Nootka Jargon

Nootka Jargon or Nootka Lingo was a pidginized form of the Wakashan language Nuučaan̓uł, used for trade purposes by the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast, when communicating with persons who did not share any common language. It was most notably in use during the late 18th and early 19th centuries and was likely one precursor to Chinook Wawa, in Chinook Wawa's post-contact-form. A small number of words from Nuučaan̓uł (formerly called the Nootka language, thus the English names of its pidgin) form an important portion of the lexical core of Chinook Wawa. This was true, both in Chinook Wawa's post-contact pidgin phase, and its latter creole form, and remains true in contemporary Chinuk Wawa language usage.[1]

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

Early originsEdit

It is believed by theorists[2][3] that Nootka Sound was a traditional trading hub for coastal First Nations groups long before contact with Europeans. 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 Nootka Jargon,[5] which consisted mostly of nuučaan̓uɫ words, but was also took words, such as sail and stow from the Europeans with whom trade and interaction were occurring.[2]


These sources[6][7] state that Early European mercantilists, operating in the region, created word lists for the jargon; most notably, Captain James Cook documented 268 lexical items in his journal.[2] John Jewitt also listed 87 vocabulary words, along with definitions in English, 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 WawaEdit

Nootka Jargon was the principal medium of communication between the Europeans and First Nations people for 20-30 years.[5] It is argued the colonizers used this simplified version of Nuučaan̓uł, which they had become familiar with through maritime trade, when they continued their journeys down the Pacific Northwest Coast towards the mouth of the Columbia River.[5][8][9][10] About 5% of the Chinook Wawa lexicon originates in Nuučaan̓uł words, though the word-frequency for words of Nuučaan̓uł origin is higher in everyday Chinook Wawa speech and text.[2][11] As to be expected when nonnative speakers are the language brokers of a contact language form, there were significant phonological changes (see below), as well as a few morphological discrepancies in the way that words of Nuučaan̓uł origin entered the post-contact form of Chinuk Wawa.

Linguistic featuresEdit

As referenced above, theorists suggest that the words of Nuučaan̓uł origin found in post-contact Chinook Wawa were introduced by Europeans who had never learned to speak the full Nuučaan̓uł language. This is evidenced by predictably systematic changes found in Chinook Wawa that differ from the original Nuučaan̓uł language forms. These systemic changes would logically be made by native speakers of Indo-European languages, in this case, principally English and French speakers.[9] These include the replacement, of glottalized ejectives, uvular stops and fricatives, and the velar fricative, with consonants found in the sound inventories of English and French, such as /b/, /d/, /g/, and /ʃ/.[11]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Thomas, Edward Harper (1935). Chinook: A History and Dictionary of the 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. S2CID 161542443.
  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.