January 13, 2011

45 years in a day - Marra's remarkable resilience

Today was a fairly average day for my fieldwork in Ngukurr. Average, yet remarkable.

Me and the Marra mob I work here with did two sessions today and did some good work on Marra. But just in those two short sessions, we spanned a 45-year period, exemplifying that the Marra language is actually being remarkably resilient given the sociocultural situation it finds itself in.

This morning BR, JJ and FR worked with me and I encouraged them to continue some Marra literacy and transcription practice. So we used an archived recording made in 1966 by Margaret Sharpe and Stanley Roberts. It's a great recording to listen to and use for transcription training. The words and sentences aren't too fast and complex and we get to chuckle and Margaret and Old Stanley's not-quite-perfect Marra and English skills. It's also great that such an old recording is lively again.

In the afternoon session, I had a go at doing my own elicitation session with FR and MT. BR and GB where there for back-up help too. It went well and went for just over an hour. Along with going over some sentences that I was curious about for my own Marra acquisition, I wanted to test out a few distinctive Kriol words and sentences and see how the old ladies interpret them into Marra.

For example, there's a lovely Kriol idiom imin gibit mijel which is derived from the English he/she gave herself but actually means he/she scrammed/ran off quickly. The Marra equivalent?

wu-wajirlana
3sg-gaveRECIP
He gave himself / Imin gibit mijel

Cool! A nice parallel Marra/Kriol idiom.

Those old ladies told me lots more cool things in Marra this afternoon and at the end, I just couldn't help thinking how nice it is to be doing this sort of work in 2011, 45 years after Margaret Sharpe and Stanley Roberts sat down and did a similar thing.

So happy that Marra language has stuck around this long.

1 comment:

Sophie said...

This is really cool Greg! I really like this kind of investigation into Kriol and trad. lang. I wanted to do my thesis on comparing Ritharngu discourse and Kriol... but it all got too much!I hope one day...

Keep up the interesting posts. And give my love to all the Old Ladies.