Nhingkirda, nhingkiya, nhingkiwa, nhaka

The previous blog post presented a comic where the characters talk about ‘this’ and ‘that’ and ‘here’ and ‘there’ in Dieri. Here it is again:


Here is what the two characters are saying (Warrangantyu means ‘left, left-hand’ and is the character on the left, and Ngunyari means ‘right, right-hand’ and is the character on the right in each panel):

Warrangantyu: minha nhawuwa? ‘What’s that?’
Ngunyari: wirdirdi? nhingkirda? ‘Where? Here?’
Warrangantyu: wata! nhawuparra nhingkiwa ‘No, that one, there’
Ngunyari: nhaka? pirtanhi? ‘There? In the tree?’
Warrangantyu: wata yaruka warritha marla ‘Not that far away’
Ngunyari: aa nhingkiwa ‘Oh, there’
Warrangantyu: kawu ‘Yes’
Ngunyari: nhawuparramatha mutaka ngakarni ngapiraya ‘That’s my father’s car’

English has only two words ‘this’ and ‘that’ to talk about things, and ‘here’ and ‘there’ to talk about locations. Dieri has more terms and is able to make subtle contrasts that are lacking in English.

To point out something we can use the words nhani ‘she, this’ for females and nhawu ‘he, it, this’ for everything else (these are the forms we use for intransitive subject in Dieri — the full set of forms for other functions are listed in this blog post). We can then add to these words endings that show distance from the speaker and the person spoken to:

-rda ‘right next to the speaker’, around 1 metre away
-ya ‘near the speaker’, around 2-3 metres away
-wa ‘far from speaker’, over 5 metres away

This gives us the following diagram:


Dieri has two other useful endings:

-parra ‘previously mentioned’, indicates something that the speaker or another person has mentioned previously, or that is being pointed to
-matha ‘identified information’, indicates that the speaker is able to identify the thing being spoken about

This gives us:
nhawuparra ‘this one we were talking about’
nhawumatha ‘this one that I just realised what it is’

You can combine these to give:
nhawuparramatha ‘this one that we were talking about that I just realised what it is’

This is used Ngunyari in the last frame when he realises exactly what it is that Warrangantyu has been pointing to all the time.

Finally, to talk about locations we have the following terms in Dieri (notice that English has only ‘here’ and ‘there’):

nhingkirda ‘here, right next to the speaker’, around 1 metre away
nhingkiya ‘here, near the speaker’, around 2-3 metres away
nhingkiwa ‘there, far from speaker’, over 5 metres away
nhaka ‘there, far from the speaker and the person spoken to’, a long distance away (including places that cannot be seen, like places over a hill or on the other side of the world)

This gives us:


Note: The two characters also use two very useful Dieri words kawu ‘yes’ and wata ‘no’ in their discussion.

3 thoughts on “Nhingkirda, nhingkiya, nhingkiwa, nhaka

  1. Peter, can the demonstrative suffixes be used with referents located further away than their respective distances mentioned here? E.g. can proximal nhawurda be used to mean ‘this community’? Or, does the far distal nhawuwa have to be used with everything that is 5+m away from the speaker?

    Also, you don’t use ‘medial’ to describe the ‘nhawuya’. Is there a reason for this? I.e. its semantics are ‘2-3m away’, not ‘between a more proximal referent and a more distal referent’?

  2. Sarah — good question and one that needs double checking with speakers, but my sense is that nhawuya would be used in such a case. I don’t call it ‘medial’ because nhawurda really is ‘ready to hand, immediate vicinity’ while nhawuya would be used for close by to medial distance. It is much more frequent in texts than nhawurda. There is a nice example in one of the Dieri texts I recorded in the 1970s — a pair of brothers are searching for their sister and brother-in-law who have done nasty things to their younger brother. They follow their tracks and their overnight camps until they find one where the fire is still warm. The brothers say: nhawuyaku nguratha this-near-sensory.perception camp-old.information ‘This is the camp!’, suggesting that nhawuya would be used for ‘this community’, as in your question.

  3. Pingback: Waranha nhawurda? | Ngayana Diyari Yawarra Yathayilha

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