January 11, 2012

Mums and aunties (if only it were that simple)

Hi everyone!

So I'm in Canberra at the moment trying to be a studious linguist and get this PhD done. I have my mid-term review coming up where I'll be giving a seminar about words you use in Marra and Kriol to talk about family (kinterms).

Can I just say, unequivocally, that Marra people have an amazingly complex way of talking about their family. I mean, I'm not surprised by this as Marra people, like all Aboriginal people, place so much importance on family and maintaining family relationships. But still, I'm slightly blown away by the kin terminology Marra people use. To demonstrate this, I'll try and explain how Marra people would talk about people who in English, we'd call mum or aunty:

So, if I was speaking Marra and wanted to call out to my mum or talk about my mum, I'd use the word gajirri. I'd also use this word if I was calling out to or talking about any of my mum's younger sisters. If I was calling out to or talking about my mum's big sisters, I'd need a different word: ngajamu. In English,  ngajamu would be my aunty. But, my father's sisters - who I'd also call aunty in English - are not my ngajamu or gajirri, but I'd call them barnarna.

So we have three words here:

gajirri (mother, mum's little sisters)
ngajamu (mum's big sisters)
barnarna (dad's sisters)

However, if I wanted to talk about the people that are *your* mother, mother's little and big sisters or your dad's sisters, I need different words:

bibi (your mother and her little sisters)
jamulmarr (your mother's big sisters)
marrimarr (your dad's sisters)

Then, if we're talking about someone else's mother, mother's sisters or dad's sisters, we need different words again:

garrnya (someone else's mother and her little sisters)
jamulnganja (someone else's mum's big sisters)
marringanja (someone else's dad's sisters)

Phew! And these are just nine of the 100 or so different kinterms used in the Marra language. Crazy and awesome.

P.S. Hi mum! :-)

1 comment:

Salt said...

my name is Amy Salter. I'm currently studying my HSC in NSW. I've been reading through your blog and I find a lot of what you have to say very interesting. I chose to comment on this post in particular as I found it very intriguing. One of the subjects I'm studying is Society and Culture. For this subject I have to complete a Personal Interest Project (PIP). My PIP is a topic entirely of my own choice on something that I wish to research. The topic I've chosen to research is 'The validity and importance of bilingual education in remote Indigenous communities within the NT' I would love to be able to speak to you about the education of Indigenous children and hear your thoughts. Although it may seem like "just some school project" it's something I'm very passionate about and is an area that I am considering pursuing at the completion of my HSC. Thankyou for taking your time to read this and I would greatly appreciate it if you could email me at: amyls94@hotmail.com