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Murriny Patha Song Project

Murriny Patha is fun. Especially if you like "“kintax"” (Evans 2003), cause it’'s got it in spades. Murriny Patha keeps delivering weird phenomena that require unconventional nomenclature (see for instance Walsh 1996). "So “what”", I hear you asking, "“is the '‘elided progeny'’ construction?"” In Murriny Patha it constitutes a subclass of what are clearly a group of "“triangular"” referring expressions, – whereby a person-referent is referred to via “"triangulation"” -– that is indirectly, via another person or persons. The most common of these are possessed kinterms: my father, your uncle, their cousin etc. The person that the kinterm is anchored to is frequently termed the propositus. Other classes of people may also take a propositus: e.g., John’'s bank manager. Arguably all kinterms are anchored to a propositus, regardless of whether the propositus is expressed overtly or not. Thus when an adult addresses a child, “"Hey, where'’s daddy?"”, the “altercentric” kinterm Daddy has an implied 2nd person propositus. However the same adult, when talking to another adult, may use egocentric kinterms with an implied 1st person propositus i.e., "“Mum is driving me mad”."

The “"elided progeny”" construction is a kind of kin-based triangulation, but the kinterm corresponding to son or daughter is just missing. These things are very common in Murriny Patha conversation. In fact "“triangulation"” is generally a very common means of referring to people. I wouldn'’t say it’'s the default method of referring to persons, but it probably is the preferred choice for "“upgrading”" reference to persons. So how does this construction work? It’'s basically a special case of the Murriny Patha possessive construction.

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While we were in Wadeye in July, our ARC project team (Linda Barwick, Allan Marett, Michael Walsh, Joe Blythe, Nick Reid and Lysbeth Ford) finalised our project website, which was formally approved by the Kardu Diminin elders on July 28. Wadeye has had a lot of bad press lately, but it really is an amazingly rich place for languages and songs. This website deals only with the public ritual song styles performed and owned by members of the Murriny-patha-speaking clans, the main genres being djanba, malgarrin and wurltjirri. Elders at Wadeye and our project team have been working hard to document all the song recordings: for example, so far we have identified 104 djanba songs, all of which seem to be in grammatical Murriny Patha, and the majority of them have been transcribed, glossed and translated.

Two other public ritual song genres performed in Wadeye are: wangga (owned and performed by speakers of Marri Tjebin and Marri Ammu, and the subject of Allan Marett's recent book Songs Dreamings and Ghosts); and lirrga, owned and performed by speakers of Marri Ngarr (Lys Ford and I have recently written paired articles about lirrga songs, forthcoming in the journal Musicology Australia).

For further details, see the website! Feedback welcome, either here or from the contact page on the website.

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The Transient Building, symbolising the impermanence of language, houses both the Linguistics Department at Sydney University and PARADISEC, a digital archive for endangered Pacific languages and music.
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