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.
To coincide with Easter, Week 16’s word is bilby [pronounced bill-bee], from the Yuwaalayaay language of South-West Queensland and North-West NSW– meaning ‘Bilby or Rabbit-eared bandicoot’. It has become very popular in recent times as an alternative to the Easter bunny!
This week’s word is sourced from a community dictionary of Yuwaalayaay compiled in 1998 by John Giacon and Ian Sim drawing on the knowledge of language speakers, including Mrs G. Rose, Willie Willis, Greg Fields and Mrs West. Yuwaalayaay was spoken along the Queensland-NSW border, including Goodooga and Walgett and extending into South-West Queensland.
The word bilby is derived from ‘bilba‘ which is used in both Yuwaalayaay and the neighboring language Yuwaalaraay. There is also another word used for the bilby and that is dhuluun.gayaa which is based on dhulu meaning ‘stick’ and refers to the way that a bilby’s tail stands up like a stick when it is running while gayaa is based on gayaay meaning ‘sandy country’.
Yuwaalayaay is also known as Yuwalyai, Euahlayi, Yualai, Yualeai, etc. and is closely related to neighbouring languages of Gamilaraay and Yuwaalaraay. Linguistic research indicates Yuwaalayaay is spoken by less than 20 people in the community and classed as critically endangered; it is one of the languages supported by the Walgett Language Program.
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 Sixteen 16-22 April 2019.
#IYIL2019 #IYIL #IY2019WordoftheWeek #SLQIndigenousLanguages
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
Jarjum stories: A kuril dhagun showcase focusing on children’s books and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. 19 October 2019-10 May 2020.
Spoken: celebrating Queensland languages: A major exhibition exploring the survival and revival of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages throughout Queensland. Join in the many talks and events to celebrate the rich and diverse languages spoken today. Opens21 November 2019 -19 April 2020.
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 items in the State Library collections.
Source: Giacon, J. and Sim, I. (1998) Yuwaalayaay, the language of the Narran River. P 499.15 yuw
Other materials in the State Library collections relating to Yuwaalayaay and neighbouring languages include the following:
Ash, A., Giacon, J. and Lissarrague, A. (2003) Gamilaraay, Yuwaalaraay, Yuwaalayaay Dictionary. J 499.1503 GAM
Barlow, H. (1865) Harriet Barlow Manuscript. Provides the basis for her work “Aboriginal Vocabularies of Queensland”. OM91-69
Duncan, B. and White, H. (2014) Speaking our way : a collection of Aboriginal languages of the Northern Tablelands of NSW. J 499.15 SPE
Giacon, J. (1999) Yuwaalaraay/Gamilaraay Wordlist. P 499.1503 yuw
Giacon, J. and Sim, I. (1998) Yuwaalayaay, the language of the Narran River. P 499.15 yuw
Holmer, N. (1983) Linguistic Survey of South-Eastern Queensland. J 499.15 HOL
Ridley, W. (1875) 2nd edn, Kamilaroi and other Australian Languages. Q 499.15 rid
Tindale, N. B. (1974) Aboriginal tribes of Australia: their terrain, environmental controls, distribution, limits and proper names. Q 994.0049915 tin
Wafer, J. and Lissarrague, A. (2008) A handbook of Aboriginal languages of New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. J 499.15 WAF