Lesson 3 – Language on Country (Plants & Placenames)
In 2019 the Arabana community held two language camps on-country. Over 100 people went to Finniss Springs which is an old mission and station on Arabana country. Finniss is 50km West of Marree, near Kati-Thanda (Lake Eyre). Kati-Thanda is part of Arabana country too.
Check out these videos related to the plants on Arabana country:
Food at Finniss
Box Tree Swamp
Nyinta is the Arabana word used for plants in general, including bushes and trees.
Let’s learn some of the plant names and food that you can get from plants out on-country. Practice the sentences using these new words. Don’t forget to listen to the accompanying recordings to help with your pronunciation.
Plants, bushes and trees
river gum, white gum
tea-tree, paperbark, honey-myrtle
mint plant, native millet (medicine plant)
box-tree, tree (general)
gidgee tree, stinking wattle
quandong, native plum
tangled lignum (shrub)
cane grass (found in swamps)
Food from plants
edible scale on the leaves of gum trees
edible gum or sap from trees
food (other than meat)
any edible grass seeds
Other useful words
stone, rock, mountain, hill
grub (general term)
country, earth, ground, dry
A lot of Arabana placenames include words for plants and animals. Here is a selection of placenames around Arabana country:
means ‘digging for wild onions’ and is the name of two hills near Elizabeth Springs. (This placename refers to two hills which look like skinned wild onions.)
means ‘crooked box tree’ and is a name of Coward Springs
means ‘twisted box tree’ and is a name of Coward Springs
means ‘food creek’ and is the name of Anna Creek
means ‘top-knot pigeon’ and is the name of a spring and a hill close to Old Finniss Station
means ‘lizard sitting for a long time’ and is the name of Trigg Hill
means ‘young woman’s camp’ and is the name of Jersey Springs. (This placename refers to the story of the Seven Sisters.)
means ‘head string’ and is the name of William Creek
means ‘two birds’ and is the name of Coward Cliff. (This placename refers to the story of the two Rainbow brothers coming down from Macumba.)
NOTE: You will notice that many of these placenames end with -nha. This ending shows that it is a proper noun, similar to how capital letters are used in English such as Adelaide, Marree.
Here are some practice sentences using the new words:
Nhiki apira parra-parra-arla.
This river gum is very tall.
nhiki means this, apira means river gum, parra-parra means tall and the ending -arla means really/very
Kalku ngudlyu ngurku-arlai!
The gum from the wattle is really tasty!
kalku means wattle, ngudlyu means gum, ngurku means good and the ending -arlai means really/very
Pardi nhuka pitha-nga thangkarda.
There are many grubs in this box tree.
pardi means grubs, nhuka means many, pitha means box-tree, the ending -nga means in and thangka- means sit (but is used to mean ‘are’ in this sentence)
Arnanthara yardlarda ngurkumarnda tharnilhuku.
We are cleaning grass seeds to eat.
arnarnthara means we, yardlarda means edible grass seeds, ngurkuma- means clean/make good and tharni- means to eat
Lhuka yukarnda yalka pakalhuku.
Mum is going to dig some wild onions.
lhuka means mother, yuka- means go, yalka means bush onions and paka- means to dig
Yai yai! Tyalpa ngurku-arla nhiki!
Yummy! This food is tasty!
yai yai means yummy, tyalpa means food (other than meat), ngurku means good, the ending -arla means really and nhiki means this
Nhiki arnantharakunha wadlhu.
This is our country.
nhiki means this, arnantharakunha means our and wadlhu means country
Wadlhu nhiki ngurku-arla!
This country is beautiful.
wadlhu means country, nhiki means this, ngurku means good and the ending -arla means really
Waṟa awarda nyinta pidla?
What is the name of that plant there?
waṟa means who, awarda means that, nyinta means plant and pidla means name
kutha means water/rain, and kantha- means raining