NAIDOC Theme, 2018

A request on Facebook.
Hi John, is it possible to translate “Because of her, we can” – this year’s NAIDOC theme – to Gamilaraay? Thank you, Jo

Below is a possible ‘translation’ and then some discussion.

Gunidjarrbaadhi, warranggal ngiyani.
Female-from, powerful we.
“Because of her, we can”

The NAIDOC motto is dhirrabuu, great, and also a real challenge for translators.

Some general comments then working through the English words in order.

We are all familiar with wordlists: e.g. one word in Aboriginal language and a ‘corresponding’ word in English. They easily create the impression that a word in one language has an equivalent in another. Often not so. To take just one example, a word used in the translation.

Gunidjarr is ‘mother’ but in traditional use also meant mother’s sisters. And possibly woman’s daughters, since these were the same meat or skin as mother’s mother. Then there are expressions like gunidjarr mara ‘mother hand’ = ‘thumb’, which give further connotations to the word. So gunidjarr does share some meaning with ‘mother’ but is not the same as ‘mother’.

Some discussion now of the individual English words.

‘Because of’
A colleague at ANU told me of an article which discusses ‘(be)cause’ in Aboriginal/TSI languages – and the fact that this is not an easily translated concept. I have not read the article yet. In the Yuwaalaraay I have looked at there is nothing that jumps out as translating ‘because’. However the ‘from’ form (Ablative case) is used in some circumstances to indicate the cause of something.

Pronouns in Gamilaraay Yuwaalaraay, as is most?all ATSI languages do not distinguish male and female;
The closest to ‘because of her’ is ngurungundi [GR] nguungundi [YR] which would more commonly be translated ‘from him/her/it’. It is not feminine. So words like ngambaa/gunii ‘mum?mother’, yinarr ‘woman’, gunidjarr ‘mother’ and ‘female’ and gunidjarrbaa ‘female’ might be options.
The ‘from’/Ablative ‘from/because of the female’ is gunidjarrbaadhi.

There is no one word that translates this. The meaning is conveyed by the ‘present continuous’ form of the verb. E.g: ‘I can talk Gamilaraay’ is ‘Gamilaraay ngaya guwaaldanha‘ which is also translated as ‘I am talking Gamilaraay.’ An alternative is to indicate that ‘we’ are strong, powerful, e.g. using the adjective warranggal ‘powerful’.

ATSI languages generally have inclusive (including the person/s being spoken to) and exclusive (excluding the person/s being spoken to) pronouns. So, to translate, we need to know: who is ‘we’ and who(m) is being spoken to?

If the speakers and the audience are the same (ATSI people to ATSI people, or all Australians to all Australians) then ngiyani is gaba/good.

If the speakers are ATSI people and the audience is all Australians then ngiyaninya would be more accurate.

This sort of translation has many possible outcomes, none of them with the precise meaning and connotations of the original. Ideally it is done as a discussion, but that is not always possible. Translations are better as we learn more. At Myall Creek last Sunday, looking at the plaques, I saw many ways the translations (done in 2000) would be different today.

Madja for the delay. John Giacon 2018-06-17

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