Short response to Henry Zenk re _Kamloops Wawa_

David Robertson drobert at TINCAN.TINCAN.ORG
Thu Mar 4 03:33:02 UTC 1999

LhaXayEm; qhata may uk lakEt-san, Henry?

Yes, the Duployan orthography is a bit of an obstacle.  I've learned to
read probably ten different alphabets, Eastern and Western, and some
Chinese to boot.  Duployan is least different from Arabic-style scripts,
but weird in comparison to them because the form of each letter depends on
the direction you're writing in (which can easily be upward, downward,
even backward).  On the plus side, _Kamloops Wawa_ becomes easier to read
after a little while, because (a) Father LeJeune varied the spelling of
each word remarkably little [for a writer in or on CJ!], (b) the spelling
is pretty close to being phonemic, and (c) more or less as Mike has noted,
the script becomes glyphic.  You start recognizing the words by their
shapes, rather than puzzling out the individual letters every time...I
admit it, it's like being a small child again, trying to learn to read.

The awareness among linguists of ChInuk has been pretty low, even in the
NW.  Few seem to have been familiar with the language, indeed.  And few
seem to have seen it as a language worthy of study in itself.  They used
CJ as a vehicle for communicating with native speakers of other Northwest
languages, very often, and apparently made little record of the CJ used!
Certainly also CJ has been seen as a non-tribal language, with all the
associations that this status may conjure:  It's not as noticeably the
language of a disappearing distinct ethnic group or groups -- It's not
pure Indian, thus less potentially valuable in offering the
anthropologically-minded a clear contrast to received, White culture.

There's much humor in the Lushootseed dictionary listing CJ-source loans
as "English" in origin.  Reminiscent of the classic misunderstanding,
variations of which are "they thought they were talking Indian to the
Indians" and "they thought they were talking English to the Whites."  (See
the next message I send to this list!)  Not a misunderstanding, but a
further point about CJ's tending not to have a home in academia, is that a
fair amount of superb ChInuk Wawa material will apparently be showing up
in a forthcoming dictionary of Tillamook / Hutyeyu Salish.  If you didn't
know that, you'd never think to seek it out.  :-)

I'm writing off the cuff, and I hope not flying off the handle.


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