Last issue, we suggested that nature expresses in the language its people speak, especially over generations, when the people have a rich relationship with place.
Here in the Puget Sound region, the language of land, sea, and people is called txʷəlšucid (which sounds a bit like “twuhlshootseed”). It is also known as dxʷləšucid, or xʷəlšucid, or other names depending on the tribe. In English, it is known as Lushootseed.
Spoken are two sub-dialects, Northern and Southern, with local dialects within each. The Lushootseed Dictionary notes: “Each traditional village, even each household, in Lushootseed-speaking territory could at one time be identified by its speech.” The language of the sx̌ʷəbabš, this Island’s indigenous people, is a Southern dialect of txʷəlšucid.
Last issue, we touched on how the sounds of the waters are in the name sx̌ʷəbabš, the Swiftwater People. The following two words are sounds we might hear in nature, as well as the names for the creatures who make them:
ʔ – is what’s known as a glottal stop. The air is abruptly stopped with the glottis, and explosively released, as when we say “uh, oh.”
k̓ – The “glottalized k” is a k sound combined with the glottal stop to make a popping noise.
q̓ – The “glottalized q,” is a q sound combined with the glottal stop to make a popping noise.
a – in both these words, a makes an “ah” sound, as in father
Try and sound out the words. Can you guess who the two creatures are who make them? Perhaps if you step outside right now, you’ll hear the first one. When warmer evenings return, you may hear the second one. In the case of these two creatures, their distinctive sounds are their names in txʷəlšucid.
Of course not every txʷəlšucid word and phrase is overtly an expression of some specific aspect of nature. For resources for hearing and speaking Lushootseed, see below.
Puyallup Tribal Language – website and youtube channel
Lushootseed Dictionary – By Dawn Bates, Thom Hell, Vi Hilbert