Gurrubuu ngaragay.

Another year.

Happy New Year;

Staff at Winanga-Li Aboriginal Child and Family Centre asked: How do we say: Happy New Year in Gamilaraay?

Answer: There is no simple answer, but many answers. My suggestions, in order of preference, are given below. An approximate English translation is given for Gamilaraay phrase. Only approximate, because gaba has many more meanings than English ‘good’, and similarly for gayaa and ‘happy’. Some discussion follows the list. Ultimately people using the language will decide what they want to say.

Gurrubuu gaba. [year good]

Gurrubuu gayaa. [year happy]

Gurrubuu-wadhaay gaba. [year-hope good]

Gurrubuu burranbaa gayaa. [year new happy]

Gayaa gurrubuu burranbaa. [happy year new]

Burranbaa gurrubuu gayaa. [new year happy]

Answer 1. Just map the English.

Often the first tendency, when translating, is to look up the dictionary, find words, and put them in English word order. This assumes that Gamilaraay is very like English. The dictionary has: ‘happy’ [gayaa]; ‘new’ [burranbaa, yilaan.gaal YY (Yuwaalayaay), guliyaan YR (Yuwaalaraay), nhuubala GR (Gamilaraay)] and ‘year’ [gurrubuu]. For ‘year’ we need to go to the dictionary supplement [here], since no Gamilaraay Yuwaalaraay (GY) word was recorded for ‘year’. In fact, GY probably did not have such a word.

Burranbaa is related to the verb burranba-li ‘change’. Yilaan.gaal probably related to yilaa ‘short time’; nhuubala is perhaps a mixture of English [new-fellow] and the YR suffix -bala. I looked up the source for guliyaan [information that is not in the dictionary]. It says: There is a story about Oxley coming to the area – it uses ‘guliyaan’ which may mean ‘strange, strange people or new’. Form is uncertain. One source. So probably none of these words means exactly what English ‘new’ means, but we could choose one, say burranbaa.

Word order. In general Aboriginal language word order is quite different from English word order. Most well-preserved Aboriginal languages have adjectives after the noun. But these languages also have a tendency to put the most important information first. So, if using gurrubuu, gayaa and burranbaa, we could say:

Gurrubuu burranbaa gayaa. Or, if you wanted to emphasise ‘happy’:

Gayaa gurrubuu burranbaa. Or, to emphasise ‘new’:

Burranbaa gurrubuu gayaa.

Answer 2. Do you want Gamilaraay to be modeled on English?

If not, then some other languages have alternatives. French say: Bonne année [good year], which suggests the Gamilaraay Gurrubuu gaba. Or maybe Gamilaraay could come up with something that reflected traditional ways of doing things rather than English ways. If someone did, then the next task is to tell people.

With a constantly spoken language new words and phrases spread by being used, by being spoken and written. For example ‘mobile phone’, ‘google’, ‘climate emergency’. As Gamilaraay is spoken and written more, a Gamilaraay phrase, or a number of phrases, may well become the common equivalent of ‘Happy New Year’.

Gurrubuu-wadhaay gaba. This uses the common suffix -wadhaay, which, as far as we can work out, means something like ‘I hope this happens but I don’t have control of things’. It is sometimes translated ‘please’. In this context a better translation is ‘I hope’.

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