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’.

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