01 July 2012


When reviewing Wiradhuri records made by Archdeacon James Gunther around 1837, your database compiler chanced upon:

yarba-ra =
"to dig, scrape with the spade."
dig  :
Günther (Fraser) [:108:31] [Wira]
This called to mind a Threlkeld entry from Awabakal (or the Hunter River language), which was then found:

yarba-li-gu =
"to saw ..."
saw  :
Tkld/Frsr AWA 1892 [:101:27] [Awa]
yarba-la =
"saw (mandatory): do saw"
saw IMP! :
Tkld/Frsr AWA 1892 [:101:34] [Awa]
"yarr-bulli kolaġ"
yarba-li-gulang =
"to be about to saw  [about to be sawing]"
saw ing about to :
Tkld/Frsr AWA 1892 [:101:28] [Awa]
yarba-li-ngil =
"the sawing-place; a saw-pit"
saw ing place :
Tkld/Frsr AWA 1892 [:101:32] [Awa]
In fact there were several more , with variations of yar... meaning ‘to saw’.
The full entry for the first item in the above group is:

yarba-li-gu =
"to saw [‘to be in the act of causing by its own act the sound of yarr’; or, in English, ‘to saw’]"
saw  :
Tkld/Frsr AWA 1892 [:101:27] [Awa]
The Rev. Lancelot Threkeld has taken ‘yar’ to be the indigenous best effort of capturing the English word ‘saw’, a logical-enough conclusion given that there is no /s/ in indigenous languages of the region.
However, the slight similarity between the actions of ‘digging' in the initial example to ‘sawing’ noticed by Threlkeld led to further enquiries concerning ‘yar’ words. There are a great number of these across the languages of south-eastern NSW, but when ‘repetitive action’ was looked for, the following were uncovered.


yara =
"to swim"
swim  :
Enright GDG 1900 [:114:83] [Gdg]
yaru-ma-ri =
swim  :
SofM 19000322 [28: Thomas–Clarence R] [:28.4:43] [Bjlg]
yaru-mi-la =
"To swim"
swim  :
SofM 19000922 [132.1 Rankin–Richmond Tweed R] [:134.1:65] [Bjlg]
yira =
swim  :
Mathews NGWL [:305:41] [Gga/Ngwl]
"[Boó-roo yar´-râ-min, gool-ân´-doo yar´-râ-moó-goo-moon]"
yara-mi-n =
"[kangaroo swims, at sometime swims not]"
swim   he:
M&E: GGA 1900 [:273:27.2] [Gga]
"[Boó-roo yar´-râ-min, gool-ân´-doo yar´-râ-moó-goo-moon]"
yara-mugu-mu-n =
"[kangaroo swims, at sometime swims not]"
swim  not he:
M&E: GGA 1900 [:273:27.4] [Gga]

yurba-ra =
"to nod in sleep, to be sleepy."
nod  [sleepy]:
Günther (Fraser) [:109:58] [Wira]
yurba yurba =
nod  nod [sleepy]:
Günther (Fraser) [:109:59] [Wira]

yara =
"To sharpen the points of a muting or fish gig"
sharpen  :
Dawes (b) [b:23:22.1] [BB]
yuru-l-ba-ra-dyu =
"I am sharpening the tyi bong (by rubbing it on a stone)"
sharp do I:
Dawes (b) [b:23:20.1] [BB]

yara-d-ba-ga =
flutter  fly I:
Mathews DGA 1901 [:72:54] [DGA]
yari-mi-li-ma-ny =
"to fly"
flutter  he:
Mathews 8006/3/7- No 7 [:22:23] [Gga]

yara-ra-ndya =
spread  :
Mathews DGA 1901 [:73.1:1] [DGA]
yaragal =
clean  :
Dawes (b) [b:23:21] [BB]
yara yara =
"ever flowing"
flow ing :
SofM 18960912 [12.2 JJB-Narrandera] [:12.3:64] [Wira]
yara-ba-yi =
"creaking, as shoes"
creak  as shoes:
Günther (Fraser) [:108:51] [Wira]
yara-da-na =
"to beat on the bargan, q.v."
clack  :
Günther (Fraser) [:108:39] [Wira]
yara =
"Birds singing"
chirp  :
SofM 19010321 [26 Thomas–Wiraiari] [:26.3:2] [Wira]
The second (respelt) column gives words spelt yar-, yur- and yir-. The variations can be ascribed to different hearing by different recorders, and to the spellings those recorders used. It is plausible to assume that, say, ‘yar-’ with an audible /r/ as in say ‘yarba’ and ‘yurba’, indicated repetition.
Some of the examples have the syllable ‘-ba’ attached. This is a suffix indicating ‘do’, as was suggested in ‘Five verbal suffixes’ of March 2012 in the naabawinya blog [“-ba and -ma do not appear to be ‘status suffixes’ but rather stem-forming suffixes, indicating ‘do’ and ‘make’ ”
Dig, saw, swim, nod, sharpen, flutter (fly), as well as spread, (to) clean, flow, creak, clack and chirp all are repetitive actions.
As to the word ‘flutter’, it was used simply to distinguish the verb ‘to fly’ from the insect ‘fly’. The need for an alternative word to distinguish similar forms occurs from time to time, producing occasional oddities. So the alternative for ‘bark’ (of a tree) is ‘woof’ (for what dogs do). And ‘light’ (such as given by a torch) is distinguished by ‘lite‘ — an admittedly invented spelling to indicate ‘not-heavy'.
Sometimes English lacks convenient words, where there is no such problem in Australian languages. For example: young man, young woman, old man, old woman. There are also words for boy, girl and child, but English has these ready equivalents. The Bayala Databases have opted for:

young man
young woman
old man
old woman
For the last two, ‘crone’ and ‘codger’ were considered but rejected as being pejorative in tone. ‘Patriarch’ and ‘matriarch’ are not right either, but they are not offensive.
If anyone can think of better solutions, they can leave suggestions as a response to this blog entry. They would be welcome.
Sunday 1 July 2012

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