Folsom Prison parkulu

After a bit of a break due to having to go back to London and resume my usual teaching, supervision and administrative duties, I am back to Dieri language work now and will be trying to post new materials here regularly.

Today, we look at the third verse of the Dieri translation of Johnny Cash’s song Folsom Prison Blues (for the first verse go here and for the second verse go here). In English, the third verse reads like this:

I bet there’s rich folks eating
In a fancy dining car
They’re probably drinking coffee
And smoking big cigars
But I know I had it coming
I know I can’t be free
But those people keep a-movin’
And that’s what tortures me

As usual, we have had to adapt the Dieri translation so that the words could fit the melody, so here is the third verse in Dieri:

Partyarnali thayirna
Trainanhi thana ngamayi
Thanali thirti thaparna
Ya thupu thaparna
Nganhi mathari malhantyi
Pulu durnkarna kurrayi
Thana partyarna waparnanhi
Nganhi kurnukurnu ngamayi

Translated into English this means:

They are all eating
As they sit on the train
They are drinking tea
And smoking
I am a bad man
I can’t get away
While they are all going
I am sitting alone

The words and their meanings are the following:

partyarnali means ‘all’ and is the transitive subject form (it consists of the root partyarna ‘all’ plus the ending li which marks transitive subject for roots of three syllables)

thayirna means ‘eating’ and consists of thayi ‘to eat’ plus rna which indicates action at the same time and by the same subject as another action (here linked action in the following line, ‘they sit on the train’)

trainanhi means ‘on the train’, and is the locative form of the word ‘train’ that is borrowed from English

thana means ‘they’ referring to three or more people. This is the intransitive subject form.

ngamayi means ‘sit’ and consists of the root ngama plus the present tense ending yi

thanali means ‘they’ referring to three or more people. This is the transitive subject form.

thirti means ‘tea’ and is an adaptation of the English word. Dieri does not allow words of one syllable (except for ya meantioned below — there have to be at least two vowels in each Dieri word) and does not allow words to start with t so the adapted form become thirti

thaparna means ‘to take into the body by mouth without chewing’ (in contrast to thayirna ‘to eat, to take into the body by mouth with chewing. Here it occurs with thirti ‘tea’ so it means ‘drink’. In the next line it occurs with thupu ‘smoke’ and it means ‘to suck into the mouth’

ya means ‘and’

thupu means ‘smoke’. It’s meaning was extended in Dieri when they met Europeans who had pipes and cigarettes and so now thupu thaparna means ‘to smoke (a cigarette or pipe)’

nganhi means ‘I’. This is the intransitive subject form.

mathari means ‘man’. Strictly speaking it can only be used for men who have been initiated (uninitiated men are called kanku ‘boy). Notice that karna translates as ‘man’ in English but it is a general term for any Aboriginal human being (male or female).

malhantyi means ‘bad’.

pulu means ‘cannot’. It is the opposite of kantyi ‘can’.

durnkarna means ‘to go out, to come out, to emerge’.

kurrayi means ‘to go away’ when used in combination with a verb of moving, like durnkarna. Notice that there is also another verb kurra-rna which is transitive and means ‘to put’.

waparnanhi means ‘going’ — it consists of the root wapa to go and the ending -rnanhi meaning ‘event happening at the same time with a different subject.

kurnukurnu means ‘alone’ and is a repeated version of the word kurnu meaning ‘one, alone’ (see also this post on numbers).

ngamayi means ‘is sitting’ and consists of the root ngama ‘to sit’ and the ending -yi indicating present tense, a situation happening now.

There is one more verse to this song and we will look at it in a future post.

One thought on “Folsom Prison parkulu

  1. Pingback: Folsom Prison mandru-mandru | Ngayana Diyari Yawarra Yathayilha

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