2022-07-14 (later slightly modified)
Below a translation request, a suggested answer, and discussion.
(The request came from Judi Morison, yinarr Gamilaraay, who has done Gamilaraay 1 and Gamilaraay 2 this year at ANU)
My cousin, Penny Evans, who you met at Myall Creek, is a well-known Gamilaroi ceramic artist & she has an exhibition coming up for which she’s making a collection of what are like digging sticks. She is calling the exhibition ‘Dig Deep’ or ‘Dig Deeper’ in English, with the title also intended to imply digging deep/er into identity/Country. She wants to have the title in Gamilaraay as well.
I’ve found mawu-gi – to dig, & gurruubaa – deep. Would ‘mawunga gurruubaa’ be a suitable translation? And is there a way of making the adjective comparative i.e. deeper?
Maarubaa for your help
Translation of metaphors.
One starting point is that Aboriginal often have very different ways of saying things from English and many other languages. For instance English (and many other languages) have expressions/metaphors including ‘heart’: soft hearted, broken hearted, heart leapt, etc.
In Australian Aboriginal languages heart is rarely used to express these realities, rather mubal (guts, stomach), wuru (throat) and other body parts are used. For instance the Gamilaraay Yuwaalaraay Dictionary has a number of ‘feeling phrases’ based on gana ‘liver’; ganagiil and gana walingay ‘sad’ (giil ‘piss’, walingay ‘out of place’, walindja-li ‘be lonely’), gana garraa ‘cranky’ (garraa maybe related to garra-li ‘cut’ and/or garran.garraan ‘constipated, stuck’), gana garranba-li ‘contradict’ (?from garra-li ‘cut’ and -ba-li ‘say’).
All of which is to say that we can create a phrase by looking up ‘dig’ and ‘deep’. It would be Gamilaraay words, but not a Gamilaraay phrase, as far as we know.
(It might help to give another example: ‘Hit the road’ in English means ‘go’. You can translate those 3 words into most languages, but the phrase will just mean ‘hit the road’, not ‘go’.)
So how would a traditional speaker would have translated ‘dig deeper’? Almost certainly in many different ways, depending on the context.
Below I discuss why dhu-rri ‘pierce’ was probably used traditionally with ganay ‘yamstick’ rather than mawu-gi ‘dig’, and why dhuwi ‘soul, human spirit, heart wood’ is appropriate in translating ‘dig deeper’.
Let’s look at ‘dig’. There is one word, mawu-gi, for ‘dig’ in the GYY dictionary. But the fact that it also translates ‘scratch’ clearly suggests it does not the same meaning is English ‘dig’.
[Wangaaybuwan language is closely related to Gamilaraay Yuwaalaraay, and we have a lot more information about Wangaaybuwan than GY. That information often suggests what traditional GY was like.]
A draft Wangaaybuwan dictionary has three words for ‘dig’.
balba-li is ‘dig’, but also scrabble (eg like a fox, with its claws). (with an uncommon use of the verb ‘scrabble’). Meanings that are similar to mawu-gi.
baga-li is also ‘dig’, but with no further information. The second part of the verb, -ga-li, means ‘pierce’, indicating a different action from balba-li.
gunungga-li ‘dig’ and ‘sew’, again with -ga-li, but with the first part, gunung- meaning ‘with energy’. One word meaning ‘dig’ and ‘sew’ is quite different from English.
It is quite likely that Gamilaraay Yuwaalaraay had, like Wangaaybuwan, quite a few words that would translate English ‘dig’ in different situations. It is quite likely that the type of action (piercing, and dragging/scratching are distinctions in the WN words) was important in determining which word to use.
All of the above suggests that mawu-gi ‘dig, scratch’, is not a good fit with ganay ‘yamstick’, but that a better verb is dhu-rri ‘pierce’. (And, quite likely not a coincidence, ganay begins with ga-, found in two of the Wangaaybuwan verbs.)
Again it would be possible to get a fairly literal translation of these English words, starting with gurruubaa ‘deep’. However the word dhuwi, which turns up many times in the GYY dictionary, may be a better way of conveying the meaning of the English. Dhuwi as a word is ‘soul, human spirit, heart wood’. It is, or probably is, part of other words
heart wood (noun)……………………. dhuwi GR
soul (noun)………………………………. dhuwi YR, YY, GR
spirit (human) (noun)………………… dhubayn YR
dhuwi YR, YY, GR
stick into (verb-transitive)…………. dhuwi-y YR, YY
remove (verb-transitive)……………. dhuwima-li YR, YY
take off (clothes) (verb-transitive). dhuwima-li YY
take out (verb-transitive)…………… dhuma-li GR
dhuwima-li YR, YY
gut (verb phrase)……………………….. mubal dhiyama-li YY
mubal dhuwima-li YR, YY
hide (plant) (verb-transitive)……… dhuwinba-li YR, YY
hide (self) (verb-intransitive)…….. dhuwinba-y YR
inside (noun)……………………………. dhuwi GR
mudhu YR, YY
reed warbler (clamorous) (noun)… dhuwigalinmal YR, YY
sparks (noun)……………………………. dhidhilan GR
sparks (belah wood) (noun)……….. murrguwidjuwii YR
ant (black) (noun)…………………….. dhuwiyuwiy YR, YY