The Western Desert languages form a large family of languages that extends from Port Augusta in South Australia in the east, to the Kimberley and Port Hedland in the west. This handbook deals only with Western Australian varieties of the Western Desert languages, for information about other varieties the reader is directed to Menning and Nash (1981) Sourcebook for Central Australian languages (from which some of the information in this section is taken).
Early vocabularies from these languages in Western Australia were recorded by Paine, Connors and the Piddingtons. In 1943 Trudinger published a grammar of Pitjantjatjara and in the 1950s Worms wrote a detailed word list of Kukatja from the area around Balgo Mission. The most detailed work on a desert language at the time was Douglas (1958) An introduction to the Western Desert language. McKelson, working at La Grange, has written extensive descriptive notes about Yulparija and Karajarri. Peile worked with Kukatja and prepared a dictionary and texts, as well as a book examining Kukatja attitudes to the body, health and the soul.
Schools at Warburton, Jigalong, Punmu, La Grange and Strelley have used Western Desert languages to a greater and lesser extent over the years, sometimes able to support a bilingual programme, sometimes using language in social studies courses.
Distinctions between Western Desert languages have been difficult for European researchers to uncover. McKelson (1980) at La Grange talks about one label, 'Yulparija', which means 'from the south', and applies to people who would be called Manjiljarra or Kartujarra at Jigalong. Similarly Tindale quotes Bates as saying that Dargudi means 'northerly direction' and can apply to a general group of 'people from the north'. Wanmala (or Warrmala) and Waringarri are terms that are found in the literature referring to desert languages (e.g. Wordick (1982:366)). The former is a common term for 'strangers from the east' in the north-western desert languages, while the latter refers to 'strangers from the north'.
A brief note about the relation between 'language group', and other forms of social organisation in the Western Desert. Local groups may consider themselves to be distinct political or social entities, but form part of larger agglomerations that speak one language. Small differences in vocabulary, usually of high functional-load words such as the equivalents of 'no', 'come' or 'go' may become key features in naming what are essentially dialect groups. Goddard (1985:11) points out that the Everard Ranges people can be called Yankunytjatjara (having yankunytja 'going') to distinguish them from their western neighbours, but that this name will not distinguish them from their northern neighbours who also use the word yankunytja. In this case the distinction is made by use of the word for 'true' mula (Mulatjara as opposed to Martujara). Hansen (1984:8) cites the example of one local group that is known by at least five terms because they use the following words, each of which is used in forming language names as described by Goddard above: jukujuku; kuwarra; manjila; minuru; kayili. Multiple naming would have been the norm for most multigroups, resulting in a plethora of language names in the desert. Despite this plethora of names, the relationship of local groups to their particular country was always clearly defined and widely known.
Hansen (1984) discusses the grouping of people in the desert into what he calls 'multigroups'. He says there might be a small difference in vocabulary between these groups, in the order of a 20 per cent difference. He reports the following 'multigroup' names from the Gibson and Sandy Desert regions; Karnti wangkatjarra, Parturtatjarra, Pitjapitja, Wirnanpa, Purruku wangkatjarra, Warnantjarra, Kuwarratjarra, Ngaatjatjarra, Purtitjarra, Tjiwalinytja, Ngulyu wangka, Mantjiltjarra, Kukatja kiya, Tjarrurungkatja, Minurungkatja, Wangka tjukutjukutjarra, Wangka kuwarra, Kakarra wangka (Hansen 1984:7). Hansen's work points out the futility of attempting to correlate language and location in the desert. While the high mobility of Aboriginal people in the desert has blurred language/location links (if there ever were such links) it has also led to the fixing of 'communilects' in settlements today. Marsh (1990 p.c.), in a discussion of one such communilect at Jigalong, Martu Wangka, observes that it is a variant made up of two mutually intelligible languages, '"'not 'mixed-up', but drawing synonyms and linguistic variations from more than one source'"'.
In the following pages languages will be listed together with locations, mainly for these communilects (e.g. Wanggatha, Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara). The reader is directed to Hansen's work for a more detailed discussion.
At Balgo there are also speakers of Ngarti and Warlpiri, for more information see McGregor (1988) Handbook of Kimberley languages, or Menning and Nash (1981) Sourcebook for Central Australian languages .
There are many language names reported from the Desert and in this handbook only some of those languages are treated in detail. Other language names are listed below.
Djuban (Brandenstein (1973a) has recorded some words and a text)
Murrunidja (Brandenstein 1980)
Pawututjara (O'Grady 1959 has a vocabulary)
Tonkinson (1978b:148) lists a number of films made about Western Desert Aboriginal Murrunidja (Brandenstein 1980) people. Most of these films are available from the AIATSIS.
Bates, D.M. (n.d.13) Initiation - Murchison and surrounding districts, typescript copy of MS, Section 4: 4a, ANL-MS365-16/131-164.
Bates, D.M. (n.d.16) Myths and legends - Central Australia, typescript copy of MS, Section 7, ANL-MS365-26/2-48.
Bates, D.M. (n.d.22) Names of places on the Murchison, Mt Sir Samuel, Lake Way, etc., typescript copy of MS, Section 2; maps, ANL-MS365-4/77-101.
Bates, D.M. (n.d.39) Native vocabularies - Cue Magisterial District, typescript copy of MS, Section 12, 2F, ANL-MS365-54/75-103.
Bates, D.M. (n.d.79) Native vocabularies - Murchison District, typescript copy of MS, Section 12, 2F, ANL - MS 365 Box 54-58.
Bates, D.M. (n.d.109) Native vocabularies - Sandstone Magisterial District, typescript copy of MS, Section 12, 2F, ANL-MS365-54/106-115.
Bates, D.M. (n.d.136) Social organisation - Relationship terms, typescript copy of MS, Section 3, ANL-MS365-14/2-111.
Brandenstein, C.G. von (1966b) Interim report (1) [to AIAS] on fieldwork in north-west Western Australia, 6-30 June 1966.
Brandenstein, C.G. von (1969a) Interim report on linguistic fieldwork, June-September 1969, ts.
Brandenstein, C.G. von (1969d) Report on fieldwork, ts.
Brandenstein, C.G. von (1969g) The diaries of C.G. von Brandenstein, 1964-1969, MS.
Brandenstein, C.G. von (1970a) Interim report on linguistic fieldwork, July-August 1970, ts.
Brandenstein, C.G. von (1972c) Narratives from the north-west of Western-Australia in Nyiyaparli, language of the Palygu, Vol.1 - Narratives, Vol.2 - Songs, Vol.3 - Vocabulary (about 500 pages and an audio-disc).
Brandenstein, C.G. von (1980) Ngadjumaja: an Aboriginal language of south-east Western Australia, Institut für Sprachwissenshaft der Universität Innsbruck, Innsbruck.
Brandenstein, C.G. von (1982a) Eighty-eight grammar text sheets, exemplifying grammatical, lexical and phraseological diversities as well as links of 25 Aboriginal languages from Western Australia, ts.
Brandenstein, C.G. von (n.d.b) General report on linguistic fieldwork, ts.
Brown, M. (1979) Morphological reconstruction of proto-Western Desert, BA (Hons) thesis, ANU.
Burbidge, A.A., K.A. Johnson, P.J. Fuller and R.I. Southgate (1988) 'Aboriginal knowledge of the mammals of the Central Deserts of Australia', pp.9-39 in Australian Wildlife Research, Vol.15.
Capell, A. (1972) 'The affix transferring languages of Australia', pp.5-36 in Talanya,Vol.1
Connors, F. (1934) Native vocabulary, Warburton Range (Lands Department file), ts.
Craig, B.F. (1969) Central Australian and Western Desert regions: an annotated bibliography, AIAS, Canberra.
Davidson, D.S. (1947) 'Footwear of the Australian Aborigines: environment vs. cultural determination', pp.114-123 in Southwestern Journal of Anthropology, Vol.3, no.2.
Douglas, W.H. (1972a) 'Dialect differentiation in the Western Desert - a comment', pp.79-83 in Anthropological Forum Vol.3, no.1.
Douglas, W.H. (1980d) 'The Desert experience: language', pp.108-118 in R.M. Berndt and C.H. Berndt, (eds) Aborigines of the West: their past and present, UWA Press, Perth.
Douglas, W.H. (1990) Illustrated topical dictionary of the Western Desert language, revised edition, Kalgoorlie College, Kalgoorlie.
Dunlop, I. (1966) People of the Australian Western Desert, ts.
Education Department of WA (1971) People of the Spinifex, Education Department of WA, Perth.
Elphinstone, J.J. (1958) Report on the health and nutrition of natives from Rawlinson Range to Lake MacDonald, Department of Public Health, Perth.
Evans, N. (1981) Towards a reconstruction of proto-Western Desert, with attempts at higher level subgrouping, MS.
Hansen, K.C. (1984) 'Communicability of some Western Desert communilects', pp.1-112 in J. Hudson and N. Pym, (eds) Language Survey, Series B, Vol.11, SIL/AAB, SIL, Darwin.
Hansen, K.C. and L.E. Hansen (1975a) The core of Pintupi Grammar (1975), IAD, Alice Springs.
Hudson, J. and W. McGregor (1986) How to spell words in South Kimberley languages, Catholic Ed/ KLRC.
Jacobs, A. (1986) A descriptive study of the bilingual language development of Aboriginal children in the eastern Goldfields region of Western Australia, Health Department of Western Australia, Perth
Kirke, B.K. (n.d.) Pronunciation of Central Australian languages, IAD, Alice Springs.
Liberman, K. (1978) 'Problems of communication in Western Desert courtrooms', pp.94-96 in Legal Services Bulletin, July 1978.
Liberman, K. (1980) 'Ambiguity and gratuitous concurrence in inter-cultural communication', pp.65-85 in Human Studies 3.
Liberman, K. (1982) 'The economy of central Australian expression: an inspection from the vantage of Merleau-Ponty', pp.267-346 in Semiotica, Vol.40, no.3/4.
Lindsay, D. (1894) 'Brief notes on the Aborigines met with by the Elder Expedition of 1891-2', pp.41-44 in Transactions of the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia, Vol.11.
Macaulay, R.A. (1958) Songs (audiotape).
Macaulay, R.A. (n.d.) Unpublished material.
Mason, H.G.B. (1909) Darkest West Australia: a treatise bearing on the habits and customs of the Aborigines and the solution of '"'The Native Question'"', Hocking and Company, Kalgoorlie (facsimile, 1980, Hesperien Press).
Mathews, R.H. (1900) 'Divisions of some West Australian tribes', pp.185-187 in American Anthropologist, Vol.2.
Mathews, R.H. (1901) 'Some Aboriginal tribes of Western Australia', pp.217-222 in Royal Society of New South Wales, Journal and Proceedings, Vol.35.
Mathews, R.H. (1907a) 'Languages of some tribes of Western Australia', pp. 361-368 in Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol.46.
May, E. and S. Wild (1967) 'Aboriginal music on the Laverton Reservation, Western Australia', pp.207-217 in Ethnomusicology, Vol.11, no.2.
McCardell, A. (1976) Ryhthm and melody in Australian Aboriginal songs of the Western Desert, PhD thesis, UWA
McCardell, A. (1980) Aspects of musical structure in Australian Aboriginal songs of the south-west of the Western Desert, ts.
Menning, K. and D.Nash (1981) Sourcebook for Central Australian languages, IAD, Alice Springs.
Miller, W.R. (1972b) 'Dialect differentiation in the Western Desert Language', pp.61-78 in Anthropological Forum, Vol.3, no.1.
Nevermann, H., E.A. Worms and H. Petri (1968) Die Religionen der Südsee und Australiens. [The religion of the Pacific and Australia], Kohlhammer, Stuttgart.
O'Grady, G.N. (1957-58) Materials on the suffixing languages of Western Australia, MS.
O'Grady, G.N. (1959) Significance of the circumcision boundary in Western Australia, BA thesis, University of Sydney .
O'Grady, G.N. and T.J. Klokeid (1969) 'Australian linguistic classification: a plea for co-ordination of effort', pp.298-311 in Oceania, Vol.39, no.4.
O'Grady, G.N., C.F. Voegelin and F.M. Voegelin (1966) 'Languages of the world: Indo-Pacific fascicle 6', pp.1-197 in Anthropological Linguistics, Vol.8, no.2.
Roheim, G. (1945) The eternal ones of the dream: a psychoanalytic interpretation of Australian myth and ritual, International Universities Press, New York.
Scheffler, H.W. (1977) 'Australian kin classification', pp.201-210 in W.C. McCormack and S.A.Wurm, (eds) Language and thought: anthropological issues, Mouton, The Hague.
Scheffler, H.W. (1978) Australian kin classification, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
See, R.E. (1965) Comparison of some Australian languages, PhD thesis, University of California, Los Angeles.
Sharp, J. and N. Thieberger (forthcoming) Handbook of Aboriginal languages of the Pilbara region, PALC, Port Hedland.
Tonkinson, R. (1974) The Jigalong mob: Aboriginal victors of the desert crusade, Cummings, Menlo Park, California.
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