Samarin on "Arctic origin and domestic development of Chinook Jargon"

David Robertson drobert at TINCAN.TINCAN.ORG
Fri Mar 26 18:00:26 UTC 1999

Lhush chandi-ubut
[good week   end],

Qhata mEsayka ukuk san?

I've been sitting down with a book called "Language Contact in the Arctic:
Northern Pidgins and Contact Languages", edited by Ernst Hakon Jahr and
Ingviled Broch, published in Berlin by the eminent Mouton de Gruyter house
in 1996.  It's number 88 in the series _Trends in Linguistics:  Studies
and Monographs_.

This book includes surprisingly an essay by William J. Samarin, which I
recommend to those who wish to investigate the role of ChInuk Wawa in
Alaska, the Yukon, and northern British Columbia.

Samarin discusses the roles of Aleuts, Tlingits, Kodiak Indians, and the
so-called "creole" people of mixed Russian-indigenous ancestry in the
genesis of CJ.  Bringing together insights about the role of women as
propagators of culture, about Russian settlement and trade as far south as
the central California coast, and about an expanded view of the arena in
which CJ came to exist -- including Hawaii and Eastern Siberia -- Samarin
provides a thought-provoking intellectual exercise.

What I like about Samarin's writing always is that he thinks very
creatively and with a historian's insight into the social conditions that
must have shaped the course of development of CJ.  (Or of the African
pidgin Sango, for example, which he's written about authoritatively.)

As Samarin admits, his point in the present paper is not quite to prove
anything about a Northern origin of ChInuk Wawa, but to urge students of
the language to be aware of factors which are usually ignored in
investigations of linguistic history.  His comments about the formation of
households and communities of mixed European and indigenous ancestry are
worthy of consideration, whether you're interested in the history of Forts
Vancouver, Langley, and Nisqually or trying to understand how CJ came to
exist and grow.

The other papers in this book are a very good read as well:  Not only
Russenorsk pidgin and several kinds of Eskimo and Aleut contact languages,
are discussed, but also numerous varieties (Taimyr Peninsula pidgin
Russian; Chukchi jargon; "broken Slavey") previously unknown to many of
us.  Quite readable, not too technical, and most of the contributions are
manageably short.  You might like this book!

Alta na lhatEwa,

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