Wardaru yura?

Welcome to the Ngayana Dieri Yawarra Yathayilha blog. This blog is dedicated to supporting the Dieri language that belongs to the east of Lake Eyre in the far north of South Australia. On this blog we will be presenting news and stories about Dieri language and culture. You can also learn to speak Dieri through a series of lessons, and listen to speakers pronouncing words and sentences, and singing songs. Check the Categories list on the bottom left for topics of special interest.

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Kararaya yawarra — word of the day: nhari

Today we look at the Diyari word nhari, which means ‘dead’, and other words related words to it. We will see that Diyari has a rich variety of terms to describe people whose relatives have died. The discussion is based on the Reuther-Scherer Diari dictionary (see here) and our own work with Diyari speakers.

The Diyari word nhari means ‘dead’ and from it we can derive the following verbs:

  • nhari-ri-rna ‘to die’
  • nhari-nganka-rna ‘to kill

There are a number of terms to refer to children who have lost a parent:

  • kupa ngama thungka ‘orphan’ — a child whose mother has died (note that ngama means ‘breast, milk’ and thungka means ‘stinking, rotten’)
  • kupa ngama kaldri ‘orphan’ — a child whose mother has died (note that ngama means ‘breast, milk’ and kaldri means ‘salty, bitter’)
  • kupa matyumatyu ‘orphan’ — a child whose father has died
  • kupa ngamurru ‘orphan’ — a child whose both parents have died, a complete orphan. Note that a ngamurru should be brought up by their papa ‘father’s sister’ after the parents have died

We also have mangawarru ‘widow, widower’ — a woman whose husband has died or a man whose wife has died. This term seem to originate from a base manga ‘head’ (the modern Diyari term is manga thandra), and warru ‘white’.

Reuther describes in his dictionary traditional practices that were carried out on the death of a husband or wife (see also this account from the Australian Museum):

White is the colour [symbolic] of mourning, red that of joy. As soon as a husband or wife has died, the surviving marriage partner, together with their nearest relatives, withdraws to the rear of several sandhills, without taking part in the funeral [ceremony]. The long hair of a widow is immediately cut off, and the head is plastered over with gypseous clay, even the face, also the beard in the case of a man. In the deepest depths of sorrow not a word may be spoken. One merely indicates by signs what is required, e.g. water. All day long the mourning husband [or wife] sits in his hut, brooding over [his situation], silent, alone, and lost in thought, After two or three days all relatives gather together once more at the grave, towards evening. Now the sorrowing spouse also turns up. He or she draws near, and several times crawls
around the grave as a sign of deepest sorrow, This is the last visit to the grave. After a considerable lapse of time, the [principal] mourner is brought forward and smeared with fat which has been mixed with red ochre. With this the mourning [period] has come to an end. The widow now provides a ceremonial meal for all those who assisted in her husband’s burial.

Here is a picture of a widow’s cap made from gypsum that can be found in the Australian Museum collection.

Kararaya yawarra — word of the day: daku

Today we look at the Diyari word daku, which means ‘sandhill’, and other related words for sand. There are also some cultural aspects of these terms. The discussion is based on the Reuther-Scherer Diari dictionary (see here) and our own work with Diyari speakers.

An important feature of Diyari country in northern South Australia is sandhills, called daku in Diyari. There are various types of sandhills, including those with bushes and trees growing on them (as in the picture above), as well as those that are entirely bare. Sandhills are a favourite place for Diyari people to make their ngura ‘camp’ as they rise above the plain and provide a location from which to see animals or people moving about.

Diyari people use words for parts of the body to describe the various elements of sandhills, as in:

  • daku durru ‘ridge of a sandhill’ (literally, sandhill hunchback)
  • daku mangathandra ‘crest of a sandhill’ (lit. sandhill head)
  • daku mudlha ‘point of a sandhill’ (lit. sandhill nose)
  • daku ngalpa ‘incline or slope of a sandhill’ (lit. sandhill lap)
  • daku ngudlhu ‘brow of a sandhill’ (lit. sandhill forehead)
  • daku panki ‘slope of a sandhill’ (lit. sandhill side)
  • daku piti ‘worn away brow of a sandhill’ (lit. sandhill anus)
  • daku thinthipiri ‘corner of a sandhill’ (lit. sandhill elbow)
  • daku wakarra ‘crest of a sandhill’ (lit. sandhill back of neck)

We also find:

  • daku ngapiri ‘largest sandhill’ (lit. sandhill father)
  • daku pudlu ‘sandhill without any vegetation’ (;it. sandhill gypsum)`
  • mudlha pantya ‘end of a breached sandhill’ (lit. nose knee)

According to Reuther, daku relates to the ancestor Kadni ‘ stumpy-tail lizard, bluetongue lizard, shingleback lizard’ (scientific name Tiliqua rugosa), who named the sandhills daku because he loved to walk around on them.

The soft, fine, wind-blown sand at the top of a sandhill is also called ngalara ‘(soft) drift sand’. The hard, coarse sand near the bottom of a daku or in a karirri ‘creek’ is called dirtyi ‘rough sand’. Notice that English just calls both of these ‘sand’.

Kararaya yawarra — word of the day: mitha ya pulyurru

Today we look at the Diyari words mitha and pulyurru, both used to talk about different kinds of earth or soil. There are also some cultural aspects of these terms. The discussion is based on the Reuther-Scherer Diari dictionary (see here) and our own work with Diyari speakers.

In Diyari, mitha means ‘soil, earth, ground, land, country’. Here are some examples:

Thana wapayi Diyari mithanhi kudnarranhi ‘They are going to Diyari country on Cooper Creek’

Ngamamayi mithanhi ‘Sit down on the ground!’

Ningkirda ngayana ngura kurrayi nhungkangutha mitha ngumunhi ‘We are camping here, here where the land is good’

Different kinds of soil have their own names, like mitha thaka ‘hard earth, lump of soil, clod’, mitha thakathaka ‘ground covered with pebbles’, mitha danthu ‘broken, cracked ground’, mitha thungka ‘bad ground’ (literally, ‘stinking soil’). There are also some special idioms using this word: mitha dingarna ‘to run one another up the wrong way’ (literally ‘to rub the earth’) and mitha putyu ‘when the midday sun is shining very fiercely that your eyes are blinded and you can no longer follow footprints’ (literally ‘blind ground’).

Notice that mitha is only used for dry soil — if it is thoroughly wet then we call it pulyurru ‘mud, clay, bog’, as in:

Kupakupa pulyurranhi purirna warayi ‘The child fell over in the mud’

There is a special expression pulyurru yalyuyalyu which is used when what looks like dry soil is lying like a crust on top of a soft boggy area, so when you walk on it, you sink down into the mud. Note also that pulyurru is used in two culturally distinct ways:

  1. to describe a widow or widower who is mourning the death of their husband or wife, e.g. nhauya pulyurru ‘He is a mourning widower’
  2. to describe someone who goes his own way, unconcerned about the Laws of the old people. Such a person does not care about what has been required or forbidden according to tradition.

Diyari also has various words for ‘sand’, and we will discuss these in the next post.

Kararaya yawarra — word of the day: parlu

Today we look at the Diyari word parlu which is sometimes translated into English as ‘naked’ and ‘bare’, but it also has a wider range of other uses. In addition, it is found in some idioms about thinking — idioms are ways of speaking where the parts do not necessarily add up to the meaning of the whole (like English ‘kick the bucket’ to mean ‘to die’).

By using information in the Reuther-Scherer Diari dictionary (see here) and our own work with Diyari speakers, we can find the following examples showing the different uses of parlu:

  1. A part of the body, with no hair or markings on it:
    • karna parlu hairless person
    • kupa parluparlu newly-born child
    • mangathandra parlu bare head; bald head without hair on it
    • nyurdu parlu person without any body hair
    • marna parlu bare mouth, a man without a moustache
    • mudlha parlu  bare, beardless face
    • ngarnka parlu bare beard, a man with a shaved-off beard
    • thuku parlu a man with a smooth back, without scars or cicatrices.
    • thidna parlu soft, smooth feet
    • pirda parlu bare navel, birds that have lost their feathers
  2. A bare part of nature, with nothing covering it:
    • mitha parlu bare ground, without any plants or bushes on it
    • palthu parlu a clear, bare track, with no grass growing on it
    • pariwirlpa parlu bare sky, cloudless sky
    • thalara parlu sheer rain, when the sky is covered with virtually black clouds
    • piti parlu cloudless horizon
    • pirta parlu bare tree
    • pantu parlu a lake-bed with no trees or bushes growing on it
    • yawa parlu wild onion that has had the skin peeled off
    • nganthi parlu an animal that has had its hair singed off in hot ashes, ready for cooking
  3. A smooth object with no markings on it:
    • marda parlu smooth stone
    • panyi parlu small, smooth sticks
    • kalthi parlu smooth spear
    • kira parlu boomerang without any engraved markings on it
    • pirra parlu coolamon without any engraved markings on it
  4. An empty object with nothing in it:
    • mingka parlu an empty burrow, without footprints leading to the entrance
  5. Idioms of ways of thinking:
    • thiri parlu smooth anger, where everybody is angry with one another
    • yawarra parlu  smooth words, that are aimed to flatter others
    • manu parlu  even temperament, not getting angry
    • tharlpa parlu  a person who listens attentively and obeys (literally ’empty ears’)
    • mara parlu  a man who has no helpers (literally ’empty hands’)

It is possible to create Diyari words from parlu using the endings -ri-rna ‘to become …’, -ri-pa-rna ‘to cause to become …;, -lha ‘associated with …;, and -yitya ‘habitually connected to …’. Here are some examples with –ri-rna ‘to become’:

  • nyurdu parlu-ri-rna for a body to become naked of hair, when the body hairs are singed off
  • mangathandra parlu-ri-rna for a head to grow bald
  • ngura parlu-ri-rna for a place or camp to become empty of people
  • kantha parlu-ri-rna for grass to dry off and the ground become bare
  • pirta parlu-ri-rna for a tree to shed its leaves
  • yawarra parlu-ri-rna for words to become smooth, for various opinions to become reconciled
  • manu parlu-ri-rna for ideas to meet with agreement
  • ngulku parlu-ri-rna for an accusation to become unanimous, as when people agree in their judgement over the actions of another
  • tyilpi parlu-ri-rna to even out disagreement and convince someone to [adopt] the same point of view

Here are some examples with –ri-pa-rna ‘to cause’:

  • nganthi parlu-ri-pa-rna to singe the hairs off an animal, in preparation for cooking it
  • yawa parlu-ri-pa-rna to peel the skin off wild onions
  • kapi parlu-ri-pa-rna to shell an egg
  • mitha parlu-ri-pa-rna to sweep and smooth the ground, as the wind does by clearing everything away, or a flood does by clearing the ground and filling hollow places with water

Finally, here are a couple of other examples based on parlu with added endings:

  • parlu-lha a person who has no friends and has to rely on himself alone (literally, ‘a bare one’)
  • parlu-yitya the sole surviving relative, a person whose relatives have all died (literally ‘one who is habitually bare’)

Reuther’s Diari Dictionary

There is a large amount of published and unpublished material on the Diyari language which was put together by German Lutheran missionaries between 1866 and 1915. Some of this is translations from German, such as the New Testament (Testamenta Marra) by J.C. Reuther and C. Strehlow, published in 1897.

Another major source is a four volume manuscript Diyari to German dictionary compiled by Rev. J.G. Reuther, amounting to 1,238 pages. The manuscript is handwritten in a script that is difficult to read and the only copy is held in the South Australian Museum in Adelaide — here is a sample page photographed by Philip Jones in 2021.

In 1974, the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies (AIAS, now Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, AIATSIS) provided funding for Pastor Philipp Scherer, the first archivist of the Lutheran Church of Australia, to translate the whole of Reuther’s manuscript into English. Here is a page from Scherer’s translation (in 1981 a microfiche of the translation was published by AIAS — it is difficult to use because specialist equipment is needed to read it):

The dictionary is very rich in having 4,179 numbered entries, with over 16,000 sub-entries, mostly compounds or phrases that exemplify particular meanings or uses of the entry word. There are over 6,000 notes that provide additional information about entries, such as relationships to Diyari mythology, or ethnographic information about traditional practices, as in the instance of “muntja tapana” (in modern spelling muntya thaparna) ‘to suck on a patient’ seen in the picture above. It is a remarkable record of material culture, ceremony, trade, mythology, and associations between them and the landscape. Much of this mythological and traditional knowledge is not available in materials arising from subsequent research because it was lost following the closure of the mission in 1915, and the subsequent disruption of the Dieri community and its transmission of culture. In addition, the dictionary is an extremely valuable source for idioms or other ways of speaking which reflect Dieri cosmology or categorisation, as well as how to interact. An example of this is the many idioms based on body-part terms which appear scattered throughout the examples in the dictionary. However, the dictionary still remains difficult to use in its current form because of problems with the spelling, grammatical information, and the scattered and inconsistent nature of the content. It is also very difficult to search in both its paper version (which only exists in the AIATSIS library) and the microfiche publication.

In 1989, David Nash and Jane Simpson, working at AIATSIS on the National Lexicography Project, scanned Volumes I to IV of the Scherer typescript using a Kurzweil Discover 7320 Model 30 scanner and optical character reader to create digitised plain text files like the following (compare the picture above of this page):

Over many years, I edited the scanned files to correct mistakes (such as ] instead of j or q instead of g in the example above), and then in 2014-2015 with funding support from the Dieri Aboriginal Corporation, David Nathan processed my files to clean up more errors and inconsistencies and produced an XML-marked-up version, where tags in <…> encode the type of information, as in the following sample showing the pages illustrated above:

It is possible to derive various kinds of documents that display this tagged information in different ways.  Once suitably marked up, the XML document can be linked to using Extensible Stylesheet Language for Transformations (XSLT) to select and restructure structural elements, and a Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) to define the display characteristics when viewed in an XML processor or a web browser.  For example, an edition can be created showing Diyari words and glosses only (a simple vocabulary list), or another using different layouts, type faces, and colours to display the data for viewing or proofing. Here is a sample for the tapana entries discussed above (generated by David Nathan in 2016):

Since 2021 I have been working with David Nathan and Ed Garrett to add further tags to the Reuther-Scherer dictionary (such as type and sub-type of notes), clean up more errors and inconsistencies, and create an index of roots which brings together all the related words that Reuther separated as different entries. We also plan to create an English to Diyari finderlist so that users can search for material in the dictionary related to particular English words or expressions. The ultimate goal of this project is to create a major reference resource which will be easily accessible on the internet, and something that will be of value to the Dieri community, and to all students of the language and culture.

Learning the Diyari language – Songs

The Diyari Language Blog is not a series of language lessons, and is not meant by itself to teach you how to speak or learn Diyari. The best way to do that is to work together with a member of the Dieri community and follow their pronunciation and expression as a model. Audio recordings can also be a useful help. However, with a bit of effort you can learn about the vocabulary and structure of Diyari, and how the language is used by working your way through the various blog posts on topics you might be interested in (see the list of Categories on the bottom left of this page).

Today, we present a listing of posts about songs, arranged according to their context and their level of difficulty – we suggest you work through them in the order of this listing. If you click on the links you will find sound recordings for most of them that you can listen to and/or download for yourself.

Let us know in the comments below if you enjoyed the songs or if you have any questions about them, or anything to do with the Diyari language.

Children’s songs

  1. Naidoc 2017: kupaya wima – “Children’s song” link
  2. Mangathandra, pilpiri, pantya, thidna – “Head, shoulders, knees and toes” link
  3. Diyari wima – “Diyari songs” translation of “Old MacDonald had a farm” link
  4. Ngayani Australiamara – “We are Australian” link

Adult’s songs

  1. Ngayani yathayatharna warrayi – “We talked to each other” includes the Diyari translation of the chorus for the song “The Cooper’s coming down” by Chris Dodd link
  2. Folsom Prisonanhi – translation of “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash link
  3. Folsom Prisonanhi mandru – second part of translation of “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash link
  4. Folsom Prisonanhi parkulu – third part of translation of “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash link
  5. Folsom Prisonanhi mandru-mandru – fourth part of translation of “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash link

A traditional song

  • Kudnarri wima – “Curlew song” link

Ngatyani yawarra The Lord’s Prayer

The Diyari translation by Reuther and Strehlow in 1897 of the New Testament of the Christian Bible contains the verses known as The Lord’s Prayer. They appear in Matthew Chapter 6 verses 9 to 13, as follows, written in the missionary spelling:

9. Jeruja ngatjianau: “Ngaperi ngaianini, jidni pariwilpani ngamala wapaia; Tala jinkani kulikiri pantjiatimai;

10. Milila jinkani wokaraiatimai; Jertapaterina jinkani pantjiatimai, worderu pariwilpani jeruja bakana mitani;

11. Buka ngaianini ngaianingu karari jinkiamai;

12. Madlentji ngaianini woramai, worderu bakana ngaiani kana nguruja madlentji worala wapaia;.

13. Ja wata ngaianina wontjanilani wirilkamai, a-ai, ngaianina madlentjani kulkamai; Ngangau jinkangu milila nganai ja ngurula ja pirnala ngurali. Amen.”

We can rewrite this in the modern spelling as follows:

  1. Yaruya ngatyiyanawu:
  2. Ngapiri ngayanirni, yini pariwilpanhi ngamalha wapaya”
  3. Tharla yingkarni kurlikirri pantyiyathimayi.
  4. Mirlilha yingkarni wakarayathimayi.
  5. Yathapatharrirna yingkarni pantyiyathimayi.
  6. Wardaru pariwilpanhi yaruya pakarna mithanhi.
  7. Puka ngayanirni ngayaningu karari yingkiyamayi.
  8. Madlhantyi ngayanirni waramayi.
  9. Wardaru pakarna ngayani karna nguruya madlhantyi waralha wapaya.
  10. Ya wata ngayaninha wantyanilhanhi wirrilkamayi.
  11. A’ayi ngayaninha madlhantyanhi kurlkamayi.
  12. Ngangawu yingkangu mirlilha nganayi.
  13. Ya ngurrulha ya pirnalha ngurrali.
  14. Amen.

We can also assign meanings to each of the words in the prayer, and give the lines a literal translation:

like thatyou all pray
‘You all pray like this!’
fatherouryouin the skylivedo
‘Our father, you live in the sky’
nameyourcleanmay become
‘May your name become clean’
place of followersyourmay come
‘May your place of followers come’
supportingyoumay become
‘May it become that (people) support you’
howin the skylike thatalsoon the ground
‘Just like in the sky also like that on the ground’
vegetable.foodourto ustodaygive
‘Give our vegetable food to us today!’
badourthrow away
‘Throw away our badness!’
howalsowepersonto otherbad
‘Just like we also habitually  throw away the badness of other people.’
andnotusinto the place of tryinggo in with
‘And do not take us into places of trying!’
nousfrom badsave
‘No, save us from badness!’
?? becauseto youplace of followersis
‘Because(?) your place of followers exists.
‘And strength and greatness for ever.’


  1. thanks to Fritz Schweiger for prompting me to present this material for people interested in the Lord’s Prayer, and for picking up errors in the first draft.
  2. the title of today’s post is “Prayer Words” made up of ngatyi- ‘to pray’ plus the ending -ni which creates a noun ‘prayer’. The word yawarra means ‘word, language, speech’.
  3. line 1 – the verb ngatyiyanawu is in the order (imperative) form containing the ending -ya-, with the ending –ni– that indicates speaking to many people, plus the -wu ending that is usually occurs in shouted speech
  4. line 2 – the Diyari form for ‘our father’ uses the ngayani which is the exclusive second person pronoun, ‘we all excluding you’, presumably because the prayer is addressed to God
  5. line 3 – the missionaries extended the term kurlikirri ‘clean’ to mean ‘holy’. They also used the ending -yathimayi to express a wish, but it never occurs in the spoken language
  6. line 5 – the verb yatha- means ‘to scold, dress someone down’, while -pa- is the altruistic ending meaning ‘do something for the benefit of someone other than the subject’, here indicated as yingkarni ‘for you’, so literally the verb plus pronoun means ‘continuously scold someone for the benefit of you’
  7. line 7 – the noun puka means ‘vegetable food’ (bread, seeds, greens) in contrast to nganthi ‘meat food’
  8. line 8 – this seems to be a literal translation of ‘take away evil’.
  9. line 9 – the verb waralha wapaya is the habitual form of ‘throw’, that is ‘throw all the time, every day’
  10. line 10 – the verb wirrilka ‘go with’ implies that the subject (God) enters somewhere with the object ‘us’ (which is not controlling the motion)
  11. line 12 – a form like ngangawu which is used by the missionaries for ‘because, rather’ does not occur in my Diyari recordings. It occurs 30 times in example sentences in Reuther’s dictionary of Diyari, always in the second sentence in a sequence. He did not include a headword entry for this word, which is strange given that he has entries for all other words in the dictionary examples.
  12. line s 12-13 – this is the doxology, which appears in English as ‘For thine is kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever’.

Reuther. J. G. & Carl Strehlow. 1897. Testamenta marra. Jesuni Christuni ngantjani jaura ninaia karitjimalkana wonti Dieri jaurani. Adelaide: G. Auricht.

Wata nhawu puka padni

In today’s post we learn how to say “no” in Diyari.

The English word “no” corresponds to a number of different expressions in Diyari and it is important to learn how to use them. In answer to a question or a demand we can use the word wata for ‘no’, as in:

Yini wapayi karari? Are you going now?

Wata. No.

Yundru nganthi thayirna warayi? Did you eat the meat?

Wata. No.

Nganha yingkiyamayi! Give it to me!

Wata. No.

We also use wata at the beginning of sentence to negate it, that is, to say ‘do not …’ or ‘did not …’, as in:

Wata nganhi wapayi. I’m not going.

Wata yundru nganthi thayirna warayi. You didn’t eat the meat.

Wata nganha yingkiyamayi! Don’t give it to me!

We also use this to express ‘no-one, nobody’ or ‘nothing’, like the following examples:

Wata karna wakararna warayi. No-one came. (literally, ‘not person came’)

Wata ngathu thayirna minha kurnu. I ate nothing. (literally, ‘not I eat something one’)

When talking about not having something, or lacking something (without X, or X-less), then we use padni after the thing we don’t have rather than wata at the beginning, as in:

Nganhi marda padni. I have no money.

Nhawu puka padni. He has no food.

Nhani mankarra nhintha padni. That girl is shameless (OR That girl has no shame).

Karna thidna padniyali nganha nandrarna warayi. The man with no shoes hit me (OR The man without shoes hit me) .

Kupanhi nhani yatharna warayi kathi padninhi. She spoke to the child with no clothes on (OR I spoke to the child without clothes).

If someone asks if you have something and you don’t have it, then you can simply answer padni, as in:

Yidni mardanthu? Do you have any money?

Padni. ‘None’

Diyari people, like many other Aboriginal groups, can use a hand gesture together with or instead of padni to indicate they have nothing — place one spread hand in front of the body at a 45 degree angle with palm facing away and then rotate it away from the body. (There is a video of a Wangkatjungka man demonstrating this hand sign here — it’s the second one he shows.)

Notice that we can use both expressions in the same sentence, so the title of today’s blog post can be translated as ‘No, he doesn’t have any food’.

Kararaya yawarra — word of the day: mudlha

Today we look at the Diyari word mudlha (also pronounced mulha) which can be translated into English as ‘face’ and ‘nose’, but also has a wider range of other uses. It is also found in a lot of idioms — ways of speaking where the parts do not necessarily add up to the meaning of the whole (like English ‘kick the bucket’ to mean ‘to die’).

Here are some examples showing the different uses:

  1. ‘nose’
    • thanali muku kurrarna wanthiyi mudlhanhi ‘They used to put a bone in their noses long ago’
    • mudlha kilthi ‘snot, nasal mucus’
    • mudlha murru ‘dried crust of snot under the nose’
    • mudlha kumarri ‘nosebleed’
    • mudla wirlpa ‘nostril, hole in nose’
    • mudla durru ‘hook of the nose’
    • mudlha ngankarna ‘to rub the nose’ (ngankarna generally means ‘to do, make’)
    • nganhi mudlha pununu parrayi ‘my nose is itching’. People believe that when your nose itches then someone must be talking about you behind your back.
  2. ‘tip of a body part’
    • mara mudlha ‘tip of the finger’ (mara means ‘hand, finger’)
    • thidna mudla ‘tiptoe’ (thidna means ‘foot, toe’)
  3. ‘tip or edge of something in nature’
    • ngarrimatha mudlha ‘the edge of rising flood waters’
    • wathara mudlha ‘the edge of an approaching windstorm’
    • daku mudlha ‘the point of a sandhill’
    • karirri mudlha ‘the line of trees marking the edge of watercourse or creek’
    • pirta mulha ‘the thick end of a fallen tree’
    • kalku mudlha ‘the bottom end of a reed where is is broken off the root or stalk’
  4. ‘tip or end of something that people make’
    • katu mudlha ‘the end of a windbreak’
    • palthu mudlha ‘the end of a road or path’
    • marda mudlha ‘the pointed end of a grinding stone’
  5. ‘face’
    • mudlha ngumu ‘beautiful, attractive face’
    • mudlha manyu ‘friendly face’
    • mudlha kurlikirri ‘clean washed face’
    • mudlha dulyardulya ‘dirty face’
    • mudlha malka ‘stripes painted on the face’. Traditionally, when someone died the women would paint their faces with black and white stripes using charcoal and gypsum

Here are some idioms that use mudlha where the overall meaning is not predictable from the other words in the expression:

  • mudlha putyu (literally ‘face blind’) ‘not paying attention when something bad could be predicted to happen’, for example, minhandru yundru kupa yinparna warayi ngapa padninhi? Yidni mudlha putyu?. ‘Why did you send the children out without any water? Couldn’t you see (they would nearly die of thirst)?
  • mudlha yarkirna (literally ‘face burn’) ‘to look angry’
  • mudlha pirtarirna (literally ‘face become wood’) ‘to become sullen, surly, glum’
  • mudlha wararna (literally ‘face throw’) ‘to pull a long face, to look sad or disapproving’
  • mudlha thiri pardakarna (literally ‘face angry take’) ‘to make up, become reconciled with someone’. When two people are upset with each other meet and make up then they take the angry faces away.
  • mudlha wathirna (literally ‘face search’) ‘to look for someone among a group of people’
  • mudlha punthiparna (literally ‘face separate’) ‘to separate people into two groups and send them on their way’
  • mudlha matharna (literally ‘nose bite’) ‘to give someone the cold shoulder, for a woman to turn down an offer of marriage’
  • mudlha murruwarna (literally ‘nose scratch’) ‘to beat around the bush, to ask for something indirectly’
  • mudlha ngurdarna (literally ‘face stretch’) ‘to hurry ahead of someone’
  • mudlha kutya (literally ‘face feather’) ‘leader of a revenge expedition’. Traditionally, when someone died a group of men called a pinya would be sent out to avenge the death by killing someone from another group. The leader of the pinya is called mudlha kutya because they have feathers stuck on their face with blood.

Words in the examples :

durrubent over
karirricreek, watercourse
kilthijuice, liquid
kupachild, children
kurrarnato put
kutyafeather of a bird (not emu)
malkamark, line, stripe
manyugood, sweet
marahand, finger
mardastone, rock, money
matharnato bite
murruwarnato scratch
ngankarnato make, to do
ngurdarnato stretch
padninone, nothing
palthuroad, path
parrayiis lying down (of inanimate objects)
pinyarevenger expedition
pirtatree, wood
pirtarirnato be come wood
punthiparnato separate, divide in two
thidnafoot, toe
wararnato throw
wirlpahole in solid object
yarkirnato burn
yinparnato send

Kararaya yawarra — word of the day: thaparna

This is the first of a series of posts discussing Diyari words, including their use in idioms and cultural expressions.

Diyari has two important words: thayirna, which generally translates as ‘to eat’ and thaparna, which we are going to look at today.

The Diyari word thaparna is generally used when we would say ‘drink’ in English, for example:

  • Ngathu ngapa thapayi ‘I am drinking water’
  • Yundru kupula thaparna warayi ‘You drank beer’
  • Nhulu thirti thapalha nganayi ‘He will drink tea’

However, it is used more widely in Diyari in situations where English might use ‘eat’, ‘suck’ or some other word. Here are some examples showing its wider use:

  • to suck liquid or soft matter out of a container, as in:
    • Kupali ngama thapayi ‘The child is sucking the breast’
    • Thanali paya kapi thapayi ‘They are sucking (the contents out of) the (raw) bird’s eggs’
    • Kankuyali thurintyi thapayi mukundru ‘The boy is sucking marrow out of the bone’
  • to eat, slurp up, or chew on soft or semi-liquid food or fruit [for hard food we use thayirna ‘to eat’], as in:
    • Ngathu ngantyayi kilthi thapalha ‘I like to eat stew’
    • Thanali pawa thapayi ‘They are slurping up ground seed (mixed with water)’
    • Nhandru danyu thapayi ‘She is eating danyu fruit’ [for all soft fruits like grapes or ripe peaches we would say thaparna but for hard fruits like apple then we use thayirna]
  • to kiss, as in [notice the word marna for ‘mouth’]:
    • Ngandriyali kupa marna thapayi ‘The mother is kissing the child’
    • Ngathu yinha marna thapalha nganayi ‘I will kiss you’
    • Karnali parru thapayi ‘The man is kissing a fish’. The missionary Reverend Reuther reports that in the old days when men when fishing with yama ‘nets’ if no fish are caught in the net, one man would go down into the water, whistle into a hollow bone, and sing his mura ancestral song. After this, the first fish to be caught is kissed while the man has bread in his mouth, and then released to swim again, in order to entice other fish into the net.

So remember, thayirna is used for eating hard foods like meat, bread or hard fruit and vegetables, while thaparna is used for eating soft or semi-liquid food and fruit, for kissing, and for drinking liquids.

Words in the examples

danyutype of fruit
kankuyaliboy (active subject form)
kilthijuice, stew
kupalichild (active subject form)
kupulabeer, alcohol, grog
ngamamilk, breast
nganayi‘to be’, also used to indicate future ‘will do’
ngandriyalimother (active subject form)
ngantyarnato like, want’
ngathuI (active subject form)
pawaground seed, flour
thaparnato drink, suck, slurp, kiss
thayirnato eat
thurintyisinew, marrow
yinhayou (one person), object form
yundruyou (one person), active subject form