Dharug language

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Region New South Wales
Extinct Late 19th / early 20th century
Language codes
ISO 639-3 xdk
Glottolog sydn1236[1]
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The Sydney language, also referred to as Dharug or Iyora (Eora), is an extinct Australian Aboriginal language of the Yuin–Kuric group that was spoken in the region of Sydney, New South Wales. It is the traditional language of the Darug and Eora peoples.

The term Dharug, which can also be spelt Dharukk, Dharoog, Dharrag, and Dararrug, etc., came from the word for yam Midyini. Dharug is the root or the Midyini of the languages of the Sydney basin. The Darug population was greatly diminished due to the effects of colonisation.[3] It is known today from written records and the oral tradition of the remaining speakers.[contradiction]

Darug people recognise Sir William Dawes of the first fleet and flagship the Sirius for having the grace and intelligence of humanity to record the original traditional dalang (tongue) of the elder people of Sydney Darugule-wayaun.[4] Dawes was returned to England in December 1791, after disagreements with Governor Phillip on, among other things, the punitive expedition launched following the wounding of the Government gamekeeper,[5] allegedly by Pemulwuy.

During the 1990s and the new millennium some descendants of the Darug clans in Western Sydney have been making considerable efforts to revive Dharug as a spoken language. Today some modern Dharug speakers have given speeches in the Dharug language and younger members of the community visit schools and give demonstrations of spoken Dharug.[6]

Bowern (2011) lists Dharuk and Iyora as separate languages.


The speakers did not use a specific "name" for their language prior to invasion. The coastal dialect has been referred to as Iyora (also spelt Iora, Eora), which simply means "people", while the inland dialect has been referred to as Dharug (also spelt Darug, Dharuk, Dharruk), a term of unknown origin or meaning. Both names are also used to refer to all dialects of the language collectively.[7]



Peripheral Laminal Apical
Bilabial Velar Palatal Dental Alveolar Retroflex
Stop b k c t
Nasal m ŋ ɲ n
Lateral ʎ l
Rhotic r ɻ
Semivowel w j


Front Back
High i u
Low a

The language may have had a distinction of vowel length, but this is difficult to determine from the extant data.[8]

Words surviving in English[edit]

Examples of Dharuk words that have survived in English are:


Although Dharug is classified as extinct, efforts have been made to revive the language and the language had acquired current living speakers by the efforts of Chifley College's Dunheved campus in Sydney.[10]


  1. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Dharug". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  2. ^ Dharug at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
  3. ^ Troy (1994): p. 5.
  4. ^ "The notebooks of William Dawes". School of Oriental and African Studies and NSW Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Retrieved 21 September 2010. 
  5. ^ "Dawes, William (1762 - 1836)". Australian Dictionary of Biography Online. Retrieved 16 September 2010. 
  6. ^ "Dharug Dalang". CITIES. Retrieved 21 September 2010. 
  7. ^ Troy (1994): p. 9.
  8. ^ Troy (1994): p. 24.
  9. ^ boomerang.org.au; see under "The Origin of Boomerang". Retrieved 16 January 2008.
  10. ^ [1]. Lost Aboriginal language revived. BBC News. Retrieved on 14 April 2009.


  • Troy, Jakelin (1994). The Sydney Language. Canberra: Panther. ISBN 0-646-11015-2. 
  • Broome, Richard (2001). Aboriginal Australians. Sydney: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86508-755-6. 

External links[edit]