I am heartened by many responses to this page, and thank people for taking the time to respond. Several have commented on grammar and spelling and are saying some of the stories have many mistakes.
While I don’t claim perfection in terms of presentation, I have been back through most pages and find little in the way of mispelling, words omitted, or poor phrasing. So I am wondering if some of those comments don’t stem from not understanding the tone of the novels and short stories and my constant use of pidgin English.
So let’s see if this explanation helps. I use pidgin English as much as I do in my stories because the great majority of the stories involve Aboriginal people. In remote sites in Australia, those people generally still speak their own languages. For example, in East Arnhem Land, it is called Yolgnu Matha (Yolgnu is the name of the people and Matha means ‘speak’). In Alice Springs, the people and the language are called Arrernte. But almost everywhere, Aboriginal people also speak a form of Aboriginal English or pidgin. Note, however, that there’s no standard form of pidgin. Each language group may have variations from every other group.
A linguist may say this differently or more eruditely, but for me, there are two differences between standard English and pidgin English:
- syntax which is the arrangement of words and phrases
- some substitution of sounds
An example of syntax is in the way of meeting Aboriginal people. I was taught to ask, Who your mob? Where you bin prom? (Which is your language group and where is your country?) And there is the general use of the word been which sounds like bin. For example, dat pella, ‘im bin your brudda, ay? Is that man your brother?)
In Hiding Place, the following conversation takes place between Garrick Edwards, a cattle-station owner and Mick Wilson who is going to work for Garrick on one of his cattle stations, 200 kilometres north-west of Alice Springs. Garrick is explaining pidgin to Mick.
“Don’t the Aborigines around here speak English?” Mick asked with a confused expression.
Garrick looked at him strangely. “Most speak kriol or pidgin. Kriol mixes English and their language, while pidgin is a form of Aboriginal English: like shorthand English. But all of them still speak their own language fluently.”
Mick scratched his head as Garrick’s expression became one of amusement.
“Here’s some pidgin, Mick,” and Garrick spoke rapidly. “‘Who been dat pella? Where him been prom? You subby him? Him been talk punny way, ay? Him been kardiya bloke’.”
“What?” Mick shook his head quickly.
“I said, ‘Who is that man? Where is he from? Do you know him? Doesn’t he talk in a strange way? He’s a stranger in this place’.”
The other difference is sound substitution. As a general rule, there are three main substitutions:
- the sound ‘f’ is replaced by the sound ‘p’, so football becomes pootball (Ay, we play pootball?), from becomes prom, (where you bin prom?)
- the sound ‘v’ is therefore replaced by the sound ‘b’, so volleyball becomes bolleyball, (Ay, we play bolleyball dis day?) or very becomes berry (Dat bin berry good one)
- the sound ‘th’ usually is said as ‘d’ or a ‘t’ (dat womans she know everyting)
I have also noticed two other things. As in the previous sentence, there is a tendency is some groups to use the plural for some singular words. There are also two words which seem to be common in every language group I have visited. One of them is ask which is always pronounced arks and the other is the word goona which, politely, can be translated as faeces, (Ay, dat pella go for goona.)
It’s a long-winded way of explaining, but I think some of the feedback regarding spelling, syntax and grammar in the Short Stories may be due to my use of pidgin. If not, feel free to write and tell me more precisely the things that seem incorrect.