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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.
It is believed by theorists 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. There is at least one account of British and Spanish interpreters learning the jargon, which consisted mostly of Nuu-chah-nulth (Nootka) words, but was also influenced by the Europeans with whom there was trade and interaction with.
The early explorers are said to have created word lists; most notably Captain James Cook documented 268 lexical items in his journal. 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.
Relation to Chinook Wawa
Nootka Jargon was the principle device of communication between the Europeans and First Nations people for 20-30 years. 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. About 5% of Chinook Wawa is Nootka words. 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.
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. These include the lack of glottalized ejectives, uvular stops/ fricatives, in addition to the absence of velar fricatives.
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