This comparative dictionary of the Wakashan family, now nearing completion,
contains ca. 2100 reconstructed sets of both stems and suffixes/clitics
covering the Proto-Wakashan, Proto-Nootkan, and Proto-Kwakiutlan stages.
The data has been gathered from all available published sources plus the
extensive manuscript material left by Sapir, Swadesh and Haas.
The field of comparative Wakashan is fortunate in that work of high quality
was produced on these languages in the early decades of the last century by
some of America’s most prestigious descriptive linguists. This produced a
solid basis on which others have since built. As a result of these efforts
the situation has been reached today where a comparative dictionary
covering all the languages of the family can be undertaken. The
archaeological record on the west coast of Vancouver Island, the Wakashan
homeland, has been continuous since at least 2800 BC, with finds indicative
of marine mammal hunting that go back to the earliest period. It is
reasonable to suppose that the language spoken by the people who left these
traces was Proto-Wakashan.
The question of the deeper genetic relations of the family has aroused much
controversy, with the Sapir/Swadesh 'Mosan' hypothesis, relating Wakashan,
Salishan and Chemakuan, in the forefront. The present dictionary is neutral
on such matters, confining itself to reconstructing Proto-Wakashan. This is
an essential step in sorting out the role of the various families involved
in producing the complex linguistic mix of the Northwest Coast area.