čen̓ – Indefinite Interrogative

A spatiotemporal inquiry into the state/position of something. In what condition/state is it? Where is it? When is it? Which is it?

Nselíšcn views time and position as a unified concept. An object, event, or situation occupies spatial and temporal location (spatiotemporal). States or conditions are fused space/time locations. They are situations that are static and unchanging over the course of their duration or time. The state or condition occupies an unchanged nature in a position or span of time just as an object occupies a location in space. The flow of time and the location in space is a single unit that can be inquired about with the interrogative, čen̓.

čen̓, Where in position? Where in time? Which is it?
  • čen̓ ɬu p̓ip̓úyšn, Where is the car? Which is the car? How is the car?
    • escqsqáx̌eɁ ɬu p̓ip̓úyšn, The car is parked.
    • iheɁ ɬu p̓ip̓úyšn, This is a car.
    • x̌est ɬu p̓ip̓úyšn, The car is good.

l̕ čen̓, Where at? How?
  • l̕ čen̓ ɬu p̓ip̓úyšn, Where is the car at?
    • l̕ citxʷ ɬu p̓ip̓úyšn, The car is at the house.
  • l̕ čen̓ u ec̓x̌i, How is it? How does it behave?
  • l̕ čen̓ m ax̌i, How will it be done?
  • put l̕ čen̓, When?

č̓ čen̓, To where? Which direction?
  • č̓ čen̓ u xʷuy ɬu p̓ip̓úyšn, Which way did the car go?
    • č̓ ƛ̓áqleɁxʷ u xʷuy ɬu p̓ip̓úyšn, The car went south.
    • č̓ sƛ̓x̌etkʷ u xʷuy ɬu p̓ip̓úyšn, The car went toward Spokane.

tl̕ čen̓, From where? From which direction?
  • tl̕ čen̓ u kʷ sqélixʷ, Where are you from? What kind of human are you?
    • tl̕ sƛ̓x̌etkʷ u či sqélixʷ, I am from Spokane.
    • tl̕ selíš u či sqélixʷ, I am Salish.

t čen̓, What condition/time?
  • t čen̓ ec̓x̌i ɬu p̓ip̓úyšn, How is the car? What color is it? What kind is it?
    • i kʷil ɬu p̓ip̓úyšn, It is red.
    • ƛ̓ax̌t ɬu p̓ip̓úyšn, It is fast.
    • mosqáx̌eɁ, It is broken down.
  • put t čen̓, Just when is it?
    • put t čen̓ u šiy̓úst, When did it pass through?
    • put t čen̓ m šiy̓ust, When will it pass through?
    • n̓e put t čen̓ m šiy̓úst, When will it pass through?
    • put t čen̓ iše šiy̓úst, When does it pass through?

es-čen̓, What is its condition/state? How does it be?

An inquiry into the state of being of something. A stative word construction is expected in the reply.

  • esčestn, What did I do to him/her/it?
  • esčestxʷ, What did you do to him/her/it?
  • esčests, What did s/he/it do to him/her/it?
  • esčestmn, What did I do to you?
  • esčestms, What did s/he do to you?
  • esčestmt, What did we do to you?
  • esčéɁestms, What did they do to you?

Follow the Causative Transitive, yoyoot sox̌ʷep, paradigm further conjugation.

ec̓-s-čen̓, How is it? In what condition is it?

This word retains the older form of the stative/customary prefix, ec̓, comparable to stative prefix, es. This word contains a nominal form of čen̓, with the nominal prefix, s-, resulting in, sčen̓. This nominal form is not found as a stand-alone word like the utility interrogative, tem̓, with its nominal form, stem̓.

  • čn ec̓sčen̓, How am I?
  • kʷ ec̓sčen̓, How are you?
  • ec̓sčen̓, How is s/he/it?
  • ec̓sčen̓m, What happened to it/him/her?
  • kʷ ec̓sčen̓m, What happened to you?
  • čn ec̓sčen̓m, What happened to me?
  • ec̓sčen̓i, What is happening to it/him/her?
  • kʷ ec̓sčen̓i, What is happening to you?
  • čn ec̓sčen̓i, What is happening to me?
  • iec̓sčen̓m, How am I to him/her/it? What is my state/condition in acting toward him/her/it?
  • ac̓sčen̓m, How are you to him/her/it? What is your state/condition in acting toward him/her/it?
  • ec̓sčen̓ms, How is s/he/it to him/her/it? What is your state/condition in acting toward him/her/it?
  • ec̓sčn̓ten, How was I to him/her/it? What was my state/condition in my interaction with him/her/it?
  • ec̓sčn̓texʷ, What did you do to it/him/her? What was your state/condition in your interaction with him/her/it?
  • ec̓sčn̓tes, What did s/he/it do to it/him/her? What was his/her/its state/condition in their interaction with him/her/it?
  • čn ec̓sčn̓mscut, How was I? How was I acting/behaving/moving?
  • kʷ ec̓sčn̓mscut, How are you? How were you acting/behaving/moving?
  • ec̓sčn̓mscut, How is s/he/it? How was s/he/it acting/behaving/moving?

ec̓sčn̓-/lexical suffix/, Adding a lexical suffix results in a loss of the root vowel.
  • ec̓sčn̓-aq̓st, How is the sky? How is the weather? How is the day? (čen̓ is an unstressed root, losing its vowel with the suffix)
  • ec̓sčn̓-alqs, How are the clothes? In what shape are the clothes?
  • ec̓sčn̓-us, How does it face? How is the source? How is its face?

ec̓sčɬ-, prefixive form, how is it? (n/n̓ is lost before ɬ)
  • ec̓sčɬp̓ip̓úyšn, How is the car? What shape is the car?
  • ec̓sčɬcitxʷ, What shape is the house in?
  • ec̓sčɬcuut, How is his/her behavior?
  • ec̓sčsqáx̌eɁ, How is the horse/vehicle? (ɬ is lost before s)

Cross-dialectical Relations


čen̓, where, which. (Spokane Dictionary, undated:32)

čen̓ is the interrogative demonstrative ‘How/where is he/she/it?’ It occurs also with l- ‘at’, t- ‘point of reference’ , təl̕- ‘from’ and č̓- ‘to’.” (Carlson, 1972:69)


haɁ sc̓əskínx, what’s the matter?” (Mattina, 1973:128)

“Interrogative indefinite. …root //Ɂkin// ‘happen’, which forms intransitive stems that stand alone as full predicates, and otherwise function like independent words. //Ɂkin// may also cooccur with several particles, forming elements which function very much like the impersonals..” (Mattina, 1973:147)

  • sc̓əkinx, what’s the matter with him?
  • la Ɂkin, where is it?
  • k̓a Ɂkin, where has it gone? To where is it?
  • tla Ɂkin, where did it come from? From where is it?
  • k̓a Ɂkin kʷ xʷuy, where did you go?


k̓-lakáɁ, Where? (Willet, 2003:304)


  • hičεɁ, where?
  • Ɂečin, do with, be the matter.

hičεɁ, “where (at), is treated as a verb..” (Reichard, 1938:676)

“..the noncustomary causative construction with the root √ Ɂεčin, ‘do with’ creates questions without overt interrogative markings.” (Doak, 1997:135)

Ɂečin, Do with, be the matter; put. hičeɁ, Where? (Brinkman, 2007:129-130)


hén̓, Where? The interrogative indefinite. (Thompson, 1992:164)

  • hén̓ ɬeɁ kʷ, Where are you? How are you?
  • w hén̓ e nes uxʷ, Where are you going?

Ɂken-m, How? What is the matter? Why? However, what(ever) way. (Thompson, 1992:166)

  • kenm kʷ, What is the matter with you?
  • c̓ken̓m, How?
  • Ɂe sc̓ken̓múseɁ, What kind of berry?

keɁ, Which? Is it (that) … ? Whichever, whatever. (Thompson, 1992:166)


čad where; somewhere; someplace; wherever; where is. (Lushootseed Dictionary Online)

  • dxʷ-čad, toward where, whither; which way; to someplace.
  • liɬ-čad, which way.
  • tul̕-čad, from where, whence.
  • Ɂiɬ-čad, which, which one, either one.
  • čədaɬ, which.
  • čəd-alətxʷ, which house?


lič, How? Do how? (Galloway, 2009:236)

xʷə-čaɁl, Where did he go? (Galloway, 2009:28). It appears xʷə, is a directive prefix with čaɁl, the root word an interrogative. This fits with the known consonant cognates, n-l-d.

  • xʷə-čal-čəxʷ, Where are you going?


  • Reichard, Gladys. 1938. Coeur d’Alene. In Franz Boas, ed., Handbook of American Indian Languages III, Gliickstadt: J. J. Augustin Inc., and New York: Columbia University Press, 517-707.
  • Carlson, Barry. 1972. Grammar of Spokane. Dissertation, University of Hawaii, Honolulu.
  • Mattina, Anthony. 1973. Colville Grammatical Structure. Dissertation. University of Hawaii, Honolulu.
  • Thompson, Laurence. 1992. The Thompson Language. UM Occasional Papers in Linguistics, No. 8. Missoula, Montana.
  • Willet, Marie, 2003. A Grammatical Sketch ofNxa’amxcin (Moses-Columbia Salish). Dissertation. University of Victoria, British Columbia.
  • Brinkman, Raymond, 2007. Features of the Coeur d’Alene Language. A curriculum guide.
  • Galloway, Brent D., 2009. Dictionary of Upriver Halkomelem, Volume I. UC Publications in Linguistics, University of California Press.
  • Spokane Dictionary. Undated.
  • Lushootseed Dictionary Online. http://www.lushootseeddictionary.org
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