Numic Query (fwd)

Alan H. Hartley ahartley at
Sat Nov 13 15:24:39 UTC 2004

John Koontz wrote:

> 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.

In the interesting discussion of disappearing Shoshoni dialects and
Hidatsa interference with Sacagawea's Sh. pronunciation, I lost sight of
my original suggestion, which is that "Pomp" is from (Anglo-American)
"Pompey" rather than from Sh. pampi 'head.' Whether Sacagawea's
pronunciation was idiolectic or dialectic, the fact is that she
apparently didn't pronounce the -m-, and if she didn't pronounce the
-m-, it's unlikely she would have named her son "Pomp" (rather than,
say, "Pop").

As to Shoshoni dialect, John M. pointed out that Clark's Sh. words were
more likely to be accurately recorded AFTER the expedition encountered
the Shoshoni people en masse, and both Sh. words under discussion are
attested from that later period. The explanation that these forms
represent otherwise undocumented Sh. dialect pronunciations has the
Occamic advantage of being simpler (given the present state of our
knowledge) than the one positing a likewise undocumented phonetic
interference between Sacagawea's Hidatsa superstrate and her Sh. substrate.

We don't have enough data so far to choose between the idiolect and
dialect explanations of Sacagawea's pronunciation, but I think we do
have enough to say that Pomp = Pompey.


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