Words of love
[This discussion does not differentiate between Gamilaraay (GR), Yuwaalaraay (YR) and Yuwaalayaay (YY), but just refers to them all as
GYY. For details of traditional uses, please see the dictionary.]
In English the idea of love is often connected to our hearts. But traditionally in GYY languages, gii ‘heart’ is also ‘gallbladder’, ‘bitter’ (also ‘blueberry’), and may be the base of the word giyal, ‘frightened’, ‘afraid’.
In GYY the words for positive emotions are from bina ‘ear’, e.g. binaal ‘well-behaved’ and winanga-li
‘will hear, listen, know, think, love’; and winanga-y ‘will understand, remember, know, think, love’.
Winanga-y-la-nha ngaya nginunha: 'I love you, I hear/understand you'
Download a pdf of the poster here: Love_2022.pdf
Other words are based on guwiirr ‘sweet’, e.g. guwiirra ‘sweetheart’ (also ‘eucalypt manna’, ‘mallee
willow’), and guwirrnga-li ‘will love, be sweet on’.
Guwiirrnga-lda-nha ngaya nginunha; ‘I love you, I am sweet on you’
Another word is gambaay, 'sweetheart'. This is in the song Warra-ya Nganunda 'Stand by me'.
The grammar of love
Winanga-li and Guwiirnga-li are both transitive verbs. This means that someone does something to someone, and is shown in the grammar so that nginda (‘you, 1 person’) changes to nginunhu (‘done to you, 1 person’).
In English we have this change too, but the word for ‘you’ does not change in ‘I love you’ in the same way that ‘he’ changes in ‘I love him’.
To read more on emotions in Australian languages: