23 April 2007


Not surprisingly, no-one has found the Naabawinya site so far, but perhaps this will change. I have put into modest circulation some language databases, which have been named the 'Bayala Databases' bayaladatabases.blogspot.com. These include information on the Sydney Aboriginal Language, and on languages adjacent to Sydney to the north and south. There is also information on some languages across the Blue Mountains, notably Wiradhuri and Kamilaroi. The original data was compiled by people in the century or so up to about 1908. The databases include considerably more than the original records. For example, all words have been respelt more or less systematically. In many cases parts of speech have been attributed to the words, and also classifications applied, common examples of these being, say, body parts, fauna and flora, but there are many more distinctions besides these.

The databases are useful. For example, if you want to find out what the 'word' for 'water' is or was, do a search, and a large number of results will emerge. One common result for Sydney is 'badu'. However, I have increasingly come to suspect that this is the word for 'drinking water', and that a big mass of water, such as the ocean or a lake, might well be something else.

Similarly if you know an indigenous word and want to know what it means, do a search. However, results will only come if you have spelt it the same way as in the database. Consider the word for 'good', which matches the first part of 'budgerigar'. It has probably been spelt several ways in the database because the original recorders wrote it down ambiguously. But to increase the probability of successfully finding it you can type '@' where a vowel would go, and it stands for 'any vowel'. Thus 'b@dy@r@' will find 'budyari' or 'badyiri' or any of a number of variations.

Now, I had to tell Google Blogger how I was going to sign this, so I chose Yimirawani. I can't see the point of it, especially if no-one is going to find 'Naabawinya' anyway. When I go to England I sometimes look up Yennerawannie's gravestone, in Eltham in south London. He was the 18-year-old who went to England with Bennelong, when Governor Phillip left. Bennelong returned, but Phillip did not, and neither did poor Yemmerawannie. As it happens, I am going to England tomorrow for some weeks.

Perhaps the nearest we can get to 'blogger' is 'bulagu'. Sydney language speakers would not have permitted two consonants together, as 'b+l-----' and would have inserted a vowel to separate them. 'Bulagu' was recorded by William Dawes as follows:
“Bulago” bula-gu = “Twice”: Dawes [b:4:19]
The double quotation marks are used to indicate the exact original recording, including the exact original translation. Its respelt form is given, and also the source: Dawes, notebook 'b', page 4, line 19. 'Bula' incidentally, is a widespread Australian word meaning 'two', and occurs in many place names. Find one, and you are beginning to unlock the mystery of Australian indigenous languages present all over the continent.

That will do for now. Naa-ba-wi-nya.

Monday 23 April 2007