Crowdsourcing challenge: a Lingít Chinuk Wawa song!

My reader Alex Code shared a Chinook Jargon song that I don’t think I ever knew about…

Even though it was recorded by an anthropologist who I corresponded with about CJ towards the end of her life.


Frederica de Laguna (image credit: National Park Service)

That scholar was the great Dr. Frederica “Freddy” de Laguna (1906-2004), my fellow Columbia University Lion, who did decades of wonderful research among the Lingít a.k.a. Tlingits of southeast Alaska.

The song in question is up on Q’alis’s Youtube.

Screenshot 2023-03-31 080831

Go listen to it!

It’s heavily Lingít-accented, but most of it seems to be Chinook Jargon.


Can you make out the lyrics?

The audio is very good quality.

I won’t yet post any ideas about the words of the song – – first I’ll let you folks put your impressions in the Comments, below.
This song is believed to be Tlingit. Joe’s uncle, Nikolai, used to drink and sing this song. He would pour liquor into the mouths of dancers as they danced passed [i.e. past] him.

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?

Updated to show my hearing of the lyrics:

The page for this video on Youtube tells us that it’s sung by Ahtna Athapaskan people, although it was thought by them to be a Lingit song. Now that I’ve listened through it a number of times, I’m convinced it’s a straight northern-dialect Chinook Jargon song, and is part of the genre of late 1800s Victoria (BC) popular songs. It’s sung in a Lingit accent, because Ahtnas, like the Eyaks, typically learned their Jargon from Lingits.

Here are the words as I understand them so far; I’ll use repeated vowels to show ones that are sung quite long:

(Doowop vocables through 0:25, then:)

ɬúuchmən ténas wáaayan ‘woman, a little wine’ 
ɬúuchman ténas gíiya
‘woman, a little beer’* 
sík nsáayga
‘we’re hurting’ 
íxt gíiiya
‘(just) one beer’
ɬúuchmən ténas wáaski 
‘woman, a little whiskey’ 

áana! (…doowop…) ‘oh my!’ 

ɬúuchman ténas gíiiya ‘woman,a little beer’
ɬúuchmən (…doowop?…) ‘woman’
sík nsáyka ‘we’re hurting’ 
íxt gíiiya
‘(just) one beer’ 
ɬúuchmən ténas wáaski 
‘woman, a little whiskey’ 


* gíiya is a distinctively Lingít pronunciation of a word we already inferentially knew elsewhere in north coast Chinuk Wawa, bíya, ‘beer’. (“Inferentially” because it’s known in words of Kwak’wala such as ba̱ya[-]’ilas ‘beer parlour’, which certainly arrived via CW.) This gíiya is distinct from the usual Tlingit word for that beverage, gíiwawhich is an old borrowing from Russian пи́во [ˈpʲivə] ‘beer’. It’s quite rewarding to find northern CW biya confirmed!

I was told by reader Alex Code (of PoCo Heritage museum in BC) that “Q’alis said they heard [Lingít] awdináa (s.he drank it) in there”.

What do you say?