Diyari wima

At the Dieri Aboriginal Corporation workshop in Adelaide last month (as reported on previously) we had a session on singing some songs in the Dieri language. Previously, Greg Wilson and the Port Augusta group had translated some children’s songs, including ‘Old MacDonald’s farm’, and we were able this time to get everone together to practice and record them. In the process we learnt about some aspects of Dieri grammar and pronunciation, as well as having a lot of fun.


You can listen to the first verse of the song here:

Here are the words in Dieri:

pinarru Donaldaya pamanhi
a – i – a – i – u
puluka marpu marla tharkayi
a – i – a – i – u
muu muu nhawuya
muu muu nhawuwa
nhawuya nhawuwa
thanaparra muu muu
pinarru Donaldaya pamanhi
a – i – a – i – u

Here is the translation:

On old man Donald’s farm
a – i – a – i – u
Many cattle are standing around
a – i – a – i – u
Moo moo this one
Moo moo that one
This one that one
They all moo moo
On old man Donald’s farm
a – i – a – i – u

The first thing to notice is that Dieri has just three vowel sounds, so we get a, i, and u only in the song (unlike the English version which has “e i e i o”). Note that the Dieri vowels are pronounced short and clear, like in Italian, not like corresponding English letters.

Here are the words of the song and some of the grammar it shows:

pinarru means ‘old man’

Donaldaya consists of Donalda which is the English name “Donald” plus an a because Dieri words must end in a vowel, and the ending -ya which means ‘of, having’ and showing possession or ownership

pamanhi consists of pama which comes from English “farm” (Dieri has no f sound so we use the nearest equivalent p, and all words must end in a vowel) plus the ending -nhi which means ‘in, at’ and indicates location

puluka means ‘cow, cattle’ and comes from English “bullock” (plus the obligatory adding of a final vowel)

marpu means ‘many’

marla means ‘very’ (Notice that modifying elements follow the things they modify in Dieri so ‘very many’ is expressed as marpu marla, literally ‘many very’. In the same way, ‘many old men’ would be pinarru marpu.)

tharkayi consists of tharka ‘to stand’ plus the ending -yi ‘is doing’ which indicates present tense

nhawuya consists of nhawu which means ‘this, he’ and the ending -ya meaning ‘near the speaker’ (this was introduced in the previous blog post where it was used with nhingki ‘here’)

nhawuwa consists of nhawu which means ‘this, he’ and the ending -wa meaning ‘further from the speaker’

thanaparra consists of thana which means ‘those, they’ (when speaking of many things or people) and the ending -parra meaning ‘the ones we were just talking about’

Note that Dieri does not distinguish between ‘this’ and ‘he’ (in Dieri ‘she’ is nhani) or ‘those’ and ‘they’. Also, you can interchange the various endings with these words with a consequent difference in meaning, for example, nhawuparra ‘he who I was just talking about’, nhaniya ‘she who is standing near me’, and so on.

2 thoughts on “Diyari wima

  1. Pingback: Kurnu, mandru, parkulu | Ngayana Diyari Yawarra Yathayilha

  2. Pingback: Kupa wakawaka thurathurarayi | Ngayana Diyari Yawarra Yathayilha

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