It's etymology captain, but not as we know it: Pump in north Australia

David Nash*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

    1 Citation (Scopus)


    We consider the words originating from the English word 'bamboo' borrowed into the indigenous languages of northern Australian and denoting the didjeridu (drone pipe) or other aerophones. The word 'bamboo' must have been first acquired by speakers of Australian Aboriginal languages in the 19th century, and in north Australia where the large stem plant is endemic, namely in the region of Darwin. The available data is organised in support of an hypothesised spread whereby the word was applied to the aerophone made from bamboo, and then to similar aerophones made of other wood. In this sense, 'bamboo' (as pampu) spread inland southwards, and eastwards to western Cape York Peninsula. In western Cape York Peninsula the word lost the final vowel, and in this form was borrowed southwards and applied to the particular aerophone the 'emu caller', used to attract the emu (a large flightless game bird). A comparable distribution is collated for an indigenous word denoting aerophones: kurlumpu(rr) and corresponding forms in various north Australian languages. The study demonstrates how some etymological headway can be made on loanwords in languages with only a recent documentary record.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationShall We Play the Festschrift Game? Essays on the Occasion of Lauri Carlson's 60th Birthday
    PublisherSpringer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg
    Number of pages12
    ISBN (Electronic)9783642307737
    ISBN (Print)3642307728, 9783642307720
    Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2012


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