Nouns and noun-like words
In Guugu Yimithirr there are two large groups of words. One is verbs, or action words. The other large group nouns and noun-like words.
These words have one thing in common: their endings or form informs us about their place in the sentence.
Let’s look at a few examples. We have learned the sentence
Yarrgangun yarraman thabi. – “The boy kicked the horse.”
In Guugu Yimithirr there is an ending that shows us who the doer is: –ngun.
Here’s another example:
Nambal Johnnywi wuwaa! – “Give the money to Johnny!” or “Give Johnny the money!”
The ending –wi tells us that Johnny’s place in the sentence is to be the recipient. We have no such ending in English. In English we use the preposition “to”, a “helper word” instead of an ending, or we show that Johnny is the recipient through word order: the recipient comes before the gift in the sentence.
This is so important in Guugu Yimithirr so we’re going to remember the linguistic word for it: case. Case is the most important thing in Guugu Yimithirr nouns and noun-like words.
The other noun-like group of words we’ve studied is personal pronouns. We’ve learned:
ngayu – “I”
ngathu – “my”
nhundu – “you” (one person)
nhanu – “your” (one person)
Personal pronouns has a form for ownership. It’s not an ending like –wi/-bi in nouns; ngayu is irregularly changed to ngathu in the ownership case. But the main point is that personal pronouns have different forms depending on the place of the word in the sentence. They have that in common with nouns.
In English the word “I” has a special irregular form for ownership: “my”. Personal pronouns are the only words that have anything resembling case in English. In Guugu Yimithirr on the other hand, nouns and noun-like words have many different cases.
The basic noun with no visible ending is also a case in Guugu Yimithirr. That case is called absolutive.
We recall that yarrga means “boy”. Here is yarrga in the cases we’ve studied: