Numic Query (fwd)

Koontz John E John.Koontz at
Sat Nov 13 01:05:22 UTC 2004

Additional comments from John.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 12 Nov 2004 15:58:53 -0700
From: Dr. John E. McLaughlin <mclasutt at>
To: Koontz John E <John.Koontz at Colorado.EDU>
Subject: RE: Numic Query

Here's a reply I sent to Alan Hartley.  I tried to send it to "reply all",
but I'm not on the list and it only went to Alan.  Would you post it on the
list for me?  Thanks

Actually, the earliest records of Comanche in 1786 show that the nasal-stop
clusters were still firmly in place decades after they had left their
Eastern Shoshoni relatives.  Clearly diagnostic forms such as /enka/ 'red',
/tympi/ [y is a high back unrounded vowel] 'rock', /nampe/ 'foot', and
/-kanty/ 'have' show these clusters still in evidence in the language at
that time (modern /eka/, /typi/, /nape/, /-katy/).  Even as late as 1828
(the next Comanche data), many words still have nasal-stop clusters.  It was
not until 1868 recordings that we see no more trace of nasal-stop clusters.
I discuss this at length in John E. McLaughlin, 2000, "Language Boundaries
and Phonological Borrowing in the Central Numic Languages," Uto-Aztecan:
Structural, Temporal, and Geographic Perspectives; ed. Eugene H. Casad &
Thomas L. Willet; Hermosillo:  Universidad de Sonora; pp. 293-303.  In that
article, I show that the loss of nasal-stop clusters was borrowed into
Comanche from neighboring Ute dialects AFTER they arrived on the South
Plains.  It was not inherited from Eastern Shoshoni.  If Sacagawea was the
source for the Shoshoni words recorded by Clark with nasal-stop clusters, it
seems that interference from Hidatsa and French may have reshaped her
personal nasal-stop clusters into nasalized vowel followed by stop.  These
forms were recorded by Clark before Sacajawea met her relatives in Idaho, so
I assume Hidatsa/French influence.  When she spoke then with other Shoshoni
in Idaho, she was able to refresh her knowledge of Shoshoni through actual
use.  Obviously, this is just informed speculation.  Here are the facts:
Comanche lost its nasal-stop clusters about 150 years after they moved onto
the South Plains.  There is no evidence (except for Clark's recordings of
Sacajawea) for the loss of nasal-stop clusters in any dialect of any other
Central Numic language.  Actually, I just looked up "Beaverhead Valley" in
Bill Bright's Glossary of L&C names in Names (2004, 52:163-237) and it is in
Montana, predating Sacajawea's meeting of other Shoshoni speakers.  It's
listed as Har na hap pap chah with a note "also called <Hane-pompy-hah>".
The alternate name reflects actual Shoshoni /hani/ 'beaver' and /pampi/
'head', and may reflect Sacajawea's usage AFTER speaking to her relatives in
Idaho and remembering "proper" Shoshoni (assuming that Hane-pompy-hah is
recorded by L&C).  The form with <pa(h)p> seems to reflect Sacajawea's
pre-Idaho speech, not that of any other Shoshoni at the time.  It would be
interesting to see if there are Shoshoni forms recorded by L&C after
Sacajawea spoke with other Shoshonis in Idaho.

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

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