‘The handle lies in pieces on the eastern side…and we see the stone which
it formed there still.’ (Budderer’s Rock, as told by Kevin O’Loughlin)
The story of Budderer, a Dreaming trail which encompasses the entire length
of Narungga land (Yorke Peninsula, South Australia), offers a powerful
metaphor for language revival.
A journey through significant events in Budderer’s history and the
corresponding features of the land culminates in the hurling of Budderer’s
waddy, which shatters into fragments across the peninsula and out to sea.
Some of the fragments are still visible on the land. Some are under water.
Some may be buried, or might have been moved from their original location.
Some are lost forever, and can only be reconstructed in their location and
form by careful assessment of the pieces that are still evident and
creative re-imagining of what must have happened.
Similarly, the Narungga language was also fragmented by devastating events
in the past. At the time the revival project began in earnest, some
fragments were still known in the community. Some were buried in archives
in Australia and overseas. Some had become fragmented by inadequate
recording practices, the strong influence of English and other Aboriginal
languages, or fading memories. And some are lost, probably forever. The
Narungga language in the present has been pieced together by careful
assessment of the fragments known in the community and found in various
sources, comparisons with related language data, and creative re-imagining
from the past into the future.
The present work represents the renewed Narungga language in its initial
phase in the first few years of the twenty-first century – a time when a
group of speakers and teachers of Narungga was emerging, for the first time
in perhaps 80-100 years. It includes discussion of aspects of language
awaiting further research, and incorporates some more recent data to
reflect the continued development of the language by its speakers up to the
end of 2007.
This grammar is not a reconstruction of ‘old Narungga’, nor an abstracted
ideal of ‘pure Narungga’, but a record of the language established in the
present for the future. In this volume, both the historical evidence and
the details of each structure now in use are set out, together with the
argumentation which has led to each decision made. As the language
continues to change and grow, the present work will stand as a record of
the fragments of memory left by Narungga Elders of the past, and the
initial rebuilding of those fragments by their descendants in the early
part of the twenty-first century.