Dakotan gw/gm

Koontz John E John.Koontz at colorado.edu
Sun Aug 27 01:14:11 UTC 2006

Lakota has a modest number of examples of gm-clusters - relying here only
the words starting with gm, and not looking further.  This would seem to
imply a Proto-Mississippi Valley cluster *kw followed by a nasal vowel.
There are also a few cases of gw, implying *kw.  The problem with this
implication is that corresponding forms seem not to occur.

The main cases of *kw with any cognate are wagmuN' 'squash' and igmuN'
'cat', where the cognates show up with gdh in Dhegiha, dw in Ioway-Otoe,
and c^Vw in Winnebago.  Both words are likely to be loans - or areally
widespread forms.  The 'squash' form has some resemblants in Algonquian,
but I am personally of the opinion that it does not originate there.
(There, now I can never go to an Algonquian meeting!)  As it happens,
there may be a connection between the two roots, since some cucurbits,
especially young ones and some cats (especially young ones) have a sort of
stripey pattern on them, the sort of coincidence that interests human
immensely.  I swear that somewhere I saw a reference to a Mississippian
artefact - a pot or a figurine - that specifically combined a cat and
squash vines, but I have never been able to rediscover it.

I tend to suspect that most gm and gw in Dakotan arise from sound-symbolic
alternations, e.g.,

gwegwes 'striped, with the ribs showing', gweza 'lean, thin, ragged'
cf. gle'za 'striped',

gwahaN 'bad, overripe, spoiled' (presumably haN is a continuative)
cf. -mnaN 'smell bad' (and OP bdhaN 'smell bad') < *praN

gwu 'curdled' may suggest something of a phonaestheme gw for 'in bad

This is an area where it might be risky for me to venture further, with so
many knowledgeable Dakotanists available!

Offhand, I don't recall any discussions of this in the Dakotanist
literature.  It's something I noticed in the course of the CSD project,
when I started looking for correspondences based on matches for particular
clusters or stops, etc.  My pioneer case of this was looking for matches
of Dakotan #h- and OP, etc. #th-.

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