Chinook Jargon word for Donkey?

David Robertson ddr11 at COLUMBIA.EDU
Mon Feb 7 05:33:07 UTC 2005

Naika tlus siks,

You probably saw my answer coming...

[On Sat, 5 Feb 2005 18:34:30 -0800, Leanne Riding <riding at TIMETEMPLE.COM>

>"What is the Chinook Jargon word for Donkey?" -- Should the correct answer
for the question be, "Donkey"?]

Yes.  I might say 'donkey' in Jargon.  I don't know the difference betweeen
a mule & a donkey anyhow, so I might say the old CJ word 'lemel'.  Or
even 'kiyutan' because I might not recognize a non-horsey equine in person.

For comparison, I've looked at William Bright's "Animals of Acculturation
in the California Indian Languages".  I've mentioned this little book on
the list before; it's even handier than Cecil Brown's big book, for the
present purpose.  Many fewer aboriginal languages in CA had words for
either 'donkey' or 'mule' than had words for 'horse' or 'cow'.  There's a
difference of saliency, we could say: Horses & cows are and were prominent,
while donkeys & mules were less common and less important.

Getting to specific that relate to the Jargon, for 'donkey' Bright cites
Klamath /limi:l/ 'from Chinook Jargon, which in turn took the word from
French la mule'.  He doesn't give a Klamath word for 'mule' and I suspect
the linguist who recorded this as 'donkey' was as ignorant as I am about
farm animals.  He or she may've only thought to ask for the one term.

I also think the generic, default, unmarked word that we city folks use
is 'donkey'.  (Compare the name chosen for a major character in the 'Shrek'
movies.  It's Donkey, not *Mule, which would connote some specialized
meaning, as does the slang term 'mule'='employee of a drug smuggler'.)  So
unless you're in a circumstance where it's often important to differentiate
two kinds of equine crossbreeds, you might find yourself content
with 'donkey' in English, 'lemel' in CJ.

--Dave R.

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