There’s more than one way to build a number (Milluk)

Edited to add: I’ve only recently figured out that when Dorsey wrote a stand alone q, it stands for the sound most other linguists wrote as x (the ‘raspy h’ like sound). kq and k’q (which he used often) is a bit more complicated but often (not always) meant k’, q or q’.

Five years ago I wrote a post about comparing the words for one thru five in Milluk, Hanis, Siuslaw, and Alsea, based on work by Eugene Buckley. (These languages have generally been supposed to be related). He saw some interesting correspondences between them.

So today I wanted to look at Milluk numbers above five more closely, as it turns out different Milluk speakers had different ways of ‘building’ words for numbers (the same is true to a certain extent for Hanis and tho’ I haven’t yet found variation in number words for Siuslaw it has its own fun quirks and I will talk about those in future posts).

Below is a table of words for Milluk numbers from three different people-each is written how the original linguist wrote it, and they used different systems to write, but you can still see which ones are similar and which are different in spite of those differences in orthography. The first Milluk column comes from Coquille Johnson, a Lower Coquille Miluk dialect speaker, when he worked with James Owen Dorsey in 1884. The second column is Annie Miner Peterson in her work with Melville Jacobs in 1933 and 1934. She was raised around both Lower Coquille and South Slough speakers. The third Miluk column is from George Barney in his work with Harry Hull St Clair in 1903. Barney’s father was a South Slough ilxq’ain doctor known as “Doctor John”. Unfortunately I don’t know who his mother was, but I will guess Barney was mainly fluent in the South Slough (as opposed to Lower Coquille) dialect. As you read along, note some interesting similarities and differences for six thru nine between the three speakers:

ENGLISH MILLUK (Dorsey/Coquille Johnson) MILLUK (Jacobs/Annie Miner Peterson) MILLUK (St. Clair/George Barney)
one hĭ-tc’i ´ hí•t’ci, hit’ci hī´tcī
two a-ts’u ádzu ā´tsūᴴᵂ
three psinçl psə́nɫ psn˳´L
four ts’a-wa´ dzáwa dzā´wa
five kqŭn-tcĭn´-si Gɛnt’cinsi Kantcî´nzi
six tsa-wăq´-kai-ye Hitci-x-Gɛ´yɛ, hit’cixGɛ´yɛ, hit’ciXgɛ•´ tcêXKē´a
seven psinçl´-‘ăn ádzu-x-Gɛ´yɛ, adzúxGɛ´yɛ tsā´wāXKē
eight a-ts’u´-‘ăn adzú’an, psǝ´nłGɛ´yɛ atsō´han
nine hĭtc’i´-‘ăn hit’cí’an hîtcī´an
ten t’i´-stcĭ t’í•cdji t!ī´cī
eleven t’í•cdji hit’ci-           x̭ɛ´•nɛn, t’í•cdji hit’ci-dǝ´-kʷdzi t!ī´cī (or) hītcī´dûkᵁe
twenty a-ts’u´k’i-u ádzú•k’íu ātsū´-Kīu´
thirty psínł-k’íu psn̥´L-Kīū´
one hundred hĭ´-tc’i ní-k’ĕ hit’cí-ník’in hī´tcī – nî´Kîn
two hundred a-ts’u´ ni´-k’ĕ adzu´-nik̯’in

Regarding ‘six’ I find it interesting that Johnson’s (Lower Coquille) and Barney’s (South Slough) words appear quite similar; interpreting Solomon’s tsa-wăq´-kai-ye as tsawexkaiye (I’ve only recently figured out that when Dorsey uses a stand alone q, it’s an x) and Barney’s as chexkeiya. Dorsey and St Clair clearly heard these words differently. It’s easy for many people to confuse ts- and ch- as they sound similar. Annie Peterson’s ‘six’ is very different different – hichixqeye. The first part is hichi which appears to be based in hich’ii, one. That’s not unusual to express ‘six’ as some variation as ‘one over five’. All three versions might possible end in the same suffix. I am not sure what it means in Milluk but it resembles the Hanis suffix –iiye which means ‘it became, it got’.

For ‘seven’, each person has something different. Johnson gave psinhlan. This is based on the word for ‘three’, plus the negative an, together meaning ‘three less’ – as in three less than ten. Annie gives adzuxqeye, here based on the word for ‘two’ (atsuu, adzuu), and the same –xqeye ending she had for ‘six’. So her ‘seven’ probably has some meaning along the lines of ‘two over (five)’. Barney’s word tsáwaxkei resembles his ‘six’ and I can’t analyze it further.

Everyone said ats’u’an for eight, meaning ‘two less [than 10].’ Annie also gave psonhlqeye, based on the word for three (psinhl, psonhl) and the mysterious –qeye ending seen with ‘seven’.

Dorsey did not ask Coquille Johnson ‘eleven’, unfortunately, but from Annie Peterson we get tiishjii hich’ii xenen or tiishjii hich’ii dokwtsi. The first two words are ‘ten one’; xenen is ‘on top’, dokwtsi Jacobs said meant ‘and one’. More literally it seems to be the possessive ‘its’ and perhaps a word that means something like ‘over’. So eleven is ten-one-on-top or ten-one-its-above. Both perfectly good (if a bit long-winded) ways of saying ‘eleven’. There is a very similar construction in Hanis.

The higher numbers seem to be a bit more straightforward (at least up to a point). Twenty is literally ‘two strings’ – atsuuik’íu; thirty is ‘three strings – psinhlk’íu, and so on an so forth under one hundred which is ‘one stick’ – hich’í-ník’in. The use of words like string and stick may reflect ways of keeping track of money, points, and trade items.

About shichils

Just sharing some fun on language
This entry was posted in vocabulary words and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to There’s more than one way to build a number (Milluk)

  1. ‘Strings’ of dentalia maybe?

    More speculatively, could this ‘stick’ have anything to do with the Chinuk Wawa for ‘tree’?

    GREAT post today, thank you!

    • shichils says:

      Oh yes, definitely strings of dentalia too. People had tattoo marks on their upper arm to measure out those strings.

      What is wawa for tree? In Hanis and Milluk, nik’in has a rather wide set of meanings. It can mean tree, as well as wood, log, or large stick/branch (there are other words for small sticks). A related word, nuuk’wiin means forest. I haven’t yet found another general tree word in Milluk (tho with a more thorough search maybe on will turn up) but in Hanis there is a word for tree that Jim Buchanan used a few times when talking to one linguist (St Clair) that I find poetic and lovely: dihlimiiye. Broken up it basically means ‘one that became standing’. I love that image!!

      • The range of meanings for nik’in is really similar to Chinuk Wawa s(h)tík, which can be any tree or large tree part. That contrasts with típsu, which can be any leaf or any plant smaller than a tree.

        Also of note here, Chinuk Wawa’s ták’umunaq ‘100’ apparently comes from Chinookan for ‘tree’, especially ‘fir tree’.

        So I’m wondering if ‘stick’ as a number in your languages is a similar metaphor, and/or if it would have a connection with quantities of dentalia.

        There’s more to sort out here, I’m sure 🙂

Leave a Reply to shichils Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s