The Bayala Databases were conceived of, compiled and developed by Jeremy Steele. They were begun well before August 1999, and probably after JS first saw and began to copy the notebooks of William Dawes in the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, on 5 October 1998. It was not until JS retired in March 1999 that work took on a more consistent pattern of application.
The databases had begun with a simple word-list file entitled ‘Eora Aboriginal words list’. This itself grew out of words noted on bookmarks when reading accounts of the First Fleet days after JS arrived in Sydney from Perth, Italy and England in 1969 aged about 31.
This was superseded or augmented by ‘Vocabularies Sydney’ into which word items were entered, as in a dictionary. At the outset, where the same word had been recorded by different people, there seemed no point in entering it again; but after a while, when it was noticed that words had been spelt in a variety of ways and sometimes with slightly different ways of expressing their meanings, the idea developed that every recorded reference should be noted, together with associated source details (author, the document in which the reference occurred, page and line numbers, as well as a note as to where one could put one’s hands on the document again — generally a particular ringbinder that the photocopy of the list had been filed in.
SYDNEY AND NSW
A separate database was next begun just for William Dawes, when Dawes who had recorded sentences as well as words became the subject of extensive study. In due course the Dawes file was subsumed into a new enlarged file for all records of the Sydney region, named ALLSYD.
Around this time acquaintance had been made with the historian Keith Vincent Smith, who was researching the Sydney Indigenous people around the time of European contact. He encountered many word lists in the course of his enquiries and passed these on to JS. Numbers of these additional lists provided by Smith related to areas to the south and north of Sydney. Around the same time the works of Lancelot Edward Threlkeld, a missionary based at Lake Macquarie to the northward of Sydney, were found, including:
Threlkeld, Lancelot Edward. 1834. An Australian Grammar: comprehending the principles and natural rules of the language, as spoken by the Aborigines in the vicinity of Hunter's River, Lake Macquarie, &c. New South Wales. Sydney: Printed by Stephens and Stokes, "Herald Office".
Smith’s vocabularies and the works of Threlkeld necessitated new databases to be developed to accommodate these extra findings. And so the SOUTH (for Dharawal, Gundungara, Wodi Wodi, Dhurga and other languages) and NORTH (for Awabakal, Darkinyung, Worimi, Bundjalung and others) were begun.
With the acquisition of yet more lists, covering territory across the Blue Mountains, yet more databases were required and these became WIRADHURI and KAMILAROI. They were comparable to the NORTH and SOUTH files for the coastal region as they included nearby languages such as Wailwan, Wongayibon, Niyamba and the like.
In due course even more databases were initiated, of which the following were to become part of the Bayala series:
MURUWARI: a language near the NSW/Qld border, an interest in which was sparked by:
Oates, Lynette Frances. 1988. The Muruwari language. Canberra: Dept. of Linguistics, Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University.
NYUNGAR: the language region of south-west Western Australia, an interest in which was prompted by a visit there in 2010, WA being JS’s original home state.
CURR: Words from the New South Wales contained in:
Curr, Edward M., 1886. The Australian Race: Its Origin, Languages, Customs, Place of Landing in Australia, and the Routes by which it spread itself over that continent, Melbourne, John Ferris, Government Printer; London: Turner and Co., Ludgate Hill. In Four Volumes.
ANTHROPSOC: This mainly included words obtained from the Science of Man journal of the Australian Anthropological Society, and data collected for use by the this society. It also became the principal location for placenames.
INTERSTATE: As interest spread beyond Sydney and New South Wales a new database was required. So ‘Interstate Lists’ was begun, containing words from Queensland, Victoria, Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia excluding the Nyungar south-west, and Tasmania.
WHY A DESCRIPTION OF THE BAYALA DATABASES
At the time of beginning this summary, practically no-one had examined the Bayala Databases, although one linguist had done so, and two or three others been provided with copies of them. Copies of the NSW databases had been included as part of the 2005 MA thesis, and the thesis was deposited with about half a dozen major libraries. Other than that, the databases exist in only the one location, and this is where they are maintained and developed. Development of the databases has continued over the period since lodging of the MA thesis 2005.
As the databases have become an increasingly useful and powerful resource, it seemed that a description of them might be handy should they at some stage become more widely available. People coming to the for the first time might not find them as intuitively easy to operate as their developer might suppose.
Other users might in time add still other Australian languages: for there is far too much to be done by a single contributor. And in order for such new users to do this, they need to know how the databases are constructed.
Inevitably one day the current author/developer will not have the will or capacity to continue, and if this considerable work is not to be lost others need to be able to continue and further develop it. This description should make the take easier for them.
Just as the databases have barely been noticed by any members of the public, so to the ‘naabawinya’ blog. In this blog the author JS has placed short commentaries on topics that have occurred to him as he has probed some of the word lists. It can be found at <naabawinya.blogspot.com>