11 October 2011

What does ‘yela’ mean?

William Dawes of the First Fleet wrote, on page 35 of his notebook ‘b’:
P. Mr Faddy yéla Mr Clark yenyában Norfolk Island
Mr Faddy with Mr Clark went to Norfolk Island

This sentence arose in relation to the following journey to Norfolk Island recorded at the time by others:
March, 1790. [The Sirius] was ordered, in concert with the Supply, to convey major Ross, with a large detachment of marines, and more than two hundred convicts, to Norfolk [39] Island: ....... She sailed on the 6th of March. [Tench, 163]
[Tench, Watkin. 1979 [1789, 1793]. Sydney's First Four Years, being a reprint of 'A narrative of the Expedition to Botany Bay; with an account of New South Wales, its Productions, Inhabitants, &c., to which is subjoined, A List of the Civil and Military Establishments at Port Jackson' and 'A Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson in New South Wales, including an accurate description of the Situation of the Colony; of the Natives; and of its Natural Productions'. Sydney: Library of Australian History in association with the Royal Australian Historical Society.]
Wednesday, 17th February [1790]
John Cobley in his summary of events through journal extracts recorded that Ralph Clark wrote in his diary on 17 February 1790 that Ross had approached him about going to Norfolk Island, and mentioned the ‘Faddy’ of Dawes’s sentence, among others.

The following are further verbatim extracts from Cobley [Cobley, John. 1963. Sydney Cove 1789-1790. Sydney: Angus & Robertson.]:
Friday, 26th February [1790]
Clark: “By the orders of yesterday, I see the officers that goes with Major Ross to Norfolk Island are Viz Capt Lieut Johnstone, 1st Lieut Kellow, Johnstone and Clark, 2 Lieuts Faddy and Ross, see the Orderly Book, and Creswell, is to remain there; so that there will be seven of use, beside Major Ross.” [Cobley, 1789-1790: p.154]
Sunday, 28th February [1790]
Clark: “By the Battn orders of this day I see on board what ships we are to embark for Norfolk. On board the Sirius, with the Commanding Officer, 1st Lieut Kellow, Johnstone and Clark, and 2d Lieut Ross. On board the Supply Capt Lieut Johnstone and 2d Lieut Faddy. Major [155] Ross asked in what ship I should wish to goe. I told in that ship he went in. He said that is the ship I should wish you to goe in.” [Cobley, 1789-1790: p.154]
Wednesday, 3rd March [1790]
Easty wrote: “Major Ross with Captn Lieut G Jonstone first Lieuts Kellow, J Jonstone and Clarke and 2d Lieuts faddy and Ross with 3 Serjts 4 Corpls 3 drums and 46 privts Embarked on bord the Sirous and Supply to Join first Lieut Creswel and 1 serjt and 14 privt now Doing Duty att Norfolk.”
Bradley: “Received on board the Sirius Major Ross, 4 Lieuts, 2 Serj, 2 Corpls, 2 Drums and 20 private Marines: The Supply received 1 Captain, 1 Lieut, 2 serjeants, 2 corporals and 26 private.” [Cobley, 1789-1790: p.158]
The ‘P.’ at the beginning of the sentence in question indicates that it was uttered by Dawes’s teenage informant Patyegorang.
‘yenyában’ can be analysed yan-ya-ban, in which ‘yan’ means ‘go’ and ‘-ya’ is a past tense indicator. The meaning of the suffix -ban is unclear, but the sentence suggests that it is a bound pronoun for ‘they-two’. However, the suffix -ban also occurs in several other examples which throw doubt on this interpretation. Nevertheless, for the present review of ‘yela’ -ban can be taken to signify ‘they-two’.

yila: a pronoun?
Could ‘yela’ be a pronoun?  Consider the following examples, especially the second column.  Given that early list compilers often either did not hear, or did not know how to record, an initial ng- sound, ‘yela’ written by Dawes might well have in reality been ‘ngyila’, ‘nyila’ or similar. Pronoun possibilities abound in the Sydney region, and elsewhere.

ngyílu =
"We three only"
we-all only  :
Dawes (b) [b:27:6] [BB]

nyila =
"this (agent) (past & future]"
this fellow  :
Mathews DWL 1901 [:140:10.3] [Dwl]
[many examples];
nyili =
"If the individual represented by the pronoun is doing some act, nyilli is used "
this fellow  :
Mathews DWL 1901 [:140:8.1] [Dwl]
 [many examples];
nyila =
"[we sit (excl.)]"
we-all  :
Mathews GGA 1901 [:154:16.1] [Gga]
[30 examples]
waba-lu-nyili =
"We all [are beating each other]"
beat  RECIP we-all:
Mathews 8006/3/7- No 7 [:99:5] [Gga/Ngwl]
 [4 examples]
ngiyin =
"the plural pronoun, we."
we-all  :
Tkld/Frsr AWA Spec Dial (G.) [G:135:10] [Awa]

-nyang =
"[We-all] [pl, incl.]"
we-all  :
Mathews 8006/3/7- No 7 [7:75:10.2] [Dark]

"[Ngullea bondillittanyang]"
ngaliya =
"[We are eating]"
we-two  :
Mathews 8006/3/7- No 7 [7:77:3.1] [Dark]

 But if ‘yela’ were a pronoun, the above examples suggest the translation of the sentence would need to be one of:
—Faddy we-two Clark went to Norfolk Island
—Faddy this/that (fellow) Clark went to Norfolk Island
It could hardly have been ‘we-two’, because Patyegorang was talking about others, and not ‘we’. So the demonstrative pronoun ‘this/that’ might be considered a possibility.
yila: meaning ‘with’?
Dawes gives the translation ‘with’, and indeed in Aboriginal languages a suffix occurs termed ‘comitative’, meaning ‘in company with’—which could apply in this case. (There are other uses of ‘with’, one being known as ‘instrumental’ as in ‘I hit him with a stick’.) Unfortunately there do not appear to be any examples in the Sydney language records of a comitative suffix—other than possibly this one of going to Norfolk Island ‘with’ Faddy/Clark.
Languages of the region do have examples of comitative ‘with’; but they are regrettably few (in Wiradhuri), and while plentiful to the north and south of Sydney, all instances look nothing at all like ‘yila’.
yila: as an adverb?
Several ‘yila’-type records were found in Kamilaroi, as an adverb. These looked promising. The following are a few examples:

yila =
AL&T Greenway (Ridley) [KML] [:242:11] [KML]
yila =
"then (at once)"
recently  soon:
KAOL Ridley [KML] [:35:27] [KML]
yila =
"soon: often used before this tense of the verb [future]"
soon  :
KAOL Ridley [KML] [:8:23.1] [KML]
yila =
soon  :
Mathews KML/Dwl [:268:2.2] [KML]
yilada =
now  :
AL&T Greenway (Ridley) [KML] [:241:6.1] [KML]
yiladu =
now  :
Mathews KML/Dwl [:268:2.1] [KML]
yilamba =
"Before long, or not long ago"
presently  just now:
AL&T Greenway (Ridley) [KML] [:242:12] [KML]
Here is ‘yila’ as an adverb of time: just a little ahead or behind the present — so either ‘presently’ or ‘just now’. In pursuing this line of enquiry your researcher uncovered two adverb-of-time examples from Wiradhuri, featuring the closely related ‘yala-’:

yalul =
always  :
Günther WIRA (Fraser) [:107:38] [WIRA]
"[Ngindu yallabul wibiagirri]"
yalabul =
"[you shall sit down always]"
always  :
Günther WIRA (Fraser) [:110:36.1] [WIRA]

And to the south of Sydney, ‘yila’ appeared to crop up once again as an adverb, but of place rather than time:

yilanga-dyin =
"Behind me"
behind  me:
Mathews 8006/3/5 -5 [:128:31] [Dwl]
yilanga-li =
last  :
Mathews DWL 1901 [:149:25.2] [Dwl]
Finally, a trace of a 'yila' lookalike was encountered to the north, in the Gadang language north of Newcastle:

yalidin =
after  :
Enright GDG 1900 [:114:29] [G:dg]

So, in conclusion, what does ‘yela’ mean in the sentence:
Mr Faddy yéla Mr Clark yenyában Norfolk Island
Given that Dawes translated it in the past tense:
Mr Faddy with Mr Clark went to Norfolk Island

it would seem that rather than as ‘presently’, ‘yila’ might in fact be translated as ‘just now’, or ‘recently’. And certainly not as ‘with’.

[JS: Tuesday 11 October 2011]


Anonymous said...

Grandfather i think you have done a wonderful job at this website and i would like to know more about these Aboriginal words.


Anonymous said...

Good work, it's very interesting, and I hope you keep on going with this Aboriginal languages blog.If I ever need Aboriginal languages for an assignment,I'll know where to look.

Cameron :)

Marianne said...

And then there is Yellowin down near Talbingo which was a place for coroborree. I think it may be 'sit' there are so many words for sit that sound like this...and that's what you do when you are having a 'get together'.

Tiffany Barton said...

Hi! Thanks for your wonderful blog! I' writing a monologue for schoolkids about a Gadigal woman and I need to find Cadigal words for Hello, white fella and crazy. Can you help me out? Also do you know the name of the dream spirit that created the Sydney Harbour? You can email me at tiffbar35@gmail.com