squashes and spoons

Rory M Larson rlarson at unlnotes.unl.edu
Wed Aug 30 01:22:14 UTC 2006


> > By "final", you mean that it appears as the head or base noun of a
> > So Menominee /wi:nE:mEhkwan/ means that a 'squash' is a wi:n type of
> No, what I mean is that Menominee /-E:mEhkwan/ is only found as part of
> derived nouns, with roots or 'initials' preceding it. In other words,
> Menominee /-E:mEhkwan/ is not an independent word. Menominee /E:meskwan/
> 'spoon', however, is an independent word.

Does that contradict what I said?  Independent or not, aren't /wi:n-/ and
/-E:mEhkwan/ separate morphemes in combination, with the latter acting as
the "head" noun of the compound?

> Not sure what the /wi:n-/ part means; the primary meaning of Menominee
> /wi:n-/ as an initial (a root) is 'dirty', which doesn't seem to apply

Could it have meant 'dirty gourd', as the plant on the ground, in contrast
with a (clean) gourd, a spoon?

>> here!), which would tend to bring Proto-Algonquian down to about that
time if
>> the 'squash' meaning is primary.
> Not really. That's too recent for Proto-Algonquian. I usually hear
> of 2,500-3,000 years BP for Proto-Algonquian, and most reconstructions
> the language either in Canada or close to it.

Exactly my problem with squashes!

> > sensible.  Extending an implement term to refer to the natural item
> > shakier.
> Not positive I agree, but I think that's trumped by two things; (a) like
> said it's a tad troubling (to me, at least) that 20+ Algonquian languages
> all made the squash -> spoon shift, and only one (and a half) kept the
> meaning; and two, as you point out, there's the problem that it's far
> clear that the Proto-Algonquians would have known about gourds. Proto-
> Algonquians were probably too far north (certainly further north than
> Proto-Siouans) and way too early to know about gourds, but they would of
> course known about spoons. If the word meant 'spoon' originally, all one
> to posit is that ONE language (two if you count the Menominee final)
> the word for 'spoon' to the plant with which they made spoons, which
> strike ME as terribly implausible.

Fair enough.  But for the moment, I'd like to keep on the table my proposal
that the base word was 'gourd' and the derived form was 'spoon', both used
at the same time within the proto-language.  As the language spread, the
'spoon' meaning became exclusive in most, but not all, of the resulting
dialects.  I think this model would fit comfortably with 20+ languages
using the 'spoon' form and only 2 showing evidence of the 'gourd' form,
while still letting the 'gourd' meaning be primary.  But if we restrict our
picture of where the proto-language was and how it spread, as you do below,
we might have to reject this model.

> Except there's no reason to think Proto-Algonquians started out in a
> where squashes could be grown. The northwest Plains is one place that's
> mentioned (Montana, around there), another is Ontario.


> Welll..... except there's not a lot of evidence to think that state of
> affairs ever obtained. It looks a lot more plausible that PA emerged from
> the Plateau region onto the northern Plains and essentially moved east,
> dropping languages as it went. There's no particular reason to think
> say, the Proto-Arapahoans and Proto-Eastern Algonquians were ever in
> contact.

Great!  This is looking like a big picture model we could work with!

So to restate and elaborate the model(s) you are thinking from:
Proto-Algonquian was located in the Plateau region, roughly the northern
Rockies around western Montana about 1000 BC.  From here, it moved onto the
northern Plains along roughly the border between the U.S. and Canada, and
headed west to the Great Lakes.  Along the way, several groups branched off
and stayed on the Plains: the Blackfoot; the Arapaho; and the Cheyenne.
The group that made it to the Great Lakes was Proto-Eastern Algonquian.
That one then spread widely around the Great Lakes area, north into the
eastern Canadian subarctic, east to the Atlantic coast, and south into much
of the deciduous forest and prairie of the northeastern and central U.S.

By this model, there are two problem with the 'gourd' -> 'spoon' theory.

1. Could gourds have been used so far north as the Plateau homeland that

2. Even if gourds were used in the Plateau region by 1000 BC, the
dual-meaning/dialect/koine hypothesis that I proposed clashes with the tree
implicit in this model.  Conservative dialects ought to be the ones closer
to the homeland, such as Blackfoot, Arapaho and Cheyenne; the koine ought
to be spoken by the ones who carried the movement farthest, the Eastern
Algonquians.  But the two examples we have of languages using the word with
the 'squash' meaning, Miami and Menominee, are both Eastern Algonquians.
Since they have travelled far and are not genetically particularly close to
the center of the tree, their special usage must be derived as compared
with all the other Algonquians which are in agreement.

Is that a fair statement of your position?  I realize I'm simplifying and
adding a few details that you didn't actually state.

I think one of the arguments for the Plateau theory of Algonquian origin is
that there are some other languages that are thought to be related to
Algonquian in that region.  Also that Blackfoot is thought to be the most
divergent Algonquian language, with Cheyenne and Arapaho next most
divergent, both from each other and from all the others, which are lumped
as Eastern.  Is this correct?

You also mention Ontario as another possibility for the homeland.  That
seems to be roughly equivalent to saying northwestern Great Lakes, and if
it is Proto-Algonquian rather than Proto-Eastern Algonquian we are talking
about here, that would change the model entirely.  In that case, Algonquian
would have been starting out not far from where we later find the
Menominee.  Then Blackfoot, Arapaho and Cheyenne could have been particular
offshoots of the koine which separately moved west onto the Plains, and
their distinction would be due to early and continued isolation rather than
to diverging as dialects before Menominee and Miami.  That would leave the
dual-meaning/dialect/koine hypothesis as a possibility, provided gourds
work for that region in time.

Do we have any good arguments for Ontario/Great Lakes as a homeland?

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