Why did _Kamloops Wawa_ go unresearched for so long? (fwd)

David Robertson drobert at TINCAN.TINCAN.ORG
Mon Mar 1 15:33:03 UTC 1999

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---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 28 Feb 2000 09:16:08 +0300
From: Gregory Robison <grobison at swiftuganda.com>
To: David Robertson <drobert at TINCAN.TINCAN.ORG>
Subject: Re: Why did _Kamloops Wawa_ go unresearched for so long?

Kampala, 28 February 2000

I read a great deal of Kamloops Wawa in the 1980s and did an undergraduate
paper at Yale on KW and Duployan, but did not go into an academic career after

To your speculations (accurate, in my view) on why KW has been so long
neglected (i.e., that it was writen by a White man and that the subject matter
is at least partially religious), I would add:

1. Duployan looks inaccessible because it has no connection with writing
systems most people are familiar with, and therefore discourages anyone from
learning it.  Thus, while reading something like t'u7wEn also takes some
instruction, at least we think we know the "elements" from which such a string
is built.  (Of course, we don't really, or not very accurately, because even
familiar Roman letters used in, say, Western European languages, have
different values in each language in almost every case...).

2. There seems to have been an explosion of interest in, and research on, CJ
directly proportional to the rise in the use of the Internet and e-mail which,
in turn, is (currently) tightly tied to the QWERTY keyboard.  If a writing
system doesn't have a "character set," there is a strong disincentive to learn
it, use it or even to find out anything about it.

3. In part because of points 1. and 2., there is a view that Duployan is
somehow less "accurate" or less able to capture linguistic distinctions than
Roman or at least keyboard-based systems with which we are familiar.  This was
the implication of a comment (of Mike's) that Duployan was inappropriate for
Secwepemc and St'at'imcets (about which I know absolutely nothing) because "it
just wasn't adequate to represent the subtle sound-system of St'at'imcets."
This, in my view -- although I won't discuss it here -- is not true (although
Mike may very well be perfectly right that it was perceived as true and was
the basis for the decision not to go with Duployan in that particular case).
Any subtle distinctions that can be made in a Roman- or alphanumeric-based
system can be made in a Duployan.  It's a bit like saying (as some people do)
that "English measurements are less accurate than metric."  But
"an-inch-and-seven-eights" is more accurate than "about two and a half
centimeters."  It all depends upon how you use the system.  It's the
transposition or translation between two systems that can cause the most
problems, or the instictive use and intuitive understanding of one system by
someone who grew up with the other...

4. A fourth reason, for me at least, is the odd fact that in spite of the
plausibility of the claim that there were hundreds and probably thousands of
people able to read and write CJ in Duployan about a hundred years ago in the
interior of British Columbia, I don't think I have ever seen a line of it
written by anybody but Jean-Marie LeJeune.  It was said (somewhere; I can't
find the reference) that at one time it was possible to post a letter in BC,
addressed in Duployan, and it would be delivered; KW contains letters to the
editor and ads...but even these have a suspicious uniformity to them.  I
haven't done any redaction criticism of such texts purporting to be from other
hands, but one would like to see direct evidence of Duployan used as an
everyday writing system for CJ by a large number of people.  In fact, this
lack of other sources or other authors using steno to write CJ during the
"historic period" may well be the largest single reason for Duployan not being
immediately and unassailably recognized as a legitimate script for the
language during, this, the "retrospective" or even "revival" period of the

I have some other thoughts and comments on Duployan's use in CJ, but will put
this in separate posts.

Gregory Robison

David Robertson wrote:

> LhaXayEm.  Qhata mEsayka, khanawi-lhaksta?
> A seemingly simple question:
> Why did _Kamloops Wawa_ go largely unresearched for such a long time?
> The first person I know of to look into it very much is Zvjezdana Vrzic,
> circa 1998.
> The question is interesting because apparently _Kamloops Wawa_ is by far
> the largest corpus of CJ.
> My thoughts, briefly:
> *Because _KW_ was written down by a White man, it's "not authentic" CJ.
> *_KW_ is perceived as having had religious, not scientific purposes.  Thus
> it's unfit material for rigorous study.
> Any thoughts?
> Dave
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