Chinuk Wawa dictionary published!

When people who speak different languages come together, they develop a somewhat systematic way of talking referred to as a pidgin language. If that pidgin is adopted as a regular way of speaking and children learn it as a native language, the pidgin becomes a creole. (Thus, “Pidgin” spoken Hawai’i is actually a creole language, not a pidgin.)

In the Pacific Northwest region of the US, a pidgin called Chinook Jargon (chn) developed in the Columbia River area and spread in the areas now known as Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and Alaska. It is debated whether Chinook Jargon existed before European contact, but it flourished in the contact period, and Chinook Jargon has lent words to English.

At some point, Chinook Jargon underwent creolization in the Grand Ronde Community, and survived while 27 native languages perished during the termination era.

In the 1970s, Chinook Jargon was taught in Grand Ronde, and in the 1990s, the language was renamed Chinuk Wawa with a new vision. Today, the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde have preschool and kindergarten classes in Chinuk Wawa, and offer adult and family language learning opportunities as well.

As reported in the Seattle Times, a new Chinuk Wawa dictionary (presumably bilingual with English) is available. Titled in full “Chinuk Wawa / kakwa nsayka ulman-tilixam laska munk-kEmtEks nsayka / As Our Elders Teach Us to Speak It,” it is 494 page long and was compiled by the Chinuk Wawa Dictionary Project. It can be ordered from the University of Washington Press.

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