Yinggarda Lesson 1

In many languages in the world there are special expressions called “greetings” that are used when we meet someone. For example, English has “hello” or “hi” or “good day”, or we can use expressions that relate to the time of day, like “good morning”, “good afternoon” or “good evening”.

In languages of the Gascoyne Region, there is nothing equivalent to this, and if you meet someone and you don’t know them, then you would usually begin the conversation with something that could sound rude to a person who is used to speaking English. Let’s look at how to greet a stranger in Yinggarda.

Ngana nyinda?

This means ‘who are you?’ and is made up of:

ngana which means ‘who’

nyinda which means ‘you’

In the Yinggarda language there are three ways of saying ‘you’: nyinda means ‘you’ when talking to one person, nhubalu means ‘you’ when talking to two people, and nhurra means ‘you’ when talking to three or more people. So we have:

  • Ngana nyinda? means ‘Who are you?’ (to one person)
  • Ngana nhubalu? means ‘Who are you?’ (to two people)
  • Ngana nhurra? means ‘Who are you?’ (to more than two people)

To answer, you simply say ngadha, which means ‘I’ plus your name. In English we have to link these with the word ‘am’ but in Yinggarda we do not — just place the two words side by side:

Ngadha Peter ‘I am Peter’
Ngadha Mary ‘I am Mary’

It is also possible to use a longer version, where we attach the ending -rna to the word for ‘I’ to emphasise it a little:

Ngadharna Peter ‘I am Peter’
Ngadharna Mary ‘I am Mary’

The same structure of putting words side by side can be used to express ‘you are …’, as in:

Nyinda Peter ‘You are Peter’
Nyinda Mary ‘You are Mary’

If you raise the tone of your voice at the end, then this becomes a question:

Nyinda Peter? ‘Are you Peter?’
Nyinda Mary? ‘Are you Mary?’

Notice that English requires the order of words to be switched around and ‘are’ to be placed first. In Yinggarda the question is indicated by a rising tone at the end only.

Once again, we can emphasise this a bit by adding an ending; this time it’s -nba added to the word for ‘you’ (one person), as in:

Nyindanba Peter ‘You are Peter’
Nyindanba Mary ‘You are Mary’

We also have the question:

Nyindanba Peter? ‘Are you Peter?’
Nyindanba Mary? ‘Are you Mary?’

New words

ngadha or ngadharna ‘I’

nyinda or nyindanba ‘you’ (to one person)

nhubalu ‘you’ (to two people)

nhurra ‘you’ (to more than two people)

ngana ‘who’