Great complex predicate

Bardi, along with many northern Australian languages, has complex predicates. These little varmits are multi-word items where the meaning usually associated with a “verb” is distributed over several words. In Bardi, there’s an inflecting word (which has all the agreement and tense morphology, and so on) and a preverb, which doesn’t usually inflect. Roowil innyagal is an example – roowil is the preverb, and innyagal is the inflecting verb. The morphology of innyagal is i-n-NYA-gal (3sg-transitive-‘catch’-recent.past) and the whole predicate means ‘(s)he walked’. Notice that the inflecting verb root here is ‘catch’, and at first sight there isn’t much that catching has to do with walking. Back to this in a minute.

Preverbs have all sorts of sources in Bardi, inclduing nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and inflected phrases. Other preverbs, like roowil above, don’t have any etymology other than preverbs. When verbs get borrowed in Bardi, they get borrowed as preverbs, not as inflecting verbs. There are a bunch of Kriol verbs which end up as preverbs – wajim ‘wash’im’, boojoom ‘push’im’, boolaway ‘pull away’ (these are all given in Bardi orthography).

As I mentioned above, there’s not always a transparent relationship between the preverb and the inflecting verb. Sometimes there is, e.g. balygarr -nganka- ‘to swear’ (lit ‘swear -talk-‘). At other times, the relationship is not at all straightforward, and approaches a classification system (part of my PhD was on this).  There’s also a default inflecting verb, –joo- ‘do, say’, which is used for about 40% of all light verbs. Loan words also participate in the classification system, so wajim ‘wash’im’ takes -ma-, along with other washing and cleaning verbs, and so on.
Now, why am I telling you all this? Because in transcribing a text this morning, I came across a fantastic predicate. Here’s the part of the text:

Bard arr injoonana Jarrinyanngan.
Away she went to Jarrinyan.

Nyoonoomb inanggalanan Jarrinyan shopping do’im inamana.
There-that’s.why she visited Jarrinyan for shopping.
‘She went to Jarrinyan – that’s why she visited Jarrinyan – to do some shopping.’

That last predicate in bold: a Kriol-like ‘do shopping’, but with the Bardi inflecting verb –ma– ‘put’. Almost a double classification.


6 responses to “Great complex predicate

  1. David Marjanović


  2. Phrases and Kriol borrowings that are underlyingly complex predicates in their own right (arguably), acting as complex preverbs combining with yet other inflecting verbs to form complex, complex predicates?
    This is brilliant!

  3. Wow! I’ve never seen that before, and many Kimberley languages regularly borrow preverbs from Kriol. Do you have any complex verbs in Bardi with more than one inflecting verb?

    Otherwise I suppose you’d want to consider Shopping-doowim as the preverb?

    Oh the Complexity of it all!

  4. Nothing with more than one inflecting verb in Bardi (although I have seen that in Worrorra and in Wagiman, although it works differently in those two languages). You do get phrasal preverbs, although they’re rare, and occasionally multiple preverbs, although in that case one is always a directional preverb.

    One other slight complicating factor is that she said ʃɔpiŋ duɪm, not tʃɔpiŋ or cɔpiŋ or ɟɔpiŋ, so it might be a partial English codeswitch too, although I’m not sure about that – one story-teller pretty much uses no ʃ, even in English, but this speaker does have fricatives.

  5. gagu, how can you think ‘shopping duwum’ as a Bardi preverb is brilliant, but hate using ‘heart’ as a verb in English. You should either ‘heart’ or ‘disheart’ all creative bits of language change – not just pick n choose. hehehehehe….. :-)

  6. Ha! Touché.
    I disheart being undermined!

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