This is a general appeal to anyone who knows a little bit of Kunwinjku, even just the basics. And it’s no use hiding, I know you exist. My question is: what are the nominal roots for ‘here’ and ‘there’?

I ask because the album I wrote about last week, Wurrurrumi Kun-Borrk, which jointly won the Northern Land Council’s 2007 Traditional Music Award (and can be bought online, by the way), includes extensive cultural and linguistic notes, such as the lyrics in Kunwinjku/Kuninjku¹ and their rough English translations. However, as I have been reading through the lyrics and translations several times while listening to it, I’ve noticed a small discrepancy.

Konda is translated in a few instances as ‘here’, ‘this way’ or roughly anything to do with the deictic centre, while kure is given as ‘there’, ‘that side’, etc. For instance:

Konda nuk ngandi-bawong
They have deserted me (I suspect this is literally ‘they have left me here’)

Kure karri-re
Let’s all go over there

But in other songs, konda and kure are translated as ‘there’ and ‘here’ respectively, exactly the opposite.

Kure-beh kam-re konda-beh ka-re
She comes and goes

Kurebeh yi-kolkmen kondabeh nga-kolkmen
You chop (with your axe) on this side and I’ll chop the other side

I don’t intend to criticise this album in the slightest, I think it’s a brilliant production, not only musically, but also culturally and linguistically. And I’m not just saying that because the producer is my boss, I really do like it. Murray Garde has done an excellent job with the cultural notes that accompany each song, which make listening to this album and reading the lyrics and the cultural background to each song a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Furthermore, Djimarr’s singing is almost transcendent, and the rhythm and metre of the clapsticks is quite metronomic (as even an innocent bystander remarked to me on the bus). I really don’t want to assume any mistakes have been made here, so I’ll allow for the possibility that Kunwinjku has some quirky deictic referentiality going on.

So, any ideas?


¹I’m not sure of the difference exactly. The notes in the CD’s front-matter suggest that Eastern Kunwinjku is the ‘language’ as such, and Kuninjku, also the name of Djimarr’s clan, is his particular lect.