January 13, 2011

45 years in a day - Marra's remarkable resilience

Today was a fairly average day for my fieldwork in Ngukurr. Average, yet remarkable.

Me and the Marra mob I work here with did two sessions today and did some good work on Marra. But just in those two short sessions, we spanned a 45-year period, exemplifying that the Marra language is actually being remarkably resilient given the sociocultural situation it finds itself in.

This morning BR, JJ and FR worked with me and I encouraged them to continue some Marra literacy and transcription practice. So we used an archived recording made in 1966 by Margaret Sharpe and Stanley Roberts. It's a great recording to listen to and use for transcription training. The words and sentences aren't too fast and complex and we get to chuckle and Margaret and Old Stanley's not-quite-perfect Marra and English skills. It's also great that such an old recording is lively again.

In the afternoon session, I had a go at doing my own elicitation session with FR and MT. BR and GB where there for back-up help too. It went well and went for just over an hour. Along with going over some sentences that I was curious about for my own Marra acquisition, I wanted to test out a few distinctive Kriol words and sentences and see how the old ladies interpret them into Marra.

For example, there's a lovely Kriol idiom imin gibit mijel which is derived from the English he/she gave herself but actually means he/she scrammed/ran off quickly. The Marra equivalent?

He gave himself / Imin gibit mijel

Cool! A nice parallel Marra/Kriol idiom.

Those old ladies told me lots more cool things in Marra this afternoon and at the end, I just couldn't help thinking how nice it is to be doing this sort of work in 2011, 45 years after Margaret Sharpe and Stanley Roberts sat down and did a similar thing.

So happy that Marra language has stuck around this long.

January 11, 2011

Today's Kriol lesson

I'm still finding out new Kriol words and constructions even though I've been learning Kriol since 2004. This is exciting for me and a constant reminder of just how intricate and complex Kriol can be. It's so easy to just see the English-related surface of Kriol and miss all the juicy stuff going on behind the scenes.

So today two young guys DR and KM were starting to transcribe a recording we'd made of them and I learned a couple of things.

A new word: medrim. I'd listened to it on the recording but had no clue what the word was. The example sentence:

Kriol: Ai garra medri im tha'n
Gloss: I FUT beat+Tr him/her "that one"
English: I'll flog her.

Don't ask me where the word medrim comes from. I have no idea as of yet.

Note also the contractions and dropping of sounds that happen all the time in the normal speech of your average Roper Kriol speaker. In the above sentence, medrim gets shortened to medri and tha'n is actually a contraction of tharran which is a derivation of the English, that one.

There are lots of contractions and shortcuts being made in Roper Kriol that I'm still learning about. The new one I learned today: gitbat. It's a shortened form of gibitbat: gibit is from the English give-it and -bat is a progressive aspect marker (like -ing in English). The example sentence:

Kriol (normal speech): Yulu'im im gitbat im, ngabi.
Kriol (slow speech): Yu luk im, im gibitbat im, ngabi
English translation: Look, he's giving it to him, isn't he.

Very cool. And I just love teaching people how to transcribe their own recordings in ELAN. DR and KM had a first try today, were getting into it and I'm encouraging them to keep going. Fingers crossed.