More than one way to count the years

To date, for Hanis I’ve seen 2 words used to mean ‘year’ – itsiimis and qainais.  itsiimis is the word usually found; qainais only appears twice.  Both words were used to talk about age, so what difference in meaning between the words, if any, was never given.

Now I’ve run into an oddity in St Clair’s notes for words about ‘winter’, ‘summer’ and ‘year’, and he did not bother to try to explain it very clearly:

diihlte itsiimis qalyaq hantl ndaxtiiwat=this summer I’m going to fish for salmon.  Here he glossed itsiimis as ‘summer’ when elsewhere he identified it as ‘year’.  More confusing elsewhere on the same page he does record the usual word for summer, tshlim.  Weird.  Makes me wonder if itsiimis implies not just a year, but counted from one summer to the next.

Then to make it more fun, I get a new word I’ve never seen before, kwhliiyil (Kᶸɫī´îl):

lo ya’ai kwhliiyil qalyaq ndaxtiiwat=last year (winter) I fished for salmon.

St Clair wrote beneath kwhliiyil “year (winter)”.  This word has never turned up before=elsewhere the word ‘winter’ is always glossed as qeluu (which, interestingly, is related to the word for old).  It makes me wonder if itsiimis can imply the period of a year going from one summer to the next, kwhliiyil is a parallel word meaning from one winter to the next?  Since St Clair didn’t write any more about it – and I have found no other references to this new word – I have no way to tell for sure.

Do neighboring languages also use more than one word for ‘year’? Siuslaw/Lower Umpqua appears to be a yes.  In Frachtenberg’s word list at the back of his “Lower Umqpua Texts” he glosses niiq’uu meaning “age, year” and nishchanúúwiisi meaning year; and in turn is derived from the verb nishchinuu- a new season arrives.

Out of curiosity I also took a peak at Frachtenberg’s “Alsea Texts” to see if there was a similar pattern there, but he only recorded on word for year in that language:  wuuliis.  But it is derived from the verb ‘to arrive’, which makes me think that metaphorically it has the same meaning as its Siuslawan counterpart, that a new season has arrived, or that a full cycle of seasons have passed.

Well, who know talking about seasons and time could be so complicated?  (Well, until one gets tangled up in physics – but I am so avoiding that!!)


About shichils

Just sharing some fun on language
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