Rory M Larson rlarson at unlnotes.unl.edu
Thu Aug 24 15:38:30 UTC 2006

> For what it's worth, the only Osage form for 'book' that I've seen
reconstructs as something like /wagrese/ or /wagresa/, with the
labial-vocalic CV completely missing.  I don't know if it's relevant but
as very earlky Osage publication spells 'book' in a Roman-based
orthography as <wagrysy> and I think Montgomery and Requa c. 1834 uses

Thanks, Anthony!  That makes sense.  La Flesche 1932 has the same word.
It's very nice to see that it is attested at such an early date!  Can you
tell us anything about the historical context of these sources, and the
date of that "very early Osage publication"?  That would be very

I think we could probably reconstruct the 'book' sequence as follows:

Dhegihan *gre'ze/gre'se, 'striped'

19th century Osage wagre'se, 'striped thing', 'book'

19th century Omaha waba'greze, 'thing striped by pushing/writing', 'paper
with writing', 'book'

20th century Omaha wabra'gase, 'book' (after metathesis)
20th century Omaha wagra'base, 'book' (after metathesis)

Dorsey and Fletcher & La Flesche both have the waba'greze term.  The
Stabler-Swetland dictionary (1970s) has both the the wabra'gase and
wagra'base terms for both 'book' and 'paper'.  It also includes about three
compounds that use waba'greze, though these may be coming from Fletcher &
La Flesche.  I believe our elder speaker today has come down firmly in
favor of wagra'base, at least for 'book'.

Dorsey records a different term for 'book' from Ponka: waba'g^u.  This
would mean 'a thing written', based on bag^u', 'to write'.

It looks like the Omaha term may be based on the Osage term, but loosely,
at a time when the word was more descriptive than nominal.  Ponka took a
different route, but used the same term for 'write' as the Omaha.  La
Flesche (1932) does not seem to record a word for 'write' from Osage.  The
Dakota forms for 'write' (Williamson) are entirely different.

The term must have come into Omaha at least by their Bellevue period
(~1845-1855), when they were living next to a major wagon train terminus
and their children were being educated by missionaries.  Perhaps it came in
earlier, even as early as the late 18th century, as a reference to traders'
ledger books.  It would be interesting to know the Iowa-Oto term(s), as the
latter share with the Omaha a lot of acculturation terms that probably came
in during the Bellevue period.  The Kaw term would also be nice to know.

In any case, this word supports what we seemed to find with bru'ga/gru'ba,
that the brVgV/grVbV alternation is a phenomenon of early 20th century
Omaha, and is presumably irrelevant to other Siouan languages.

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