Blankenship, “Early History of Thurston County, Washington” (Part 2)

Settlers not uncommonly pidginized the pidginized northern-dialect version of Chinook Jargon; today we’ll see reminiscences from two fellas who did so.

Both of these men represent Chinuk Wawa as lacking subject pronouns, much like foreigner-talk versions of English that first-language speakers produce.

Well-known newspaper publisher John Miller Murphy [1839-1916] was born in Indiana, came to Oregon Territory with his older sister in 1850, and was living in Olympia by 1851.

Being still a kid, and located in a place where Native people greatly outnumbered Settlers, he surely picked up very good Jargon skills.

He moved back and forth between there and Portland for some years, but remained in Olympia to become a renowned local personality.

From pages 110-111:

The currency of Mr. Murphy’s early recollection in this section of the world consisted of Spanish dollars, American halves and quarters, Spanish doubloons, worth $16, and slugs, which were eight sided bars of solid gold, and worth $50. For convenience in making change the Moffatt Company of San Francisco coined five, ten and twenty dollar pieces. While these were of no value as legal tender, everyone was anxious to secure the pieces as they weighed exactly the denomination represented and were of pure gold without alloy. There were very few dimes in circulation, no nickels, and to have tendered a penny piece to any one in those days would have been equivalent to an insult.

The Indians preferred silver. They didn’t seem to understand gold money, and greenbacks were so uncommon that they had no knowledge of them as currency. If an Indian had a sum due him to the amount of $5, that sum must be paid him in five one dollar pieces. Should a $5 gold piece be tendered the brave he would shake his head and say: “Tenas chickamun, wake ticky” — “little money, don’t want it.” Mr. Barnes kept a candle box under the counter filled with silver dollars to pay out to the Indians.

No subject pronoun there, although Murphy accurately uses the “silent IT” 3rd-person object pronoun of Jargon: tənəs chíkʰəmin, wík tíki Ø.

Thomas R. Prather [1832-1918] left Missouri for the California gold rush in 1850, went home, then emigrated to Oregon Territory in 1852.

He improvised a mercantile business in eastern Oregon’s “Grande Rounde” valley, then went to the Portland area, and on to Olympia in 1853, he says not by “steam car” (which is also a BC Chinook Jargon word for railroad train) but on foot.

Prather, too, can be understood to have picked up very good Chinooking abilities at that early era of Washington’s settlement history.

From page 140:

Screenshot 2023-03-29 074420

Thomas R. Prather (image credit: Family Search)

We got the boiler repaired, loaded and was [sic] about to start on our return trip when there passed by our boat an Indian brave with a big canoe in which were his squaw and pappooses. I hailed the buck and in Chinook asked him, ‘Where go?’ ‘Townsend,’ he replied. So I told him I would tow his canoe and give him and his family passage on our big canoe to Port Townsend. He was tickled at the chance and I was tickled, too. I didn’t want to go drifting around those waters again without some kind of a boat on board.

Prather portrays himself as having said “qʰa ɬátwa?” To be a truly grammatical sentence of Jargon, that’d have to be taken as having the “silent IT” 3rd-person subject pronoun — But that would mean ‘where is it going?’

So he seems to have been further pidginizing this dialect of Chinook Jargon that had already re-pidginized away from the lower Columbia’s older southern creolized dialect.

By the by, Prather also has the Native man using a null, the frequent “silent PREPOSITION” that we often find fluent speakers using with statements of location or direction.

It’s synonymous with the all-purpose preposition kʰapa a.k.a. kopa.

This Settler tendency to leave out subject pronouns, like the two guys we’ve just seen, can only have reinforced White folks’ known confusion between mayka & nayka (‘you (singular)’ & ‘I’).

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?