Kaurna Warra Pintyanthi
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The Kaurna Language Dictionary (forthcoming)

Kaurna Language and Kaurna Grammar

Grammar consists of two main parts:

  • Syntax which concerns the rules for stringing words together and
  • Morphology, the rules that govern the internal structure of words.

The way in which Kaurna grammar works is typical of Aboriginal languages.

Unlike in English, Kaurna word order is free and every possible combination of Subject, Verb and Object has been recorded. However, the most frequent word order was the Subject followed by the Object and with the Verb last. This freedom of word order is made possible because of suffixes or endings on the nouns.

Suffixes

Kaurna does not use prepositions, such as in, on, at, to, from, for, with, by etc. It uses suffixes instead. So any given noun may have many different endings. Consider these on the words wardli ‘house’ and miyu ‘man; person’:

wardli ‘house’

  • wardlidla ‘two houses’
  • wardlirna ‘houses’ (more than two)
  • wardlingka ‘in the house’; ‘on the house’, ‘at the house’
  • wardli-ana ‘to the house’; ‘(to) home’
  • wardlinangku ‘from the house’; ‘from home’
  • wardli-arra ‘through the house’
  • wardlityangka ‘in the vicinity of the house’
  • wardlida-ityangka ‘in the vicinity of the two houses’
  • wardlirna-ityangka ‘in the vicinity of the houses’ (more than two)
  • wardlitidli ‘having a house’
  • wardlitina ‘without a house’ (ie ‘homeless’)

Miyu ‘man; person’

  • miyu ‘man; person’ eg. Miyu padni. ‘the man went’.  Ngangkidlu miyu marti. 'The woman hugged the man.'
  • miyurlu ‘man; person’ (affected someone or something) eg. Miyurlu ngangki martinthi ‘the man is hugging the woman’
  • miyurla ‘two men; two people’
  • miyurna ‘men; people’ (more than two)
  • miyu-itya ‘to the man; for the man’
  • miyu-ityanungku ‘from the man; from the person’
  • miyu-ityangka ‘with the man; with the person
  • miyuni ‘to the man’
  • miyutina ‘without a  man’ (ie single)
  • miyutidli ‘having a man’ (ie married)
  • miyurli ‘resembling a man’
  • miyupina ‘crazy about men’
  • miyuputhu ‘full of men’

Pronouns

are words like I, me, my, you, they, them, we, us, he, she, him, hers etc. There are many more pronouns in Kaurna than in English as Kaurna pronouns are differentiated for singular (one), dual (two) and plural (more than two) as well as according to their role or function in the sentence. For instance, niina, ninthu, niwa, niwarlu, naa and naarlu all translate as ‘you’. There are many additional forms like nintaityanungku which translates as ‘from you’ or ‘by you’ etc.

Kaurna verbs also have many more suffixes or endings than English verbs. By way of example, consider some of the endings on paki- ‘cut’ and tika- ‘sit’:

pakinthi ‘cutting’ (transitive)

  • paki ‘cut’ (over and done with)
  • pakithi ‘cut’ (indefinite)
  • pakitha ‘will cut’
  • pakirti ‘don’t cut'
  • pakinana ‘having cut’
  • pakima ‘if (it were) cut’; ‘when (it was) cut’
  • pakititya ‘in order to cut’
  • pakinthu! ‘cut!’ or ‘Cut it!’ (talking to just one person)
  • pakingwa! ‘cut!’ or ‘Cut it!’ (talking to two people)
  • pakinga! ‘cut!’ or ‘Cut it!’ (talking to more than two people)
  • pakitina ‘without cutting’
  • pakirna ‘let it be cut!’
  • pakiti ‘cutter’ (the thing used to cut with)
  • pakilakila ‘cutter’ (the person doing the cutting)
  • pakipakinya ‘cutting’ (the activity)

tikanthi ‘sitting’ (intransitive)

  • tiki ‘sat’
  • tikathi ‘sat’ (indefinite)
  • tikatha ‘will sit’
  • tikarti ‘don’t sit’
  • tikanana ‘having sat’
  • tikama ‘if (he had) sat’; ‘when (she) sat’
  • tikatitya ‘in order to sit’
  • tika! ‘cut!’ or ‘Cut it!’ (talking to just one person)
  • tikaingwa! ‘sit!’ (talking to two people)
  • tikainga! ‘sit!’ (talking to more than two people)
  • tikatina ‘without sitting’
  • tikarna ‘let them sit!’
  • tikati ‘sitter’ (the thing which sits)
  • tikalikala ‘sitter’ (the person who habitually sits)
  • tikatikanya ‘sitting’ (the activity)
  • tikapinthi ‘sitting (someone or something) down’
  • tikapi ‘sat (someone or something) down’
  • tikapingutha ‘will sit (someone or something) down’

It is very important to know the difference between transitive verbs like ‘cut’ and intransitive verbs like ‘sit’, because some of the suffixes differ (eg pakinthu! ‘cut’ vs tika ‘sit!’) and the subject differs in form (miyurlu ‘the man’ is the subject of pakinthi ‘cutting’ whilst miyu ‘the man’ is the subject of tikanthi ‘sitting’).

To find out more about how Kaurna grammar works, consult Kulurdu Marni Ngathaitya! ‘Sounds Good to Me’, the Kaurna Learner’s Guide (see our Publications Page). If you understand the suffixes that go on nouns and verbs, you will be able to form many more words yourself than those that will appear in this dictionary.