‘cottonwood tree (sacred tree)’
Crow báhkuhpa ‘cotton, cottonwood’ (GG-25) and Hidatsa wáhku , máhku
‘cottonwood’ reflect Proto-Crow-Hidatsa *wahku. The Proto-Crow-Hidatsa form is potentially the result of
rightward vowel exchange, implying the existence of an earlier **wuhka.
But this form is unlikely to derive from a yet earlier **wuxka since Proto-Crow-Hidatsa
*xk clusters which become hk in Hidatsa are preserved in Crow. Rather, the
postulated earlier form implies **wuC-ka where C is a stop consonant, cf.
the sitting and lying positionals for parallel phonological development.
Preaspiration is thus unaccounted for by the postulated earlier form with
x. If we do not appeal to rightward vowel exchange, then the final u is
unaccounted for and the disappearance of x remains a mystery. Thus it is
not clear that the Crow/Hidatsa forms are even cognate here.
Like Crow/Hidatsa, Biloxi †maxǫ́tka , maxóⁿtka ‘palmetto’ (DS-229a) and Ofo †amašúpka
, amashû´pka ‘palmetto’ DS-320b appear superficially similar to the central
Siouan forms. Biloxi, however, may be a compound with ‘grass (4)’ (not
independently attested otherwise in Biloxi), and Ofo may be a compound with ‘soft’
(Ofo sxû´pka DS-329a), leaving only *ama- for Proto-Biloxi-Ofo.
In all the instances of *W that we have seen so far, it derives from a
succession of syllables containing simple *w, e.g. *wVwV´ with
subsequent loss of the initial syllable vowel via the usual syncope. This
leaves *w-wV´, which gives *W. This solution appears to work well here
too. Note the initial accent, which, along with the reflexes of W,
signals the lost initial syllable. Various subgroups and individual
languages have modified the term with the common -ka or the mysterious
ʔe or ʔa. Note that ʔe is a root for ‘elm’ in some languages, so the
‘cottonwood’ term may be a compound.
The probable cognate forms appear limited to MVS and Mandan only. The fact that
there exist look-alikes in the more northerly and southerly Siouan languages
and forms such as Proto-North-Caddoan *wasa• (Allan R. ART) strongly
suggest that we are dealing at least partly with a diffused term here.
Cf. Proto-North-Caddoan *wasa• ‘cottonwood’ ART; Arapaho
hé:3ne:béxo ‘cottonwood’ Salzmann, 1983, 70. (béxo = a medial meaning