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Reviewed by:
  • nłeʔképmxcín: Thompson River Salish speech by Steven M. Egesdal, M. Terry Thompson, and Mandy N. Jimmie
  • Karsten Koch
Steven M. Egesdal, M. Terry Thompson, and Mandy N. Jimmie. 2011. nłeʔképmxcín: Thompson River Salish speech. In the series Whatcom Museum Publications 22. Bellingham, WA: Whatcom Museum Publications. Pp. xiv + 596. US $55.00 (hardcover).

In his 1996 review of the Thompson River Salish dictionary, Jan van Eijk (1996:403) noted that "[a] collection of traditional Thompson stories is in preparation". After many years of painstaking work, the collection has now been published as the 22nd volume in the Whatcom Museum Publications series (formerly University of Montana Occasional Papers in Linguistics). This extensive, carefully transcribed and annotated volume of 46 oral texts in nłeʔképmxcín (Thompson River Salish) will be a valuable resource to educators, anthropologists, linguists studying Salishan morphosyntax or discourse, and scholars of First Nations oral discourse. If the original intention was to produce a collection of traditional stories, the final volume is considerably wider in scope. Egesdal, Thompson, and Jimmie have provided transcriptions of seven other speech types, from nine speakers (two men and seven women): post-contact stories, informal conversation, oral history, prayer, poetry, formal speech, and song.

For readers unfamiliar with the language, a short but thorough introduction provides useful information on dialect areas within the nłeʔképmx territory, a description of nłeʔképmx traditional culture, and a review of the disastrous impact of the government's cruel residential school policy on nłeʔképmx life. The authors provide biographical information on the speakers, as well as some observations on their idiolects. For example, Annie York of Spuzzum, B.C., "tended to speak very fast" and "had some words from Halkomelem [Salish] in her language—including words with the rare sound θ" (p. 19). The Introduction also contains an overview of the various speech types represented in this volume. Most stories are traditional legends (sptékwł); Egesdal, Thompson, and Jimmie note that they emphasized "this [End Page 130] genre over the others because the speakers themselves deemed it most significant and worthy of perpetuation". The authors give a short overview of the colourful sptékwł world and some of the supernatural beings that populate it. These include the three Transformers: Son of Carrotroot, Smiley , and Coyote (snk'y'ép).

The bulk of the volume consists of transcribed speech (pp. 37-590). The stories themselves are full of wonderful characters, nefarious plots, and humour. Several stories have multiple versions, enabling comparison across speakers, and also making 'the sptékwł "as whole and true as possible" (p. 20), since different storytellers recall different features of the story. The texts begin with three different versions of the traditional tale 'Peered-At-One'. In this story, Coyote tricks his son into climbing a tree to the sky world so that Coyote may seduce his son's wives. When his son returns, he gets revenge on his lecherous father by making Coyote fall into a creek. In Hilda Austin's version, the son lays a log bridge across the creek and then uses his mental powers to tear Coyote's packstrap, causing him to lose his balance. Millie Michell, in her version, doesn't have the son lay a log bridge but includes additional details on how he rigs Coyote's packstrap to break by using deer intestines. The two speakers thus use different lexical items to describe the bridge, with Michell using the term (p. 60, line 288; lit. 'cribwork bridge'), and Austin the term nzíkuʔs 'fallen log' (p. 101, line 287). Both forms appear to employ the same lexical suffix =uʔs, although it is glossed as 'bridge' in the first case, and 'middle' in the second case.

Though the authors state that Smiley is involved in more "G-rated" adventures than lecherous Coyote (pp. 21-22), the legend of Smiley presented in this collection is full of violent plotting. After Smiley's step-mother, Grizzly Woman, kills Smiley's parents, Smiley plans revenge with his three black bear brothers. They drown Grizzly Woman's four children and...


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