Yarrabah Language Workshop [4-5 May]

Linguistics of the Koo-gun-ji Tribe, Gribble (1900).

Linguistics of the Koo-gun-ji Tribe, Gribble (1900).

In 1900, Rev E R Gribble compiled one of the first wordlists for the Kunggandji language spoken at Cape Grafton; the above image is part of that wordlists and will be featured at an Indigenous Languages Workshop to be held in Yarrabah on 4-5 May. This is part of State Library’s ongoing commitment to support communities to research and manage their language revival.

Yidinj and neighbouring languages, Dixon 1977.

Yidinj and neighbouring languages, Dixon 1977.

Kunggandji is also known as Gunggay, Goonganji or Goonganjee and was spoken on Cape Grafton taking in the present-day Yarrabah Community. The North Queensland Language Centre will co-host the workshop which will explore Gunggay as well as neighbouring languages such as Yidindji which is related and shares a number of words. Dixon in his work “A Grammar of Yidinj” provides a comprehensive overview including the above map.

Yidinji wordlist, Gribble.

Yidinji wordlist, Gribble.

There will also be an opportunity to explore the languages of groups brought into Yarrabah community. Gribble also documented some of these including Yidinji as shown in the above image. Dialects in the surrounding region appear to be based on regional localities and or clan groupings across the region. The languages of Yarrabah and the Cairns Region are related and have ‘shared’ words. Traditionally Aboriginal people in the area would have spoken and understood several languages and dialects.

Yarrie Lingo resource, Education Queensland.

Yarrie Lingo resource, Education Queensland.

In addition, a community language now known as ‘Yarrie Lingo’ developed among the groups as a shared language that is a blend of Aboriginal English and traditional words. The above image depicts a resource developed by Education Queensland to raise awareness of community languages. In addition to discovering more about the local and regional languages, participants will also use software programs and apps to develop resources for community language revival.

Yarrabah Workshop - Registration Form.

Yarrabah Workshop – Registration Form.

The venue for the workshop is the Training Centre located at 1 Noble Drive Yarrabah. State Library is looking forward to supporting community members in language revival at Yarrabah. Further details, including registration forms can be obtained from North Queensland Languages Centre email: languagesupport.nqraclc@bigpond.com  or Des Crump. Email Des Crump or Rose Warsow at the State Library in Brisbane.

Desmond Crump

Indigenous Languages Coordinator, Queensland Memory

State Library of Queensland Indigenous Languages webpages


References and Further Reading

The following is a selection of materials from the State Library collections relating to Aboriginal people, languages and cultures of Yarrabah and the surrounding Cairns Region.

Archibald Meston Papers. OM64-17

Bottoms, T. (1992) The Bama: people of the rainforest: Aboriginal-European relations in the Cairns rainforest region up to 1876. P 994.36 bot

Bottoms, T. (1999) Djabugay country: an Aboriginal history of tropical North Queensland. G 994.36004 1999

Davis, G. (Nungabana) (2000) The Mullunburra “People of the Mulgrave River”. P 303.089 NUN

Dixon, R.M.W (1972) The Dyirbal language of North Queensland. G 499.15 dix

Dixon, R. M. W. (1977) A grammar of Yidin. G 499.155 1977

Dixon, R. M. W. (1991) Words of our country: stories, place names and vocabulary in Yidiny, the Aboriginal language of the Cairns-Yarrabah region. G 499.15 1991

Education Queensland (2011) Yarrie Lingo.

Gribble, E. R. B. (1930) Forty years with the Aborigines. G 266.0994 1930

Gribble, E. R. B. Journals and notebooks re Tumbarumba and Yarrabah, 1891-93. FILM 0641

Meston, A. (1889) Bellenden-Ker Range (Wooroonooran) North Queensland: report. RBQ 574.99436 mes

Roth, W. (1903) Reports to the Commissioner of Police and others, on Queensland aboriginal peoples 1898-1903. FILM 0714


Online Sources

AIATSIS Language Bibliography – Gungay / Gunggandji

AUSTLANG Australian Indigenous Languages Database

North Queensland Regional Languages Centre website