Munanga

Munanga, ‘white person’ is widespread among the languages of the Arnhem Land region

as Jay Arthur (1996:161) notes in her compilation of written Aboriginal English, supported by citations from the northern NT 1977-1995.1 This extends to the present, as Wamut that munanga linguist can testify.
I was intrigued to learn recently that scholars don’t have much of an idea of the origin of the word. The AND (Australian National Dictionary 1988), now available online, has the earliest written citation

1912 Bulletin (Sydney) 15 Feb. 13/2 There is the much less widely known aboriginal term ‘myrnonga’. The myrnonga is a person of more promiscuous habits [than the combo] who – prowls with furtiveness when the moon is young.

but this is under the obscure headword murlonga ‘A white man who sexually exploits Aboriginal women’, with etymology

[Poss. a. Yolŋu sub-group munaŋa a white person.]2

Now Bob Dixon (2008:143) has recently classed this suggested origin as a “howler”:

But murloŋa could not have come from Yolngu sine [sc. since] this tribe did not have contact with Europeans until the 1930s. (It is unclear what the origin of murlonga is; if it does come from an Australian language, we have not been able to pinpoint the source.)

Still, munanga ‘white person’ is certainly widespread among the languages of the Arnhem Land region, as Jay Arthur says, and further south, I would add, through the Roper district, and I learnt the word at Elliott in the centre of the NT. The word has been borrowed into northern NT English from this linguistic milieu. It may not make sense to inquire which particular language donated the word to English, as it is spread through a range of Australian languages and as a “regional word” was then adopted by English speakers from speakers of whatever language of their locality. True, Yolngu Matha is unlikely to have been an early proximate source; rather, the languages where the early pidgin developed in the Roper valley from the time of the OTL construction (from 1870), though it is curious if there is indeed no written record of the word prior to 1912.

So, what might be the origin of munanga within Australian languages of the northeast NT? Now, munaŋa is one of several words for ‘white person’ listed in the 1986 Yolŋu-matha Dictionary. The others include balanda, gaywaraŋu, ŋäpaki, and wurrapanda. The first is famously derived from Malay etc bəlanda ‘Dutch, Holland’; gaywaraŋu is an extension of ‘white; ashes’; and wurrapanda is

Probably via Anindilyakwa urubanda, urabaranda White Man; cf. Mal oraŋ person + bəlanda Dutch (Zorc 1986:271)

So could munanga also originate from Macassan contact? It is not listed in Nick Evans’ 1992 compilation ‘Macassan loanwords in top end languages’, but through the modern wonder of Amazon (via A9) I’ve come upon an enticing citation in the Berndts’ The speaking land (a book on our shelves but this word isn’t indexed). Recorded “in Gunwinggu, at Oenpelli in 1950”, myth 181 begins

Yirawadbad, Poison snake, a yariburig man, came from Munanga, Macassar. (1989:346) AmazonOnlineReader link

I don’t find a placename like this in the gazetteers I’ve consulted. Could it however derive from Muna, a language, ethnic group, and island name, on the other southern extremity of Sulawesi east of Makasar (see the Ethnologue map of Southern Sulawesi)? Whatever its more distant source, this name of the origin of the hero of “one of the great myths of western Arnhem Land” (Berndts 1989:346) may well have taken on a new life as a ‘foreigner’ word in Arnhem Land.


  1. Arthur glosses munanga as ‘A white man, a boss’ but I don’t think the evidence supports maleness being part of the meaning.
  2. The online AND doesn’t allow link to an individual entry.

21 Comments

  1. Joe Blythe says:

    Fascinating Jungurra.
    So what about kartiya?
    Any ideas?

  2. Peter Austin says:

    In the IJL article by Dixon that you refer to, he criticises dictionary makers for not paying due attention to the etymologies of words borrowed from indigenous languages in Australia and around the world, and identifying which language they originate from. This is due historically, he says, “in part to racist denigration of Aboriginal people their cultures and languages” (page 129). Unfortunately, Dixon himself falls victim to exactly this when on page 136 he writes:

    “Other words from African languages were taken into English in the eighteenth century including chimpanzee, from a Bantu language, and gnu, from a Bushman language”

    As Mark Ranneberger and Sally Dijkerman pointed out in a letter to the editor of the Washington Post in 2005:

    “According to anthropologists Elizabeth Marshall Thomas and Richard Lee, the term ‘Bushmen’ is pejorative and no longer accepted in the anthropological community. In his 1979 ethnography The Kung San: Men, Women and Work in a Foraging Society, Mr. Lee wrote that ‘the term Bushmen has both racist and sexist connotations.’
    In addition, the Kalahari is inhabited by many different peoples, and they should be called by whatever name they give themselves.”

    According to Wikipedia gnu “is from a Khoikhoi language”. It’s a shame to see Dixon committing the same errors as those he criticises.

  3. Anthony Jukes says:

    I can’t think of any likely place-names in South Sulawesi. There’s a small fishing village called Minanga in North Sulawesi. This is unlikely to be the source though – there are Bugis there now, but they arrived fairly recently.
    If Muna is the source, it has probably been filtered through Malay or Makassarese – the ethnonym is Wuna (cognate with bunga ‘flower’).

  4. David Nash says:

    Philip Jones has made an intriguing suggestion that murlonga could be the same word as Molonga. Molonga was the name of a new ceremony (and its central figure) first reported on the northern Georgina River in 1893 (WE Roth 1897). Philip tells me that “the corroboree seems to have been characterised as being about exotic (and usually unwelcome) strangers, and was distinguished by the deployment of mock rifles etc, i.e. objects associated with white men”. The late Mick McLean Irinyili told Luise Hercus (1980) about his involvement in a 1901 performance and that the ceremony’s songs were in the Wakaya language of the Barkly Tableland, west of the northern Georgina. Gavan Breen’s 1970s Wakaya vocabulary (ASEDA item 0047) includes the word /muluŋu/ ‘devil’, which has gotta be is an excellent candidate for the source of the term Molonga. The name was pronounced [mudluŋga] by McLean; the prestopping of the lateral would be a natural change in the Lake Eyre languages; and the late Walter Smith pronounced it [muluŋa] when he told Dick Kimber in 1981 about seeing the ceremony (Kimber 1990:178).
    Now, the AND does not provide a pronunciation for murlonga ~ murlonger (just these two spellings in the quotations from the outback published in 1949 and 1971 respectively). A pronunciation [mɜ’lɒŋgə] is given in Australian Aboriginal words in English (1990 edition page 172), though on what basis is hard to know, presumably a guess based on the spelling (as I venture the word wasn’t otherwise known to the compilers). The two AND spellings could just as well be reporting a pronunciation more like [‘mulɒŋə], that is, what one expects as an English borrowing of /muluŋu/. So, I reckon that much the same word (form-meaning bundle) is behind murlonga ~ murlonger ‘a white man who sexually exploits Aboriginal women’, the Molonga ceremony name, and Wakaya /muluŋu/ ‘devil’.
    If this account of murlonga is on the right lines, it serves to separate it from munaŋa ‘a white person’ — in form, meaning, and provenance. So my suggestion for the AND would be to revise the headword murlonga ‘A white man who sexually exploits Aboriginal women’ by adding the above references, and to extract the first citation (1912 myrnonga) to a new entry under headword munanga.

    Hercus, LA. 1980. ‘How we danced the Mudlunga’: Memories of 1901 and 1902, Aboriginal History 4,5-31
    Kimber, R.G. 1990. Mulunga old Mulunga. ‘Good corroboree’, they reckon, pp. 175-191 in Language and History: essays in honour of Luise A. Hercus edited by P Austin, RMW Dixon, T Dutton and I White. Pacific Linguistics C-116.

  5. Jane says:

    Anthony Jukes’ point about ethnonyms is well taken. If we assume that people from Makassar were the main visitors, and that they may have used Muna, rather than Wuna, then it’s possible that the Makassarese could have used the island name ‘Muna’ to identify one group of visitors. Just as the word balanda for ‘Dutch’ (and thence ‘non-Aboriginal) comes via Malay and Makassar, and not directly. We are still left with the need for a source for the -nga ending!

  6. Felicity Meakins says:

    I have heard a couple of explanations for ‘kartiya’. One that it comes from ‘guardian’ and two that it is a legitimate Ngumbin word meaning ‘ghost’.

  7. Peter Sutton says:

    On munanga, I recall hearing this one in the Gulf country in 1970 or possibly later at Palm Island (from western inmates). No suggestions as to ultimate origin but it may be useful to take a look at the Adelaide Language, and the possible link via the OT:
    Munana, adj., former; late; ancient. Muna meyu, ancestor [meyu = man].
    I am still skeptical about balanda being from hollander. The languages through which the term passed apparently all have no problem with /h-/ so why the /h/ to /b/ change? And the stress shift to V2?
    These creole terms for whitefellas have interesting distributions. Migulu is a very widespread one like kartiya. Along with gun terms and horse terms (etc) maps of their distributions might reveal something useful about historical processes.
    By the way, if prestopping was an ossified historical innovation and not a live rule it would seem very odd that Mulunga could be borrowed as Mudlungga.
    Jimija

  8. David Nash says:

    Interesting points, Jimija.
    On the last one, yes, it is intriguing. Setting aside ŋg ~ ŋ, we seem to have a choice between these two scenarios: (a) muluŋa and mudluŋ(g)a are cognate (i.e. by parallel descent) — but what did mudluŋga mean in Lake Eyre languages before the ceremony arrived?; (b) mudluŋa is an instance of “loan nativization” (which however is not popular as a possible process).
    Note as part of the puzzle that Walter Smith apparently learnt the term at Oodnadatta as muluŋa (and didn’t recognise alternate pronunciations from Kimber), but the word had travelled to Oodnadatta from the east through mudluŋa-languages (and it isn’t a word in the Arandic languages he knew).
    Jungarrayi

  9. Nakku says:

    I am still skeptical about balanda being from hollander.
    AFAIK it came into Malay via Portuguese, something like olanda -> wəlanda -> bəlanda.

  10. Piers Kelly says:

    Hi all,
    I would like to make a recommendation to the AND on the etymologies of munanga and murlonga.
    For munanga: I agree with David that in light of the history munanga was most likely supplied to the Australian English of the NT via Roper River Kriol, even though it also features in Yolngu languages as one of several synonyms for ‘white person’. As for its ultimate source, there are several hypotheses that have come out of this discussion.
    1. munanga is related to Yolngu murlonga (‘A white man who sexually exploits Aboriginal women’) (AND1); munanga is perhaps a case of transcriber error from Yolngu murŋiny (‘sleaze, player’), rendered in 1912 as ‘myrnonga’ and eventually as ‘murlonga’ (Claire Bowern)

    2. munanga is from a Macassan placename (David Nash)
    3. munanga may be related to a word from the Adelaide language munana, adj., former; late; ancient. Muna meyu, ancestor [meyu = man]. (Peter Sutton)

    4. munanga is a spirit-connected word approximating ‘devil’ or ‘ghost’ (John Avery)

    5. munanga may have an association with jealousy (John Avery)

    In addition, I would add the following two hypotheses that are implied in the discussion:

    6. munanga passed from Yolngu into Roper River Kriol with or without a change in semantics.

    7. munanga originated in Roper River Kriol and passed into Yolngu languages.

    Here is my two cents. Philip Jones’ account of murlonga (comments above) is convincing and I’m inclined to agree with David that murlonga and munanga are likely to be unrelated forms and should be treated as such. This discounts hypothesis 1. To me hypothesis number 3 seems like a bit of stretch. Rob Amery has told me that he is not aware of any link between muna and munanga, and that munanga is not used in Kaurna country. As for 4 and 5, I regret that I only came upon John’s post recently and I haven’t had time to delve into this in detail. By his admission, ‘jealousy’ is still a speculation. If the spirit/devil account is valid then it’s not via mulungu. Interestingly, though, Curr has moomaga (‘a white man’) in vocabulary ‘From Jervis Bay to Mount Dromedary’ and moongara (‘spirit, soul’) in Mount Freeling. These are both significantly isolated from the present munanga-saying zone however.

    Since we’re dealing with what is clearly a post-contact concept (‘white person’) it’s worth reviewing possible strategies for coinage. As seen in the case of muluŋu, the available concept of ‘devil’ was apparently substituted for predatory white person. And as David mentioned, gaywaraŋu is a Yolngu extension of ‘white; ashes’. Claire has kindly allowed me to use her database and from a quick look through it I get the Yidiny words manunggul and mununggul (‘termite, white ant’), both from Dixon. It’s plausible that ‘white ant’ could be extended to ‘white people’ but the geography doesn’t add up, and Yolngu languages have other words for ‘white ant’.
    Perhaps more promising is munga for ‘ash(es), dust, dirt; particles (in water); fireplace, fine hot ashes or sand (under which food is baked)’in the Yolngu languages Gupapuyngu, Djapu, Gumatj, Djambarrpuyngu and Yan-nhangu. Could the whiteness of ashes be extended whiteness of people, as per gaywaraŋu? But where does the extra syllable come from?

    On the Macassarese connection, Denise Russell, citing Berndt & Berndt (1990), writes that western Arnhem Landers referred to Makassar as ‘Manggadjara’ or ‘Munanga’. Here is the relevant section from the 1970 edition: “And the name ‘Macassar’ (Manggadjara or Munanga to the western Arnhem Landers) has become a vaguely located point of origin, not only for the early traders, but also for various mythical characters who are said to have come from unidentified islands somewhere to the north-west” (Berndt & Berndt 1970: 4). So in line with David’s post, this presents the possibility that munanga was a placename and, by extension, also denoted people from that place.
    Here’s another interesting snippet from Peta Stephenson (2007: 36):

    “We have already learned that Makassans named many places along the Kayu Jawa (Kimberley) and Margege (Arnhem Land) coastlines. The Makassans also gave names to particular Yolngu individuals whom they met and worked with. Milingimbi elder, Djawa, relayed this naming story in 1979:
    [The Makassan man’s name was] Gatjing, Gatjing Munanga. We were fishing my uncle Ngapipi and I. And he came across from the other side of the water from Gulman, to Walmu, the point of Howard Island. He came in a canoe, and met my uncle and I. And he said, ‘Hey, who is this child?’ He was asking my uncle. And uncle said, ‘Little brother.’ ‘And what’s little brother’s name? Has he got a name?’ ‘It’s Djawa.’ ‘Has he got a Macassan name?’ ‘No.’ ‘His Macassan name is to be Mangalay. Over where I come from, there is a place called Mangalay.’ Then, ‘And his mother and father, where are they?’ ‘Over there hunting. And little brother and I are waiting here for them, his mother and father.’ ‘Well, when they come back, his mother and father, you will tell them his name. Tell them my name, Gatjing. I, Gatjing, named him Mangalay. Garra Mangalay is a place far away …’”

    Here a Makassan is giving a Yolngu boy a name based on a Makassan placename, but Djawa in turn, refers to the Makassan visitor as Gatjing Munanga. Perhaps there was symmetry in the toponym-as-nickname convention.

    Given that Makassan visits to Australia are said to have ceased by 1906 (Russell 2004) it can be presumed that Yolngu were using munanga for ‘Makassan’ prior to this date and thus prior to European–Yolngu contact in the 1930s. Some time after the 1930s the meaning of munanga shifted to ‘white person’. The subsequent direction of borrowing from Yolngu -> Roper River Kriol -> Australian English is consistent with the archival record and the distribution of munanga in non-Kriol Australian languages.

    It is of course possible that the Yolngu got munanga from Roper River Kriol speakers and then the word’s meaning shifted to ‘Makassan’ then back to ‘white person’ after the 1930s, but that scenario leaves more things to explain.

    I’ve looked at Cense’s Makassan–Dutch dictionary and nothing promising comes up (though there is manaŋi, for Polynemus tetradactylus, a kind of fish that is found in northern Australian waters and elsewhere)

    I’m inclined to recommend to the AND that to the best of the available knowledge munanga probably reached Australian English from Roper River Kriol and ultimately from Yolngu. As to whether Yolngu speakers took this from a placename (mythical or literal), borrowed it or coined it by some other means is unknown.

    If anyone strongly objects to this recommendation, has more information or a better analysis, please let me know!

    These are the important refs, drop me a line if you want the others:

    Berndt & Berndt. 1970. Man, land and myth. Sydney: Ure Smith.

    Russel, Denise. 2004. Aboriginal–Makassan interactions in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in northern Australia and contemporary sea rights claims, Australian Aboriginal Studies, 2004/1

    Stephenson, Peta. 2007. The outsiders within: Telling Australia’s Indigenous–Asian story. Sydney: UNSW

  11. Piers Kelly says:

    Hi again, I probably should have mentioned that I’m being employed Australian National Dictionary Centre to look into a list of Aboriginal words in Australian English of doubtful or unknown provenance.

    Back to Makassar, cartographer Kay Dancey has kindly looked up some current munanga-like names in Indonesia and you can see her map here.

  12. Wamut says:

    The above seems a bit convoluted to me and I would argue for a simpler explanation – that munanga is simply the term for ‘white person’ found in the languages of the Roper Region/South-west Gulf country and that it passed from those languages into Kriol with minimal fuss when creolisation took place at the Roper mission in the early 1900s.

    The argument that it passed from Yolngu languages into Roper Kriol doesn’t sit well with me. In the early days of the Roper mission there were few, if any, Yolngu people there – it was mainly Marra, Nunggubuyu, Warndarrang, Alawa, Ngalakgan and Ngandi, as far as I know. Yolngu people (Ritharrngu and Wagilak) didn’t settle at the mission until the 1950s and it can be assumed that by then that Roper creole was already well established.

    Munanga is incredibly pervasive in Roper Kriol – no other term is used for “European”. It doesn’t intuit that munanga is a loan from afar. You don’t have to go far to find places that use other terms – in Borroloola they say waitbala. Nunggubuyu (spoken at Numbulwar) have their own word: dhudabada (Heath 1984:193). Munanga pervades right through Ngukurr, Minyerri, Jilkminggan, Barunga and Beswick communities, where a handful of Marra coverbs have made their way into local Kriol varieties, e.g. verbs like bal “pound”, dirrwu “submerge/dive”, gardaj “grab” and gubarl “scavenge” (Thanks to Miliwanga Sandy for this info). If those verbs have passed from Marra into Roper Kriol and beyond into neighbouring communities, then it seems entirely plausible that the same has happened with munanga.

    Linguistic references for some of the languages that were spoken by the first Roper mission residents attest not only the word munanga, but that you find regular morphology around it. This indicates that munanga has been in those languages for a while. Like in Alawa, you get a-munanga – with the feminine prefix a- – for ‘white woman’ (Sharpe, pers. comm.). In Marra, you get munanga with gender and number prefixes, as in law ya-rlini na-munanga ‘White man’s law came’ where na- is a masculine singular prefix. That’s from a 1970s text by Mack Riley, recorded by Jeffrey Heath (1981:341). In recent recordings I’ve made with Marra speakers in Ngukurr, at least two elders used the reduplicated form wul-munamunanga in stories they recorded with me. (wul- is a plural prefix). This reduplicated form, munamunanga, is also attested for Warndarrang (Heath 1980:142) and both Marra and Warndarrang do not have very productive noun reduplication so it’s not like you can just start reduplicating any old loan word. Munanga is also listed in the Yanyuwa dictionary (Bradley & Kirton 1992:224) although in the texts in that volume Yanyuwa speakers seem to be using the loan wajbala from “whitefella”.

    Yolngu mob use Balanda and Ngapaki for ‘white person’ far more frequently than they use munanga. I find overly complicated to suggest that the word munanga, which Yolngu do not frequently use as far as I know, came from Yolngu to Marra, Alawa, Yanyuwa and Roper Kriol at a time before Yolngu even had a presence at the Roper mission. We all agree that munanga has been used since the early days of Roper Kriol. To find the source beyond that all signs seem to point to the languages spoken by the people who were at the mission in the early days. The references for languages like Marra, Alawa, Warndarrang, Ngandi and Yanyuwa indicate that munanga is a pretty unequivocal part of those languages. Note also, that for all these languages, there is no other common term for white person – we’re nothing more than munanga to them.

    References:

    Bradley, John and Jean Kirton. 1992. Yanyuwa Wuka: Language from Yanyuwa Country – a Yanyuwa Dictionary and Cultural Resource. Unpublished manuscript.

    Heath, Jeffrey. 1980. Basic Materials in Warndarang: grammar, texts and dictionary. Pacific Linguistics: Canberra

    Heath, Jeffrey. 1981. Basic Materials in Mara: grammar, texts and dictionary. Pacific Linguistics: Canberra

    Heath, Jeffrey. 1984. Functional grammar of Nunggubuyu. Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies: Canberra

  13. David Nash says:

    True, munanga has been “the term for ‘white person’ in the languages of the Roper Region/South-west Gulf country” for around a century, at least. But this still leaves the question of its origin. If the word was in the language(s) prior to say the 1870s, what did it mean those days?
    And, yes, as you demonstrate Wamut, “that it passed from Yolngu languages into Roper Kriol” seems quite unlikely — but this still allows munanga to have passed (earlier on) from Yolngu languages into the languages of the Roper Region/South-west Gulf country.

  14. Wamut says:

    this still allows munanga to have passed (earlier on) from Yolngu languages into the languages of the Roper Region/South-west Gulf country.

    Yes, it does, but it just seems unlikely. Especially when there’s a language like Wubuy in between that has a different word altogether – where did dhudabada come from and why would a Yolngu word leapfrog the Nunggubuyu word be adopted into Marra, Warndarranga and Alawa over dhudabada? From Southern Australia, these languages look like they’re close together but Yolngu and the Marra/Alawa/Warndarrang group really don’t have a lot to do with each other. There are very few cognates between them.

    And as for the question of what munanga might have meant pre-contact. I couldn’t speculate and Kriol historian John Harris doesn’t seem to have much to offer on that question either. To answer that requires a lot of speculation – so much so that I think it’d be impossible to come up with anything but a flawed or flimsy argument.

  15. Piers Kelly says:

    Here is my attempted summary of the unresolvable issues:

    Unresolvable issues:

    1. If it is the case that munanga was a literal/mythical placename used by Yolngu prior to 1906 in association with foreign visitors, it is unlikely to have been sourced from Kriol speakers.

    2. In order to show that munanga pre-existed in Roper River Kriol substrate languages such as Marra etc, it would be necessary to find evidence that munanga had a primary meaning of something other than ‘white person’, in one of these languages. Eg, ‘ghost’, ‘ancestor’ etc.

    3. If munanga originated in Roper River, why did Roper River Kriol give munanga to Yolngu languages and no others, except Garrwa? If it originated in Yolngu country how and why did it end up in Roper River?

    I agree for now that there is not enough information to resolve these questions. In short, the relationship between Yolngu Munanga/munanga and Kriol munanga is hard to unravel.

    The good news is that as far as the Australian National Dictionary is concerned we can at least agree that the proximate source of munanga into Oz English is almost certainly Roper River Kriol.

    How about this for a recommendation:

    From Roper River Kriol munanga ‘white person’, ultimate origin and meaning unknown.

  16. David Nash says:

    To Wamut, Piers: Yes.
    And add to reiterate another part of the puzzle: why isn’t the word recorded before 1912 (as quoted at the beginning above), over 40 years after the OTL construction party incursion along the Roper. As poor as the records of that period and district are, one would expect some mention in letters, diaries etc of a common term for ‘whitefella’.

  17. Piers Kelly says:

    Wamut stormed into my office this afternoon waving a blunderbuss and ordering me to shut my “Makassan-lovin’ Yolngu-centric pie hole”. I muttered something about “Mara-normativity” and “political correctness gone mad” but looking at the data and the map, he has a point.

    As he mentioned, the languages that contributed to Roper River Kriol have munanga for ‘white person’. What I didn’t realise, because I didn’t check, was that these languages effectively border Yolngu country. This dispenses with my issue number 3 (above) and it also clarifies issue 1: speakers of Ngandi and Warndarang on the sourthern border of Yolngu country could easily have supplied the term (I imagined these languages to be closer to the gulf). And despite a lack of sustained contact with Europeans in eastern Arnhem land until the 1930s, Yolngu people could have subsequently applied munanga to Makassan visitors. Also, Peter Sutton has written back to inform me that “Europeans were regular visitors and even residents in North-East Arnhem Land not only after 1930 but before, from the 1870s on. These included the Robinson Prospecting party (Blue Mud Bay 1876), attempts at establishing pastoral enterprises (Florida Station was stocked with 6,000 head of cattle in the 1880s, lasted until 1893), oil drilling at Elcho Is, etc. In 1875 a party encountered an Aboriginal man near Cape Arnhem who even at that early date spoke a little English. In 1927-28 Harry Mahkarolla b. C.1881 spoke English well enough to act as Lloyd Warner’s chief informant at Milingimbi (constructed 1923-) and elsewhere. He had learned English by being employed on boats.”

    And, as Wamut pointed out, the Berndt oral history material refers to western Arnhem land, not the eastern Yolngu part. Anthony Jukes has since replied saying he is unconvinced by the place-name hypothesis (and he had other interesting things to say about Denise Russell’s material which I’ve put in the AND file). Oral histories may yet turn something else up for the placename theory but the linguistics is telling a more convincing tale for now.

    This leaves the problem of issue 2 which may never be resolved but Sutton’s money is on ‘ghost’ and related senses (p.c.).

    So I’ll go back to Heath’s data, find all the Kriol substrate languages that include munanga exclusively for ‘white person’ and add them to the proposed etymology.

    And if I discover that Wamut’s blunderbuss was never loaded in the first place I’ll spew.

  18. John Bradley says:

    The term munanga was recorded by WG Stretton at Borroloola in 1888, he glosses the term as both white person and stranger. It is in a published word list in the Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia 1993.

  19. John Bradley says:

    Just a comment about Stretton’s phrase arndara moonanga- have you seen a white man? arndara is most probably ngandarra- it takes are large number of meanings such as , what are we going to do?, what do you want?, what now?, what are you up to? and in the way it is used by Stretton it is taking the meaning of what about? So the phrase is saying “What about white man?”. Yanyuwa also has a way of taking borrowed or avoidance dialect terms and using them for exotic entries into their country, thus the Macassan term libaliba for dugout canoe, becomes a-libaliba and is the avoidance dialect term for dugout canoe, the term nukurnu, which is the avoidance term for food of any type is now the term for tamarind tree or fruit, it is possible that munanga could be the avoidance term for yankarra, stranger, unknown people. I have no evidence for this but it would fit a trend that does appear in Yanyuwa. The term munanga is now totally associated with white men and perhaps more particularly white culture at Borroloola, but it should be noted that Stretton does give it a gloss of stranger.

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