Reconstructing vocabulary

There are a few sources of the tribal languages from the 19th century – most notably Dr. Milhau’s wordlist from the 1850s for 2 dialects of Hanis, George Bissell’s wordlists of Hanis and Lower Umpqua in 1881, and J. O. Dorsey’s work in the 1880s at Siletz on numerous languages including Lower Coquille Milluk and Lower Umpqua/Siuslaw.  Dorsey’s work was the best and clearest, but even so they are riddled with errors (the Oregon Indian languages were full of consonants that Enlish speakers were quite unfamiliar with), and the work of better trained 20th century linguists and anthropologists have been much more useful.

Bissell’s Hanis list had some words in it that showed up on no other list.  By comparing his words to other’s work, I tried to reconstruct what some of these words likely sounded like.  One has his recording of ‘gall bladder’ which looked to be giskom (rhymes with giss-come).  Today I happened to put on Swadesh’s 1953 recording of two Wasson sisters speaking Milluk words. And by dumb luck wouldn’t you know ‘gall’ turned up on it – clearly heard as giskom.  So it looks like the Hanis and Milluk words for the same for gall bladder, and my guess of giskom was correct.  Hooray for confirmation!


About shichils

Just sharing some fun on language
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