Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjajara: Lesson 1

This lesson is copyright! You MAY NOT use it for missionary purposes!!! Aborigines had their own religions already and have no need of Christianity. Missionaries have caused massive suffering to Aborigines.

Warning! I’m not very good at Pitjantjatjara, so I might not have got everything completely right. Use this with caution!

Pitjantjatjara is a dialect of Western Desert Language, which is spoken by a few thousand Aboriginal Australians in the area around Uluru (Ayers Rock).

Pitjantjatjara looks like a mouthful, but it’s really two words... "Pitjanytja" and tjara. tj is how the Germans who invented the writing system decided to write the ch sound, because it does sound a bit like a t followed by a j. a sounds like the ar in far.

(For those who noticed, Pitjantjatjara is traditionally spelled with n instead of ny, even though it is made from the word pitjanytja which has ny. Probably because English speakers always used to spell it wrong, and the spelling stuck).

tjara (pronounced sort of like chara) means having or with

As you can see from "Pitjantjatjara", tjara goes after the thing that you have.

kapati means cup of tea

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Pitjanytja-tjara means having the word "pitjanytja". The dialect is called that, because other dialects of Western Desert Language (such as Yankunytjatjara) don’t have the word "pitjanytja", but this dialect does.

pitjanytja means coming, unless you use it with "away" in which case it means going.

Pitjanytja and all other verbs ending with -tja, are the noun form of a verb. They are used to say coming is good, but they can never be used to say I am coming. That’s because -tja is an ending that means thing.

good is palya. He’s good because he’s my pal, yeah. palya

There’s no word for is in Pitjantjatjara. You just leave out the "is". There’s also no word for a or the.

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Like Japanese, Pitjantjatjara verbs usually come at the end of a sentence. So coming with a cup of tea becomes with a cup of tea coming.

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Very true.

You can make any sentence a question just by using inflection.

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Yes is uwa.

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The word for away is ma, but it’s pronounced maa.

Remembering that verbs come AFTER other things, how would you say going away.

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Guess what word the Yankunytjatjara dialect has instead of "pitjanytja"?

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Yankunytja means going.

So how would you say "going away" to a Yankunytjatjara speaker?

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Yankunytjatjara doesn’t have the word "Pitjanytja".

Another difference about the Pitjantjatjara dialect, is that words that begin with Y in other dialects lose their Y in Pitjantjatjara. Pitjanytjatjara DOES have the word "yankunytja", but without the Y. Ankunytja still means "going" in Pitjanytjatjara, but you can’t use it with words like "ma".

There are one or two other differences between those two dialects, but mostly they are exactly the same.

Unless I ask you otherwise, questions in these lessons use the Pitjantjatjara dialect, (since I am most familiar with it).

The root of pitjanytja is pitja-. The -nytja changes it to a noun, and shows that it belongs to the zero-verb group. If it was in the la-verb group, it would use the -ntja instead.

To make a zero-group verb like pitja- into a command, you just drop all the endings and use the root. It’s called a zero-group verb because the command form has zero endings. Yay.

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Unfortunately, Ankunytja/yankunytja is not in the zero-group.

But a useful verb that is in the zero-group is wangka-.

wangka- means talk or speak. If you talk too much people will think you are a wanker.

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The Pitjanytjatjara word for you is similar to English. It starts with the word "you", then it sticks an N on the front to make "nyou". Then you add "-ntu" on the end to get "nyuntu".

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"Are you good?" is the Pitjanytjatjara greeting meaning "How are you?".

If you think nyuntu is too long, then you are lucky... There is a very short abbreviation for nyuntu... just -n. Can’t get much shorter than that. Get rid of the nyuntu, then the abbreviation attaches to the end of the first word in the sentence.

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Do you remember how to say "yes, good"?

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