Nhaya ngamini

The Ngamini language was traditionally spoken north of Dieri country around Goyder’s Lagoon in far north-eastern South Australia.


Rev. Reuther wrote down Ngamini words and a few sentences in his massive dictionary of Dieri. It appears that the last person able to speak Ngamini fully was the late Maudie Naylon Akawiljika — she taught Gavan Breen and Peter Austin about the language before she passed away in 1980.

Ngamini is closely related to Dieri and has the same basic grammar and sentence constructions. It has some differences in vocabulary, but speakers of the two languages could understand each other fairly easily. We can probably say that the differences were similar to the differences between Australian English and American English.

Here is a recording that Maudie Naylon made with Gavan Breen in 1968:

nganyi paringka wapayi ngapa manilha

‘I am going to the creek to get water’

In Dieri we would say:

nganhi karirraya wapayi ngapa manilha

Notice that Ngamini says nganyi for ‘I’ where Dieri has nganhi. Also, Ngamini paringka consists of pari ‘creek’ plus the ending -ngka ‘to, towards’ where Dieri has karirraya that is made up of karirri ‘creek’ plus the ending -ya ‘to, towards’ (words of three syllables that end in i change this to a when an ending is added in Dieri. So, ‘in the creek’ is karirranhi. Similarly, if we take kadnhini ‘mother’s mother, grandmother’ (which we learnt about in this post) then ‘to grandmother’ is kadnhinaya, ‘with grandmother’ is kadnhinanhi and ‘by grandmother’ is kadnhinali. Notice that the Ngamini word for ‘mother’s mother, grandmother’ is kanyini).

The rest of the two sentences is the same. Ngamini has the same ending -lha for action words (verbs) that we discussed last month: it means ‘in order to …’ when an action is performed by the same person who performs the first action. Here, we have ‘I go to the creek in order (for me) to get water’. We don’t have to mention the second ‘I/me’ because -lha tells us it is the same person doing both actions of going and getting.

Note: the title of this blog contains nhaya which is Ngamini for ‘this here’, it corresponds to Dieri nhawuya. So the title means ‘This is Ngamini’.

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