One, two, three, many....the kuuk thaayorre system of counting only goes
to three...thana, kuthir, pinalam, mong, mong, mong, etc. The word
mong is best translated as "many" since it can mean any number between 4
and 9 or 10 after which yuur mong (many figures) would be more
Those who say thirteen are
right in European terms but irrelevant in Edward River terms. The
speakers of kuuk thaayorre clearly recognise lunar menstruation and
possess a notion of the lunar month as calculated as the time between one
phase of the moon and the next appearance of that particular phase.
However, apart from having no specific word to designate thirteen and
thirteen only - yurr mong or "very many", is the right answer - the annual
cycle is crouched in terms of environmental rhythms rather than in terms
of fixed, invariant divisions of time. The "year" then is the time
between the onset of one wet season and the onset of the next wet season -
and wet seasons may be early or late, so who can be precise?
The right answer is "tree".
This stems from the kuuk thaayorre speakers early experience with tobacco
which was "stick" tobacco, hence it is classified with tree.
Crocodiles, turtles, birds and
frill necked lizards are all classified as minh (which broadly might be
translated as animals). Snakes along with eels are classified
as yak which may be broadly translated as snake-like creatures.
All the items are classified
with sugar as belong to the class of objects known as may. Broadly
translated, may means vegetable food. Even witchetty grubs that are
found in the roots of trees fall under this rubric - so does honey which
is also associated with trees and hence fruit. The kuuk thaayorre
language had no problem fitting flour into the may category since it
obviously resembled some of their own processed vegetable foods (e.g.,
yams like Dioscoria sativa elongata). The word may can also mean
sweet and hence sugar, which of course does not resemble anything in their
"Eat" is the right word - well
sort of, anyway. Where we make a distinction between "eating" and
"drinking", kuuk thaayorre does not and they use the same verb to describe
both functions and why not?
The clues are easy for kuuk
thaayorre. An avoidance taboo operates between mother's brother and
sister's son and politeness requires that sister's son should never
directly face mother's brother nor talk to him directly in company.
Sam and Ben are obviously brothers because of their unrestrained
interaction while Harry, with his back turned to both his uncles is
obviously the respectful nephew.
Among the kuuk thaayorre God
has been equated with a mythological character and he is definitely
non-malevolent. Both fate and germs are concepts foreign to the kuuk
thaayorre belief system. No-one dies without reason and suicide is
unknown to them, so the right answer is SOMEONE - which is the case in
this sorcery riddled society.
The small female wallaby is
the right answer. Emu is a food that may be consumed only by very
old people. Kangaroos (especially large ones) may not be eaten by
parents or their children. The children will get sick otherwise.
Everyone knows that....don't they?
Because some of them have to
be avoided like the plague. For example, a male must avoid his
father's sister's daughter, or anyone classified with her. Such
relations are called poison cousins in Aboriginal English.