December 23, 2013

Roper Kriol video trilogy

I've just finished a little trilogy of videos on Roper Kriol - more specifically on a few words in Roper Kriol that don't come from English. I really like these little videos, although I'm a total novice at video editing (please offers suggestions on how to improve them next time!). Each one describes three words that all Kriol speakers in Ngukurr know, but English speakers wouldn't recognise at all. The two guys on the videos, Kamahl and Dwayne, are just brilliant. They were great at describing and acting out these words and it was all done totally spur-of-the-moment. The poor quality is because I recorded them quickly on my iPhone but luckily Dwayne was using my ZoomH2 digital recorder so at least the sound quality is pretty good. And the words themselves I find really interesting (more on that below). I hope you enjoy the vids:

Here's part 1, featuring the words moi, gubarl and ngum:

Part 2 features the words ngarra, waranga and dinggal-dinggal:

And Part 3, which I only edited together yesterday, describes the words bagai, ngaja and burdurdup:

I like these videos because Dwayne and Kamahl describe words that are great examples of substrate lexical influence on Kriol. (That is, the influence that local languages have on the lexicon (vocabulary) of Roper Kriol). See, the vast majority of words in Kriol are based on English. Sometimes Kriol words have basically the same meaning as their English counterpart: wok (walk), lau (allow), kikad (keycard). Sometimes the Kriol meaning is different, either because the word keeps a distinctive meaning found in local languages (this process is called relexification), resulting in words like bingga (from finger, but means fingers+hand), dedi (from daddy, but means father+father's brothers) and smokim (from smoke 'im, but refers to the ceremonial use of smoke to cleanse a person or area after someone has died). Or sometimes English-based Kriol words are just words for things that English speakers use other words for, like pokipain (from porcupine) for echidna or aligida (from alligator) for saltwater crocodile.

Then there are a bunch of words that Kriol speakers in Ngukurr use that have nothing to do with English. Which is what I'm particularly interested in. In my thesis, I'm devoting a section to describing them in detail. It's been fascinating learning about them and finding out just how many there are (and I'm still learning new ones every time I go to Ngukurr!). Because they're not based on English, a lot of them are words that I learned late in the process of learning Kriol and they were a real surprise to me. As an English-speaking Kriol learner, English-based words are learned more quickly because of their familiarity. Whereas for non-English based words, there is no cognitive attachment, so they become salient later in language acquisition processes. When I started to ask people in Ngukurr about these words it was a revelation - there were so many I'd never heard before! And many with lovely specialised and/or culturally-relevant or culturally-specific meanings. And on the academic side, it was exciting because other linguists who'd studied Kriol had been missing some of them too, so I felt like I was learning a few things that other Munanga hadn't.

But I also like these words (and videos) because I had a great time learning about them from many Kriol speakers in Ngukurr. Dwayne and Kamahl in particular were really helpful and great to work with. I have to give them a massive shout-out and heartfelt thanks. The recordings I made with them are so lively and entertaining, just like these videos. I hope that I haven't embarrassed them too much by putting them on YouTube and maybe we can do some more next year!