In Hanis there are two words I’ve found translated into English as ‘breath’. But they seem to be used slightly differently.
(As usual, for help on pronunciation of Native words see the ‘About’ section)
One is hahl. It is simply translated as ‘breath’. It can also be turned in to a verb with the addition of the suffix –t, which is both can itself be a general verbalizing suffix or indicate a transitive verb. So then you get words like háhlat, she/he is breathing; n-háhlat I am breathing.
But there is another word, qáya which Annie Peterson translated as both ‘breath’ and ‘wind of the lungs’ (elsewhere it is simply translated simply as ‘breath’.). Qaya is the word used for euphemisms about being winded and tired, or dead. Some examples: In a story about a human woman who meets a seal-power-person, the Seal Man asks her to follow him into the water. She asks:
Nii kwantl aya nqaya? Won’t I lose my breath? (Lit. Won’t=I perhaps=will lose I=breath)
Indeed the expression ‘losing one’s breath’ is a euphemism for drowning, as in this example from St Clair:
aya hantl ye qaya = You’re going to lose your breath, ie you’re going to drown. (literally, Lose will your breath)
It can also mean to die: St Clair ayau qaya , St Clair lost his breath, ie St Clair died. (literally, St Clair lost=his breath)
It also is used to describe someone who has become winded and tired: ayau qaya, his breath was out, he was exhausted, winded. The equivalent expression in Milluk is k’um da qaya.
Using a phrase like ‘breath’ as a euphemism is a pretty obvious one for drowning and death. In medieval Europe, one belief was that the soul entered the body at the moment a baby took its first breath after it was born. (It is a dramatic moment, I remember with Morgan – the baby emerges blue and still, draws a breath and begins to pink up and holler. So this association with breath and life is a pretty clear one). You can still see the connection in the Latin-derived words respiration, spirit and inspiration.