Antidesma ghaesembilla 1
Antidesma ghaesembilla 2
Kudjewk wanjh karrimang mandjurlukkumarlba.
'In the wet season we get mandjurlukkumarlba berries.'
It's now the season for mandjurlukkumarlba berries (Antidesma ghaesembila). In Kuninjku they are called mandjurlukkurn. In Kundjeyhmi they are called andjurlukkumarlba and in Kune they are djurlukkurn.
Kuninjku people near Mumeka like to get these berries at this time of year at Bilindje on the Mumeka to Maningrida road on the Tomkinson flood plain.
The plant also has a nickname called kunjkurlba which means 'kangaroo blood'. That's because the old people used to use the juice as part of kangaroo sorcery to hunt kangaroos. They sprayed the juice on to kangaroo tracks on the ground and eventually the legs of the kangaroos would become arthritic and lock up, making it easier to spear them.
Learn about your local foods, learn how to say their names, look after them.
photos by Gary Fox
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Pronunciation guides on signage

Pronunciation guides on signage! Here is a typical problem when using some kind of pronunciation guide on signs for Bininj Kunwok words. When there is no equivalent sound or 'phoneme' in English for the Bininj Kunwok sound, how do you represent it in the pronunciation guide? The 'nj' in Bininj Kunwok sounds like 'ny' in canyon or the 'ni' in onion but it can appear at the start, middle or end of syllables e.g. manj 'not yet' or njale 'what' or nga-kinje 'I'm cooking it'. And what is it about a double 'l' that is better than a single 'l' (bull vs bul)? And in the confusing English spelling system 'u' can have various sounds such as in 'up' or 'put'. In Bininj Kunwok it's always ONLY the u sound in English 'put'.
Then there is the issue of different dialects of English spoken by the visitors who look at the signage. Australian English doesn't pronounce 'r' in many words whilst American English does. So if you use an 'r' in the pronunciation guide, it will mean different sounds to different people. The "Nar-" in 'Nar-bull-win-bull-win' is thus confusing. American English speakers will think it rhymes with American English "car" but that is misleading because there is no 'r' sound in the Bininj Kunwok prefix Na- in Na-bulwinjbulwinj.
And then there are the visitors for whom English is not their first language. Only the rainbow serpent knows how they would pronounce words in pronunciation guides! In this day and age, best to direct visitors to an audio file online where you can hear a native speaker pronounce words.
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Kuninjku and Kune teaching at Maningrida School


Kamalay Kamak = 'Good Morning'. Ngaye Bulanj Linton. Ngarrurrkmirri Manawukan School kunwok Kuninjku. Nganedjarrkdurrkmirri Bangardi Nadukurrdji dja Kamarrang Naborn.

Good morning. I am Bulanj Linton (left). I work at Maningrida School teaching Kuninjku language . I work with Bangardi (from Dukurrdji clan, centre) and Kamarrang (from Born clan, right).


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Ngahborlbme 'I am learning'

The online Kunwinjku course is going well. There are some great discussions and questions in the forums. Here is an answer to an interesting question:

QUESTION FROM A STUDENT about ngahborlbme 'I am learning':

"I was wondering about the word for learning too as I hadn’t come across that exact phrase. Is there a suffix like -ing? or would you always add in the -h- if currently in the process of doing something?

I am just curious as when I learnt Portuguese there is a suffix -ndo that is the equivalent of our -ing, for example the verb to learn = aprender and if you were to say I learn (as in right now) it would be ‘Eu aprendo’, but you can also say ‘Eu estou aprendendo’ = I am learning.

I am greatly enjoying the experience so far and I find the videos very useful to hear how different speakers say the same words."

For the question about if there is a participle for verbs in BK like 'learning' the answer is no. BK verbs are very different to verbs of European languages and don't have an auxiliary verb 'to be' that precedes a participle (e.g. I am That kind of phrase is achieved with one word in BK. BK verbs are organised into themes determined by the final formative suffix (-me, -ke, -men, -kan, -di, -dong, -dung, -re, etc). They must also have a prefix that indicates who is doing the action (the subject) and if they are transitive verbs, also who is the object. So if you want to use the verb 'to learn' you must say who is doing the learning. You can't just say 'learning'. The stem of the verb to learn is -borlbme. It is in the class of verbs that end in -me. So you could say nga-borlbme 'I learn' or ngah-borlbme 'I am learning [now]' or ngarrih-borlbme 'we [exclusive, not you] are learning or karrih-borlbme 'we all are learning'. These examples are all in the non-past tense (that means present and future are the same form). The glottal stop sound -h- has been added to show that the action is happening currently (as opposed to an unspecified present time or in the future).


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Dird 'the moon'

The Research Unit for Indigenous Languages at the University of Melbourne recently tweeted a nice graphic with various names for the moon in a number of Australian Indigenous languages. Here is their same graphic background reworked with names for phases of the moon in Bininj Kunwok:

phases of moon BK

In Bininj Kunwok dialects ome people call the moon dird and some say karrakbarl. There is an important story about the moon involving two characters, the moon and the quoll. In their human forms in the creation period or 'the dreaming' as some English speakers call it, they both fought over the fate of humanity. The quoll said that when people die, they should die forever and not return to earth but the moon disagreed. As they could not resolve their differences, the moon said he would leave the earth and live in the sky where he could live through a monthly cycle, die, and then return again for another cycle. The quoll stayed on earth and introduced death and so now all humans die but the moon is reborn each month. This is why a waning moon is said to be 'dying' or dird karrowen  [moon it-dies] in Bininj Kunwok. In sign language, the hand sign for the quoll is the same as that used for wayarra 'spirit of a dead person' or 'death'. A beautiful and famous image of the moon spirit with his long arms and long penis is depicted at Ngalurdbirrhmi. The picture below depicts this image with Obed Wurrkkidj standing in front.


Obed Wurrkkidj at Ngalurdbirrhmi. © Bininj Kunwok Language Project

The most noticeable difference between English and Bininj Kunwok terms for phases concerns the new moon. A new moon in English is announced before any crescent is visible, i.e. on the night when the whole moon in dark. In Bininj Kunwok the very first thin crescent is called lirrk and when that first thin crescent does appear it is said that 'it [the moon] has put lirrk [the first crescent]'. The opposite term, when the last waning crescent is visible, the term is:

kalirrkdangen karrowen 'the crescent stands and is dying'

ka-lirrk-dangen ka-rrowe-n

it-crescent-stands it-die-non-past

The full moon is called either bukkulurl or dird nayuyhmi.

The word for moon is also the word for month, these two concepts being closely related or the same word in many languages of the world.

You can hear the pronunciation of the word dird by clicking here.


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