Kaurna Warra Pintyanthi
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The Kaurna Language Dictionary (forthcoming)

Kaurna Language and its Sources

The Kaurna Language Dictionary is being compiled from all the known primary sources of Kaurna language and will incorporate new words that have been created through the Kaurna language program which started around 1990 (see Kaurna in the Public Arena Post 1980).

Kaurna language was studied and written down by many Europeans during the early years of colonisation (between 1836 and around 1850). None of these people were trained linguists and most of them had never learnt an Australian language before. As a result, some of what they recorded was incomplete or only semi-accurate. Also, each observer spelled Kaurna words in their own way, so there is lots of variation in the historical sources we worked from.

We are compiling the new dictionary according to the following criteria:

  1. We located all known records of Kaurna language and combined them in a single data base.
  2. We identified where different people had recorded the same word but spelled or defined it differently and unified these entries so all the information about each word iswas in one place.
  3. We studied the sound system of the Kaurna language in order to find a regular and user-friendly way to spell Kaurna words. When we were not sure about how a word originally sounded we looked at related languages to see if they have the same word. Languages like Adnyamathanha, Nukunu and Kuyani that have been studied by modern linguists share some words with Kaurna, which can give us a hint about the correct pronunciation of words.
  4. Sometimes we were not sure about how the word originally sounded. In those cases we made an educated guess and wrote the sounds we weren’t sure about in CAPITALs.  However, this will not appear in the printed dictionary.
  5. For each head-word we wrote a clear definition in modern English (the sources use very old-fashioned language), giving example sentences where possible, and listed the sources where the word or sentence was recorded.
  6. We also produced an English-Kaurna finder list, to help users locate Kaurna words.

As an example of how one word looked in the sources, compare the word gadla 'fire':

Abbrev. Author/Researcher Year Entry Translation
TS Teichelmann & Schürmann, 1840 gadla fire, fuel, wood
TM Teichelmann Manuscript 1857 garla fuel (seems to denote fire when issuing from the fuel, the fuel belonging to the whole idea of the word)
WY William Wyatt 1837-39 kerla firewood
WS William Williams 1840 coorla fire
RO George Augustus and son Charles Robinson 1837 cull,lar fire
GA Joseph Paul Gaimard 1826 kalla wood
GA Joseph Paul Gaimard 1826 kalla to burn
GA Joseph Paul Gaimard 1826 alla fire
Koeler Hermann Koeler 1836-37 kálla Feuer ‘fire’

The entry for ‘kardla’ or ‘karla’ in the new dictionary will look like this:

kardla Variants: karla | noun

  1. fire, flame, burning embers
    [Source: TS, TM, WS, RO, GA]
    Kardlapulyu wantith'ai. I will sleep without a fire. [Source: TS]
    Kardla payanthi. The fire burns(you). [Source: TM]
    kardla parranthi
    to light a fire [Source:TM]
    karlarlu panthi to set on fire [Source: TM]
  2. firewood, kindling, fuel [Source:TS, TM, WY, GA]
    Kardlakatinthu'rna! Fetch firewood![Source: TM]
  3. heat, hot [Source: TM]
    Kardla purruna? Is it hot yet? [Source:TM]
  4. light [Source: TM]
    tirntukardlarlu when the sun is shining [Source: TM]
    cf. Kukatha: kurl-a, culla ''
    cf. Narangga: kaRla, kadla 'fire'
    cf. Nukunu: kartla 'fire'
    cf. Ngadjuri: gadla 'fire'
    cf. Wirangu: karla 'fire'
    cf. Wyatt: kerla 'firewood'
    cf. Gaimand: kalla 'wood'
    cf. Williams: cur-la 'fire
    cf. Stephens: coorla 'fire'

kardla purtultu (Literally: fire burnt-tree) firestick [Source: TM]
kardla tadlanyi (Literally: fire tongue) flame [Source: TM]
kardla-kardlantu very hot, heated [Source: TS]

Extract of Kaurna Dictionary (Pilot)