Bandjalang language

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Region New South Wales, Australia
Ethnicity Bundjalung people, Githabul, etc.
Native speakers
20 (2005) to 95 (2006 census)[1]
  • Southeast
    • New South Wales
      • Durubal–Bandjalang
        • Bundjalung
  • Bandjalang
  • Yugumbir
  • Nganduwal
  • Minjangbal
  • Njangbal
  • Biriin
  • Baryulgil
  • Waalubal
  • Dinggabal
  • Wiyabal
  • Gidabal
  • Galibal
  • Wudjeebal[2]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Variously:
bdy – Bandjalang
gih – Githabul
xjb – Minjungbal
rkw – Arakwal (not a specific dialect[3])
Glottolog band1339[4]
AIATSIS[1] E12 Bundjalung (cover term), E17 Yugambeh
Bandjalangic languages.png
Bandjalangic languages (green) among other Pama–Nyungan (tan)
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Bundjalung, or Yugambeh-Bundjalung, is an Australian Indigenous language of the northeastern New South Wales and South-East Queensland coast.

Bundjalung consists of a number of dialects, including Yugumbir (sometimes confused with Yugambal), Nganduwal, Minjangbal, Njangbal, Biriin, Baryulgil, Waalubal, Dinggabal, Wiyabal, Gidabal, Galibal, and Wudjeebal. Bowern (2011) lists Yugambal, Githabul, Minjungbal, Ngara:ngwal, and Bandjalang as separate Bandjalangic languages.[5]


Indigenous vocabulary from New South Wales with English explanation.


Varieties of Bundjalung may have a vowel system of either 3 or 4 vowels that also contrast in length, resulting in either 6 or 8 phonemic vowels in total.[6]

In practical orthography and some descriptions of the language, the letter "h" is often used after the vowel to indicate a long vowel.[6]

Front Back
High i iː u uː
Mid (e eː)
Low a aː

Vowel Alternations

/a/ and /e/ are neutralised as [ɛ] before /j/.

The low central vowel /a/ can be fronted and raised following a palatal consonant, and backed following a velar consonant.[6]

Unstressed short vowels can be reduced to the neutral central vowel schwa in a similar way to English.[6]


Bundjalung has a smaller inventory of consonant phonemes than is typical of most Australian languages, having only four contrastive places of articulation and only one lateral and one rhotic phoneme.

Peripheral Laminal Apical
Bilabial Velar Palatal Alveolar
Obstruent b ɡ ɟ d
Nasal m ŋ ɲ n
Lateral l
Rhotic ɾ
Semivowel w j


Although the standard IPA symbols used in transcription of the language are the voiced stop symbols, these segments are better characterised as obstruents because they are realised more often as fricatives or affricates than actual stops. There is no contrast in Bundjalung between these manners of articulation.[6]

Bundjalung varieties do not have voicing contrasts for their obstruent sequences, and so phonological literature varies in its representation of these consonants- some linguists have chosen the symbols /p/, /k/, /c/, /t/, and others have decided upon /b/, /g/, /ɟ/, /d/. Generally, these consonants are phonetically voiceless, except when following a homorganic nasal segment.[6]


When nasal stops occur syllable-finally, they are often produced with a stop onset as a free variant.[6]


The lateral phoneme can appear as a flap rather than an approximant, and sometimes occurs prestopped as a free variant in the same way as nasals.[6]


The rhotic phoneme has several surface realisations in Bundjalung. Between vowels, it tends to be a flap, although it can sometimes be an approximant, and it is usually a trill at the end of syllables.[6]


The existence of semivowels in Bundjalung can be disputed, as in many Australian languages. Some linguists posit their existence in order to avoid an analysis that involves onset-less syllables, which are usually held to be non-existent in Australian languages. Some phonologists have found that semivowels can be replaced with glottal stops in some varieties of Bundjalung.[6]


Bundjalung is a stress-timed language and is quantity-sensitive, with stress being assigned to syllables with long vowels. Short unstressed vowels tend to be reduced to the neutral vowel schwa.[6]

Syllable structure[edit]

Like many Australian languages, Bundjalung is thought to have a constraint that states that all syllables must have a consonant onset. Only vowels are permitted as the syllable nucleus, and these may be long or short. Syllable codas are also permitted, with long or short vowels in the nucleus. However, long vowels are not permitted to occur in adjacent syllables.[6]


Consonant Clusters

Bundjalung does not permit clusters of the same consonant, or clusters that begin with an obstruent phoneme or end with an approximant, except the labio-velar glide. All homorganic nasal-obstruent clusters occur in the language. Clusters usually only involve two segments, but clusters of three may occur if an intervening vowel is deleted by some process.[6]


"Bundjalung" is used as a cover term for the dialect chain as well as to refer to certain individual dialects. At the time of the first European settlement in the mid-1800s, the Bundjalung people on the north coast of New South Wales and southeast of Queensland spoke up to twenty related dialects. Today only about nine remain. All were mutually intelligible with neighboring dialects.

# Co-ordinates Tribal Group Areas Spoken Dialects Bundjalung language chain
1. Badjalang From northern bank of Clarence River to Richmond River; at Ballina; inland to Tabulam and Baryugil. Coastal hordes or Widje (horde or hordes at Evans Head) go inland only to Rappville. The boundary between the dialect spoken on the Clarence River, presumably Badjalang and that of the Richmond River comes at a place called Moonim, which is near Coraki. Bandjalang Bundjalung (also known as Bandjalang)
2. Badjalang Clarence Valley Council Local Government Area Baryulgal (also known as Baryulgil or Barryugil or Yugilbar) Bundjalung (also known as Banjalang)
3. Badjalang Rappville Area Biriin (also known as Birrihn) Bundjalung (also known as Banjalang)
4. Kalibal Macpherson Range from near Unumgar, N.S.W., to Christmas Creek, Qld.; east to upper Nerang and south to Mount Cougal and Tweed Range, Tyalgum, and the Brunswick River divide Dinggabal Bundjalung (also known as Banjalang)
5. Badjalang Casino Area Walunumgmira Bundjalung (also known as Banjalang)
6. Kitabal / Gidabal Tabulam Area Wahlubal (also known as Gidabal and Gidhabal) Bundjalung (also known as Banjalang)
7. Jukambal Kyogle, Woodenbong and Tenterfield Area Githabul Bundjalung (also known as Banjalang)
8. Arakwal From Ballina and northern bank of Richmond River to Cape Byron; south to Ballina where they met Widje hordes of the Badjalang; inland to Lismore, Casino, and Coraki. Minjungbal Bundjalung (also known as Banjalang)
9. Moorang-Moobar Brunswick River Valley Area Nganduwal (also known as Ngarakwal) Yugambeh (also known as Yugumbir)
10. Ngarrahngbal Bundjalung (also known as Banjalang)
11. Tul-gi-gin Rous River Valley Area Nganduwal (also known as Ngarakwal) Yugambeh (also known as Yugumbir)
12. Badjalang Ballina and Evans Head Area Njangbal Bundjalung (also known as Banjalang)
13. Badjalang Casino Area Wahlubal (also known as Waalubal or Western Bandjalang) Bundjalung (also known as Banjalang)
14. Badjalang Upper Richmond River from north of Kyogle south to near Casino, east to Dunoon; not to Coraki Wiyabal Bundjalung (also known as Banjalang)
15. Wuhyabal Bundjalung (also known as Banjalang)
16. Wudjeebal (also known as Wudjebal) Bundjalung (also known as Banjalang)
17. Goodjingburra South-East Queensland coast between the Logan River and the Tweed River (including South Stradbroke Island) Minyangbal (also known as Minjungbal) Yugambeh (also known as Yugumbir)


Place Names
Name/Word Pronounced Synonyms Dialect Meaning
Ballina English Accidental or deliberate corruption of the Aboriginal words 'Bullinah and Boolinah' &/or 'Balloona, Balloonah, Balluna, Bullenah, Bullina and Bulluna'.
Bullenah Balluna, Bullina, Bulluna, Balloona, Balloonah 'Blood running from the wounded' or 'The place of dying' or 'The place of the wounded after a fight' or 'Place where a battle was fought & people were found dying'.
Bullen-bullen "Bul-na" 'A fight'.
Bulun 'River'.
Bullinah Boolinah 'Place of many oysters'.
Cooriki Gurigay, Hooraki, Kurrachee 'The meeting of the waters'.
Coraki English Accidental or deliberate corruption of the Aboriginal words 'Kurrachee', 'Gurigay', 'Hooraki' & 'Cooriki'
Dahbalam Tabulam Galibal
Gunya 'A traditional native home, made from wood and bark'.
Gum Ngarakwal Crossing
Gummin 'meaning father's mother'.
Gummingarr 'Winter camping grounds'.
Jurbihls Djuribil Githabul 'Refers to both a site and the spirit that resides there'.
Maniworkan 'The place where the town of Woodburn is located'.
Nguthungali-garda Githabul 'Spirits of our grandfathers'.
Uki "Yoo-k-eye" 'A water fern with edible roots'.
Wollumbin Ngarakwal 'Patriarch of mountains', 'Fighting Chief', 'Place of Death and Dying', 'Site at which one of the chief warriors lies' or 'Cloud Catcher'.
Woodenbong 'Wood ducks on water'.
Wulambiny Momoli Mount Warning Ngarakwal 'Turkey Nest'.

Language, Mythology and Ceremony
Name/Word Pronounced Synonyms Dialect Meaning
Dirawong Dira-wong Dirawonga, Goanna Creator Being spirit that looked like a Goanna but behaved just like humans.

Human Classifications
Name/Word Pronounced Synonyms Dialect Meaning
Weeum Wee-um 'Clever Man' also known as 'Man of high degree of initiation'.
Wuyun Gali Wu-yun Ga-li 'Clever Man' also known as 'Doctor'
Cooradgi Gidhabal and Dinggabal 'Clever Men of the tribe' who could cast spells of sleep or sleeping sickness (Hoop Pine curse) as a reprisal against offenders of tribal law, tribal codes, enemies or bad spiritual influences. The ritual coincided with the bone pointing procedure common among Aboriginal tribes throughout Australia.
Flora and Fauna
Name/Word Pronounced Synonyms Dialect Meaning
Jullum Jul-lum Jellum Fish.
Ngumagal Ngu-ma-gal Goanna.
Yabbra Yab-bra Bird.
Wudgie-Wudgie Wud-gie-Wud-gie Red Cedar.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Bundjalung (cover term) at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies  (see the info box for additional links)
  2. ^ Dixon, R. M. W. (2002). Australian Languages: Their Nature and Development. Cambridge University Press. p. xxxiv. 
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Bandjalang". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  5. ^ Bowern, Claire. 2011. "How Many Languages Were Spoken in Australia?", Anggarrgoon: Australian languages on the web, December 23, 2011 (corrected February 6, 2012)
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Sharpe, Margaret C. (2005). Grammar and Texts of the Yugambeh-Bundjalung Dialect Chain in Eastern Australia. Muenchen, Germany: LINCOM. p. 180. ISBN 3-89586-784-5. 
  • Crowley, Terry (1978). The Middle Clarence dialects of Bundjalung. Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. 
  • Cunningham, Margaret C. (1969). "A description of the Yugumbir dialect of Bundjalung". University of Queensland Papers, Faculty of Arts. 1 (8). 
  • Geytenbeek, Brain B. (1964). "Morphology of the regular verbs of Gidabul". Papers on the languages of the Australian Aborigines. 
  • Geytenbeek, Brian B.; Getenbeek, Helen (1971). Gidabal grammar and dictionary. Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. 
  • Geytenbeek, Helen (1964). "Personal pronouns of Gidabul". 
  • Holmer, Nils M. (1971). Notes on the Bundjalung Dialect. Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. 
  • Sharpe, Margaret C. (1994). An all-dialect dictionary of Bunjalung, an Australian language no longer in general use. 

External links[edit]