Wednesday, 24 February 2010

'li ch 'o' 'uy' 'ul'?

The coolest part of the Olympics opening ceremonies for me was seeing members of four west coast First Nations saying a welcome in their respective languages. The nations and languages were the Squamish Nation (Squamish or Sḵwx̱wú7mesh), Musqueam Indian Band (Hun'qumi'num' or Downriver dialect of Halkomelem), Lil'wat First Nation (Lillooet or St'at'imcets), and Tsleil-Waututh First Nation (Downriver dialect of Halkomelem). This map shows where these languages are spoken. These are all Salishan languages, related to Nuxálk, the language that freaked out Mattitiahu, because of its profusion of consonants and the difficulty of syllabifying them.

Linguistically, these are very interesting languages. Halkomelem and St'at'imcets have glottalised sonorants, which are extremely rare sounds, and St'at'imcets has glottalised voiced pharyngeals. How cool is that?

St'at'imcets uses reduplication for various purposes, for instance kl'axʷ "muskrat", and kə-kl'axʷ "muskrats"; and qʷal'út "to talk", and qʷə-qʷal'út "to talk loudly, to bawl out".

Halkomelem has a suffix to express an action done accidentally or with limited control, as opposed to an action done on purpose. For instance, the sentence "The child accidentally clubbed the woman with the paddle" contains the limited control suffix, and the sentence "The child clubbed the woman with the paddle (on purpose)" contains the general transitive suffix; otherwise the sentences are identical. (I don't know why linguistic examples are always so violent.)

Here are some lessons in Halkomelem, including sound files and grammar points. I like the word stl'itl'qulh [stɬʼitɬʼqəɬ] "child", which I might be able to say after a few years of practice.

Here are some useful phrases. The phonetic transcriptions are mine, so they're probably wrong. (Wikipedia was helpful, altho they use the wrong symbol for glottalisation.)

'li ch 'o' 'uy' 'ul'?
How are you?

'I tsun. 'li ch tl'o' 'uy' 'ul'?
[ʔitʃən ʔiːtʃtɬʼuʔəjʔəlˀ]
I'm fine. And how are you?

Huy ch q'u.
Thank you.

Namut kwu.
You're welcome.

Excuse me.


Mattitiahu said...

This is such a great language family. :)

Glen Gordon said...

Looks like Halkomelem uses more vowels than Klallam.

goofy said...

sƛ̕íƛ̕aʔƛ̕qɬ (child)
ɬq̕čšɬnát (Friday)
sk̕ʷc̕ŋíyɬč (cherry tree)

Glen Gordon said...

When you first encounter it, it's totally overwhelming to wrap your tongue around at all. As I mentioned on Mattitiahu's blog, unless we're willing to DRASTICALLY rethink what a vowel is and open up our minds to exotica like "vocalic fricatives", we'll go mental trying to syllabify these words into manageable chunks.

A Klallam elder gives a great sample of his language by recounting the Biblical Flood myth at this link. Try to follow along his speech with the text. The way he breezes through some parts is positively MINDBLOWING and if he was 20 years younger and less slowed down by age, I'm sure the relentless, salivary string of ejectives, uvulars and lateral fricatives would be even more jawdroppingly intense.

Anonymous said...

It's elaborately extremely overcomplex...It takes YEARS even for the most incredible language genius to learn the language. It's extremely DIFFICULT. Even more difficult than Ancient Greek. Efforts at translating sounds, "a and all have failed miserably. It just doesn't match..the letters. The sounds are extremely alien to Indo-European speakers like English speakers are extremely alien to δ sound. You can realize it by yourself. You can ONLY learn this language by LISTENING to it. I mean c' mon you need no material proof the proof is in front of you and it's perfectly empirical and without a doubt apparent.