The Chinook jargon is not a language in the ordinary accepted sense, but is a verbal symbolism created by a spontaneous combination of words from widely different languages, made by necessity and common usage into a trade jargon which is at once graphic, expressive, and exceedingly elastic.

 One may learn to talk Chinook from a study of this book but he cannot learn to speak it fluently without considerable study into other things than the mere jargon itself.

 The most important knowledge to possess in this connection is a thorough understanding of the Indian point of view; that is to say, how the Indian thinks, the mental process by which he arrives at an idea and, in addition to this, a knowledge of his method of expressing this idea. Without this knowledge you can never speak Chinook, or any Indian language, fluently.

 Compared with English any Indian tongue is what we would call "turned around"~that is to say, the construction of all Indian languages is similar to German. Chinook when properly spoken has this same peculiarity. For instance: An Indian would say, "Have you my father seen?" and not "Have you seen my father?"

 A great many people who speak Chinook use Chinook words with English construction of sentences; this is wrong. The construction should be always Indian, and just what this means I will show by example sentences further on in this book so that you will get a comprehensive idea of how Chinook should be put together to express any idea.

 A very common mistake by all writers who have tried to put Chinook into English print, either in dictionary form or otherwise, has been faulty spelling. The writer has always been influenced by the dialectic English idioms peculiar to the part of the country where he spent his childhood during the time he learned to speak English, thus the New Englander says "Caow" for "Cow," the New Yorker says "N’Yawk" for "New York," etc. This has caused wide variations in the attempt to translate Chinook into English through phonetic sounds with consequent differences in spelling. I have endeavored in this book to give the TRUE Chinook spoken sounds by disregarding printed sound symbols used in English to indicate English letter sounds and have instead, indicated the letter or word sounds of Chinook by using English words having sounds the same as the Chinook spoken sounds as example or key words to fix the letter sounds of the English letter used in phonetic Chinook spelling, thus fixing the true sound of the Chinook words as they are spoken.

 One important point to remember in speaking Chinook is that there are in Chinook many gutteral sounds which the English language has no letter equivalent for but which are common enough in German. These must be indicated by comparative word sounds as used in English.

 Another very important point concerning Chinook is the tonal inflection used by the speaker. The influence of inflection on the spoken word in Chinook is so great that a rising inflection sometimes makes a word mean one thing and a falling inflection gives the same word a totally different meaning, or even perhaps an exactly opposite meaning, also the way a word is spoken has a tremendous influence on meaning. As an example: "Ahncuttie" if spoken as it is written here, means "time past" and the length of the time is expressed entirely by the way the speaker draws the word out. If he holds the first syllable a little time the word means a week, or a month, or six months ago; if he holds the syllable still longer in speaking, the time is correspondingly increased: in other words, the longer the speaker dwells on the, first syllable the longer time is expressed in the understanding of the hearer. This I shall endeavor to explain in detail further on so that it will be perfectly clear.

 The "a" when it is used in the broad sound in Chinook is not the broad "a" of English but a combination of the English broad "a" with "h" as in "ah" with the further peculiarity of trailing the aspirate "h" longer than we would in the word "ah."

 Another common mistake made by those who have tried to write Chinook is the use of the English sound of "u" in place of the sound of "oo." The English understanding of the sound of "oo" is more musical than the broad "u" and the "oo" should be used almost altogether in Chinook in place of the long "u."

 All of those peculiarities, together with others, I will explain in full in their proper place so that the meaning and shades of meaning will be perfectly clear.

 There is no set rule, unfortunately, for spelling Chinook sounds into English, therefore the phonetic system must be depended upon entirely and I shall endeavor to make a fixed standard of spelling Chinook in this book by careful analysis of Chinook sounds as spoken, so that hereafter writers may, if they will, use this book as a basis of fixed spelling of Chinook words and thereby avoid a great deal of confusion that now exists and which arises from the endeavor of different writers to translate Chinook sounds into English words without being thoroughly familiar with both languages, and from the further handicap of the dialectic differences of English itself which exists in the different sections of the United States from which the writers have come.

 If the method given in this book is followed hereafter an English standard of written Chinook sounds will be established so that there need be no further confusion on this point. I have given this matter painstaking analytical study and I believe I have succeeded in translating into English the proper sound of the Chinook words given with their tonal inflections and other peculiarities as they are actually spoken. Also the matter of construction of Chinook is given attention and the methods laid down here for constructing sentences and expressing ideas are probably as nearly correct as it is possible to translate them into English. Careful study of the spelling, inflection and letter and word sounds as given here will enable anyone to speak Chinook and if they get the basic Indian idea that is behind it all they should have no difficulty in talking Chinook fluently as soon as they can memorize the words.

 Remember always that the Chinook jargon had to do with a primitive people who were surrounded by certain natural phenomena who had certain fixed religious principles, mythic and legendary lore, and who lived a nomadic, outdoor existence. All of these things have had great influence in creating the Chinook jargon, because they gave a certain standard of idea, construction which resolves itself into verbal expression through the medium of the Chinook jargon; therefore Chinook is a reflection of limited conditions under which a primitive people lived. Further, these people were brought into contact with the highly superior races of white people, each with a fixed language of his own and with certain ideals and surroundings of his own; neither people could at first understand the other and the necessity arose for a common language which was the spontaneous growth, now called the "Chinook" jargon. It is easy then to see that ideas from many sources were incorporated in this jargon. The primitive conditions gave it a very graphic construction so there are many things which Chinook has no word for at all which brings us to the association of words and ideas which has so great a bearing on the construction of the Chinook sentences. As an instance of what this means, let us take the word "Snass;" That is a native word expressing a concrete idea for it means "rain" in Chinook and it doesn’t mean anything else but rain. We all know that snow is frozen rain yet there is no Chinook word for "snow" but the idea of snow is expressed by combining a corruption of the English word. "cold" with the Indian word "snass" and thereby we get "cole-snass" which is the Chinook word for "snow," the literal translation being "cold-rain" which expresses graphically the idea of snow.

 Another peculiarity of Chinook which arise from its graphic quality is the use of such words as "mamook." "copo" and other words of like character. The word "mamook" taken alone means "to do" but in actual use we might call it the one and only verb of the Chinook jargon because it is the only action word in the jargon and yet it is not a verb as there are some actions that cannot be expressed by the use of the word "mamook." To make the meaning clear in connection with this word, I will say that if you row a boat, build a fire, cut wood, shoot a duck, or do anything else you "mamook" so and so, yet you do not "mamook come" or "mamook go" except in certain instances.

 "Klatawah" taken alone means "go," that is. "I go" or "you go" or "he goes" but if I were to tell you to "Mamook klatawah" in Chinook, I would mean that you were to "make go" which would correspond to the English slang expression of "Get a move on you," "Get away from here;" in other words it is an authoritative command to "go away" to "get out." This will be fully explained in its proper place further on.

 The word "copo" expresses the idea of "together with" that is, "I go together-with you," or "he goes together-with us," or "put this article together-with that." In all instances of this character the word "copo" is used to couple up the idea with the action and yet it is not a conjunction as understood in English grammar, therefore I shall call "copo" the joining or coupling word and "mamook" I shall call the action word although it is not really a verb because certain usages in Chinook destroy its verb power.

 It is difficult to express in cold type the ideas that govern and control these things, yet a careful study will bring the understanding of it all as you begin to understand the Chinook and as you get further along and begin to talk Chinook you will "sense" the different shades of meaning which are given to words by the actual speech and I do not believe that these ideas can be thoroughly understood in any other way.

 As applied to modern, every-day affairs Chinook lacks many words because many things common enough today were not in existence when the Chinook jargon was created, therefore there is no word for them, and the idea must be expressed by an association of words and sometimes even by an association of ideas which are comparative and that work around to the idea in the same sense that the Chinaman frequently uses the expression "Allee same as." For illustration take the Chinook word "tipso" which alone means "hair." There is no direct Chinook word for "grass" but the idea of grass is expressed by the combination of the words "illahee tipso" or literally, "earth hair." In like manner sand is called "powder-ground" and a paved street becomes in Chinook "stone oiehut" or literally "stone road" and a skyscraper becomes "sahale chickamun tepee" meaning literally "tall-iron-house," or "high-iron-house," and which by a closer, further analysis of the first word becomes "high-up-above iron-house," thus conveying the predominating architectural idea of the building. In the same way "chick-chick" is a wheel but if you say "Kuitan chick-chick" the combination of words expresses the idea of a wagon or any wheeled vehicle drawn-by-horses, and if you say "piah" which is a corruption of the English word "fire" and say "piah chick-chick" or "piah chickamun chick-chick" you have expressed the idea of the locomotive or "iron-wagon that-runs by fire."

 You see there are many peculiarities of construction in Chinook and these peculiarities themselves have many angles which make Chinook appear very complicated but it is not so complicated as it looks because its graphic qualities make it pliable when it comes to the expression of ideas. You have merely to remember the Indian point of view to get the expression of almost any idea. This you will pick up very quickly further on when you get to the examples of constructed sentences. These sentences in Chinook with the explanatory translation will very quickly give you the Indian point of view that will enable you to understand Chinook and without which you never can understand it nor can you talk it fluently without this understanding except from the point of view of an English speaking person and the jargon will thereby lose its most useful quality, viz., its ability to condense an idea or an association of ideas into a few brief spoken words. Indeed this peculiarity is so marked that Chinook could almost be called a "verbal shorthand" and in truth it is a "condensed language" yet it lacks many of the fixed rules of construction needed to make a language and therefore remains a "jargon."

 German methods of construction of sentences are more nearly right than English, yet the English methods are entirely understandable and in many instances just as correct as German methods. Neither are quite "Indian" and just what "Indian methods" are no man can explain by a set of hard and fast "rules"    one must simply learn to "sense" constructive methods by actual speaking for the jargon has many "short cuts" whereby ideas are expressed without saying words at all.

 If there is any one characteristic stronger in Chinook than all others, it is that flexible, condensed, "short cut" quality that makes so much understood by idea-association or inference, by which I mean that many times "that which is unsaid" means as much or even more to the understanding of the listener as that which he gathers from a mental digest of the words actually spoken    a point that can be understood only by hearing a conversation in Chinook.

 In translating English words into Chinook certain letter sounds in English change always into other letter sounds in Chinook, and thus the English F becomes P in Chinook as "Pish" for fish, "Piah" for fire, etc.

 In like manner English D becomes T, G becomes Zgh, R becomes L, V becomes B (or sometimes W) and Z becomes S in Chinook English J becomes almost the German "ch" and other gutteral sounds become very nearly the English Q or Qh or Qw.

 Examples:  English "Vancouver" becomes in Chinook "Bahn-coo-bah" (a as in father). The letter h here denotes the halting "breath sound" that in English would make the first syllable sound as though it were written "Baa-hn" with the a as in father and the n nasal as used by the New Englander.

 This all applies ONLY to English words incorporated into and used as Chinook, as "fish" "fire" etc., where there is no other real Chinook word to take the place of the changed or adopted English word. It is usually in use more when proper names are spoken    that is, names of places, towns, people, etc., as "George" which in Chinook sounds becomes "Zghorzgh h" while "Jim" would be "Chim" in Chinook.

HTML rev. 7/10/05