Comparing Alsea, Siuslaw, Hanis, Milluk #s

I’ve been working, off and on, on comparing St Clair’s list of 200+ Milluk and Hanis words (that he got in 1903 from work with Jim Buchanan, Frank Drew and George Barney). One part of the vocabulary where there is a big divergence between the two is in the numerals.

Back in 1987, Eugene Buckley (then a grad student in linguistics, today a professor at University of Pennsylvania) was looking at lexical comparisons between Alsea, Siuslaw, Hanis and to a lesser extent Milluk (at that time he had little access to organized Milluk materials). Just looking at the numbers one through five, even though on the surface the words look very different between the 4 languages, a closer analysis shows some relationship.

Here is a chart of the #s 1-5 as Buckley wrote them (č=ch, š=sh, ƛ=tl, ɨ=i as in bit):

ALSEA SIUSLAW HANIS MILUK
ONE xam aɫᵃq yɨxé•i hɨčí
TWO xeƛk̯ xá•tsu• yuxwέ ats’ú
THREE psinƛx ši•nᵃx yɨ´psən psinɫ
FOUR tsú•nk̯x xá•ts’u•n héšƛiƛ ts’awá
FIVE su•dá•st ƛxái•pɨs katʰə́mɨs kqunčínsi

I would note quickly that Buckley pulled the Milluk word for five from Dorsey’s word list; a better rendering comes from Jacobs, qench’insi.

On the surface they don’t look similar, except one can notice immediately that there is the element ‘psin’ in the numeral 3 in all the languages except Siuslaw, and it is even there except the /p/ is here a /sh/. Also notice that just within the Hanis, the numeral 1-3 all seem to be prefixed with yi/yu (no, I have no idea what it is) leaving us with -xei, -xwe and -psin in that languages for those numbers.

Some of the numbers appear to be descriptive of ways of counting. Buckley noted that the Alsea word for 5, su•dást, may be made up of su•t– ‘drop’ and nominal-adjectival –a•st, in reference to a method of counting. Siuslaw ‘5’ probably comes from ƛxaip-‘be off to one side’. He was less sure of Hanis’ origin for 5 -it clearly does have the nominal –s suffix, however.

For the other numerals he went on to say:

…the best correspondences are psin ‘three’ and ts’u• ‘two’…. ts’u• is in Miluk and Siuslaw ‘two’ and ‘four’, with an unglottalized version in Alsea ‘four’ and ‘twice’ (tsu•m).  In Siuslaw the word for ‘two’ seems to be composed of two elements, ts’u• plus xa• which may be related to Alsea xe and Hanis xwe found in the words for ‘two’.  Hanis ‘one’ through ‘three’ are clearly prefixed with yɨ- (yu- before a labial).  The xe•i in Hanis ‘one’ is perhaps cognate with Alsea xam, where the final [m] could be the multiplicative, i.e. ‘one time’.  The [n] in Alsea and Siuslaw ‘four’ (used with ts’u• ‘two’) is probably related to the irregular Hanis plural marker -n.  THe suffixes [ƛ, k, x] which seem to occur in Alsea ‘two’ to ‘four’, Siuslaw and Miluk ‘three’ and perhaps Hanis ‘four’ are obscure.  Thus while the numerals are at first glance fairly different, and in fact defy complete analysis, still there are definite elements suggestive of a common origin.

Taken from “Coast Oregon Penutian: A Lexical Comparison” by Eugene Buckley, in proceedings of the Third Annual Pacific Linguistics Conference, Eugene OR, 1987.

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About shichils

Just sharing some fun on language
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3 Responses to Comparing Alsea, Siuslaw, Hanis, Milluk #s

  1. sof cis says:

    I am so proud of you. Are all four languages isolates?

    • shichils says:

      No, they don’t seem to be isolates. But the relationships of the 4 languages to each other, much less other western North American languages is kind of in dispute. Someone wrote a thesis 2 yrs ago that Milluk is possibly related to proto Salish! In the past, it’s usually been part of the Penutian family.

      There is something weird going on between Hanis and Milluk. A good 68-70 percent of the vocab (going just by St Clair’s list) is the same or has similar roots. The similar roots isn’t weird but the fact that huge chunks of the vocabulary is identical is kind of odd – wd indicate massive amounts of borrowing. Intensive language contact?

  2. Siuslaw ‘five’ = Siuslaw ‘two’ + ‘three’?

    Salish ‘two’ (one of several roots for it) /cam/ … and we know Alsea shares some stuff with Salish …

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