washington Salish languages use other words for grandchildren instead:

  • Quinault ~ q’ástuʔ, ʔíməc (which is also in Lower Chehalis, and in fact in most Coast Salish languages up through British Columbia)
  • Upper Chehalis ʔímc, diminutive form: ʔé•mac
  • Cowlitz ʔém̓c

The nativeness of kʷ(ə)ʔím in Salish is confirmed by an observation that I credit to linguist Aert H. Kuipers in his 2002 “Salish Etymological Dictionary”. He points out the occurrence of a prefixlike kʷ(ə) in various Salish kinship terms, as well as a suffixlike əc in the same type of words. Prominent among those words is the widespread ʔíməc ‘grandchild’ that we’ve just seen, in which the root is therefore ʔím. 

See where I’m going with this? Here’s something I wrote up in a still-unpublished paper; sorry, the many footnotes don’t render nicely onscreen:

Under the headword *ʔim[-]ac ‘grandchild’, Kuipers hypothesizes:

Final -(a)c may be a petrified hypocoristic suffix, cf. PS (Proto-Salish) *s-muɬac [‘woman’], PCS (Proto-Coast Salish) *kapc [‘uncle, aunt’], *kʷ-tam-c [‘husband’], cf. also its use in words for husband derived from words for man, e[.]g. Ck [Upriver Halkomelem] sweq[-]əθ (θ < c) besides swi:qə. (2002:17)1

Implicit in Kuipers’ discussion of ‘husband’ above is yet another affix, PCS *kʷ-.2 Tsamosan (SW WA Salish) has innovated a handful of additional forms using this, all apparently specialized in vocative function in Proto-Tsamosan (Lo=Lower Chehalis, Qn=Quinault, Up=Upper Chehalis, Cz=Cowlitz):

(5)     Lo        kʷ-ʔím ‘grandchild’ (cf. PS *ʔim[-]ac)3, kʷ-tún ‘son’4

          Lo, Qn kʷ-míɬ ‘daughter [vocative]5

          Up       kʷu[-]má·ʔ ‘father; son (address form)’6

          Cz        ka- ‘Kin.Vocative’ e.g. in ka-kʷúpaʔ grandfather[!]‘, kʷu-táʔmother! (voc.)7

1Note also Up ʔím ‘grandchild (address form)’.

2This may be even older, if PS *kʷu[-]pi/‘male elder’ is relevant; compare this form with another word at medium time depth, PIS (Proto-Interior Salish) *papaʔ ‘(grand)father’, which Kuipers appears to consider a reduplication of a *paʔ not explicitly indicated by him (2002:176).

3Unlike the other Tsamosan forms in this example set, Lo ‘grandchild’ is able to take Possessive affixation, e.g. n-kʷ-ʔím ‘my grandchild’. Significantly, kʷʔím alone among these lexemes became loaned into regional Chinuk Wawa (CWDP=Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde 2012). It must have then been borrowed back into Lo from the pidgin along with a large amount of other lexicon that replaced native words and semantic ranges. (A measure of the extensive scope of that post-contact wave of lexical replacement is that it included even CW function-items such as hílu ‘NEG’, thought to trace etymologically to Haida (CWDP 2012:85), superseding the native Salish míɬt, and ʔálta ‘now’, etymologically Lower Chinookan.) In Chinuk Wawa, kʷʔím now behaves like all kin terms in freely accepting Possessive inflection (e.g. ya kʰwiʔím ‘her grandchild’, CWDP 2012:409). We propose that this lexeme carried that property along when it was reborrowed.

4Translated as ‘my son’ by speaker Emma Luscier.

5Emma Luscier specified that this word, translated as ‘my daughter’, cannot take Possessive affixation in Lower Chehalis.

6Cf. PCS *man ‘father’ and the pan-Salish vocalization of coda nasals seen elsewhere in this study, e.g. in Cz kʷu-táʔmother! (voc.) < PCS *tan.

7My gloss; Kinkade’s list of “Prefixes and Proclitics” gives “kə-, ka-, kn-, kʷu- ‘??’ [i.e. unknown meaning] (attached to kin terms under unclear conditions” (2004:304). He does not seem to discuss this set elsewhere. I note that the kin terms prefixed with kn- appear to represent INALienable.SpeechActParticipant.FEMinine-1.SinGular.POSsessiVe- (viz. Table 8 in §1.3). For the delabialization of PS *kʷ- in Cz, compare Cz kásiʔ ‘star’ (Kinkade 1972:9) < PS *kʷusən.

Now, it’s remarkable how many words of Chinuk Wawa were first noticed by Boas at Shoalwater Bay, Washington


…which then flew under the radar of researchers for nearly 100 years until Henry B. Zenk rediscovered them at Grand Ronde, Oregon!

Understand, some of these words did come to light when Melville Jacobs worked with Grand Ronde elders in the 1920s. But not all of them. And few of these “new” words reported by Jacobs in his 1932 & 1936 publications on the language were embraced by the then tiny community of Chinook Jargon scholars.

None other than…guess who…Franz Boas in a 1933 response to Jacobs’ work thought Grand Ronde speech was “certainly not the Chinook Jargon that has been used for years all along the Coast”! He figured it was just the kooky idiosyncratic speech of the Chinookan-descended elder Victoria Howard.

Boas’s enormous influence on the intellectual climate of anthropology & linguistics ensured that Grand Ronde’s unique Chinuk Wawa was dismissed as unworthy of attention for decades. — This, despite GR being the most similar variety to that of Shoalwater Bay, which Boas had tons of acquaintance with.

(The two differ quite a bit in terms of grammar, but not so much in vocabulary. Both descend from what I always call the early-creolized Chinuk Wawa of Fort Vancouver. Shoalwater CW is essentially the re-pidginized cousin of the re-creolized Grand Ronde CW.)

Bonus fact: 

The only way I know to say ‘grandchild’ in northern-dialect Chinook Jargon, in BC and so on, is tənás yaka tənás, your ‘child’s child’.

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?