Loma Langi, Loma Larnee: imported heaven

Owners have commonly bestowed a name on their property, whether it be a residence in town, a homestead, a boat. Since at least the late 19th century in Australia, a popular source for these names has been some of the vocabulary of Australian languages and other languages of the region. The demand has been met in the last century by various popular booklets of ‘Aboriginal names’ (referenced in previous posts on Orana and on Akuna). Before those booklets began to be published, newspapers and magazines published suggestions, sometimes drawn from the Collectors of Words notably the books of Brough Smyth (1878) and Curr (1886/7).

Particularly in the southeast of Australia, an influential source was the contribution of Alexander Cameron Macdonald (1828–1917), ‘accountant, surveyor and geographer’:

Read more

Every hill got a story oral history just out

Every hill got a story: we grew up in country w51TVk4uaX0L._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_as launched this afternoon at Alice Springs Telegraph Station. A companion multimedia site is hosted by SBS Books. The substantial volume is sold by SBS Books and is also available on Kindle.

The volume by ‘men and women of central Australia and the Central Land Council’ is compiled and edited by Marg Bowman, carrying on from the late Jane Hodson, long term anchor of the CLC media section.

Read more

Orana : how did naming books welcome a Polynesian word as Australian?

LP cover
http://www.musicstack.com/item/74418194

Many of us who remember the 1960s in Australia know the chorus ‘Orana! Orana! Orana to Christmas Day’ (listen via iTunes, track 13) in one of the popular Australianised seasonal songs of the period. The lyricist, ABC staff writer John Wheeler (fl. 1940–70, with composer William Garnet ‘Billy’ James 1892–1977), likely found the word Orana in one of the notorious naming booklets: Orana ‘welcome’ has been listed in many of them as an Aboriginal word of NSW, beginning with Thorpe (1921:5) (and see table below). Update: ‘Carol of the birds’ was in the first set of Five Australian Christmas carols, released for Christmas 1948 (Catholic Weekly 23 Dec 1948, page 2, Magazine Section), which implies Wheeler’s source was one of the Thorpe or Tyrrell booklets published before WWII.

In the 1970s Orana got another boost in New South Wales, from official naming:

Read more

What flows from ngaka-rna : how naming books spread a Dieri word

Coining a new name from a word taken from an Australian language often has complex implications, even if the naming agency is oblivious to them. When the name is for a place, a suburb or a street or a park, the official approval involves the relevant local government body. Two writers went into some of the issues a few years ago:

  • Tony Birch (2010 [1992]) sees the application of indigenous names to ‘houses, streets, suburbs and whole cities’ as ‘an exercise in cultural appropriation’. He draws a distinction between the restoration of indigenous placenames (such as Gariwerd ~ Grampians in western Victoria), and the fresh application to the built environment of a word imported from some Australian language.
  • Sam Furphy (2002) earlier discussed the role of what he dubbed ‘naming books’: popular twentieth century booklets of lists of ‘Aboriginal words’ such as Endacott (1923), Thorpe (1927), Kenyon (1930), Cooper (1952), which, for all the expressed good intentions of their compilers, have contributed to a homogenised perception of Australian languages: ‘The earliest popular naming books … make virtually no reference to the variety of languages spoken by the indigenous people of Australia, such that an uninformed reader could be forgiven for believing that there was only one Aboriginal language.’ (Furphy 2002:62) ‘Naming books simplify and romanticise Aboriginal words and remove them from their cultural and linguistic context.’ (Furphy 2002:68)

I’ve recently come upon an example which illustrates a combination of both concerns: one where official placenaming has drawn on the notorious naming booklets.

Read more

Berigora: a word that clawed on — from where?

The challenge

Brown falcon drawing
Brown falcon  © J.N. Davies from Birdata

‘Australia’s Most Widespread’ bird, according to Birdata’s featured bird last week, is the Brown Falcon, Falco berigora. A few months ago, a ‘complete guide to the origin of Australian bird names’ (that is, English and Linnæan names), was published, and in it Fraser and Gray (2013:80) summarised the published information on this species name:

berigora [is] stated in many places to be the name for the bird in an indigenous language, though nobody appears willing to nominate a particular language. The original namers, Vigors and Horsfield (1827), simply said: ‘The native name of this bird, which we have adopted as its specific name, is Berigora’. Gould (1848) mentioned ‘Aborigines of New South Wales’ against the word, and Morris (1898), in his Dictionary of Austral English, claimed it is made up of beri, claw, and gora, long. The word does not appear in a glossary of the languages spoken by indigenous people of the Sydney region as the time of early white settlement (Troy 1994), though many other bird names do, and the bird was certainly to be found there. Are the claws longer than those of other falcons? Perhaps not, and indeed, the toes, according to Debus (2012:131), are shorter.

Actually Falco berigora Vigors and Horsfield 1827:184-5 is one of only three birds whose scientific (Linnæan) name draws on a word of an Australian language.1 The word berigora has managed to survive in this ornithological niche, and is now guaranteed as much as longevity as science can offer. But can we give due credit to the language which provided it?

Read more


Notes

  1. The other two are Ninox boobook, Latham 1801:64, Southern Boobook owl, and Petroica (Muscicapa) boodang Lesson 1837:322, Scarlet Robin, each using the name that is well attested in the Sydney Language.

CALC (Central Australian Linguistic Circle) meeting

Central Australian Linguistic Circle (CALC) 2013  Monday 9 September 2013, 8:30 am – 4:00 pm Venue: Desert People’s Centre Function Room (next to the Irrarnte Café), Desert Knowledge Precinct, South Stuart Highway, Alice Springs Map: http://desertpeoplescentre.org.au/contact-us/ Program: 8:30 am          meet at Desert People’s Centre Function Room, set up, introductions 9:00-9:30      Cathy Bow, Charles … Read more

Bursting through Dawes (2)

Further to my last post, I’ve read on, and my disappointment has only deepened at the treatment of the Sydney Language in Ross Gibson’s 26 views of the starburst world.

Think about the notes you made when you were getting into learning an undocumented language … Imagine they get archived and in a century or two someone looks through them and tries to work out what was going on when you made the notes.  With only shreds of metadata and general knowledge of the historical period to go on, the future reader makes inferences from the content. Could a cluster of words in one of your vocabulary lists point to a hunch you were checking? Or a sequence of illustrative sentences could be the skeletal narrative of a memorable experience shared with your teachers.

Read more

Bursting through Dawes

‘Aspects of the Sydney Language are a perennial fascination’, as I observed in a 2008 post, and the best record we have of the language is in the two notebooks of Lt William Dawes. Dawes himself has become a fascination and a new book pursues him to imaginary lengths. I have so far only read … Read more

Birrguu Matya, or the game Tapatan

‘A new board game based on an ancient Aboriginal game has just been released by N S W Aboriginal artist Donna Hensen. Called Hunters Tactics,’ reported the Koori Mail 166 (17 December 1997), page 25. ‘Traditionally, the game was played on the ground using sticks, stones or kangaroo dung and was one of many used … Read more