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Innamincka Talk

Innamincka Talk: A grammar of the Innamincka dialect of Yandruwandha with notes on other dialects OPEN ACCESS

Gavan Breen
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    Innamincka Talk
    Book Description:

    Innamincka Talk: A grammar of the Innamincka dialect of Yandruwandha with notes on other dialects is one of a pair of companion volumes on Yandruwandha, a dialect of the language formerly spoken on the Cooper and Strzelecki Creeks and the country to the north of the Cooper, in the northeast corner of South Australia and a neighbouring strip of Queensland. The other volume is entitled Innamincka Words. Innamincka Talk is the more technical work of the two and is intended for specialists and for interested readers who are willing to put some time and effort into studying the language. Innamincka Words is for readers, especially descendants of the original people of the area, who are interested in the language, but not necessarily interested in its more technical aspects. It is also a necessary resource for users of Innamincka Talk. These volumes document all that could be learnt from the last speakers of the language in the last years of their lives by a linguist who was involved with other languages at the same time. These were people who did not have a full knowledge of the culture of their forebears, but were highly competent, indeed brilliant, in the way they could teach what they knew to the linguist student.

    eISBN: 978-1-921934-20-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Linguistics, Sociology
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  1. The Yandruwandha were one of a group of tribes speaking dialects of the same language and living in the Lakes Country of northeastern South Australia. They first came to the notice of Europeans when they discovered the Burke and Wills Expedition in 1861. The exact dialect situation before white contact is unclear, but dialect or tribal names that have been heard include Innamincka or Thayipilthirringuda Yandruwandha, Strzelecki or Murnpeowie Yandruwandha, Biraliba, Nhirrpi or Nhirrpi Yandruwandha, Yawarrawarrka, Matja, Parlpamardramardra, Ngananhina, Ngapardandhirri and (using N.B. Tindale’s spelling) Ngurawola. Tindale (1974) gave three names for the area: Yandruwandha (his Jandruwanta), Yawarrawarrka (his Jauraworka)...

  2. The sound system of Yandruwandha is characterised by a large number of consonant phonemes of which a fair proportion are very restricted in their occurrence, the status of a few being quite doubtful. There are a total of at least 28, perhaps 30, consonants including four compound phonemes; eight of these, including two of the compound phonemes, occur only following a primary stressed vowel or, occasionally, following a secondary stressed vowel in a compound stem. Even there some of the oppositions are sometimes lost. In addition, the opposition between apical-alveolar and apical-postalveolar points of articulation is neutralised in word-initial position...

  3. 3 Pronunciation (pp. 21-35)

    The consonants will be described in groups according to type of articulation — voiceless stops, then voiced stops and so on. However, a few features relevant to all consonants at a certain point of articulation will first be described. Section 3.3 will describe aspects of pronunciation noted only in relatively rapid speech.

    Velar consonants are frequently labialised in the environmentu-V oruC-V. Examples include:

    [júkwɪnɪƞàɾidji]yukiningaditji‘catch (fish) while swimming-ger-dat-emph’,




    There is a general tendency for most consonants to be lengthened or geminated intervocalically following the primary stressed vowel...

  4. Syllable types in Yandruwandha (given the decision to write initial /yi/ and /wu/ instead of /i/ and /u/ and to write /y/ to break up vowel + /i/ sequences, and excluding the rare cases where a word has /aa/) are only CV and CVC. Words consist of at least two syllables, apart from the conjunctionsya, kaandnga. All words end in a CV syllable. The only VV sequence is /aa/, as inngaandi~ngaani‘yes’ in which the second /a/ is clearly syllabic and often carries primary stress, andngalaaku, in which the /aa/ is realised as...

  5. 5 The sentence (pp. 44-51)

    The definition of ‘word’ is discussed in §6.1 and will be taken for granted at this stage. See §6.2 for definition of the various classes of words.

    A phrase is a unit made up of one or more words which communicates an image to the hearer (or reader, but written language did not exist in Yandruwandha when it was in use).

    A sentence is a unit of speech made up of phrases and capable of standing alone to communicate some fact, probability, command or question (positive or negative in all cases) to the hearer. In fact, a sentence does not...

  6. The word in Yandruwandha could be defined phonetically: a section of an utterance, the first syllable and no other of which carries a primary stress. Study of the stress system as described above (§3.6) shows that there would need to be some modification to this derivation, but this will not be considered now.

    Alternatively, a word could be defined as a unit which cannot be rearranged internally but which can be combined with other similar units with some freedom in the order. This definition, too, would need some modification, but this would not be great.

    One complication arises from the...

  7. Verbless sentences may be of the following types:

    (a) equational; two noun phrases are equated to one another, the referent of one thus being identified or specified as a member of a class. For example:

    (1)Muduwa pulya nhuniyi, karruwali, papa ngakani.

    child small 3sg:nom-here boy daughter’s.child lsg:gen

    ‘This little boy is my grandson.’ (W3)

    (2)Pakitjampa yina nhutjadu.

    buckjumper emph 3sg:nom:there

    ‘He’s a buckjumper.’ (R3)

    (b) kin-relational; the kinship between the members of the referents (obligatorily non-singular) of a noun phrase is specified by means of another noun phrase.

    (3)Puladutji ngapiri-ngurru.

    3.du:nom-there-emph father-com

    ‘Those two are father and...

  8. A command sentence is used to give an order (imperative) or make a suggestion or give permission (optative) and is characterised by the absence of an explicit subject (if the subject is in the second person). This absence is optional but normal. A minimal command sentence therefore consists of an intransitive verb, or an object noun phrase and a transitive or pseudotransitive verb, or two object noun phrases and a ditransitive verb. A negative command uses the negative particlewalya, as in (5); there is no negative imperative affixation. See §8.4.1 for a construction in whichwalyais used for...

  9. Yandruwandha has an absolutive–ergative system for nouns (with marginal exceptions for some sub-classes of nouns), a nominative–accusative system for non-singular pronouns and a three-way system, with nominative, ergative and accusative all distinguished, for singular pronouns. The interrogative rootyila- has a rather divergent system.

    As ergative coincides in marking with instrumental the term ‘operative’ is used for the morpheme, although erg for ergative or inst for instrumental, as appropriate, are used for interlinear glosses.

    Examples are sometimes given using other classes of nouns if they behave in the same way with regard to the point under discussion.


  10. Noun stems comprise:

    (a) noun roots

    (b) reduplicated noun roots

    (c) combinations of two noun roots

    (d) combinations of a noun root and a noun-stem formative

    (e) combinations of a noun stem and an inflectional suffix

    (f) combinations of a verb stem and a noun derivational suffix.

    Group (e) words are rarely stems but there are a few examples.

    The majority of noun roots are disyllabic; most of those of three syllables are believed or suspected to incorporate a no longer productive monosyllabic stem formative, while those of four syllables almost certainly are originally compounds (whether in Yandruwandha or in...

  11. 11 Verb inflection (pp. 125-147)

    Verbs in Yandruwandha may be inflected for tense, mood, number and subordination. However, the system is not simple, as one tense form is marked by a nominalisation, one of the tense markers is alternatively a marker of subordination, and some time specification is by means of stem formatives, not inflectional suffixes.

    Five past tenses are distinguished by inflectional suffixes; these are designated ‘immediate past’ (ip), ‘near past’ (np) (a day or so), ‘recent past’ (recp) (a few days), ‘far past’ (farp) (weeks or months) and ‘remote past’ (remp) (years). Nominalisation of a verb stem which has been marked for habitual...

  12. A number of formatives, most of which occur also as free forms or are related to free forms, are added to verb stems to specify verb aspect. The term ‘aspect’ here is used in a broad sense; aspect markers specify such things as ‘action while the agent is travelling’, ‘action directed upwards’, ‘action on one’s own behalf’ and ‘action over a wide area’. They also include those morphemes, discussed above (Chapter 11), which specify the time of day of an action. The functions of the various bound aspect markers, which are all disyllabic or longer, are illustrated in the following...

  13. Verb compounding is a productive process in Yandruwandha and a wide range of possibilities of combination of verb, noun and adverb roots, formatives and even inflected nouns exists. Reduplication, either of root or compound, may also be involved. The following chart showing types of verb stem is probably not exhaustive. In this chart V stands for verb root, N for noun root, A for adverb root, R for reduplication, F for verb-stem formative and I for inflectional suffix. The roman numerals are a key to the examples below. Some of the nodes do not represent verb stems, and these do...

  14. The simple situation described in Chapter 7, in which we have intransitive verbs which have a subject but no object, and transitive verbs which have a subject (or agent) and an object, does not exhaust the variety of combinations of basic valency of a verb and the number and nature of arguments that can occur with it. This is true for many languages, Australian and others, but in Yandruwandha the number and variety of combinations seems to be quite extraordinary, although it rarely uses dative for the object of verbs like ‘look for’, which have dative objects in many Australian...

  15. Sentences containing more than one clause are of three basic types. In compound sentences the constituent clauses are all of the same status — i.e. none is subordinated to any other — and they are linked by conjunctions or simply juxtaposed. In complex sentences there is one main clause and other clauses are subordinated to it, and are marked as subordinate in various ways, and depend on the main clause for some aspects of their meaning. In quotation sentences there is one main clause whose verb is an information verb, i.e. a verb denoting knowledge, or transfer or acquisition of...

  16. 16 Adverbs (pp. 207-221)

    Adverbs are uninflecting words which form adverbial phrases (see Chapter 5) or part of adverbial phrases, and thus can modify a verb phrase or a noun phrase. Adverbs are — to use Lyons’ (1968:326) words — a very heterogeneous class, and can be divided into many subclasses according to their semantic properties and syntactic functions. Subclassification is difficult in some cases, especially where the function of the adverb is not clear, and it has been found necessary to group a few unclassified items together. Membership of some subclasses is obvious; other subclasses include modal adverbs, the negatives and the potential...

  17. Conjunctions have the following functions in Yandruwandha:

    (a) to link phrases within a compound phrase,

    (b) to link clauses within a compound sentence,

    (c) to link clauses within a complex sentence,

    (d) to link a sentence to a preceding sentence.

    However, they are obligatory in none of these cases. Even in noun phrases where there is no verb morphology to show that there is coordination or subordination, juxtaposition may be used:

    (1)pandi thanayi nhiwa karrukarru thawathawarla

    dog 3pl:nom-here female go-go-pres

    ‘dogs and bitches walking around here’ (X45)

    The only conjunction which can be said with certainty to fulfil...

  18. In Yandruwandha bound morphemes combining with more than one part of speech include dual and plural markers (which can function as stem formatives with nouns, as seen in §10.5.1 and §10.5.2, but are also combinable as clitics with pronouns and inflected verbs), a marker of similarity, some conjunctions and some emphatic suffixes.

    The suffix -thili, used occasionally as a stem formative on nouns to mark dual number, has also been noted in text affixed to an inflected verb:

    (1)Ngapala yingka-rnanga-thili yabangunyi-yindrini-nguda ngala pula,

    well laugh-cont-du fear-give-rr-ger-abl then 3du:nom


    ‘Well, they both laughed then, the two white men,...