LING2009 Languages of the World 8

Dyirbal and the aboriginal languages of Australia

1.1 Australian language families 1.2 Language and dialect in aboriginal Australia Dyirbal: aboriginal language of northern Queensland (see Lyovin, 282-301)
Dyirbal dialects in myth: “the origin of water”

Bandicoot (in Jirrbal):   bana nginda wunyjan buyban?
                                  water you  where    hide
                               "Where do you have the water hidden?"

Lizard (in Girramay):    maya,   maya   gamu   biray.   Gulbirra maja ngaja.
                                nothing nothing water without     grass   chew   I
                            "There's nothing, no water.  [To get fluid] I chew kangaroo-grass."

2. Social structure and kinship

2.1  Tribal sections

Dyirbal: four sections, each associated with an animal totem

2.2 Marriage

2.3 Taboo and avoidance

Word taboo in the Western Desert language

(i) pronoun ngayu "I" tabooed on death of Ngayunya;
(ii) pronoun nganku "I" borrowed from avoidance register

2.4 Avoidance ("mother-in-law") languages: the case of Dyirbal
  Category   Guwal (everyday language: specific terms)     Dyalnguy (avoidance language: generic terms) 
 Marsupials      yuri "kangaroo" 
    bargan "wallaby" 
  yungga  "jumping marsupial"
 Grubs    dyambun "long wood grub" 
   bugulum "small bark grub" 
   mandidya "milky pine grub" 
   gaban   "acacia tree grub"
  dyamuy  "grub" (insect larva)
 Verbs     baygun "shake" 
   dyindan "wave" 
   banyin "smash"
  bubaman "shake, wave or bash"
  Pigs     gumbyan "porcupine" 
    bigi (<Eng. pig) 
  ginga  "porcupine-type animal"
 Spirits      dundu "bird" 
    guynggan "woman's spirit” 
     yamani "rainbow" 
   ngiriwungal "green pigeon" 
   giwan "bloodwood tree" 

3. Dyirbal grammar

3.1 Noun classes

Class         nominative   ergative      dative        genitive
   I  Male      bayi        banggul         bagul           bangul
   II  Female  balan      banggun        bagun          bangun
   III  Edible   balam     banggum       bagum          ---
   IV  Inanimate  bala      banggu          bagu         bangu

3.2 Case

ergative case: marks agent of transitive verb

(1)  banggul  yara-nggu  balan dyugumbil balgan
     CL1-ERG man-ERG  CL2  woman     hit
   "The man hit the woman."

(2) balan dyugumbil banggul yara-nggu balgan
      CL2  woman CL1-ERG  man-ERG   hit
    "The man hit the woman."

Nominative case: subject of intransitive verb

(3) bayi yara baninyu
     CL1  man   came
      "The man came"

4. Dyirbal song poetry

Shifting Camp sung in Dyirbal by Tom Murray, 1984

yimbu-rri-nyu    yirri
pull-REFL-NFUT nest-material   "Dragging leaves for its nest"

sing out-begin-NFUT   "Starting to call out"

gunggarri-mu janghirr
north-from dusk-falling  "As daylight fades from the north"

jarrugan bunangan
scrub-hen travelling  "The scrub-hen, travelling far"

gunggarri-mu janghirr
north-from dusk-falling  "As daylight fades from the north"

jarrugan bunangan
scrub-hen travelling  "The scrub-hen, travelling far"

yimanba-ngu gabi
shake-REL  fig-tree  "shakes the branches of the fig-tree"

gulngga-ngu barrbandal
bear-REL green fruit  "Bearing fruit like the tree"

yidiny-yidiny guwal
Yidiny-Yidiny language  "Talks Yidiny all the time"

jayanu yada-nyu  "having to speak another language"

wambinamu junggay "crossing borders"

wambinamu junggay "crossing borders"

ngawa-ru yidiny-ba
voice-INST Yidiny-with  "With her voice she speaks Yidiny"

guwal     balan        mamu
language DEM-FEM Mamu  "But her own language is Mamu"

5. Language shift and the death of Dyirbal

5.1 Language shift and extinction

 “of the 200 or so languages spoken in Australia before the European invasion about 50 are now extinct.. there are probably around 100 languages that are on the path towards extinction... perhaps 50 languages are in a relatively healthy state.”  (Dixon, 1980)

                                                               Age in 1982        Age in 2001
 "Traditional Dyirbal" speakers                           40-80             60+
 "Young Dyirbal" speakers and semi-speakers    15-40             34-59
  non-Dyirbal (Aboriginal English) speakers          0-15               0-33

5.2 Politics of language death

pro: common national language, e.g. Swahili
con: loss of cultural diversity, indigenous knowledge; subjugation of minority cultures

Bilingual education/biculturalism as solution?

5.3 Young people’s Dyirbal... as spoken by the “Rock’n-Rollers”

Loss of prestige: “Talking Guwal [Dyirbal] to a waybala [white person], it’s like singing an’ you’re ashamed of your voice. ”

Correction of young semi-speakers by elders:

"If I say `Oh, that's my gaya [mother's younger brother] there', she'll probably say `You can't say gaya to me... You gotta say mugu [mother's elder brother]’."

Daughter:   nganaji gotta cook-iman bala you know.
                   we                     -TRANS  it
                "We've got to cook that, you know"

Mother:  nyajun!
            "You mean `cook'!"

Daughter:   nyaju, cook-iman ... bala
                cook,        TRANS    it
               "Nyaju, cook it, whatever..."

Mother:  nginda mijiji-bin!
               you white-woman-INTRANS
            "You've become a white woman!"

“That Phyllis, she don’t talk Guwal right. She mixes up the English... she got it wrong.”
“They won’t think [in Dyirbal]. They sorta can’t get round their own language.”

Tutorial assignment: Young Dyirbal

Compare the Traditional Dyirbal sentences, used by fluent speakers, with those of Young Dyirbal as spoken by semi-speakers. Describe the changes that have occurred or are under way, and suggest reasons for these changes.

    Traditional Dyirbal                                  Young Dyirbal

(1)   girimu-gu jugumbil bajan                         (2)   gugar bajan ban jugumbil
     snake-ERG  woman  bite                                goanna bite CL2 woman
    “The snake bit the woman.”                           “The goanna bit the woman.”

(3) banggun jugumbi-ru marrgi-nggu mirrany babin        (4)  bang-un  marrgi jugumbi-ru babin mirrany
      CL2-ERG woman-ERG thin-ERG  bean  slice          CL2-ERG thin woman-ERG slice bean
        "The thin woman sliced the beans."                            "The thin woman sliced the beans."

(5)  banggun ganibarra-gu budin bangun gujarra           (6) bayi ganibarra budin bangun gujarra
       Cl2-ERG dingo-ERG take Cl2-GEN baby               Cl1   dingo    take   Cl2-GEN baby
       “The dingo took her baby.”                                     “The dingo took her baby.”

(7)  Yuri    bayi   Naja   jinba-n                       (8)    Nanaji-gu    bura-n     bayi     waybala
        kangaroo CL1 I spear-Non-Fut                       we-ERG  see-Non-Fut CL1 white man
        “I speared the kangaroo.”                                “We saw the white man.”

(9)      yara bani-ny                                     (10)    yara bani-nyu ngulga
       man come-FUT                                          man  come-Non-Fut tomorrow
      `The man will come.'                                 `The man will come tomorrow.'

(11)  bala yugu baNgul yara-Ngu danay-ma-n      (12)    jugumbil nyina-nyu on yugu
        Cl4 wood Cl1-Erg man-Erg stand-Non-Fut          woman  sit-Non-Fut on log
        “The man stood on a piece of wood.”               “The woman sat on the log.”

(13)    bangul    mija                                  (14)    Nanaji took Nagi back to bayi-bayi-ngu mija
        Cl1GEN house                                           we     took    grandpa         Cl1-Cl1-GEN house
        “his house”                                              “We took grandfather back to his house.”

                                                                   (15)    Isn’t that Sandra-Nu modaga
                                                                            “Isn’t that Sandra’s car?”

ERG: Ergative case (marks subject of transitive verb)   FUT: Future tense
GEN: Genitive case (marks possessor of object)          Non-Fut: Non-future tense (refers to present or past)
LOC: Locative case (marks location in space)

Tutorial dates:  Tuesday Nov. 18 - Friday 21
Assignment due:   Nov.  18 in class

* No class on Nov. 11