‘Warwu’ (2012) by the late Gulumbu Yunupingu
Being gurrutu is a ‘fact of life’ for Yolŋu people – akin to what it ‘is’ or ‘means’ to be a socialised, moral person for Balanda (‘white people, Europeans’).
And as with kin categories like ‘uncle’ and ‘grandfather’ in Balanda kinship systems, Yolŋu kin categories refer to culturally recognized ‘types’ or ‘kinds’ of relations with attendant responsibilities and obligations.
The gurrutu system is ‘universalistic’ in the sense that everyone is considered gurrutu and refer to each other as such using the appropriate reciprocal gurrutu term. (There are twenty-four reciprocal gurrutu terms comprising the terminological system). These gurrutu terms are reciprocal in the sense that if you are my dhuway I am your galay, if you are my märi then it follows that I am your gutharra (and so on and so forth). The suffix ‘-manydji’ is added to gurrutu terms to denote or refer to the relationship between people – the relationship that they share – as one reciprocal relation. This is referred to as a ‘dyad’ or dyadic kin relationship.
While all people are potentially kin, Yolŋu assess the quality of relatedness along a dimension of distance. People distinguish between galki (‘close’) and daŋaŋ (‘full’) kin, in contrast to those who are barrku (‘distant, far off’), and therefore only märr-gaŋga, (‘a little bit’) or nyumukuniny (‘small’) kin. It would be impolite and offensive, however, to describe a relationship as barrku (‘distant, far off’) or nyumukuniny (‘small’) in the presence of the person or persons in question. Similarly, while the suffix –mirriŋu is added to kin terms to denote ‘one’s own’ kin, as in waku-mirriŋu (‘[own] child’), it is generally impolite to use such exclusive modes of expression unless addressing the person in question directly.
Generally speaking, actually, it is impolite to use any exclusive modes or terms of address without specific cause or reason. For this reason, people pay special attention to the use of inclusive and exclusive forms of pronouns.
ŋarra – I, me.
nhe – you.
ŋayi – he, she, it.
ŋali – (inclusive) we, you and I.
ŋilinyu – (exclusive) we two, not you.
nhuma – (exclusive) you.
manda – (exclusive) you two, those two.
ŋilimurru – (inclusive) we, you and us, all of us.
ŋanapurru – (exclusive) we [three or more], not you.
nhuma – (exclusive) you.
walala – (exclusive) they.
And just because I love the suffixing joy’joy of Yolŋu languages
ŋarrakala – with me
nhokala – with you
ŋalinyalaŋbala – with you and I
ŋarrakalaŋuŋuru – [away] from me
ŋanapurruŋbalaŋuŋuru – [away] from us [three or more], not you.
ŋanapurruŋbalaŋuwuy – about/pertaining to us [three or more], not you.