from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A Native American people inhabiting Vancouver Island in British Columbia and Cape Flattery in northwest Washington.
  • n. A member of this people.
  • n. The Wakashan language of the Nootka.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • proper n. Nuu-chah-nulth people, an indigenous people from Vancouver Island, Canada
  • proper n. Nuu-chah-nulth language

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a Wakashan language spoken by the Nootka
  • n. a member of the Wakashan people living on Vancouver Island and in the Cape Flattery region of northwestern Washington


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition



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  • Thank you for your fascinating comment. I love learning about other languages. What is your background, if I may ask?

    July 15, 2015

  • Mr Ralph Strauch appears to be a Feldenkrais practitioner, whatever that may be, and lives in Pacific Palisades in California, which sounds as if it has a good view of the sea, so he's probably the guy you'd go to for the low-down on the morphosyntax of Wakashan languages and general linguistic theory, if you didn't know any linguists.

    Nuuchahnulth (formerly known as Nootka, which means "circling about" and isn't a native ethnonym) has verbs, nouns, subjects, and objects, together with markers of tense, person, topic, and a whole lot of other things. It is unusual in that any verb can be used as a noun and vice versa, in almost identical circumstances, so it is unclear whether they are separate classes. It is unclear whether it has a distinct syntactic role of subject, or whether the relations between elements in the sentence should rather be analysed as topic and focus or some such.

    It also has incorporation, where objects of verbs are attached as prefixes to the verb; a lot of North American and Siberian languages have this. It also has a rich affixal system where meanings like "in a canoe" are expressed on other words rather than by a separate phrase. Again, it's not alone in this among the local languages. It may have a passive, or this may be analysable in terms of direct and inverse marking, as in some other North American languages.

    As an example of the interchangeability of nouns and verbs, take these sentences, which differ in focus rather than outright meaning:

    (1) mamukma quʔasʔi
    (2) quʔasma mamukʔi
    "the man is working"

    mamuk "work", quʔas "man", -ma present tense, -ʔi definite. (1) expresses it as a subject/topic quʔasʔi "the man" preceded by the predicate "is working". Version (2) is more like "the one who is working is a man": topic mamukʔi "the working one" and predicate quʔasma "is a man". There doesn't seem to be anything transient, flowing, or even strikingly 'verby' about a predicate consisting of a noun with a verbal attachment. Turkish does it too: adamdır "is a man".

    As an example of verbs with subjects, objects, and optional object incorporation, consider these:

    (3) ʔuʔaamitʔiš maħt'ii čakup
    (4) maħt'aʔamitʔiš čakup
    "a man bought a house"

    maħt'ii "house", čakup "man" (no I don't know the difference; the only Nuuchahnulth dictionary is not previewed on Google Books), ʔaap "buy" interacting with -mit</i> past tense, -ʔiš 3rd person indicative. The initial element ʔu- in (3) is a dummy marker for the verb to be attached to when the object hasn't been incorporated onto it, as it is in (4).

    Examples (1) and (2) from James Hurford, Grammar: A Student's Guide, Cambridge, 1994, p. 143, from material collected by Swadesh, I think.
    Examples (3) and (4) from Rachel Wojdak, The Linearization of Affixes: Evidence from Nuu-chah-nulth, Springer, 2008, p. 29.
    Yes, I do feel better after this, thank you.

    July 14, 2015

  • Some languages are structured around quite different basic word-categories and relationships. They project very different pictures of the basic nature of reality as a result. The language of the Nootka Indians in the Pacific Northwest, for example, has only one principle word-category; it denotes happenings or events. A verbal form like "eventing" might better describe this word-category, except that such a form doesn't sound right in English, with its emphasis on noun forms. We might think of Nootka as composed entirely of verbs, except that they take no subjects or objects as English verbs do. The Nootka, then, perceive the world as a stream of transient events, rather than as the collection of more or less permanent objects which we see. Even something which we see clearly as a physical object, like a house, the Nootka perceive of as a long-lived temporal event. The literal English translation of the Nootka concept might be something like "housing occurs;" or "it houses."

    --Ralph Strauch, "The Reality Illusion".

    July 14, 2015