As part of State Library’s commitment to the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages, we will be promoting a ‘word of the week’ from one of the 125+ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages and dialects from across Queensland.

State Library’s IYIL2019 Word of the Week: Week 7.

This week’s word is wairra [pronounced way-rah with rolled ‘r’] from the Kalkatungu / Kalkadoon language of the Mt Isa region – it means ‘heart, as the seat of emotion’. This week’s word coincides with Valentine’s Day; some Aboriginal languages such as Kalkatungu differentiate between physical and emotional love. Blake in his work indicates that Kalkatungu has two different words for ‘heart’ in the anatomical sense of the word – utunthukantha and yanuanti.

Desert Channels Picture Dictionaries.

State Library holds a range of materials in the collections relating to Kalkatungu language and the Kalkadoon people of Mt Isa region. This material includes Picture Dictionaries such as the above image which shows the Kalkadoon Pictorial Dictionary developed by Desert Channels Queensland based on the work of Gavan Breen and Barry Blake.

North-West Queensland Map: Blake (1979) A Kalkatungu grammar. p. xii.

The above image is from Blake’s 1979 work A Kalkatungu Grammar and shows the location of languages in the Mt Isa region. In addition to the work of Breen and Blake, State Library also has historical documents dating back to the 1880’s – a selection of further references can be found at the end of the post.

State Library of Queensland invites you to celebrate the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages as we raise awareness of the rich diversity of Queensland’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages.

Join the conversation as we post a new word for each week!

Week Seven 12-18 February 2019.

#IYIL2019 #IYIL #IY2019WordoftheWeek #SLQIndigenousLanguages


Desmond Crump

Indigenous Languages Coordinator, State Library of Queensland

State Library of Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages Webpages

State Library of Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages Map

UN IY2019 Links

UN International Year of Indigenous Languages webpages

UN International Year of Indigenous Languages Resources


The word of the week has been sourced from the following linguistic text in the State Library collections.

Source: Blake, B. (1967) A brief description of the Kalkatungu language. GSC 499.15 1967

Further Reading

Other materials in the State Library collections relating to Kalkatungu and neighbouring languages include the following:

Breen, J.G. (1981) The Mayi Languages of the Queensland Gulf Country. Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies Press. J 499.15 bre

Breen, J.G. (1990) Salvage Studies of Western Queensland Aboriginal Languages J 499.15 bre

Curr, E. M. (1887) The Australian Race: its origins, languages, customs, place of landing in Australia and the routes by which it spread itself over that continent. John Ferres Government Printer: Melbourne. RBF 572.994 cur

Desert Channels Queensland (2013) Kalkadoon Pictorial Dictionary. Desert Channels Queensland: Longreach. JUVQ 499.9915 KAL

Desert Channels Queensland (2013) Pitta Pitta Pictorial Dictionary. Desert Channels Queensland: Longreach. JUVQ 499.9915 PIT

Dixon, R. and Blake, B. (Eds) (1981) Handbook of Australian Languages. The Australian National University Press; Canberra. G 499.15 1979

Holmer, N. (1988) Notes on Some Queensland Languages. Australian National University: Canberra. J 499.15 HOL

Macgillivray, A. (1886) “The Flinders and Cloncurry Rivers”. In E. M. Curr The Australian Race: Its Origins, Languages, Customs, Place of Landing in Australia and the Routes by which it Spread Itself over that Continent, pp.340-5. Melbourne: John Ferres, Government Printer. RBF 572.994 cur

Meston, A. (undated) Archibald Meston Papers 1860-1960. OM64-17

Pittman, R. and Kerr, H. (Eds) (1964) Papers on the Languages of the Australian Aborigines. Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies: Canberra. Q 499.15 pap

Prowse, D. (1994) English, Kalkadoon illustrated language book. Kalkadoon Language Prints: Mt Isa. P 499.15 pro

Roth, W. (1981) The Kalkadoons of North-West Queensland. Reprint of material from ‘North west central Queensland Aborigines’ by W.E. Roth (1897) Government Printer, Brisbane. P 305.89915 KAL