Alexis Moran and Jai McAllister report for ABC News:

Against the backdrop of early colonisation, on Sydney Harbour’s shoreline, an extraordinary exchange took place between a young Aboriginal woman and a First Fleet Lieutenant. This friendship serves as one of the earliest recorded cultural exchanges between Europeans and Aboriginal people, and the history and knowledge they documented together would be priceless.

Patyegarang, a young Gamaraigal woman who spoke the Gadigal language, would prove crucial to the survival of her Sydney-based native tongue. William Dawes, an English Lieutenant and astronomer, recorded the pair’s conversations, in what remains today the only known first-hand accounts of the Gadigal language. […]

Dawes’s notebooks clearly show that he and Patyegarang spent time in each other’s company and shared emotion, humour, intellectual discussions and mutual respect. Patyegarang became Dawes’s chief teacher of language, with the two sharing details of their daily lives. […] Patyegarang taught him words such as Putuwa, which means “to warm one’s hand by the fire and then to gently squeeze the fingers of another person”. Other notable phrases include: Tariadyaou (“I made a mistake in speaking”); Minyin bial naadyimi? (“Why don’t you sleep?”); and Minyin bial widadyemi (“Why did you not drink?”). […]

Director of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research at the University of Sydney, and proud Ngarigu woman, Professor Jakelin Troy has spent the three decades reconstructing Aboriginal languages of the Sydney area and says Patyegarang’s interactions with Dawes have proved vital to the survival of Sydney’s Gadigal language. “The work that Patyegarang did with William Dawes produced the first field notes for an Australian language that provides sufficient information to reconstruct something of the verbal morphology (indicating something of the grammar and syntax) and lexicon (vocabulary) for any of our languages,” she says. […]

Ms Jackson said although the Gadigal clan or family lived in the Sydney CBD, Patyegarang herself came from another part of the coastal region. “She most probably, and we can’t say anything for certain, came from what we now know as the North Shore which makes her Gamaraigal,” she said. “All of the clans of coastal Sydney spoke a language that they all understood, regardless of which clan they belonged to. “Wherever she comes from, her persistence and patience with Mr D (as she called Lieutenant William Dawes) in sharing language and culture is the reason why we now have, in this time of pride in Australian languages, a treasure trove of source material for reviving the language.”

Thanks, Trevor!


  1. AJP Crown says

    From Wiki, Patyegarang (pronounced Pa-te-ga-rang) = Grey Kangaroo. Wiki suspects a romantic entanglement but he called her Patye (why not Pa-te?) and she called him Mr Dawes: “Mr. Dawes budyiri karaga” (“Mr. Dawes pronounces well” or “Mr. Dawes good mouth”).

    I like naming your children after different kinds of kangaroo.

  2. AJP Crown says

    Off-topic info for bored, quarantined folk:
    Criterion Channel has excellent ‘art-house’ movies. From 1915-2018, Godard & Tarkowski to Berlin Alexanderplatz & Withnail & I. You must be in the USA or Canada or have a VPN with US access. $10 per month but there’s a 2-week free trial for the poor to use in an emergency.

  3. Yes, my brother is a subscriber and loves it. (I have such a pile of movies waiting to be watched that I feel no need to add more to the pile at the moment.)

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