|Native speakers||120 (2006 census)|
Yanyuwa is the patch of yellow on the northern coast, between the orange and the green.
Yanyuwa, like many Australian Aboriginal languages, is a complex agglutinative language whose grammar is pervaded by a set of sixteen noun classes, whose agreements are complicated and numerous. Yanyuwa is ergative.
Yanyuwa is critically endangered. Despite this, the anthropologist John Bradley, who has worked with the Yanyuwa for three decades (and who also fluently speaks the language), has produced an enormous dictionary and grammar of the language along with a cultural atlas in collaboration with a core group of senior men and women, so Yanyuwa's impending extinction may not be permanent.
|Stop||b (b)||ɡ̟ (yk)||ɡ̠ (k)||ḏ (j)||d̪ (th)||d (d)||ɖ (rd)|
|Prenasalised stop||ⁿb (mb)||ⁿɡ̟ (nyk)||ⁿɡ̠ (ngk)||ⁿḏ (nj)||ⁿd̪ (nth)||ⁿd (nd)||ⁿɖ (rnd)|
|Nasal||m (m)||ŋ̟ (nyng)||ŋ̠ (ng)||ṉ (ny)||n̪ (nh)||n (n)||ɳ (rn)|
|Lateral||ḻ (ly)||l̪ (lh)||l (l)||ɭ (rl)|
|Rhotic||r (rr)||ɻ (r)|
|Semivowel||w (w)||j (y)|
|High||i (i)||u (u)|
|This section requires expansion. (June 2008)|
Yanyuwa has 16 noun classes, distinguished by prefixes. In some cases, different prefixes are used depending on whether the speaker is a male or a female.
|1||rra-/a-||female (human centred)||rra-bardibardi "old lady"|
|2||nya- (women's speech) 0- (men's speech)||male (human centred)||(w)nya-malbu (m)malbu "old man"|
|3||rra-/a-||feminine||a-karnkarnka "white bellied sea eagle"|
|4||0-||masculine||nangurrbuwala "hill kangaroo"|
|5||ma-||food (non-meat)||ma-ngakuya "cycad fruit"|
|6||na-||arboreal||na-wabija "digging stick"|
|8||possessive pronominal prefixes||body parts||nanda-wulaya "her head", (w)niwa-wulaya (m)na-wulaya "his head"|
|9||0-||familiar kinship||kajaja "father, dad"|
|10||various pronominal prefixes||formal kinship for close kin||angatharra-wangu "my wife"|
|11||various pronominal prefixes||formal kinship-grandparent level||karna-marrini "my daughter's child"|
|12||various pronominal prefixes/suffixes||formal kinship-avoidance||rra-kayibanthayindalu "your daughter in law"|
|13||rri- dual and li- plural||human group||li-maramaranja "dugong hunters of excellence"|
|14||rra-/a-, nya-. 0-||personal names||rra-Marrngawi, (w)nya-Lajumba (m)Lajumba|
|15||rra-/a- / 0-||ceremony names||rra-Kunabibi, Yilayi, rra-Milkathatha|
|16||0-||place names||Kandanbarrawujbi, Burrulula, Wathangka|
(w) women's speech, (m) men's speech, 0- no prefix used.
rra- is a more formal female/feminine prefix often used in elicitations, a- is the informal everyday form. There is only one word in Yanyuwa, rra-ardu "girl", where the rra- prefix is always used. This to distinguish it from the men's speech form ardu "boy", for which women say nya-ardu.
Male and female dialects
Yanyuwa is unusual among languages of the world in that it has separate dialects for men and for women at the morphological level. The only time men use the women's dialect is when they are quoting someone of the opposite sex, and vice versa. An example of this speech is provided below:
(w) nya-buyi nya-ardu kiwa-wingka waykaliya wulangindu kanyilu-kala nyikunya-baba.
(m) buyi ardu ka-wingka waykaliya wulangindu kila-kala nyiku-baba.
The little boy went down to the river and saw his brother
In Yanyuwa, certain words have synonyms which are used to replace the everyday term in certain cultural situations.
Avoidance speech is speech style used when talking to or near certain relatives: one's siblings and cousins of the opposite sex, one's brother-, sister-, father- and mother-in-law, and one's nieces and nephews if their father (for male speakers) or mother (for female speakers) has died. Occasionally avoidance speech takes the form of different affixes to usual speech, but generally it is simply a change in vocabulary.
- Example: In usual speech a digging stick is referred to as na-wabija, but when talking to one of the above relatives, the word used is na-wulungkayangu.
An example of avoidance speech is given below:
Avoidance: Ja-wuynykurninji ki-bujibujilu runungkawu ma-wulyarri.
Normal: Ja-wingkayi ki-buyukalu wubanthawu ma-ngarra.
He is going to the fire to cook food.
Another set of vocabulary is used during ceremonies and other ritual occasions. Many of the words used in ritual speech are sacred and kept secret.
- Example: In usual speech a dingo is referred to as wardali, but during ritual occasions, the word used is yarrarriwira. This is one ritual term which is known to the general public, as are some other terms for flora and fauna.
When on the Sir Edward Pellew Group of Islands, which is part of Yanyuwa territory, another set of vocabulary may be used to replace the terms used when on the mainland. There is more variance about the usage of island speech than the other speech styles.
- Example: When on the mainland, fishing is referred to as wardjangkayarra, but when on the islands, the word used is akarimantharra.
Dixon (2002), who rejects the validity of Pama–Nyungan, accepts that Yanyuwa is demonstrably related to Warluwara and languages closely related to it.
Yanyuwa speakers have actively engaged in making a number of films, and more recently have begun a project to animate important stories and songlines. These include three important films, all of which have extensive narratives in Yanyuwa, with subtitles:
- Kanymarda Yuwa - Two Laws,
- Buwarrala Akarriya - Journey East,
- Ka-wayawayama - Aeroplane Dance.
- Yanyuwa reference at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
- Yanyuwa at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
- Music from home - Shellie Morris and the Borroloola Songwomen (91.7 ABC Coast FM programme).
- CD Launch "Ngambala Wiji Li-Wunungu — Together We are Strong".
- Yanyuwa recordings demonstrating the seven POAs.
- Yanyuwa Wuka: Language from Yanyuwa Country - a Yanyuwa Dictionary and Cultural Resource (PDF)