Mirniny Phonology

Introduction

This phonology is based on recordings and research undertaken by the Goldfields Aboriginal Language Centre Aboriginal Corporation (GALCAC), linguist Jackie Coffin, with thanks to senior linguist Susan Hanson.  It is compiled from historical documents, as well as recorded elicitation workshops with Mirniny speakers.  Historical material used in this phonology includes work by; Peter Gifford, Black and White and in Between; M Velichova-Rebelos, Wordlist of the Mirniny Language; Hale and O’Grady’s Mirniny recordings; Dr J Ribi, Research Report on the Mirniny Language; and Nicholas Thieberger, Handbook of Western Australian Aboriginal Languages, and Daisy Bates online resource.  For a complete list of these resources, see the reference listing at the end of this document. 

A phonology is a document that catalogues the sounds of a language, how these sounds are produced in the mouth and the graphemes used to represent the sounds.  Letters of the Roman alphabet are used to represent the sounds in this language.  Some of the sounds found in Mirniny language do not correspond to the English letter sounds and therefore sometimes two letters are used to represent one sound (phoneme) such as ‘ny’ which represents the sound found in the English word, onion and the Mirniny word mirniny – ‘man’.  These are known as digraphs. 

A ‘Mirniny Orthography’ paper further explains the letter choices used for the alphabet.

This phonology document explains phonological features found in words of the Mirniny language such as the vowels, consonants, consonant clusters, syllables and stress patterns.

The morphology, sentence structures, suffixes and adverbs will be addressed in a forthcoming sketch grammar of this language.  

Location and migration of speakers

Mirniny country occupies a long thin strip of land, east from Point Culver, along the south coast of Western Australia and South Australia to the head of the Great Australian Bight.  The inhospitable nature of the Nullarbor to the north, meant the Mirniny stayed close to the coastline, never venturing more than 50 or 60 kilometres from the coast (Curr, 1886).  Separate to non-Indigenous naming conventions, Aboriginal groups named themselves and their neighbours by taking into consideration geography, cultural practices and rituals (or lack thereof).  Considering this, it was not unusual for one language group to be known by many different names.  Documents held in the GACLAC archives show the Mirniny were also known as: Meening; Minning; Jirkala; Wonunda; Julbara; Ba:duk, Ikala; Irkala; Ngandatha; Ngandada; Wanbiri; Warnabiri; Wonbil; Yirkala-Meening and Yirkla (Thieberger, 1993).   Mirniny people are known to have lived in Balladonia, Eucla, Mundrabilla, Mundrabilla Station, Norseman and Esperance thus, further research around these areas will be undertaken.  

‘Consonant Phonetic Description’ and ‘Minimal Pair’ sections of the paper contain sound files. To hear the pronunciations, push the control button and click the word at the same time.

This Phonology

1. Orthography

Linguists and language speakers jointly decide which letters best represent the sounds of a language. This is done through both detailed phonemic analysis of each sound and discussion with speakers, before a decision is made on the orthography or alphabet to use for a language. The sound is then best-matched to the Roman alphabet or digraph (a combination of two letters are chosen to represent the sound) such as ny in the word nyuntu, ‘you’. This document will explain the choices made and the reasons for making them.

One of the features of this language is that every sound is not found in every place in a word. Some sounds are only found at the start of a word or middle of a word and some are only found in the middle or the end of a word.

Some sounds are more voiced at the start of a word and less voiced in the middle or end of a word. The graphemes /k/, /p/ and /t have been chosen to represent the sounds that vary from the voiced /g/, /b/ and /d/, which are unused graphemes in this alphabet.  In English, these phonemes are heard and used as separate sounds, i.e. [p] and [b] and are expressed and heard as separate phonemes. However, in this language they are heard and used as single phonemes with more or less voicing. The amount of voicing is, generally, stronger at the start of the word and therefore they are heard as the English phonemes /g/, /b/ and /d/ whereas less voicing is heard word central or word final and they are heard as the English /k/, /p/ and /t/.

Voiced and unvoiced phonemes

This selection of words, collected from historical recordings held by GALCAC, have been used to calculate the percentage of voiced and unvoiced /p/, /t/, /k/ phonemes.

The percentage of voiced versus unvoiced phoneme use is:

 

1.     jintu ‘sun’

2.     kapi ‘water’ ‘drink’

3.     karla ‘fire’

4.     kampurun ‘heat’

5.     kumarru ‘one’

6.     kutjarra ‘two’

7.     maka ‘no’

8.     mintiny

9.     murtimanku

10.  pana ‘he. that one’

11.  paru ‘burning’

12.  parru ‘he, that one’  

13.  taarti ‘great’

14.  putja ‘later’

15.  kanpi ‘good’

16.  kukli ‘silky pear’

17.  kata ‘head’

18.  jungka ‘on your own’

19.  wananta ‘place name’

20.  nyuntu ‘you’  

21.  makarlu ‘big’

 

22.  jilpa ‘carpet snake’

23.  jalpu ‘goanna’

24.  kuni ‘stick’

25.  kuri ‘loose woman’

26.  kutul ‘species of fish’

27.  maltapi ‘devil’

28.  muti ‘small fish’

29.  papa ‘dog’

30.  pika ‘sick’

31.  pikarta ‘kangaroo’

32.  piri ‘grass nest rat’

33.  pulka ‘old woman’

34.  tukapu ‘woman’

35.  wanti ‘small boy’

36.  warnti ‘discard’

37.  yaka ‘woman’

38.  warlpu ‘baby’

39.  kuna ‘excrement’

40.  kurturtu ‘heart’

41.  wintu ‘hair’

 

42.  pungu ‘hit’ (PAST)

43.  puwa ‘hit!’ (IMP)

44.  parlka ‘head’  

45.  yatu ‘good’

46.  yuparla ‘thigh’

47.  ngarlti ‘liver’

48.  kurntu ‘breast’

49.  ngalkun ‘is eating’ (present continous)

50.  yarraku ‘left hand’

51.  yurntarn ‘nape of neck’

52.  ngarntany ‘sick’

53.  kuliya ‘ear’

54.  kampu ‘bone’

55.  ngarnkurr ‘beard’

56.  pirri ‘fingernail’

57.  nanka ‘neck’

58.  ngukarra ‘armpit’

59.  kukul ‘elbow’

60.  kartirti ‘teeth’

 

Percentages of voiced versus unvoiced phoneme use

Bilabial Plosive

(voiced b, unvoiced p)

Dental Stop

(voiced d, unvoiced t)

Velar-Plosive

(voiced g, unvoiced k)

Total

%

Syllable

V+

 [b]

V-

[p]

Syllable

V+

[d]

V-

[t]

Syllable

V+

[g]

V-

 [k]

  

Initial

13/13

0/13

Initial

2/2

0/2

Initial

17/18

1/18

V+ 32/33

 V-1/33

96.97%

3.03%

Medial

0/2

2/2

Medial

0/8

8/8

Medial

0/8

8/8

V+ 0/18

V-18/18

0%

100%

Final or more

8/9

1/9

Final or more

9/15

6/15

Final or more

8/11

3/11

V+25/35

 V-10/35

71.43%

28.57%

Total

21/24

3/24

Total

11/25

14/25

Total

25/37

12/37

  

The outcomes of the comparison of unvoiced and voiced phonemes use are:

  1. 97% (32/33) of initial phonemes (phonemes) are voiced (V+).
  2. 03% (1/33) of initial phonemes are unvoiced (V-).
  3. 0% (0/18) of medial phonemes are voiced.
  4. 100% (18/18) of medial phonemes are unvoiced.
  5. 43% (25/35) of final phonemes are voiced.
  6. 57% (10/35) of final phonemes are unvoiced.

2. Vowels

This language has three short vowel sounds /a/, /i/, /u/ and three long vowel sounds aa [a:], ii [i:], uu [u:].  The vowels sounds do not change and remain constant.

The language is rhotic and therefore vowels are rhotacized.

The phonemes represented by /y/ and /w/ are semi-vowels. These are pronounced the same as in English. However, in some circumstances the /y/ operates as a glide.

2.1 Vowels Table

/a/        as in English ‘cut’  

/aa/      as in English ‘father’

/i/         as in English ‘pin’

/ii/        as in English ‘been’

/u/        as in English ‘put’

/uu/      as in English ‘boot’

 

front

central

back

high

i [i], ii [i:]

 

u [u], uu [u:]

low

 

a [a], aa [a:]

 

 Mirniny  vowel inventory

2.2 Short Vowels

Short vowels may appear in any syllable of a word. Initial analysis indicates no restrictions on which vowels may appear next to which consonant; that is, any vowel may precede any consonant or follow any consonant.  

Additionally, there are no rules preventing vowel-initial words.  GALC linguists have recorded examples of vowel-initial lexemes such as;

  • umpara ‘fly’ (insect)
  • irralu– ‘pull’
  • ija- ‘void’
  • ikarnu ‘wild dog’
  • umiya ‘nothing’

2.3 Long Vowels

Analysis of words produced in a natural setting is preferred however, the vowels analysed in this paper were recorded in an artificial setting.  

Long vowels occur in one of the 60 lexemes in the 2021 wordlist.   It is positioned within the initial syllable.

  1. taarti ‘great’

As of February 2021, no (audio) recordings of long vowel [i:] and [u:] have been made.  However, written records indicate the use of [a:] and [u:].  These are as follows:

  1. puuna ‘blow’
  2. taatja ‘mouth’
  3. tjaalany ‘tongue’
  4. paarti ‘witchety grub’
  5. karlaaja ‘cooked’

As with the recorded data, long vowel sounds occur in the first syllable, with the exception of karlaaja

Linguists are yet to find written or recorded examples of the long [i], although there are (written) examples of this phoneme in neighbouring Esperance Nyungar; miil ‘eye’

2.4 Vowel Harmony

In the recorded example provided, long vowels account for 1.67% of vowel use.  Of the (written) examples provided, 85.71% appear in the first syllable.  Given Mirniny sound rules place stress on the initial syllable, it is not surprising these long vowels are more frequently found in this position. 

In the GALCAC examples,

  • [a:] appears in initial syllable position, after voiced alveolar stop [t], voiced labial stop [p], and lamino-dental stop. [tj], and before retroflex [rt], dental stop [tj] and alveolar lateral [l].
  • In final syllable position [a:] occurs after retroflexed [rl] and before palatal stop [j].
  • [u:] is found word initially after voiced labial stop [p] and before alveolar nasal [n].

3. Consonants

The graphemes of the English alphabet have been used to represent each consonant phoneme in this language. Digraphs are used to represent phonemes not found or, not found commonly, in Standard Australian English (SAE). For example, the retroflex lateral [rl] found in the word karla ‘fire’ and the velar nasal [ng] used in the word ngamu ‘food’.  

These phonemes remain constant, as for the vowels.

Some consonant clusters can be found in these words and these are described in a later chapter in this phonology document. 

This language has two rhotic or /r/ like sounds; a retroflex rhotic [r] such as found in American English (AmE) /r/ and an alveolar rhotic [rr] which is found in Scottish English.  

The initial retroflex rhotic consonant [rl], [rt] and [rn] is pronounced as rhotic, but not written this way, because speakers know to do this automatically.  To write the consonants in this manner would only confuse readers and learners. 

Allophones of /t/: [th] and [tj], appear to be in free variation in a number of morphemes.  Handwritten wordlists, found in historical documents, contain multiple examples of the dental stop [th] where we might expect to find the lamino-dental stop [tj].  Naessan (2013), goes so far as to list both phonemes in variations of the same lexeme (i.e. thuwi and tjuwi ‘meat’)  However, analysis of (elicited) language recordings have revealed the use of the lamino-dental stop [tj] by speakers.

See the following examples:

Written Record

Audio Record

Gloss

GALC Orthography

thaalany

(Velichova-Rebelos, 2005).

thalany

(Curr & O’Grady, 1886)

tjaalany

(O’Grady & Hale, 1960)

tongue

tjaalany

tharrjin

(Curr & O’Grady, 1886)

tharrtjin

(Naessan, 2013)

tjarrjin

(O’Grady & Hale, 1960)

ankle

tjarrjin

thuthu

(Velichova-Rebelos, 2005).; Naessan, 2013).

tjutju

(Naessan, 2013)

tjutju

(O’Grady & Hale, 1960)

dog

tjutju

thuwi

(Naessan, 2013; Curr & O’Grady, 1886)

tjuwi

(O’Grady & Hale, 1960)

meat

tjuwi

ngathu

(Velichova-Rebelos, 2005).

ngatju

(O’Grady & Hale, 1960)

I

1SG

ngatju

thartu

(Naessan, 2013).

tjartu  

(O’Grady & Hale, 1960)

towards/ that way

tjartu

thukapu

(Velichova-Rebelos, 2005).

tukapu

(Thieberger, 1993)

woman

tukapu

Looking at the data supplied in the above table, it would appear that [th] has been used in written records to represent a lamino-dental stop where speakers are heard to use [tj].  Across the border of Mirniny country, western neighbours the Ngadju, use /dj/ in the spelling of ‘man’.  It is unlikely such a differentiation would exist between sounds across a shared border, particularly when each language uses the word, and their respective glosses are similar (‘man’ compared to 1SG). 

Readers will note one example of /t/ in place of /th/, that being tukapu/thukapu (Thieberger, 1993).  In this recording, the (non-Aboriginal) speaker has used an alveolar stop and not the lamino-dental, in place of the suggested lamino-interdental. 

Field linguists have used a variety of symbols to represent this diagraph, including: [dy], [ty] [dh] and [dj] (Dixon, 2011).  As stated above, /d/, /b/ and /g/ are not used in GALCAC orthographies, and so [tj] will be used to represent the lamino-dental stop.

In a similar manner, O’Grady & O’Grady (in Velichova-Rebelos, 2005).

 have used /c/ to represent [j] in their Mirniny Language Wordlist. 

Written Record

Audio Record

Gloss

GALCAC Orthography

cina

(Velichova-Rebelos, 2005).

jina

(Thieberger, 1993)

foot

jina

cirntu

(Velichova-Rebelos, 2005).

jintu

(Thieberger, 1993)

sun

jintu

cirra

(Velichova-Rebelos, 2005).

jirra

(O’Grady & Hale, 1960)

thigh or leg

jirra

It would appear that O’Grady & O’Grady (in Velichova-Rebelos, 2005) have used the /c/ grapheme to differentiate between the lamino-palatal stop and the lamino-dental stop in their notes, because affricates and fricatives are not found in Australian languages.  The GALCAC orthography will use /j/ to represent the lamino-palatal stop. 

3.1 Consonants Table

 

Non-peripheral

 
 

Apical

Lamino

Peripheral

 

Alveolar

Retroflex

Interdental

Palatal

Velar

Bilabial

Stops

/t/

/rt/

/tj/

/j/

/k/

/p/

Nasals

/n/

/rn/

 

/ny/

/ŋ/

/m/

Laterals

/l/

/rl/

 

/ly/

  

Rhotics

/rr/

/r/

    

Semi-vowels

Glides

   

/y/

  

Approximants

     

/w/

3.2 Consonant Phonetic Description

3.2.1 Bilabial Stop p

Bilabial stop /p/ as in Standard Australian English (SAE) ‘pin’. This phoneme is more voiced in word initial position, and may be voiced or unvoiced in word medial.

pungu, ‘hit’ (past tense).

3.2.2 Bilabial Nasal m

Bilabial nasal /m/ as in SAE mouse.  

This consonant appears in first and medial word positioning. 

muni, ‘lip’

3.2.3 Bilabial Approximate w

Bilabial approximate /w/ as in SAE ‘won’. These glides or semivowels are phonetically similar to vowels, but function as consonants.  

puwa, ‘hit(imperative)

3.2.5 Alveolar Stops t

Alveolar stop /t/ as in SAE ‘top’. This phoneme is voiced in the word initial and may be voiced or unvoiced in medial position. 

wintu, ‘hair’.

3.2.6 Alveolar Nasal n

Alveolar nasal /n/ as in SAE net.

The alveolar nasal appears in word initial, medial and final position. 

nanka ‘neck’.

3.2.7 Alveolar Lateral l

Alveolar lateral /l/ as in SAE ‘light.

Can be used word-initial, medial or final, as seen below in the Mirniny lexeme for ‘nose’ mula, where it appears in the final syllable.

mula ‘nose’

3.2.8 Alveolar Rhotic rr

Alveolar rhotic /rr/ as in Scottish English ‘bairn’.

This phoneme appears in the word medial as a tap, or a trill in word final position. 

yarrku, ‘left hand’.

As seen above, yarrku ‘left hand’ the [rr] is heard as a tap (word medial). 

Or as a trill in word final position; ngukarra, ‘armpit’

ngukarra, ‘armpit’ 

3.2.9 Retroflex Stop rt

The retroflex stop [rt] sounds like American English ‘cart’.  This phoneme appears in the word initial, medial and final syllable.  In initial position, the retroflex rhotic consonant [rt] is pronounced as rhotic, but not written this way because speakers know to do this automatically.  To write the consonants in this manner would confuse readers and learners. 

wartu, ‘eye’.

3.2.10 Retroflex Nasal rn

Retroflex nasal /rn/ as in American English ‘barn’. This phoneme appears in the initial, medial and final syllable.

kurntu, ‘breast’.

The initial retroflex rhotic consonant [rn] is pronounced as rhotic, but not written this way because speakers know to do this automatically.  To write the consonants in this manner would only confuse readers and learners. 

Concerning this lexeme, readers will also notice the initial /k/ is so soft as to be almost imperceptible.  

3.2.11 Retroflex Lateral rl

Retroflex lateral /rl/, as heard in American English ‘curl’. This phoneme appears in the word initial, medial and final syllable.  

makurlu ‘big’.

As with the other retroflex phonemes, the initial retroflex rhotic consonant [rl] is pronounced as rhotic, but not written this way because speakers know to do this automatically. 

3.2.12 Retroflex Rhotic r

Retroflex rhotic /r as in American English ‘car’. This phoneme is always rhoticised.

warany,  ‘long’.

3.2.13 Palatal stop j

As heard in SAE ‘jar’.

The palatal stop can appear word initial and medial.  To date, GALC linguists have not found any examples of this phoneme in the word final position, although it does occur in the last syllable.  For example: tjarrjin ‘ankle’ and warrja‘wombat fur’.

mirninyju, ‘man’.

3.2.14 Palatal Nasal ny

As in SAE ‘onion’. Appears in the word initial, medial and final syllable. 

tjaalany, ‘tongue’

3.2.16 Palatal Glide y

As in SAE ‘yellow’. This phoneme may be found word initial, medial or final.

yarraku ‘left hand’

3.2.17 Velar Stop k

Velar stop /k/, as in SAE ‘get’.  This phoneme is voiced in both first and medial positions.  The first example demonstrates first syllable production. 

kuliya, ‘ear’.

This example shows voiced in initial and medial production.  As illustrated, there is less voicing in the medial position. 

kukul, ‘throat’.

3.2.18 Velar Nasal ng

Velar nasal /ng/, as in SAE ‘song’. This phoneme appears word initial and medial.

ngarnkurr, ‘beard’.

 3.3 Dental Stops tj

The dental stop occurs in word initial, medial and final positions.  

tjartu, ‘that way’

ngatju, ‘I’.

4. Word Structure

4.1 Syllable Structure

The minimum word structure is CV, e.g.

ma- ‘get’ m/a = C/V

yu- ‘give’ y/u =C/V

The most common minimum word pattern is CVCV, e.g.

warta ‘wood’ wa/rta = CV/CV

tjutju ‘dog’ tju/tju = CV/CV

GALCAC records show one example of an extremely rare VCCV being,

irltu ‘blood’ irl/tu = VC/ CV

Other examples of word structure, different to the CVCV are shown below (note these are written records).

umpara ‘fly’ (an insect) = VC/CV/CV

            umiya ‘nothing’ = VCV/CV

It remains to be seen if the above structures are not in fact the result of an initial consonant drop.  Changes to stress patterns, i.e. from first to second syllable, can result in the initial consonant drop over time (Dixon, 2011).  This would account for the distinctive pattern.  In any case, it is clear that Mirniny does not have a rule preventing vowel initial lexemes. 

4.2 Word Initial Sounds

Mirniny does not appear to have a rule preventing word-initial vowels.

The Goldfields Aboriginal Language Centre has several written records of vowel initial words.  Historical documents analysed by GALCAC reveal V/CV syllable structure such as, ‘ini’ name, ‘imi’ lower lip and irralu (V/CV/CV)‘pull’.

However, it should be noted that there are also written records for ‘yini’ (Velichova-Rebelos, 2005) and ‘mimi’ (Burgoyne, 2000). The difference may be dialectal, or could be simply be a result of mishearing on the part of the recorder.  

Almost every consonant in the Mirniny alphabet is permitted to take word-initial position.

Word initial consonants:

j, k, m, n, ng, ny, p, t, tj, w, y

In a database with over 1000 entries, there were only two examples of lexemes beginning with a retroflexed rhotic [r]:

  1. ra-, hit, aim, throw.
  2. rini, leg.

In examples held by  GALC, the verb ra-, (Von Brandenstein, 1982) is used to discuss actions like hit, aim or throw.  

‘Warnti purtungu puri rarnu.’ 

The small children threw stones. (Von Brandenstein, n.d.).

Because the source of (2.)rini is identified as Mirniny/Wirangu, the lexeme may actually be Wirangu and not in fact Mirniny (Burgoyne, 2000).

By contrast, /r/ is commonly found as the initial phoneme in suffixes:

  1. -rra ; verb suffix, imperative (IMP) tense.
  2. -rra-; verbaliser (VERB).
  3. -rri ; noun suffix, allative (ALL) case.
  4. -rri ; verb suffix,imperative (IMP) tense.
  5. -rnu ; verb suffix, past (PAST) tense.
  6. -rn ; verb suffix, present (PRES) tense.
  7. -rrin ; verbsuffix, future (FUT) tense.
  8. -rnaya ; noun suffix, genitive (GEN) case.
  9. -rniya ; noun suffix, purposive (PURP) case.
  10. -rniyala ; noun suffix, locative (LOC) case.

The phoneme [rr] does not occur in the initial position.

When they occur in the initial position, /n/, /t/ and /l/ are retroflexed, even though they are not written as /rn/, /rt/ and /rl/.

4.3 Word Final Sounds

In a database of over 1000 lexemes, consonant-final examples were rare.  Below is a list of some of the consonant-final lexemes.

  1. rrin, verb suffix, future tense.
  2. tjungin ‘night’.
  3. tjarltarr ‘to split’.
  4. nginpin ‘eyebrow’
  5. jilkarl ‘root’
  6. jupin ‘smooth’
  7. ngarnkurr ‘beard’

Most words in the GALCAC database are vowel-final.

4.4 Consonant Clusters

The most common consonant clusters found in a sample of 500 words are listed below. The syllable pattern for each word are either consonant+vowel (83% or 192 CV syllables in 100 words) or, less frequently, consonant+vowel+consonant (17% or 40 CVC syllables in 100 words). In the instances where a syllable is a CVC pattern, the subsequent syllable will commence with a C and a consonant cluster will occur. For example, jintu jin/tu, the consonant cluster [nt] is formed due to the syllable pattern. However, the phonemes are not pronounced together as in the English word ‘ant’ but are pronounced according to the syllable to which they belong.

rltj

 

kurltjirrkakurl/tjirrka‘grass seed’

lyk

 

karralykakarraly/ka‘bark of a tree’

ngk

 

karlangkakarlang/ka‘by the fire’

rnt

 

ngarntatjangarn/tatja‘we’, ‘you and i’

rlk

 

parlkaparl/ka‘head’
 
nasal stop   

n+t

 

m+p

 

ny+tj

 

n+p

jintu =  jin/tu     ‘sun’

 

kampurun = kam/purun ‘heat’

 

panytjala = pany/tjala ‘old’

 

nginpin = ngin/pin ‘eyebrow’

nasal dental

ny+tj

 

nyanytju = nyany/tju ‘horse’
lateral stop

l+p

 

l+k

 

rl+k

ngalpa = ngal/pa ‘many’

 

mulku = mul/ku ‘cat’

 

yurlka = yurl/ka ‘grass’

lateral dental

rl+tj

 

kurltjirrka = kurl/tjirr/ka ‘seed’
rhotic stop

rr+k

 

rl+k

 

rn+t

 

 

rl+p

purrku = purr/ku ‘ashes’

ngarrka = ngarr/ka ‘cliff’

 

parlka = parl/ka ‘head’

 

ngarntany = ngarn/tany ‘sick’ 

 

warlpi = warl/pi ‘water’

 

rhotic nasalrr+m

tjarltarrma = tjarlt/arr/ma ‘split’

 

rhotic dental

 

rr+tjtjartarrtja = tjarta/rr/tja ‘this way’
      

           

The [ng] phoneme is pronounced as [ng] in singer not as in finger. The latter would be written as [ngg] in this language.

4.5 Geminate

GALCAC research has not yielded any geminates at this time.

5.  Minimal Pairs

m – njamu ‘grandfather’janu ‘ snake’
m – ymayi ‘food’yayi ‘now’
ng – yngalpa ‘dead’yalpa ‘thumb’
rn – nwanti ‘small’ or ‘boy’warnti ‘discard’ or ‘throw away’
lk – rlkpalka ‘old woman’parlka ‘head’
k – lmaka ‘no’mala ‘truth’
a – uwarta ‘tree’wartu ‘eye’
r– nparu ‘burning’pana ‘that one’
a – umara ‘arm’maru ‘ black’
l – lkyurla ‘ground’yurlka ‘grass’
tj – wputja ‘later’puwa ‘hit!’
a – uwila ‘stomach’wilu ‘hot wind’
a – iwarnta ‘leave’warnti ‘child’
k – ypuka ‘rotten’puya ‘smoke’
tj – ypatja ‘use mouth’paya ‘dig’
i – upurti ‘girl’purtu ‘small’

6. Homophones

Within a sample of 600 words, linguists uncovered the following list of homophones:

mara ‘arm’ and ‘root’

minya ‘small’ and ‘that one’ ‘this one’ (demonstrative).

ngamu ‘food’ and ‘vagina’

tjala ‘side’ and ‘where’

yurri ‘play’ and ‘ear’

jintu ‘mallee’ and ‘sun’

kalta ‘snake’ and ‘west’

mula ‘nose’ and ‘point’

ngalpa ‘dead’ and ‘many’

yalpa ‘thumb’ and ‘woman’

yatu ‘ok’ and ‘right hand’

kampu ‘bone’ and ‘throwing stick’

marna ‘plenty’ and ‘older brother’

7. Stress

As per Goedeman’s 2010 a survey of stress in Australian languages, ‘in an overwhelming majority of Aboriginal languages main stress appears somewhere at the beginning of the word. The prototypical stress pattern for these languages places main stress on the first syllable and secondary stress on alternate syllable thereafter.’ Mirniny shares the most common pattern, with initial main stress, and occasional secondary stress on the penultimate syllable, in words with three or more syllables.

8. Reduplication

Reduplication is used functionally, to indicate an increase in number, or prosodically.

For example, the Mirniny lexeme ‘four’ kutjarrakutjarra is created by repeating the lexeme for ‘two’, kutjarra.

In this example the root word is compounded to create a new word, with a semantic relationship to the original root word.

E.g.:

ReduplicationRoot WordGloss

kutjarrakutjarra

(Velichova-Rebelos, 2005).

kutjarra ‘two’

‘four’

repeated to indicate double that number.

9. Reduplication in compound words.

In these examples the phonological process of reduplication focusses on prosodic morphology.

ReduplicationGloss

mimi

(Burgoyne, 2000).

‘breast’

tjutju

(Velichova-Rebelos, 2005).

‘dog’

wijiwiji

(https://bates.org.au).

‘boomerang’

murumuru

(Velichova-Rebelos, 2005).

‘fly’

 10. Onomatopoeic

Onomatopoeic words collected represent bodily sounds or functions, and animal sounds.

ngurrkian ‘snoring’

kurrku ‘cuckoo’

kurparu ‘magpie’

11. Haplology

No examples of haplology among 500 words, as yet.

12. Elision

No elision discovered as yet.

13. References

Burgoyne, I.Y.K. (2000). The Mirniny: we are the whales. Broome: Magabala Books.

Curr, E.M. (1886-1887). The Australian Race: its origin, languages, customs, place of landing in Australia, and the routes by which it spread itself over that continent. London: Trubner.

Dixon, R.M.W. (2011). The Languages of Australia. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Gifford, P. (2002). Black and white and in between: Arthur Dimer and the Nullarbor.  Perth, Australia: Hesperian Press.

Goedemans, R. (2010). An overview of word stress in Australian Aboriginal Languages. In H. v.d. Hulst (Ed.), A survey of word accentual patterns in the languages of the world (pp.55-86). DeGruyter Mouton.

Hercus, L.A. (1999). A grammar of the Wirangu language from the West Coast of South Australia. Pacific Linguists. Australian National University.

Jamieson, P. (2001). Mirniny meeting: recordings. Retrieved from GALCAC archive.

Næssan, PA. (2013). A sketch analysis of Geoff O’Grady’s Mirniny material (from the Far West Coast of South Australia and locations in Western Australia) for use in the development of Mirniny language resources and language workshops. The Office for the Arts, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, MILR (Maintenance of Indigenous Languages and Records), Canberra ACT. GALC Archive #0001358

O’Grady, A. & Hale, K. (1960) Mirning Compilation Tapes: Mirning_01; 014053. Retrieved from AIATSIS Mura Collections Catalogue, November 20, 2021. www.aiatsis.gov.au  

Ribi, J. (2000). Research report on the Mirniny language. Wangkanyi Ngurra Tjurta Aboriginal Language Center. Retrieved from GALC archives #0000883.

Thieberger, N. (1993). Handbook of Western Australian Aboriginal languages south of the Kimberley region.Canberra: Australian National University.

Thieberger, N. (ed.). (1993). John Carlisle, The Last Mirniny Speaker. Retrieved from www.paradisec.com.au  https://dx.doi.org/10.4225/72/56F94B5E8A6E0

Thieberger, N. (2017). Digital Daisy Bates. https://bates.org.au

Velichova-Rebelos, M. (2005).  Word list of the Mirniny Language: Extracted from notes by Geoff O’Grady & Alix O’Grady 1959/1968. University of Adelaide: South Australia.

Von Brandenstein, C. G. (1982) 88 Grammar text sheets,

Extract. Mirniny and Ngadjumaia.

Retrieved from GALC archives #0000284.