This week, 2nd to 9th July 2017 is National NAIDOC Week. The theme this year is “Our Languages Matter”. Around Australia, there will be national celebrations of the importance, resilience and richness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages.
On the Dieri Yawarra blog this week we are presenting a traditional story in the Dieri language in five parts. Today, we provide an additional blog post: a children’s song. The song uses the tune of Frère Jacques (“Brother John, are you sleeping?”) and the words are adapted from the English children’s rhyme “Where is Thumbkin?” (see here). Instead of introducing the names for fingers, the Dieri song uses the names of close relatives, such as ‘mother’, ‘father’, ‘elder sister’, ‘mother’s mother’ etc. (we call these kinship terms and they are discussed in a previous post). The words were translated by Greg Wilson and Rene Warren, and this recording was made at a Dieri Aboriginal Corporation workshop in Port Augusta in March 2013.
Where is mother?
Where is mother?
Here I am.
Here I am.
How are you?
I’m very well.
I’m going now.
In place of ngandri you can use another kinship term. Here is the next verse with kaku ‘older sister’ instead of ngandri ‘mother.
Notice that Dieri distinguishes older brother and sister from younger siblings, and also has four terms for grandparents, depending on whether it’s father’s mother/father or mother’s mother/father. Here is a list of terms you can use:
In 1959 the late Kenneth Hale did an interview at Hermansburg in the Northern Territory with Johannes, a Dieri man who had been born north of Marree in South Australia and who had lived on Bethesda Mission (at Killalpaninna, on Cooper Creek) until it closed in 1915. Johannes then moved to Hermansburg, but fondly remembered his own country and his family and friends still living in South Australia. He spoke to Hale in Dieri, telling him about his early life and his wish to see his family again.
Hale’s recording (a copy of which is to be found on archive tape A4604a in the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) in Canberra) is one of the earliest existing sound recordings of Dieri, and is remarkable since Johannes is very clear and fluent on the recording. Hale made 66 pages of notes of his interview and these can be found in the AIATSIS library as MS 872.
Kenneth Hale kindly gave me permission to use his recording in 1980 and I present the first one and a half minutes here, followed by a transcription and translation of what Johannes said, together with some notes on the grammar. It is hoped that this material will be especially useful for Dieri language learners who wish to study a longer story in Dieri.
Here is my analysis of what is said in Dieri. We give a sentence-by-sentence breakdown below:
I was a child. I was born at Bethesda. Then I grew up there. Then the missionaries left us all. Then we became pensioners. Then I went to Hermansburg Mission to live there. I am living here at Hermansburg until today. I always thought about my home Bethesda. I really want to go back there. I want to go back there. I want in future to see it here, to see the country again. Some of my children are down there. I want to see them. I will go in future to Marree. There some of my children live. Some of those children of mine live in Port Augusta.
Sentence by sentence discussion
1. Nganhi kupa nganarna wanthiyi. ‘I was a child long ago’ — note the distant past auxiliary wanthiyi after ngana-rna ‘to be’
2. Nganhi, Bethesdanhi kupa darnkarna wanthiyi. ‘I was born at Bethesda’ — note the location ‘at Bethesda’ is expressed by the ending -nhi on the place name. Also, in Dieri we use the expression kupa darnka-rna ‘to find a child’ to express ‘to be born’ — in traditional Dieri belief it is the mother who finds the spirit child, which is then born into the world as a baby
3. Ngardanhi nganhi pirnarirna nhaka. ‘Then I grew up there’ — here we find adjective pirna ‘big’ and the ending –ri meaning ‘to become’ so the resulting verb pirnari-rna means ‘to become big, to grow’
4. Ngardanhi ngayaninha missionary-li warararna wanthiyi. ‘Then the missionaries left us all’ — notice the word order here is a little unusual as the object ngayaninha ‘we all (not including you)’ comes before the subject missionary-li. As usual, the verb comes at the end
5. Ngardanhi ngayani pensioner pantyirna wanthiyi. ‘Then we became pensioners’ — the verb pantyi-rna ‘to become’ is used with nouns, including words from English, whereas to express ‘become’ with an adjective, we add the ending –ri- seen with pirnari-rna ‘to become big’ above
6. Ngardanhi nganhi waparna wanthiyi Hermansburg Mission nhaka ngamalha. ‘Then I went to Hermansburg Mission to live there’ — notice that with place names we don’t need to add an ending to show the place we go to (the ending -ya can optionally be added). The -lha on ngama-rna ‘to sit, live’ indicates purpose with the same subject as the previous verb (in this example it is wapa-rna ‘to go’)
7. Nganhi karariyarlu nhingkirda ngamayi Hermansburg. ‘I live here at Hermansburg until today’ — notice the word karariyarlu is made up of karari ‘today, now’ plus the endings -ya ‘to’ and -rlu ‘still, yet’ which together means ‘up till today’
8. Ngathu ngurrali ngundrarna wanthiyi ngakarni ngura Bethesda. ‘I always thought about my home Bethesda’ — be careful to pronounce ngurra meaning ‘always’ with a trilled ‘r’ sound but ngura ‘camp, home’ with a short flapped ‘r’. Also, when we use ngurra ‘always’ in a transitive sentence (one with an object and a subject) it must take the transitive subject marker -li, as in this sentence
9. Ngathu pirna ngantyarna wanthiyi nhakanhi thikalha. ‘I really want to return there’ — to emphasise a verb we use pirna ‘big’ so pirna ngantya-rna means ‘to really want’
10. Ngathu mirluru ngantyayi nhakanhitha thikalha. ‘I really want to go back there’ — the word nhakanhitha is made up of nhaka ‘there’ plus -nhi ‘to’ and -tha ‘old information, something mentioned previously’ (in this example ‘there’ refers to Bethesda, which was mentioned by Johannes before)
11. Ngathu wata ngantyayi nhinha wararalha. ‘I did not want to leave it’ — here we find nhinha ‘him (object)’ used to refer back to Bethesda
12. Ngathu ngantyayi thangkuparna nhingkarda nhayilha, nhakaldra mitha nhayilha. ‘I want in future to see it here, to see the country again’ — the word thangkuparna usually means ‘tomorrow’ but Johannes seems to be using it to mean ‘in future’, not just limited to the day after today
13. Ngakarni kupa parlpa nhaka nganayi ngarirnarlu. ‘Some of my children are down there’ — the word ngarirnarlu means ‘down’ and it is used here to refer to places to the south of Hermansburg, namely Marree and Port Augusta
14. Ngathu ngantyayi thananha nhayilha. ‘I want to see them’ — here thananha ‘them (object)’ refers back to the children
15. Nganhi thangkuparna nhingkirdanhi wapalha nganayi Marree. ‘I will go in future to Marree’ — again, Johannes uses thangkuparna to mean ‘in future’ in general. Notice also that he uses nhingkirdanhi ‘to here (close by the speaker)’ to refer to Marree, probably because it is considered much closer to Hermansburg then where his other children are, namely Port Augusta
16. Nhaka ngakarni kupa parlpa ngamayi. ‘Some of my children live there’ — in this sentence nhaka ‘there (far from speaker and hearer)’ is pointing to Port Augusta
17. Thana kupa parlpa ngakarni ngamayi Port Augusta. ‘Some of those children of mine live in Port Augusta’ — notice that the order of the words kupa parlpa ‘some children’ and ngakarni ‘my’ is different from what we saw in the previous examples above where ngakarni ‘my’ comes before kupa ‘child’ and parlpa ‘some’. This is because we have thana ‘they all, those’ before kupa here so the order must be ‘those child some my’ while in English we say ‘some of those children of mine’
Note: Many thanks to Kenneth Hale for making his recording available to me; he is not responsible for any mistakes here.
In all human languages, speakers can choose to speak quickly (in Dieri nhurru-nhurru yathayi) or to speak slowly (in Dieri marnka yathayi). Typically, in ordinary conversation with other people who also speak the same language as us we use a quicker more colloquial style, and when talking to others who can’t understand well, or to emphasise something, we can speak more slowly. Dieri speakers can do the same thing, and in a previous blog post we presented some examples of this from Luise Hercus’ recordings of the late Alec Edwards.
In today’s post we focus on some of the common features of Dieri fast speech.
We saw in a previous blog post that Dieri uses auxiliary verbs to express locations in time when an action or event takes place. Here are the forms discussed earlier:
‘went long ago’ — a situation that took place a long time ago
‘went a while ago’ — a situation that took place some time ago, perhaps one or two months ago
‘always goes’ — a situation that habitually takes place
‘went a couple of weeks ago’ — a situation that took place one or two weeks ago
‘went yesterday’ — a situation that took place yesterday
‘went earlier’ — a situation that took place earlier today
‘will go’ — a situation that will take place later
In fast speech the auxiliary verbs get mashed onto the end of the main verb. Here are two examples — the first one involves the future auxiliary nganayi and comes from Alec Edwards (recorded by Luise Hercus). Listen to this recording of the sentence nganhi yathalha nganayi thanangu ‘I will speak to them’:
Notice that yathalha ‘speak’ and nganayi ‘will’ sound squashed together. This is clear when Alec repeats the sentence slowly:
The second example involves the distant past auxiliary wanthiyi and comes from a recording of Aunty Winnie Naylon made by Greg Wilson. Listen to this recording of the sentence nhani pirkirna wanthiyi tyaputyapu schoolanhi ‘She played ball long ago at school’:
So pirki-rna wanthiyi sounds like pirkirnanthiyi. A similar effect occurs with the recent past auxiliary warayi so that in fast speech pirki-rna warayi ‘played recently’ sounds like pirkirnaurayi. Here is another example that Greg Wilson recorded with Aunty Rene of her saying yini wakararna warayi pinarru ‘You just came old man’. Notice that wakararna warayi gets run together:
Interestingly, the policeman Samuel Gason published a book in 1874 called “THE MANNERS AND CUSTOMS OF THE DIEYERIE TRIBE OF AUSTRALIAN ABORIGINES” (a reproduction of the book can be seen on this website). It includes some Dieri words and expressions and, interestingly, he recorded the fast conversational forms of verbs and did not write down the slower clearer forms. So his materials include:
“I shall love — Athooyoralauni” for ngathu yuralha nganayi
“I did or have loved — Athooyooranaori” for ngathu yurarna warayi
“Has asked — Achanaori” for ngantyarna warayi
Notice that Gason’s spelling is not very accurate and he seems not to have heard the sound ng at the beginning of Dieri words!
The sequence ngathu ‘I’ (transitive subject) followed by yinha ‘you’ (transitive object) is often squashed together so instead of ngathu yinha nhayiyi ‘I see you’ in fast speech we would say something that sounds like ngathinha nhayiyi
In a future blog post we will present some stories recorded with speakers in the 1970s that clearly show these fast speech conversational features.
Like most other languages, Dieri can be spoken quickly in ordinary conversation, or more slowly, such as when speaking to someone who does not know the language or understand it very well. For people who want to learn a language it is often good to start with slower expressions and then build up to being able to use faster speech. Often in faster speech words get squashed together or some parts get left out, and these can be more clearly heard in slower speech.
The tapes recorded by Luise Hercus and Alec Edwards in 1971-1972 are very useful because when Luise asks how to translate something from English to Dieri Alec first says it at quickly as in ordinary conversation and then repeats the sentence slowly for Luise who is the language learner and he is the language teacher.
Here are some examples. First, we have the sentence nganhi yathalha nganayi thanangu ‘I will speak to them’, which Alec says as:
Notice that yathalha ‘speak’ and nganayi ‘will’ sound squashed together. He then repeats this slowly so the words are clearer:
Here is another example. Luise asks Alec to translate ‘Don’t make a noise!’ and he gives the Dieri sentence as wata mirtya nganka and then repeats this twice, more slowly each time:
Finally, we have the command ‘Listen to me!’ which Alec translates as nganha ngara and then repeats with the slower form nganha ngaramayi (we discussed the forms and uses of commands in this blog post).
We are fortunate that Alec gave both the faster and slower ways of speaking when he was teaching Luise how to speak Dieri.
Note: the title of this post is pinarru nhawuya yarka yatharna wanthiyi meaning ‘That is how this old man talked’. It is made up of:
pinarru ‘old man’ nhawuya ‘this’ (comprised of nhawu ‘he, this’ and the ending -ya ‘near the speaker’) yaruka ‘like that’ (comprised of the base yaru ‘like that’ and the ending -ka ‘particular’) yatharna ‘speak’ wanthiyi ‘did long ago’
In the late 1960s and early 1970s Luise Hercus (now a Research Associate at the Australian National University in Canberra) began recording and studying the Aboriginal languages spoken to the west of Lake Eyre, especially Arabana and Wangkanguru.
At Umeewara Old People’s home on Davenport Reserve just outside Port Augusta in 1968 Luise met Alec Edwards, a Dieri man who was born in the 19th century and had lived on the Bethesda Mission at Killalpaninna. He retired to Port Augusta with his wife Catharina Edwards, and when he saw Luise interviewing speakers of Arabana and Wangkanguru he asked her to record his language too, starting in 1971. The result of this is about 12 hours interviews and conversations between Luise Hercus and Alec Edwards recorded on reel-to-reel tapes. Alec Edwards passed away before Peter Austin began his studies of Dieri in 1974.
With the help of Paul Sidwell of the University Phonetics Laboratory we have now digitised all these recordings and Luise Hercus has made them available for the Dieri Aboriginal Corporation members to use in their language revitalisation project. This is a very valuable addition to the sound recordings of the Dieri language we now have available, especially as they come from the last generation of people to have lived at Bethesda and spoken Dieri as their main daily language.
Note: The title of this blog means ‘They told one another things long ago’. It is made up of the following words:
waru means ‘long ago’
pula means ‘they two’ (for three or more we use thana)
warapamalirna means ‘told one another things’. It consists of the action word (verb) root warapa ‘tell someone a story’ and the endings -mali ‘one another’ and -rna ‘to do’
wanthiyi means ‘did long ago’. It is a helping word (auxiliary) that follows the verb to indicate action done in the distant past.