Tandanya is the Kaurna name for Adelaide. 

I was finally able to get on the internet today after a few days of suffering email and blog-stat withdrawal symptoms. Except it’s not the high-speed wireless broadband that I envisaged. Rather it’s a university access lab that reminds me of what it was like to be a student again – without the concession transport rates.

This morning was the official start of the ALS conference after yesterday’s start of the ILC conference, and so far it’s been full of brilliant and interesting talks from various people working on various indigenous languages, more often than not, their own languages. Two of the more memorable talks so far have been Phil Cash Cash’s discussion of the documentation of placenames in his people’s country, the Southern Columbia Plateau, and Te Haumihiata Mason’s presentation of the arduous work involved in producing the first adult monolingual dictionary of Maori¹. These presentations, among others, should soon be available from the ALS/ILC website.

It’s shaping up to be a very topical and political gathering as well, since many people here are directly affected by the government’s intervention plan. Not only linguists and language workers whose projects are going to suffer as a result of radically less funding opportunities, but also delegates from communities from all over the country, who have embraced this gathering, held on Kaurna country, by the way, and have demonstrated support for people working on indigenous languages not only in Australia, but other parts of the world too.

It’s also been a little bit of a blogging fest, with I think most of Australia’s linguist bloggers all in the one location. We have Jane Simpson, Claire, Wamut, Bulanjdjan, Hooch and Sophie and I believe a couple of us were even meeting for the first time offline.

Annoyingly, I haven’t been able to access my newer email account, the one at the recently acquired matjjin-nehen.com, because the host (hoster?) doesn’t have a web-based email access system set up yet. So apologies if I’m missing anything.

That’s all for now since I’m only able to get to a computer by sacrificing my morning tea break, which means foregoing coffee. So consider yourself lucky!


¹This computer won’t let me run the character map, and I can’t find the bar-A using alt combinations.


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.

I’ve been here for well over a week now, and I can’t say I’m quite jubilant about how things have been going thus far, especially last week. Although, I suppose it makes it difficult when there’s a total of 5 speakers that I’ve ever met. Adding to that the fact that one of them has moved to Darwin, another is not a native speaker, the third is notorious for being difficult to work with and even to be around, the fourth never stops humbugging you for money and the fifth has been too sick to want to do any work with me, and I’m his brother!