OK, this is a bit embarrassing. Especially after I’ve sent off the grammar manuscript, but better late than never and it can still be corrected.
I was talking to Jessie this afternoon about various things this afternoon and she happened to say Ngaanyjə liyan minman bayimngan maman jobgo drink, ‘do you want me to buy you a drink from the shop, using something that I would write in Bardi as ngaanyja [ŋaːɲɟə]. Now, the normal interrogative particle is nganyji, with a short vowel and final high vowel, so this was a bit puzzling. So I asked about it, saying nganyji like I’d seen in other examples, and got corrected.
Further digging reveals that there are actually two question particles, not one: ngaanyj(a) and nganyji. The second is a fairly regular interrogative, while the first is an ability marker. There’s a nice minimal pair:
- Nganyji minjalagal? ‘Did you see it?’
- Ngaanyjə minjalagal? ‘Can you see it?’
Furthermore, I know I have vacillated about the spelling of this word in the past (as to whether it has a long vowel or not), but it was really hard to tell because: a) there is lengthening under stress, and this particle is mostly initial; and b) there is fast speech shortening and final vowel dropping.