TENAS WAWA--The Chinook Jargon Voice Chinook Jargon Notes

Jargon Sentence Structure

Today, most people speaking (or learning to speak) Chinook Jargon have English as a first language. It is more convenient for them, therefore, when speaking Chinook, to use English sentence structure. Tenas Wawa is a good example of that. For those readers who have a copy of "KLAHOWYA, A Handbook for Learning Chinook Jargon," it is obvious that English word order is followed in the grammar section and throughout.

Some speakers of Chinook maintain that a statement not in the affirmative should be preceded by "no" or "not," for example: Halo naika klatawa ("Not me go"), or Halo naika kumtux ("Not me understand"). Some say that a pronoun should be at the end of a sentence, for example: Halo kumtux, naika ("Not know, me"); Skookum man, yaka ("Strong man, him").

There was Chinook Dictionary written in 1913, by W.S. Phillips. Mr. Phillips asserted that he was a speaker of Chinook Jargon for many years, and that his publication would be the final word on this subject. There is no reason to doubt him as a Chinook speaker, and while his work has much information, there are some strange comments in it.

On the subject of grammar, "El Comancho" (as he referred to himself) warns: "The construction of all Indian language is similar to German. Chinook, when properly spoken, has the 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 always be Indian."

Well, all Indian languages are not constructed alike, any more than all Old World languages are constructed alike. Following are a few examples of Ka naika man? ("Where me husband?"):

Skidegate Haida:  Djina dang tlalga 'djiWhere my husband is it?
Nez Perce:Min'x een'um hamaWhere my husband?
S'Klallam:U'xeen ooch kwi nu-swaika  Where? it is my husband.
Gitk'san:N'da nak's i niyWhere husband is mine?
Suquamish:Chad kwi d. s'chistxWhere is my husband?

Since Chinook Jargon is not shackled by the complexity of case, gender, conjugation, plurals, etc., it can be spoken in any way that seems natural for the speaker, and still be understood by the recipient. That is the beauty of Chinook and why it is so easily learned. Here are some examples:

Naika klatawa hyak.Me go fast.
Klatawa hyak, naika.Go fast, me.
Hyak, klatawa naika.Fast, go me.
Hyak, naika klatawa.Fast, me go.
Klatawa naika, hyak.Go me, fast.
Okoke klootzman solleks.  This woman angry.
Klootzman solleks, okoke.Woman angry, this.
Solleks, okoke klootzman.Angry, this woman.
Solleks klootzman, okoke.Angry woman, this.
Okoke solleks klootzman.This, angry woman.

If one wishes to emphasize, the pronoun yaka ("he, she, it") may be added, as follows:

Okoke klootzman, yaka solleks.  This woman, she angry.
Okoke klootzman solleks, yaka.This woman angry, she.
Okoke solleks klootzman, yaka.This angry woman, she.
Okoke yaka solleks klootzman.This, she angry woman!

Glossed, okoke translates as "this" or "that." It's good if one thinks of it as "this one" or "that one," unless of course an obvious plural is indicated   in which case the pronoun klaska ("them") is added. For instance, Okoke, klootzman, klaska solleks, meaning, "This woman them angry," or "These women are angry."


"Kahta maika wawa kopa Boston la lang, 'Ka naika man?'"

("How you talk in American, 'Where me husband?'")

(Copyright © 1993 by Duane Pasco)

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