Isn’t this cool?!

I came across this potential word equation just before the holidays, and it’s great!

Yan-nhaŋu and Yolŋu more generally: warrakan’ “animal” (particularly warm-blooded animals, and more particularly mammals and birds)

Bardi: arriyana “wedge-tailed eagle”

Not spectacular in itself, but consider the Jabirr-Jabirr and Nyulnyul form recorded in Nekes and Worms 1953 (Australian Languages, Micro-Biblioteca Anthropos), which is warrakan. Bardi regularly loses initial w and the lenition of k > y is regular here too. This gives us a reconstruction of Proto-Western Nyulnyulan *warrikana. Can’t be **warrakana, because if so that would have given Bardi **arran or arrana.

I’m assuming that this is a Pama-Nyungan loan into Nyulnyulan, with either semantic broadening in Yolŋu or narrowing in Nyulnyulan.

In case this strikes you as just another loan case: here’s One Arm Point, and here‘s Milingimbi (and for comparison here‘s a map showing a flight path between Broome and Milingimbi – it’s 936 miles).


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