As these databases were being compiled, so their range extended. An idea formed of the usefulness it would be of being able to look at words in the other databases. For example, in the Sydney language there are no convincingly clear words for ‘tree’, or ‘sea’. So wouldn’t it be nice to be able to look into the other databases to see the words for ‘tree’ and ‘sea’ there, to see if any idea might emerge to reveal possible unnoticed words really meaning ‘tree’ and ‘sea’ in the Sydney records. From this idea first came the notion of combining all the coastal databases for look-up purposed into the one file COASTAL, and likewise for the inland databases into a single INLAND file.



When the relational capability of the database became available, it was possible to exploit this to look into other databases without leaving the one being examined, by peeking through ‘portals’.

Here is an example of the value of this capability, and an illustration of how to apply it.

Aboriginal Languages of Australia - Bayala Database - developing the databases

Fig. 3.1 "P. Nyímüng candle Mr D." nyimang CANDLE, Mr D. = "Put out the candle, Mr D." pinch CANDLE, Mr D.  : Dawes (b) [b:33:17] [BB]



Dawes captured the word ‘nyimang’, which he said meant ‘put out’, i.e. extinguish. But the LINKS screen provided no matches in any of the databases for either nyimang or ‘put out’ (or extinguish). However, searches of the other databases individually bore fruit. How? by searching in the ‘No hyphens’ (NoH) simplified respelling column. There it is enough, indeed can be better, to search just for ‘nyim’, allowing the computer to fill in any variables. Here are some results:

Aboriginal Languages of Australia - Bayala Database - developing the databases

These responses suggested that nyimang might actually mean ‘pinch’, and a new search in ALLSYD: LINKS led to the following additional answers from other databases:

Aboriginal Languages of Australia - Bayala Database - developing the databases

These are all similar to, but not the same as, nyimang.





This illustrates the computer’s power to search (here, for the word ‘pinch’). It was for this reason that the ‘English JS Main’ [JSM] column was introduced, in which the simplest standardised English translation was entered, alongside the recorder’s original English text. Example of this simplification:

Aboriginal Languages of Australia - Bayala Database - developing the databases

The simplified translation is shown in the right-hand column

The tables above offer illustrations of how the original Australian word has been respelt for a corresponding maximum simplification. Simplification offers the greatest chance for matches to occur and so for meanings to be confirmed. Without simplification, matches would be rarer. For example, there are three ways in which the Sydney word for good can be respelt in simplified form, as in the three following instances:

Aboriginal Languages of Australia - Bayala Database - developing the databases

There were, however, at least 23 ways used to spell the word, these being:

bidgeree, Bodgeree, Boó-gĕ-rée, Boo´-jerry, bood-jer-re, bood-yer-re, Bood-yêr-rê, Boodgeree, boodgeri, Boodjeri, boojery, Bougeree, budgeri, budjeri, budjerry, budjery, Búdyeri, Buggerey, buggery, Boó-jĕ-ree, Bùd-yee-ree, bud-ye-ree, butyiri

Reducing this collection to three was an advantage. The computer made it possible to reduce the three effectively to one by the use of an ‘any’ character: @. By searching for ‘b@dy@ri’, where ‘@’ stands for ‘any single character’, a single search will find all instances of ‘good’ spelt in any of the three ways shown in the table above.

Another type of search is also possible, using the asterisk <*> instead of @. The asterisk * stands for ‘any-many’, or any number of characters rather than one only. So bu*ri finds not only all the ‘budyari’-type words but also examples featuring bugari, buladyiri, Bungari and buri.

Aboriginal Languages of Australia
Words from the Sydney Aboriginal Language Biyal Biyal
©Jeremy Steele   Contact Jeremy