Ngatyani yawarra The Lord’s Prayer

The Diyari translation by Reuther and Strehlow in 1897 of the New Testament of the Christian Bible contains the verses known as The Lord’s Prayer. They appear in Matthew Chapter 6 verses 9 to 13, as follows, written in the missionary spelling:

9. Jeruja ngatjianau: “Ngaperi ngaianini, jidni pariwilpani ngamala wapaia; Tala jinkani kulikiri pantjiatimai;

10. Milila jinkani wokaraiatimai; Jertapaterina jinkani pantjiatimai, worderu pariwilpani jeruja bakana mitani;

11. Buka ngaianini ngaianingu karari jinkiamai;

12. Madlentji ngaianini woramai, worderu bakana ngaiani kana nguruja madlentji worala wapaia;.

13. Ja wata ngaianina wontjanilani wirilkamai, a-ai, ngaianina madlentjani kulkamai; Ngangau jinkangu milila nganai ja ngurula ja pirnala ngurali. Amen.”

We can rewrite this in the modern spelling as follows:

  1. Yaruya ngatyiyanawu:
  2. Ngapiri ngayanirni, yini pariwilpanhi ngamalha wapaya”
  3. Tharla yingkarni kurlikirri pantyiyathimayi.
  4. Mirlilha yingkarni wakarayathimayi.
  5. Yathapatharrirna yingkarni pantyiyathimayi.
  6. Wardaru pariwilpanhi yaruya pakarna mithanhi.
  7. Puka ngayanirni ngayaningu karari yingkiyamayi.
  8. Madlhantyi ngayanirni waramayi.
  9. Wardaru pakarna ngayani karna nguruya madlhantyi waralha wapaya.
  10. Ya wata ngayaninha wantyanilhanhi wirrilkamayi.
  11. A’ayi ngayaninha madlhantyanhi kurlkamayi.
  12. Ngangawu yingkangu mirlilha nganayi.
  13. Ya ngurrulha ya pirnalha ngurrali.
  14. Amen.

We can also assign meanings to each of the words in the prayer, and give the lines a literal translation:

like thatyou all pray
‘You all pray like this!’
fatherouryouin the skylivedo
‘Our father, you live in the sky’
nameyourcleanmay become
‘May your name become clean’
place of followersyourmay come
‘May your place of followers come’
supportingyoumay become
‘May it become that (people) support you’
howin the skylike thatalsoon the ground
‘Just like in the sky also like that on the ground’
vegetable.foodourto ustodaygive
‘Give our vegetable food to us today!’
badourthrow away
‘Throw away our badness!’
howalsowepersonto otherbad
‘Just like we also habitually  throw away the badness of other people.’
andnotusinto the place of tryinggo in with
‘And do not take us into places of trying!’
nousfrom badsave
‘No, save us from badness!’
?? becauseto youplace of followersis
‘Because(?) your place of followers exists.
‘And strength and greatness for ever.’


  1. thanks to Fritz Schweiger for prompting me to present this material for people interested in the Lord’s Prayer, and for picking up errors in the first draft.
  2. the title of today’s post is “Prayer Words” made up of ngatyi- ‘to pray’ plus the ending -ni which creates a noun ‘prayer’. The word yawarra means ‘word, language, speech’.
  3. line 1 – the verb ngatyiyanawu is in the order (imperative) form containing the ending -ya-, with the ending –ni– that indicates speaking to many people, plus the -wu ending that is usually occurs in shouted speech
  4. line 2 – the Diyari form for ‘our father’ uses the ngayani which is the exclusive second person pronoun, ‘we all excluding you’, presumably because the prayer is addressed to God
  5. line 3 – the missionaries extended the term kurlikirri ‘clean’ to mean ‘holy’. They also used the ending -yathimayi to express a wish, but it never occurs in the spoken language
  6. line 5 – the verb yatha- means ‘to scold, dress someone down’, while -pa- is the altruistic ending meaning ‘do something for the benefit of someone other than the subject’, here indicated as yingkarni ‘for you’, so literally the verb plus pronoun means ‘continuously scold someone for the benefit of you’
  7. line 7 – the noun puka means ‘vegetable food’ (bread, seeds, greens) in contrast to nganthi ‘meat food’
  8. line 8 – this seems to be a literal translation of ‘take away evil’.
  9. line 9 – the verb waralha wapaya is the habitual form of ‘throw’, that is ‘throw all the time, every day’
  10. line 10 – the verb wirrilka ‘go with’ implies that the subject (God) enters somewhere with the object ‘us’ (which is not controlling the motion)
  11. line 12 – a form like ngangawu which is used by the missionaries for ‘because, rather’ does not occur in my Diyari recordings. It occurs 30 times in example sentences in Reuther’s dictionary of Diyari, always in the second sentence in a sequence. He did not include a headword entry for this word, which is strange given that he has entries for all other words in the dictionary examples.
  12. line s 12-13 – this is the doxology, which appears in English as ‘For thine is kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever’.

Reuther. J. G. & Carl Strehlow. 1897. Testamenta marra. Jesuni Christuni ngantjani jaura ninaia karitjimalkana wonti Dieri jaurani. Adelaide: G. Auricht.

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