September 06, 2017

Sociolinguistic concepts through popular culture, Part 1: drag queens and how 'no two speakers are identical'

I am currently teaching sociolinguistics. Most lectures, I have found ways to illustrate key points and concepts with short online videos - usually stuff from TV shows, YouTube and other things. It's an effort to co-opt things I already enjoy and am familiar with to make sociolinguistics and lectures fun. After all, "when all is said and done, we study sociolinguistics because it is fun" (Meyerhoff 2011: 4)

So, in the name of fun, I'd like to share the videos and corresponding sociolinguistic concepts I've been using in my lectures. Others might enjoy and learn from them too. Here's part one.

Key concept: Sociolinguistics is about individuals. No two speakers have the same language.

Concept in more detail: Societies consist of individuals, none of whom are exactly the same. We shouldn't forget this when we study sociolinguistics. In Hudson's introductory textbook, he says:

"The individual speaker is important in sociolinguistics in much the same way that the individual cell is important in biology: if we don't understand how the individual works, to that extent we shan't be able to understand how collections of individuals behave either. Moreover, there is an even more important reason for focussing on the individual in sociolinguistics, which does not apply to the cell in biology: we can be sure that no two speakers have the same language, because no two speakers have the same experience of language" (Hudson 1996: 10-11, original italics).

Exemplifying the concept: two drag queens (made famous by the reality TV show RuPaul's Drag Race), Trixie Mattel and Katya Zamolodchikova:



Trixie and Katya are both L1 American English speakers and both belong to American drag sub-culture. They appeared on the same series of RuPaul's Drag Race and now have a successful YouTube web series called "UNHhhh" (Caution - MANY adult themes! Audio is VERY not suitable for work. You could *maybe* get away with listening to it with headphones at work but it may still raise many eyebrows).

In UNHhhh, Trixie and Katya talk all kinds of rubbish (much of it absurdly hilarious and/or crude), loosely tied to a broad topic. When watching their videos, it is crystal clear that Trixie and Katya belong to the same speech community/community of practice. Far beyond simply speaking English the same way, they understand the same references that are understood not just by drag queens but, more specifically, by RuPaul Drag Race contestants. The first video below demonstrates this. They share references, get each others obscure jokes and finish each others sentences. The section to watch runs from 0:41 to 1:20 (that section is suitable for work, the rest isn't - timed link here):



In that excerpt, you hear them refer to Gia Gunn (a former RuPaul Drag Race contestant), mock her way of speaking, mock her career progression and, finally, utter 'you're welcome' in unison. Trixie and Katya appear to be two linguistic peas in a pod.

The second snippet from UNHhhh, however, shows how two linguistic peas in pods can still have a different experience of language, as per Hudson's idea above. In the second excerpt, a complete communication breakdown occurs over the term 'forensics'. They simply do not have the same understanding of the term. Katya is in disbelief at the semantics Trixie tries to convey, to the point where a third party has to intervene and the insult 'you dumb bitch!' is affectionately deployed. The section runs from 2:50 to 3:35 (timed link here):



And that is an example of how no two speakers have the same experience of language. I hope you enjoyed it one-tenth as much as I did doing the research and sourcing of data! :)

References

Hudson, Richard. 1996. Sociolinguistics. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.

Meyerhoff, Miriam. 2011. Introducing Sociolinguistics. 2nd edition. Routledge: London. 

March 12, 2017

The Bodhi Bus (is the best thing ever)

I recently spent a week in Ngukurr. It's the middle of the wet season and road access goes only to Roper Bar Store. After that point, two swollen rivers block the way. I flew into Ngukurr on the mail plane, which was awesome.

video


But how to get out?

The Bodhi Bus of course! Bodhi Bus provides a twice-weekly bus service between Ngukurr and Katherine, in the wet season as well as the dry. In the wet season, you pay a bit extra and get barged up the Roper River for about an hour and at the remote boat ramp, you are dutifully collected and then arrive safe'n'sound in Katherine via an air-conditioned bus.

Bodhi Bus' wet season drop-offs/pick-ups at Four Mile,
connecting with the barge trip up/down the Roper River.
I promise you, this blogpost is in no way sponsored by Bodhi Bus. I am just a fan. Not only does it service Ngukurr and the communities between there and Katherine, it goes all over the Katherine region - Bulman (incl Beswick), Lajamanu (incl Kalkaringi), Borroloola, Wyndham (incl Timber Creek, Kununurra), Tennant Creek (incl Elliott) and Darwin too (including a stop at Darwin Airport).

Passengers are, I'd say, 95% Aboriginal. On my bus the other day, there were two other munanga on and about 15-20 non-munanga. We all had different reasons to travel. Some got off at Jilkminggan or Mataranka to go home or visit family. One woman with a disability was off to Darwin for a meeting with the Machado Joseph Disease Foundation before going to bible college for study. Others travel to go to appointments in Katherine, return from or go to hospital, attend training, go shopping, or just have a break from community life and/or have a drink or three.

In my experience the drivers are all considerate and flexible. For example, on our trip, we were in no rush and stopped to buy food at Roper Bar Store and at Mataranka. And the passenger with a disability got dropped at her accommodation in Katherine instead of the designated bus stop. It's an impressive service.

But the reason I find all of this so great is because I remember Ngukurr life before the Bodhi Bus existed and can appreciate the difference it makes. I remember the stress that was placed upon individuals and organisations who were travelling between Katherine and Ngukurr and the pressure that was put upon drivers to take extra passengers. For a munanga outsider like me, it was hard to manage - requests for lifts would often start at the start of a week if people knew you were leaving that weekend. And how to figure out priorities? Does so-and-so really need to get to hospital or attend that funeral or are they just keen to get to town to have a drink. This stress was constant. Now that the Bodhi Bus exists, there is less stress for both would-be passengers and for vehicle owners/drivers alike.

However, this post isn't just about me selfishly rejoicing that I'm humbugged less. By now you've probably heard of Social Determinants of Health and know that they're a thing. They determine who is affected by social disadvantage and who gets relegated to the fringes of society. Transportation is a known factor, particularly so for rural and remote people. This is mentioned by the Rural Health Information Hub where they discuss the importance of:
Access to safe and affordable transportation, which can impact both job access and healthcare access. Unsafe transportation, such as vehicles in poor condition, may increase risk of injury.
The safety and risk of injury point is a very important one too as, tragically, everyone in Ngukurr knows multiple people who have died on the Roper Highway over the years.

So thumbs up to the Bodhi Bus. A commercial enterprise that is also (inadvertently or not) a social enterprise, making life in the bush that little bit better and more equitable for some of our most remote and disadvantaged citizens. Keep up the great work!

(Edit/correction: just learned that Bodhi Bus is actually a not-for-profit organisation. Which doesn't make it any less or more great in my eyes)

January 20, 2017

These Kriol interviews make me smile

I'm knee-deep in transcribing Kriol interviews that I did last year for this Kriol Proujek, being ably assisted by some Summer Research Scholars from UQ and, before Christmas, some Kriol-speaking language workers from Ngukurr. (See here for a neat little story about their work).

Pretty regularly, while transcribing, I smile, laugh and really enjoy some of the chat I hear. The lovely examples are endless really. The recordings are just wonderful (in my humble opinion).

I won't go into a lot of detail (or share any examples that might be a bit too personal or identifiable), but here's one that made me giggle this afternoon, when I transcribed the part of the interview where I asked two young guys if they use a regionalised term for 'scavenge': gubarl:

Q: Yu sabi det 'gubarl'?
A: Yuwai! Ai oldei gubarlgubarl grawun faibsen burru eberriwe la grawun!

Q: Do you know (the word) gubarl?
A: Yeah! I'm always 'gubarl'-ing the ground (for) five cents, from everywhere on the ground!

[giggling ensues]

I don't know... maybe you had to be there, but I lolled. The enthusiasm behind the answer was not what I was expecting!

Moral of the story - Kriol is fun and sociolinguistic interviews are fun too.


January 10, 2017

Language Matters - a review (thanks Qantas!)

I managed to have a proper holiday and went to Perth for a few days, switching off entirely from work and linguistics which was much needed. Flying back to Darwin though, I had the most pleasurable easing back into the world of languages when I happened across the doco Language Matters on my little back-of-the-chair Qantas Inflight entertainment screen.

Look who's on my Qantas flight!
Nick Evans in Language Matters
I was aware of Language Matters but I'd also kinda forgotten about it. Filmed in 2013 , it was made for PBS (Public TV) in America and I don't actually know anyone who has seen it. The only reason I knew of it was because it features my at-the-time PhD supervisor Nick Evans and I remember him talking about it (see also this mention in an old ANU newsletter). So what a pleasant surprise to be reminded of its existence by Qantas and then be able to spend the next two hours watching it while zooming over Australia.

It turns out, Language Matters is wonderful. It's a documentary triptych, if you will: three panels comprising Warruwi (Goulburn Island, off the Arnhem Land coast), Wales and Hawai'i. Each panel conveys the importance of language to culture and identity. Each panel stoically damning hegemonic monolingualism and each panel explores language loss, maintenance and revitalisation. But while these themes are very familiar to linguists, the documentary does more then skim the surface and provide familiar tropes. On Warruwi, for example, we don't just talk to the elder who knows of languages no-one else does and the linguist working with him. We see families performing dance and song on the beach. Meet the local teacher who uses three languages to support students. Check in on the church and the local radio. Talk to a musicologist and a sociolinguist. The range of contexts and participants in Language Matters makes it constantly interesting and the specifics of each place enrich their documentary further.

Nancy Ngalmindjalmag and Ruth Singer were also on my flight!
On Goulburn Island, Language Matters normalises multilingualism, meeting several islanders with complex-yet-distinct linguistic repertoires. But we also learn about languages that have been lost and see the efforts of community members and researchers to prolong languages in various stages of vulnerability. And - bonus! - it was a lovely surprise to see linguists I know on Qantas inflight entertainment!

The through-line offered by narrator/producer Bob Holman (a prominent US author) is the exploration of song, poetry and performance across the three locations. The songs sung by Goulburn Islanders are echoed in the poems, stories and songs of the Welsh, where we see how Welsh language maintenance happens on prestigious stages like the National Eisteddfod and in poetry-as-public-art on Cardiff's Millenium Centre.

Cardiff's Millenium Centre: vertically, it displays monolingual verses in English and Welsh.
Horizontally, the words create bilingual verse.

The Welsh story introduces politics and protest. Most prominent is the description of the flooding of a small village, Capel Celyn. I hadn't heard the story before. Language Matters details how the flooding of the village, for Liverpool's water needs, catalysed Welsh national movements which also included language activism. The person interviewed describes nicely how after decades of tolerating English oppression, the flooding of the village clearly symbolised to the Welsh just how far down the ladder their interests lay with the English. Activism built a movement that has since seen Welsh language revitalisation become one of the most successful revitalisation efforts in the world.

Not far behind are the Hawai'ians. Early non-Hawaiian residents had a positive impact, when missionaries introduced literacy in Hawai'ian and created possibly one of the most literate societies of the 1800s. American governance reversed the situation. Colonisation, associated policies and a need to survive led to a swift demise of Hawai'ian. Song and civil rights are again shown to create a strong revitalisation movement, beginning just in time for the last few dozen L1 Hawai'ian speakers to have significant input.

Language Matters tells stories that are familiar to all linguists and to many non-linguists. But rarely do we get such broad, first-hand access to a range of locations and people who tell these stories vividly and authentically. Bob Holman's infusion of song, poetry and verse as a linking device is a creative and effective one. Holman does well to portray himself as a student rather than expert so his central role is rarely overbearing. But for me, it is hearing first-hand from so many language activists, speakers, students and teachers that kept me engaged. Too often, linguistics as a discipline divorces language from language speakers. Language Matters keeps this inseparable relationship in perspective and takes viewers on great journeys to meet great people.

If you're lucky enough to be flying Qantas in the near future, keep an eye out for Language Matters on the documentary section of your inflight entertainment. Americans (or those with VPN) can watch it here: http://www.languagemattersfilm.com/ 


June 28, 2016

When Kriol signs go right - and when they go wrong

2016 sign at Rapid Creek (Source: Facebook)
When I shared this Kriol sign on Facebook as an example of a bad Kriol translation, a first language Kriol speaker commented:

Im nomo Kriol garjinga, bambai aibina sabi. 
Which means: 
It’s not Kriol for goodness sake, otherwise I would’ve understood it.

My thoughts exactly. And also the thoughts of every other Kriol speaker I know who has seen it.


Poorly translated signage isn’t uncommon. Everyone is familiar with the hilarity of Engrish. But when translation is just a commercial novelty, it doesn’t matter too much. However, when government departments seek out translation services, you can assume that it is for an important reason. And when that goes wrong, it is more serious and more embarrassing. My favourite example of this is an English sign emailed off to be translated into Welsh. The resultant sign features an ‘Out Of Office’ auto-reply message in Welsh!

Out of office message in Welsh ends up on roadsign
(Source: BBC News)

Kriol, as the most widely spoken language in the NT after English, is one of the main languages that people in the Top End seek out translation services for. There are a few examples of good Kriol signs around, such as this old one as you enter Barunga:


This one as you enter Minyerri:


And this sign raising awareness of weeds:

 
There are challenges to providing translation services in Kriol. Firstly, while Kriol has a standard spelling system - courtesy mostly of the Bible translation work - it is not widely known (and not taught in any schools). Secondly, Kriol does vary from place to place so spellings are often altered to reflect localised pronunciations. Thirdly, translation is not something that can be done by anyone who knows two languages. It is a professional skill that requires training and experience before it can be done well.

The Kriol signs above have been done very well. More commonly, I see Kriol signs that are good attempts but have a few things that I would probably fix up if I wanted to be really picky. But, given the challenges I mentioned above, leeway should always be given. Take for example, this sign at Ngukurr Pool, which I think is fantastic:



Notice on the sign that, while most of the words are in Kriol spelling, a couple aren’t, such as after. You can see that someone has made another correction themselves, trying to change longa (incorrect spelling) to langa (correct spelling). But these are minor issues. Overall, the sign makes sense and uses some excellent Kriol phrases (nomo pushumbat enibodi garbarra [sic] andanit – don’t push anyone’s head underwater) that you can’t help but like it.

But this sign, recently put up by, I believe, the Department of Primary Industries near Rapid Creek, is another kettle of (possibly toxic) fish.



It doesn’t take a linguist to note the obvious spelling inconsistencies. Some words are spelled in Kriol such as krik (creek), kreb (crab) and masul (mussel). A few are Kriol-looking words with English spelling influences, like eatem (in Kriol spelling: idim) and lunga (meaning in/at/on/to, spelled langa as already mentioned). And the rest is in ordinary English spelling. Given the mixed up spelling systems used, an obvious question should be – what language is this sign supposed to be in?

But the bigger issue is that it actually doesn’t make sense. At least not to any Kriol speakers I know (and I know a lot). 

Two phrases are particularly nonsensical. Wadrim trabul (presumably derived from ‘water-im trouble’) is not a thing that makes any sense to me and nothing I would ever say if I was on an interpreting job.

The weirder one is …lunga being looked at… This just makes no sense. La or langa (their ‘lunga’) is a preposition locating something in space, usually translating as in/at/on/to in English. So it translates to something like … ‘at being looked at’? Je suis confused. On top of that, the phrase ‘being looked at’ is not a structure you’d find in Kriol so I don’t know what it is doing there.

Sadly, despite the commendable gesture to provide signage in Kriol, this result is well below par. The apparent goal of the sign - to communicate a message in Kriol - has not been achieved. 

When I first saw this sign being shared on Facebook, I immediately questioned its quality, as did others. All Kriol-speaking contacts – Indigenous and non-Indigenous – were equally confused by it (Numu gud wan dunja dat sign braja - "that's not a good sign, brother" - wrote a Kriol-speaking mate from Ngukurr in imperfectly spelled but perfectly understandable Kriol).

So, in an effort to actually be helpful, I called the number on the sign to let them know that their sign is poorly made. The response from the Department of Primary Industries was surprising. Despite my professional advice that it is poorly made, they are standing by it. They told me the translation was done by Aboriginal Broadcasting and placed importance on the fact that it was done by Aboriginal people. Whether they have produced a translation that is actually communicatively useful seems to be a secondary concern. I tried to point out some of the above – that the inconsistent spelling is a clue to it being a poor translation and that all Kriol speakers I know who have seen it find it poor – but it made no difference. 

This is all a bit of an unfortunate shemozzle. It is disappointing that Aboriginal Broadcasting has apparently delivered poor quality language services and disappointing that the Department of Primary Industries were apparently not interested in addressing the poor work they had commissioned.

The message here is, find someone who has skills and experience in translation, not just someone who can take your money and do an efficient-but-ultimately-poor job. And yes, the provision of quality translation services in Aboriginal languages is difficult and may take longer than you expect, but if you try a bit harder, you can make it work.

Someone on Facebook posted the English version of the sign, and it took me about one minute to translate it into something that would make much more sense to all the Kriol speakers I know: 
La Mei en Jun, mela testimbat dijan woda bla meiksho im klinwan en seifwan. Nomo idim eni fish, kreb o masul, dumaji im maitbi nogud.


April 01, 2016

Kriol Proujek: update

So many weeks, so many communities, so many interviews but no updates on this blog since I got all excited about the start of my Kriol Proujek! Oops!

In case you're new here, I'm working on a research project trying to figure out dialects of Kriol. The plan is to visit all the communities east of Katherine where Kriol is spoken, interview people (asking the same questions each time) and work out what differs linguistically (and what doesn't) between communities. It's old fashioned dialectology basically - not very different from what people in England or America did when they went from state to state or village to village to lookout for different dialects. Except it's with Kriol.

Well, two and a half months in and the project is going really well. I've visited seven communities: Bulman, Beswick, Barunga, Jilkminggan, Minyerri, Urapunga and Borroloola and done twenty interviews involving 42 people. That means I now have about 40 hours of Kriol recordings to transcribe!

Driving into rain, on return from Borroloola (Carpentaria Hwy, March 2016)
In between, I went to Sydney for a week to share details about the project with others in the research centre I'm in: the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Languages, aka CoEDL. I presented a poster that described the project's background, methodology and a few early bits of information. You can check out the poster here.

Presenting my project poster at CoEDL Fest, Western Sydney University, Feb 2016
The interviews have overall gone extremely well, thanks to so many brilliant people who have volunteered to participate. Finding people has been pretty random. In some communities, I know quite a few people and that's a good starting place, so I've interviewed a few people I knew already. Other places, I've had to introduce myself to strangers and workout other ways to find people to interview, but it's usually worked out really well. It's been a surprise, but most of the people I've interviewed didn't know me from a bar of soap before the interview.

Part of the interview is a picture task. This is from an interview we did in a Minyerri backyard, Feb 2016 
And that's been really amazing - that a bunch of people have been happy to sit down for an hour or two and answer a stack of questions from a strange Kriol-speaking Munanga they've never met before. And to do it all in Kriol - a language that is not typically used between strangers, especially between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. So many of the interviewees have done a great job of using casual, local Kriol and rarely switching to English or English-ey Kriol. It says something about them as excellent research participants, but it must also say something about the benefits of being a good Kriol speaker. I must come across with sufficient authenticity/fluency that most people feel comfortable talking how they'd talk without Munanga around. And I'm a bit chuffed about that.

On top of that, many of the people I've interviewed have shared some great yarns, insights and personal stories. Some quite touching stories, some genuinely hilarious. Sometimes, I feel completely unworthy and humbled by the generosity and openness that a lot of people have shown me. Other times, I'm just happy and grateful. Okay, so it probably helps that they get a few bucks from the university for their participation, but it's not like it's a 10-minute job. These really are quite extended interviews these guys are doing.

Of course, not every interview has gone brilliantly, nor has every bush trip. None have been disastrous though, so overall, I'm feeling really positive about the progress.

And the info itself? Well... revelation after revelation basically. I've barely transcribed or gone over the recordings I've made yet so I can't say anything concrete about what I've been learning. But despite that, I have a growing list of variables - currently about 50 - that seem to be pretty obvious markers of different dialects within Kriol.

A variable isn't a word as such, but something that has different words or forms (called variants) with the same meaning or function. So, for instance, in Australia, 'plant' is a variable, that has the variants 'plahnt' and 'plent', depending on where you're from or how posh you are. A more famous variable in Australia is swimwear: how you'll say 'togs', 'cozzie', 'bathers' or 'swimmers', depending on where you're from.

In Jilkminggan, I was completely spoiled by a friend letting me stay with him in this great spot (Feb 2016).
In Kriol-speaking communities, there are some obvious and well known ones. I mentioned some in my last post, but more and more keep cropping up. Some are differences in pronunciation (aka phonological variation). In Beswick and Bulman, 'water' is pronounced woda but in Ngukurr it's wada or warra. That alternation between a and o is also reflected in the verb that describes rocking or cradling a baby or kid to quieten it down/put it to sleep: Beswick mob say worroworro but around the Roper, it's warrawarra.

Variation in pronunciation also seems to help people from Minyerri/Jilkminggan distinguish themselves from people from Ngukurr. People from all those places are usually said to speak just 'Roper Kriol', but there looks to be ways to break that down further. The verb for 'get' in Ngukurr is gajim, but I'm pretty sure I heard Minyerri mob and Jilkminggan mob say gejim or even gijim. In Barunga, Beswick and Bulman, you'll really only hear gedim.

Other times, variation is lexical - that is, a whole different word is used. Kinterms are particularly key here. For example, Beswickmob call their mother's elder sister mulah, but in Ngukurr, they're just your mami. But there are plenty of non-family related variables too. One I have only just learned about is the verb for 'accompany': some Beswick interviewees introduced the term balpbara to me, which I'd never heard before. When I was in Jilkminggan and Minyerri, I was told that they say marawi for the same thing. I'd never heard that word before either!

The examples just keep coming, and I haven't even started going over the recordings properly or done any careful analysis. I'm looking forward to that!

I have another few months to finish off the community visits and interviews - still a long way to go. But next week, I'm going back to UQ for a week so they remember what I look like.

Random selfie outside the new Beswick shop (March 2016).
In the meantime, stay tuned for more revelations. If you're interested, that is. I haven't been too sure what to do with this blog while I've been doing this project. On one hand, I could make this more of a journal, with posts every day or two. That'd be fairly easy to do because I'm usually learning and doing enough. On the other hand, does anyone care for that much info? Maybe I'll just aim for the occasional update when I feel like it. Happy for your thoughts on that... until next time...

January 29, 2016

Kriol Proujek: making a start

I don't often blog about what I get up to anymore. Too busy ranting about what other people are doing it seems! I never even blogged about finishing my thesis or getting a new job at the University of Queensland (as a Postdoc with the Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language). That was all last year though and I'm not going to go into that now. Instead, why not just pick up from where I am today, which is in Beswick community, listening to a raging wet season storm going on outside. It's night-time now but here's the view from my awesome accommodation this afternoon:


Today was the first day in which I started my new research project proper (that is, actually getting out and about and making recordings, rather than doing preliminary office-based stuff). My current project (which I'm just calling Kriol Proujek for now, for simplicity's sake) is an attempt to find out how Kriol is different in all the communities it is spoken in, east of Katherine.

Like any language, Kriol varies from place to place. Every Kriol speaker knows it and can tell you about it. Like English has Australian English, American English, British English and so on, Kriol has similar variation. And just like us English speakers can talk at length about what we say different to Americans or Poms, Kriol speakers can do the same. My project tries to capture that variation. Not too dissimilar to all the cool stuff that's been in the news lately about variation in Australia English, except that this project is smaller scale and on a different language.

So today I finally got started with making recordings and headed to Barunga, 70km from Katherine, where a team of local women are already working as language research assistants. They were a great help. Two women offered to sit down and go through a whole bunch of questions and ended up doing a 90-minute interview with me. So good! Except now it will take ages to go over such a long recording - the joys of sociolinguistic interviews.

I was pleased with my first interview. I tried to mix it up with sections of conversation, a bit of telling stories, a picture task that aims to obtain comparable stories across everyone I interview, questions about how they perceive and identify different Kriol dialects and also going over a few lists of words that I know are only used in some places. It worked well and didn't seem to be a mind-numbing experience for the women I interviewed.

A few tidbits of what I learned? Well I already guessed or knew some of the obvious differences. Key differences between Ngukurr Kriol (that I speak) and Barunga Kriol are the pronunciation of words for 'there' (jeya vs deya) and 'that one' (tharran vs darran) and different words used for 'eat' (dagat vs. idim) and listen (irrim vs lisin). But there were a bunch of things I didn't know. Like the word for cousin (cross-cousin, to be precise) - the women reported that they say gaj (derived from 'cuz' i.e. cousin). In Ngukurr, you'll hear kas, but not gaj. In Ngukurr, you'll also hear barn.ga but the women I interviewed said they don't say barn.ga. The four grandparent terms you hear in Ngukurr all the time: abija, amuri, abuji and gagu - for the young Barunga women it was just nena (nana) and grenpa.

My favourite new word I learned though was a non-English based verb, something I wrote a whole chapter on in my PhD thesis. When you look surreptitiously, or 'peep', Ngukurr mob will use the verb ngarra. Barunga mob know ngarra too, but have another word they use: roihroi (or royhroy - where the 'h' is a glottal stop). Who knew?! Well... obviously several hundred people around Barunga knew, but I didn't. Haha.

I only had time to do that one interview today in Barunga but it was a good start. I'm optimistic about being able to go back for a week or so and make myself more known to more people and do more interviews. It will be a case of rinse, cycle and repeat as I try and do this across the whole region east of Katherine. I'm in Beswick now and will aim to do two more interviews before heading back to Katherine. Next week, I'm going to Minyerri for a few days to do the same thing.

Wish me luck!