Nootka Jargon

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Nootka Jargon
Native toCanada
RegionPacific Northwest
Native speakers
Language codes
ISO 639-3None (mis)

Nootka Jargon or Nootka Lingo was a simplified form of the Nuu-chah-nulth language, used for trade purposes by the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast when communicating with groups that did not share the same language. It was most notably in use during the late 18th and early 19th centuries and was likely a predecessor to Chinook Wawa, with a number of Nuu-chah-nulth (Nootka) words at the core of that pidgin language.[1]

Early origins[edit]

It is believed by theorists[2][3] that Nootka Sound was a traditional trading hub for coastal First Nations groups long before contact with White people. Russian and Spanish ships are believed to have been among the first colonizers to reach the west coast of Vancouver Island, followed closely by the British who anchored at Yuquot (aka Friendly Cove) in 1788.[4] There is at least one account of British and Spanish interpreters learning the jargon,[5] which consisted mostly of Nuu-chah-nulth (Nootka) words, but was also influenced by the Europeans with whom there was trade and interaction with.[2]


The early explorers are said to have created word lists;[6][7] most notably Captain James Cook documented 268 lexical items in his journal.[2] John Jewitt also listed 87 vocabulary words along with their definitions in his 1815 publication of A Narrative of the Adventures and Sufferings of John R. Jewitt, only survivor of the crew of the ship Boston, during a captivity of nearly three years among the savages of Nootka Sound: with an account of the manners, mode of living, and religious opinions of the natives.[4]

Relation to Chinook Wawa[edit]

Nootka Jargon was the principle device of communication between the Europeans and First Nations people for 20-30 years.[5] It is argued the colonizers used this simplified version of Nuu-chah-nulth they had become familiar with through maritime trade when they continued their journey down the Pacific Northwest Coast towards the mouth of the Columbia River.[5][8][9][10] About 5% of Chinook Wawa is Nootka words.[2][11] As to be expected when nonnative speakers are the language brokers of a jargonized tongue, there were significant phonological changes (see below), as well as a few morphological discrepancies.

Linguistic features[edit]

As referenced above, theorizers suggest that the Nuu-chah-nulth terms found in Chinook Wawa were introduced by White people who had not mastered the language. This is evidenced by predictably systematic changes found in Chinook Wawa that differ from the original Nootka language that would logically be made by European (English and French) speakers.[9] These include the lack of glottalized ejectives, uvular stops/ fricatives, in addition to the absence of velar fricatives.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Thomas, Edward Harper (1935). Chinook: A History and Dictionary of he NorthWest Coast Trade Jargon: The Centuries-Old Trade Language of the Indians of the Pacific. Portland, OR: Metropolitan Press.
  2. ^ a b c d George., Lang (2009). Making Wawa : the genesis of Chinook jargon. University of British Columbia Press. ISBN 9780774815260. OCLC 318674597.
  3. ^ Harris, Barbara P. (1994). "Chinook Jargon: Arguments for a Pre-Contact Origin". Pacific Coast Philology. 29 (1): 28–36. doi:10.2307/1316345. ISSN 0078-7469. JSTOR 1316345.
  4. ^ a b Grant, Rena V. (1944). "The Chinook Jargon, Past and Present". California Folklore Quarterly. 3 (4): 259–276. doi:10.2307/1495783. ISSN 1556-1283. JSTOR 1495783.
  5. ^ a b c Samarin, William (1988). "Jargonization Before Chinook Jargon". Northwest Anthropological Research Notes. 22 (2): 219–238.
  6. ^ Douglas., Robertson, David (2014). Kamloops Chinuk Wawa, Chinuk pipa, and the vitality of pidgins. Ottawa: Library and Archives Canada = Bibliothèque et Archives Canada. ISBN 9780499284198. OCLC 1019496738.
  7. ^ Leechman, Douglas (1926). "The Chinook Jargon". American Speech. 1 (10): 531–534. doi:10.2307/452146. JSTOR 452146.
  8. ^ Silverstein, Michael (2015). "How language communities intersect: Is "superdiversity" an incremental or transformative condition?". Language & Communication. 44: 7–18. doi:10.1016/j.langcom.2014.10.015. ISSN 0271-5309.
  9. ^ a b Thomason, Sarah Grey (1983). "Chinook Jargon in Areal and Historical Context". Language. 59 (4): 820–870. doi:10.2307/413374. JSTOR 413374.
  10. ^ Viehmann, Martha L. (2012). "Speaking Chinook: Adaptation, Indigeneity, and Pauline Johnson's British Columbia Stories". Western American Literature. 47 (3): 258–285. doi:10.1353/wal.2012.0064. ISSN 1948-7142.
  11. ^ a b Henry Zenk; Tony A. Johnson (2010). "A Northwest Language of Contact, Diplomacy, and Identity: Chinuk Wawa / Chinook Jargon". Oregon Historical Quarterly. 111 (4): 444. doi:10.5403/oregonhistq.111.4.0444. ISSN 0030-4727.