Language of the Month November 2021: Nez Perce

The Niimíipuu (“The People”) or Nez Perce are a tribe in present day Idaho consisting of around 3,500 citizens. It is a federally recognized tribe by the United States government (Nez Perce, 2018). The Nez Perce were a nomadic people, traveling with the seasons as they hunted buffalo (Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, 2021). The Nez Perce were a dominant group in the area prior to the intervention of Europwans  in their expansion west. Treaties were put in place between the Nez Perce and the United States government (National Park Service, 2020), which restricted the land of the Tribe. The name Nez Perce comes from French explorers who called them nez percé, or pierced nose.

The language spoken by the Tribe is also called Nez Perce (also known as Shahaptan, Chopunnish, Nimipu, Numipu, Nuumiipuutimt, or Nuumiipuutímt). The language is a member of the Sahaptian language group, which is a member of the Plateau Penutian family.

There are two main dialects, the Upriver and the Downriver dialects (Endangered Languages Project, n.d.). Nez Perce is a critically endangered language by UNESCO, which means that “the youngest speakers are grandparents and older, and they speak the language partially and infrequently” (UNESCO, 2017). Today, Nez Perce is spoken by about 30-40 speakers who have varying levels of fluency in the language (Endangered Languages Project, n.d.).

Aoki (1987) described the language’s grammar and Aoki (1994) provided a dictionary (see https://www.ucpress.edu/book/9780520097636/nez-perce-dictionary). Aoki (1987) describes the language as a verb+subject+object (“SVO”) language. However, the language uses grammatical case where affixes are affixed to the verb, which allows for some freedom in word order. In such a language, one word may take the meaning of an entire sentence in English. An example from Aoki (1987) is:

Nez Perce: hi-tiwele-pa-y-na

English gloss: he- in-rain-come-past (:He arrived in the rain”)

Some interesting facts about Nez Perce according to the Niimiipuu Language Program (https://nezperce.org/about/language/): 

  • Nez Perce does not use any capital letters
  • There are five vowels, which can be short or long

Nez Perce Language Resources

Nez Perce has several different alphabets in use. The Advisory Board of Elders has provided some information on its writing system here: https://nezperce.org/about/language/. There are at least two main dialects of Nez Perce from groups that are geographically distant from one another. Additionally, there are multiple writing systems

Learn some Nez Perce with lesson plans from the Tribe: 

References

Aoki, H. (1987). Nez Perce detailed description. The Rosetta Project: University of California Press. Retrieved from: https://archive.org/details/rosettaproject_nez_detail-1

Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (2021). Nez Perce Tribe. Retrieved from https://www.critfc.org/member_tribes_overview/nez-perce-tribe/

Endangered Languages Project (n.d.). NEz PErce. Retrieved from https://www.endangeredlanguages.com/lang/1715.

National Park Service (2020). Nez Perce. Retrieved from https://www.nps.gov/nepe/learn/historyculture/the-treaty-era.htm

Nez Perce (2018). About us. Retrieved from https://nezperce.org/about/
UNESCO (2017). Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger. Retrieved from http://www.unesco.org/new/en/culture/themes/endangered-languages/atlas-of-languages-in-danger/.

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Fanni is Radnóti's wife
Located near the Tang capital city of Chang’an, site of the modern city of Xi’an in Shaanxi province, in central China.
Soldiers of that time commonly wore a white head cloth, similar to what is still worn by some peasants in China today.  The implication is that the conscripts were so young that they didn’t know how to wrap their head cloths, and needed help from elders.
Before China’s unification under the Qin dynasty in 221 B.C. there were several competing smaller kingdoms.  Han and Qin were two of these kingdoms. Han was located east of famous mountain passes that separated that area from the power base of the Qin dynasty, with its capital in Chang’an. The Qin dynasty itself only lasted about 15 years after unification due to its draconian rule, but soldiers under Qin rule retained a reputation as strong fighters.
The area of Guanxi, meaning “west of the passes”, refers to the area around the capital city of Chang’an.
This is an alternative name for a province in western China, now known as Qinghai, which literally means “blue sea”.  Kokonor Lake, located in Qinghai, is the largest saline lake in China.  
Before China’s unification under the Qin dynasty in 221 B.C. there were several competing smaller kingdoms.  Han and Qin were two of these kingdoms. Han was located east of famous mountain passes that separated that area from the power base of the Qin dynasty, with its capital in Chang’an. The Qin dynasty itself only lasted about 15 years after unification due to its draconian rule, but soldiers under Qin rule retained a reputation as strong fighters.
Oulart Hollow was the site of a famous victory of the Irish rebels over British troops, which took place on May 27, 1798. The rebels killed nearly all the British attackers in this battle. (Source: Maxwell, W. H. History of the Irish Rebellion in 1798. H. H. Bohn, London 1854, pp 92-93, at archive.org)
The phrase "United Men" is elaborated upon in the Notes section below.

Ghetto


An Italian word meaning “foundry.” It originally referred to a part of the city of Venice where the Jews of that city were forced to live; the area was called “the ghetto” because there was a foundry nearby. The term eventually came to refer to any part of a city in which a minority group is forced to live as a result of social, legal, or economic pressure. Because of the restrictions placed upon them, ghetto residents are often impoverished.

"You’re five nine, I am do-uble two"


A reference to the year 1959 and the year 2020.

"The Currency"


Meaning US dollars - this is drawing attention to the fact that Cuba is effectively dollarized.

"Sixty years with the dom-ino stuck"


This sentence is a reference to the Cold War notion that countries would turn Communist one after the other - like dominos. Cuba was the first domino, but it got stuck - no one else followed through into communism.

رحلنا


رحلنا, or "rahalna," means "we have left."

Habibi


Habibi means "my love."

Ra7eel


Ra7eel, or "raheel," means "departure."

3awda


3awda, or "awda," means "returning."

أهلاً


أهلاً, or "ahalan," means "welcome."

a5 ya baba


a5 ya baba, pronounced "akh ya baba," means "Oh my father."

golpe


Treece translates "golpe" as "beating", which is correct, however misses the secondary meaning of the word: "coup".

Carlos


The “Carlos” referred to in the poem is most likely Carlos Bolsonaro, a politician from Rio de Janeiro and the second son of Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s current president. His and his father’s involvement in Marielle’s murder has been questioned and investigated.