Bale ga-rrungyime?

Ngaled ga-rrungyime?

What's the time?

[Gundjeihmi spelling]

Here's a nice language development. The folk at Gagadju Dreaming who run a whole group of tourist businesses have a new range of boating tours at Ngurrungurrudjba (Yellow Waters) near Cooinda in Kakadu National Park. These are Indigenous owned businesses and so they are keen to incorporate the Gundjeihmi language into their tours. You can take a range of different boating cruises at Ngurrungurrudjba throughout the day and each one is named after one of the Gundjeihmi words for different times of the day. I went on the new night time cruise and had a great time listening to the commentary in Gundjeihmi translated into English by the Bininj guides. What a nice opportunity for tourists— to listen to an Australian language out on the water in a very beautiful place.

Here are the boat cruise names and the times they depart (click the icon to hear the audio):

gugabelwi gugabelwi dawn, sunrise (6:45am)

ba-rrungbidbom ba-rrungbidbom late morning (9:00am)

ba-rrungborledmeng ba-rrungborledmeng just after midday, literally: the sun has turned' (11:15am)

ga-rrungbangmen ga-rrungbangmen the sun is at full strength (1:15pm)

wolewoleh wolewoleh afternoon (2:45pm)

ba-rrungyibmeng ba-rrungyibmeng sunset (4:30pm)

algohgarrng 'the stars' (night time cruise)

Now for the rest of the language lesson.

These are Gundjeihmi words. In other Bininj Gunwok dialects, there is some variation.


You can also say just gugabel. There is a synonym malamalayi 'in the morning' and also 'tomorrow'. Gugabel gam-dungbebme 'In the morning the sun comes up'.


Yes and this is a verb too. There's the ba- prefix again and there is a noun incorporated into the verb. This is the word gun-dung 'sun' but it also means 'time'. You can see the gun- prefix is dropped and the -dung stem comes in between ba- and the verb -bidbun 'climb up' (past tense is -bidbom). Well not exactly. The d at the front of -dung has changed to rr. This is because there is a vowel before it as part of that ba- prefix. This is a rule in Bininj Gunwok- d changes to rr when in between by a vowel.


Same pattern again, but this time after the incorporated noun -rrung 'sun' there is another verb -borledmeng which means 'to turn around or turn over or change'. This verb is in the past tense. There are two parts of the word that mark this past tense. Firstly the ba- prefix means 'it [PAST tense]' and the fact that verb ends in ng. There are many verbs that have the final theme -me which is present tense but in the past tense they change to -meng.





it [past tense]



past tense


This is a verb. It is made up of the prefix ga- 'it/he/she (present tense), then the noun -rrung (from gun-dung) 'sun' is incorporated into the verb and the next part -bangmen is the present tense of the verb 'to become powerful'. This verb belongs to a class which end in -men. This ending is associated with verbs of becoming or development. In the past tense the -men changes to -minj. Notice how a single verb also contains other things like the noun (gun-)dung (pronounced 'doong') for 'the sun' and the prefix which tells you who is doing the action— in this case ga- means 'it (the sun)'. Remember that the d in -dung 'sun' will change to rr because with the addition of the ga- prefix it now has a vowel on both sides which triggers the rule: d > rr in between vowels.

Wolewoleh (also Wolewole)

This word means afternoon, but if you put the verb -ni 'stative (also verb to sit') on the end it will mean 'yesterday'. Wolewolehni 'yesterday'. It makes sense doesn't it. Many languages of the world have this pattern (afternoon also = yesterday AND tomorrow also = morning). For Australian English speakers please do not pronounce this word as 'wally wally' (you'll make a wally of yourself) but try to pronounce the 'e' vowel at the end (which rhymes with 'air' in English). The letter h is a glottal stop (in this case it is optional) so if you choose to say wolewoleh, make sure you make the abrupt termination required by the glottal stop.


It should be a familiar pattern now but here we have a new verb after the incorporated -rrung 'sun'. This is the verb -yibme 'to sink down'. Again it is in past tense so it has a final -ng. So it is clear that this word ba-rrungyibmeng means 'the sun has set' or 'sunset'.

Finally, let's return to the title of this lesson Ngaled Ga-rrungyime which means 'what time is it'. In a literal sense ngaled 'what' ga- 'it [PRESENT tense] -rrung 'sun/time' and the final part is a verb -yime 'to say or do'. What's the sun doing? But that is not really a good translation into English, so let's say 'what's the time?'

For those of you learning Kunwinjku, the equivalent phrase would be Baleh Ka-rrungyime? Kunwinjku also doesn't have the ba- prefix. Instead it uses zero (nothing) which gives us these equivalents for some of the terms (if it has ka- as a prefix it means it's still in present tense):

kukabel, dungbidbom, dungborledmeng, ka-rrungbangmen, wolewoleh, dungyibmeng

In Kunwinjku you can also say kun-barnangarra for the middle of the day or for a period of a day (24 hours) or kun-barnangarrakenh 'daytime' where the -kenh possessive suffix means 'pertaining to, belonging to'. In Kuninjku and Kune dialects you say benbekad for 'daytime'. This word is based on a synonym for 'the sun' ngal-benbe which has a feminine noun class prefix ngal-. The -kad part of the word is related to kaddum 'up high'.

If you are wondering about the spelling again, why gugabel in Gundjeihmi versus kukabel in Kunwinjku, have a refresher course here.

Bonj That is all.

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.