23 July 2011

MURUWARI WORDS wan: Negative imperative: don't

The word “waan”, spelt with a long double-a, appears fairly frequently in the work of Lynette Oates:
Oates, Lynette Frances. 1988. The Muruwari language. Canberra: Dept. of Linguistics, Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University
and is shown as meaning ‘tree’, or ‘stick’.

So when wan arose in the following:

Hey you, blow the fire up!

it looked as possibly wrong. This was a sentence abvout ‘fire’, and it seemed as though there might be a mistake: wan might not be an interjection (‘hey!’) but more probably something to do with a tree (perhaps on fire) or stick (to put on the fire).

In the second wan occurrence, however, there seemed to no possible connection with ‘tree’ or ‘stick’. Instead, the imperative as claimed by Oates seemed plausible:

Eat your meat!

Nevertheless wan still seemed an unlikely interjection — ‘wan’ as a sound just seemed too feeble, perhaps owing to the English ‘wan’ meaning pallid, weary, sickly and generally weak.

So an enquiry was made to see if other inland NSW languages could shed any light on wan. The following instances were uncovered:

"wunna !"
wana =
"far be it!" :
not so
KAOL Ridley [KML] [:37:36] [KML]
wayi =
"look out"
look out!  :
Mathews WIRA 1904 [:291:9.2] [WIRA]
wa =
"beware, or exclamation of surprise"
beware!  :
Mitchell, J.F.H 9CY reel 681 [:109:] [WIRA]

This confirmed that a word beginning wa- could indeed be an exclamation. And this discovery in turn prompted a wider enquiry encompassing the coastal languages of NSW, to see if wa- or wan- words turned up in any of those, with similar connotations. There were a number of occurrences.

For Minyung in the far north-east of the state, wana had the sense of negative imperative, ‘don’t’:
wana =
"... negative of the imperative. It means ‘leave it alone..."
not do  :
Livingstone [:18:29] [Mnyg]

wana-nga was encountered in other languages to the north but much nearer to Sydney than Minyung: The negative feature persisted but the imperative less strongly:
“[Whannunga neemoor ?]”:
wananga =
“[Leave it alone]”:

Tkld GDG Aust Voc  [126.2:7.1] [Gdg?]
wananga =
"To give up"
give up, to  :
SofM 1899 07 21 [p.106.1 Armidale] [:107:39] [[BPI]]
wananga =
"To give up"
give up, to  :
SofM 1897 02 27 [p.16.3: B-DGDI] [:17:25] [DGDI]

However, in Sydney, this same word wana-nga, was recorded by First Fleeter William Dawes, with the full negative imperative sense of ‘don’t’:
wananga =
"Don't ye"
not do:
Dawes (b) [b:22:11] [BB]

The form wana-wara was recorded by R.H. Mathews, in the Sydney region, in the Dharug language: wana-wara was a negative imperative with the sense of ‘stop’, ‘desist’:
wana-wara =
“leave off, let me go”:

Mathews: 8006/3/5- Nbk 5 [115:2] [DG]

Dawes provided another example featuring wana, but did not give a translation:
"[Wauná wauná Bogîbóonî]"
wana =
"[Answer: [NOT TRANSLATED]]"
want not  :
Dawes (a) [a:7:5.11] [BB]

However, the words can be translated based on other examples in the body of Dawes’s work. ‘Wauná wauná bogibuni’ means: ‘[negative –negative] swim/bathe-lacking’. From this it appears that wana retains the negative imperative (or emphatic) connotation, suggesting an idiomatic translation of ‘No, I don’t want to bathe/swim’.

In three final Dawes examples, negativity (‘not’) is present, but the imperative sense (do!’) is missing. The meaning for wana appears to be, as in the last example, ‘not want’:
wana-dyi-mi =
"Will Would you not?"
want not did thou:
Dawes (b) [b:22:20] [BB]
wana-dyu-wi-nya =
"I don't desire your company"
want not did I thee:
Dawes (b) [b:24:12] [BB]
"[Mínyin mìwå´na?]"
mi wana =
"[Why won't you have it?]"
want not  :
Dawes (b) [b:17:9.1] [BB]

A final wana example comes from Wiradhuri in a complex verb provided by Gunther:
wanamindyara =
"to neglect, to be careless; to care for no longer; to forgive."
neglect  forgive, to:
Günther WIRA (Fraser) [:104:29] [WIRA]

In the sense of ‘neglect’, the negative thread is maintained, but the imperative is missing.

The conclusion is that wa / wan can function as an imperative, or interjection, and that it might have negative overtones.

Friday 22 July 2011

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