reading revival 2

the first sequel. reading revival 2 reads ngarla songs by alexander brown & brian geytenbeek: a collection of 20C indigenous songs translated from ngarla into english. for previous revival incarnation hit link below.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

more from brian g

By all means, share whatever bits you wish on the blog! Languages are fascinating things, and people who enjoy reading probably also enjoy thinking about the numerous different ways in which human beings can couch their thoughts in other languages. Especially when other people's world-views are quite different from our own. The anthropological rule-of-thumb is that, "It's not wrong to be different."

(The only exception to that would be where a culture's moral standards are in serious conflict with God's. But whose isn't?! That's why he gave us the Bible, to alert us to the fact, and encourage us to do something about it.)

Incidentally, I forgot to mention last night that in Aboriginal languages in the Pilbara the pronouns do not include any gender distinction. In each language, they have just one pronoun where English has three: "he, she, it"; "his, hers, its"; "to/for him, to/for her, to/for it".

Many Aboriginal people in the Pilbara who are still switching over to speaking English have not yet learned to make the 3-way distinction, and so far have latched onto just the one form "he" and use that for all three. Thus those speakers will commonly refer to women and to things as "he". "See that woman over there. I've gotta marry his daughter." As the years go by and their control of English gets better they start to build in the extra forms.

Ngarla is an exception with regard to the "to/for him, to/for her, to/for it" set. Instead of just one form for those, Ngarla dual and plural pronouns ("those two" and "those three or more") have two, a weak one and a strong one. And for just the 1st, 2nd and 3rd person singular it has three, which I am currently calling "weak, medium and strong".

I don't know why it has these extra forms. I haven't worked it out, and may never be able to do so. But then, my job as a linguist is not to tell a language what it can or can't do. My job is to find out what it actually does do. And then hopefully describe what it does in a non-technical way that Aborigines literate in English can understand and enjoy and benefit from.

In contrast to the Pilbara languages, Bandjalang, that my wife and I worked on in NSW in the 1960s, had 4 noun classes: masculine, feminine, neuter, and trees.

Best wishes,



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