New morpheme!

I’m going through the Laves text in preparation for fieldwork in a month or so. I’m doing preliminary translations and making notes about things I don’t understand. I think I’m about halfway through the texts now, but it’s very uneven. There are a bunch of slightly different dialects represented in the text.

In a text today I found a morpheme I’d never seen in Bardi before. Well, actually, I must have seen it before because I think I read this text quickly with people in 2003, but I don’t have any notes on it. Here’s the first part of the text, with my codes explained in [ ]:


\lg Goo biindanjina.
\ft Goowa [mermaid] lives in the scrub.
\lnt [Laves’ note] biindanjina – customary residence expressed by infinitive
\nq find out more about goowa in general (all previous stories have goowa as a ‘mermaid’ – that is, a sea spirit, not a land spirit.

\lg Garda inkal biindan.
\ft She’s still in the scrub.
\lg Arramba darr oolara amboorinygan.
\ft She doesn’t come out for people.

All very straightforward. The first line is cool because it shows -a as a predication marker (this dialect has a lot of final vowel dropping and if this weren’t marked for predication it should be biindanjin), and it’s a construction with the possessive that is pretty rare in the modern language.

Line 2 is cool because it has a null-marked locative. It’s not very rare but it’s still nice.

Laves thought line 3 was interesting because the negative is split: arr-amba darr oo-l-ar-a ambooriny-gan. That’s because he thought –amba here meant ‘man’ and it’s a split negation construction, but here -amba (not to be confused with aamba ‘man’) is a discourse clitic and there’s nowhere else it could go. This sentence contains the only example of the morpheme -gan that I’ve seen. The free translation in context must mean ‘she [the mermaid] doesn’t come out [of the bush] for people. In that case, -gan might be sort of the equivalent of Standard Modern Bardi -ganiny (the cause/reason suffix). –ganiny itself is without etymology that I know of, but there’s no way to get from –ganiny to –gan without a lot of etymological funny business.

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