a word you can’t do without?

Arnold Zwicky at Language Log was wondering about languages that lexicalise the concept of the parent losing a child. This was discussed on the Lexicography List in 2005. here’s a link that goes to the table of contents for that week. My answer there included a list of the Bardi terms of for various bereaved relations. (The list was taken from the Bardi dictionary and my supplement, and originally appeared on anggarrgoon in 2004. Here’s a link to the original post.) Here are the terms:

loomiyoon baawa (child who has lost a parent, = orphan; cf loomi baawa, neglected child)
gambaj(oo) (mother who has lost a child, now used as a swear word by Bardi men who don’t know its original meaning)
algooyarr (father who’s lost a child)
(man who has lost a brother, sister or cousin)
miiraj (woman who’s lost a brother or sister)
galgarr (widow or widower)

I think I’m missing some, too – but it will be awhile before I get to that part of my field notes.

In all of these cases, the meaning is that the person has lost a relative of this type, not necessarily all of them. I don’t think this as anything particularly profound about the cultural anthropology of death in Bardi society, though.


2 responses to “a word you can’t do without?

  1. You don’t have to go halfway around the world to find a term for a child that has lost one of its parents.

    In German, Waise means orphan, and Halbwaise means a child that has lost one of its parents.

  2. Well, you do if you’re in Australia and want to go to Europe…

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