Cahto Word for the Day Archive


Index of Cahto words:


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This is the archive for the Cahto Word for the Day email list.

Words are spelled according to the Cahto practical orthography (see Basics of alphabet and Cahto Alphabet Book).

The words come from various sources (primarily Goddard from Bill Ray and Rose Ray, Essene from Martinez Bell and Gil Ray, Loeb from Martinez Bell, Gil Ray and "the wife of Bill Ray", Curtis from Bill Ray, and Harrington from Martinez Bell and Gil Ray). The four main informants represent three "dialects" or pronunciation styles of the language, especially with regard to the sounds written gh and tl' and also t' and ch' when they occur before consonants. The spelling of the main form is always based on Bill Ray's dialect, which must serve as the basis for a "standard" Cahto, since the only sizable collection of Cahto language materials and the only body of Cahto language texts are in this dialect. In cases where the only version of a word I have found comes from one of the other dialects the spelling of the main form is regularized to what it would be in Bill Ray's dialect. For example the name for the Feathered Serpent only occurs in Loeb, representing Martinez Bell's dialect, as "cusnes" and "cugusnes" (literally "long rattlesnake"). Using the practical orthography these would be spelled in their own dialect as "Ch'ghishnees" and "Ch'ighishnees", respectively, however the main form would be converted into the spelling of how Bill Ray would have pronounced the same word, that is "Lh'ghishnees." In certain cases the proper spelling of a word cannot be determined with 100% accuracy, in these cases I will generally avoid including the word in "Word for the Day"s, or will give the likely spelling and a footnote to the effect that it is uncertain.

Note that so far the sound files are not recordings of Cahto people, but of myself, an Anglo-American born in Texas then raised in Louisiana and Indiana. My pronunciations of the different sounds of Cahto are based on study of the transcriptions of the different researchers, especially those of Edward Sapir and JP Harrington (both linguists with very good "ears" and precise transcription styles), specific descriptions of the different sounds (especially from Goddard, who goes into some detail about each sound), and mechanical kymograph tracings made by Goddard and Bill Ray. The kymograph tracings are a direct graphical recording produced from the spoken words of Bill Ray, and are thus the closest thing we have to a sound recording. These tracings are particularly useful for determining the timing of the parts of sounds in words, and they also give an indication of the stress and the character of the consonants and vowels. The pronunciation of stress or accent in Cahto words is based mainly on the kymograph tracings and the transcriptions of ES Curtis and C Hart Merriam. Stress is not distinctive in Cahto, and is somewhat variable, especially in words with clitics (sort of suffixes) like -chow (large, augmentative). Finally some aspects of the precise "coloring" of certain consonants and vowels come from a comparison of how the different investigators transcribed the same words. As a result of combining all of these sources of information about the different sounds I feel that my pronunciations would be at least recognizable to Bill Ray as Cahto speech with a foreign accent; probably would sound to him like someone from a neighboring people speaking Cahto with a non-Cahto, but still regional, accent; and slightly possibly would sound to him like a Cahto person speaking. In other words my confidence that I am pronouncing the words "correctly" from the standpoint of a language class is quite high; while my confidence that I am pronouncing them just like a Cahto person with a Cahto accent is fairly low.

There is a woman who still knows many words and phrases she was taught by her grandfather, Gil Ray, but plans for me to get out to California and record her have not yet come together. Hopefully this will happen sometime this winter and some of the sound files can then be real Cahto speech. Another eventual goal is to have some recordings of the young people at the Rancheria who learn Cahto words correctly.

The information about Naahneesh culture comes from a number of sources, especially the following:

All of these sources reflect Cahto culture prior to and during the 1930's, most of them asking about the old-time culture from when their then 60 to 90 year-old informants were young. Therefore, there may be some fairly substantial differences between what they record and the modern day survivals of Cahto culture. A lot has changed in northern Mendocino County over the past 100 to 130 years!

email to author: Sally Anderson