Numic Query (fwd)

Koontz John E John.Koontz at
Fri Nov 12 19:34:04 UTC 2004

John McLaughlin has kindly provided the following discussion of Numic
terms for 'head', which he has allowed me to post to the list.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 12 Nov 2004 11:45:27 -0700
From: Dr. John E. McLaughlin <mclasutt at>
To: Koontz John E <John.Koontz at Colorado.EDU>
Subject: RE: Numic Query

Hi, John;

Read the Listserv stuff.  Here's my reply:

The Shoshoni phonemic system does not contain nasalized vowels and /mp/ is
phonetically [mb].  Initially, /p/ is unaspirated [p], so the Idaho State
spelling system (Loether and Gould) spells the word for 'head, hair'
<bambi>.  In the Western Shoshoni system (Miller), it is spelled <pampi>.
Phonetically, final unstressed vowels are devoiced and the devoicing
proceeds leftward through the preceding consonants, so /pampi/ in
isolation (as a name would be) comes out as [pambi], [pampI], or [paMPI].
Obviously, nineteenth century Anglos didn't recognize final voiceless
vowels as anything more than the release of the stop, so nineteenth
century recordings of Shoshoni include <pa'mpi>, <imbamp> (with possessive
pronoun prefixed), <pampay>, <pompi>, <toopampay> (with 'black' prefixed),
<bam-bi>, <pomp-py>, <em-bamp> (with possessive pronoun prefixed).  Note,
however, that there is no evidence for the loss of the nasal (it's
reconstructible) before the stop in Shoshoni.  However, in Comanche, the
nasal has been lost before the stop and the stop devoiced.  How these
facts explain 'Pomp/Pompey' is not within my ken, but Clark's not
recording a nasal before the stop in /yampa/ and /aniipampi/ (beaverhead)
is interesting.  It could reflect either Comanche or Southern Ute
influence.  Both of these languages have lost the nasals before stops so
the cognates for Shoshoni /pampi/ and /yampa/ 'wild carrot' are Comanche
[papI], [yapA] (reflecting my /papi/ and /yapa/ and Charney's /pa=pi/,
/ya=pa/) and So Ute [papI], [yapA] (reflecting /pappi/ and /yappa/,
Southern Paiute /pampi/ and /yampa/).  The problem, obviously, is that
it's unlikely that Clark encountered either Comanches or Utes during his
trip and the placename is not in Ute or Comanche country I assume.
Interesting problem.  I wonder how much Sacajawea's Shoshoni had degraded
while in Hidatsa country and whether the Shoshoni nasal-stop clusters
might be misrecorded after passing through Hidatsa and French.  Hmmmm.

John E. McLaughlin, PhD
Associate Professor
English Dept
3200 Old Main Hill
Utah State University
Logan, UT  84322-3200
(435) 797-2738 (voice-office)
(435) 723-0847 (voice-home)
(435) 797-3797 (fax)
mclasutt at

Program Director
USU On-Line Linguistics

-----Original Message-----
From: Koontz John E [mailto:John.Koontz at Colorado.EDU]
Sent: Thursday, November 11, 2004 3:28 PM
To: mclasutt at
Subject: Numic Query


I wonder if you'd be interested in answering some questions on Numic
matters that have come up on the Siouan List?  It concerns the possibility
that "Pompey" or "Pomp" as the name for Sacagawea's son a/k/a Jean
Baptiste might have a Numic origin, or, for that matter, that it might be
a variant on Baptiste.  I'm sorry - this is probably the most predictable
and least interesting question a Numicist can be asked!  After possible
etymologies for Sacagawea, anyway.

I can provide you with the specific posts that led to me thinking of you,
or you can find them by searching or browsing at  If searching, try
Sacagawea or Pompey.  If browsing, try the end of October, start of
November 2004.

Thanks one way or another!

John E. Koontz

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