Bandjalang language

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Bandjalang, Yugambeh, Githabul
Region Queensland & New South Wales, Australia
Ethnicity Bundjalung people, Western Bundjalung people, Githabul, Yugambeh people etc
Native speakers
20 (2005) to 95 (2006 census)[1]
  • Southeastern
    • North Coast
      • Bandjalangic
        • Yugambeh-Bandjalang
  • Middle Clarence
  • Tweed-Albert
  • Lower Richmond
  • Condamine-Upper Clarence
Latin with slight modifications
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Variously:
bdy – Bandjalang
gih – Githabul
xjb – Minjungbal
rkw – Arakwal (not a specific dialect[2])
yug – Yugambeh
Glottolog band1339[3]
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.

Yugambeh-Bundjalang, or Bandjalang is a dialect continuum of Australian Indigenous languages, that is spoken in northeastern New South Wales and South-East Queensland.

Bundjalung consists of a number of dialects, including Yugambeh (sometimes confused with Yugambal), Nganduwal, Minjangbal, Njangbal, Biriin, Baryulgil, Waalubal, Dinggabal, Wiyabal, Gidabal, Galibal, and Wudjeebal; Language varieties in the group vary in degree of mutual intelligibility.[4] Bowern (2011) lists Yugambal, Githabul, Minjungbal, Ngara:ngwal, and Bandjalang as separate Bandjalangic languages.[5]

Geographic Distribution[edit]

Yugambeh-Bandjalang is spoken over a wide geographic area; the Pacific Ocean to the east and the Logan River catchment as the northern boundary, the Clarence River forming the south and south-western boundaries, and the Northern Tablelands marking the western boundary. [4]



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. The dialects form recognisable clusters that share phonological and morphological features, as well as having higher degrees of mutual intelligibility. [4]


Language Cluster Area Spoken Dialects
Condamine-Upper Clarence Between the Upper Condamine and Upper Clarence River catchments Galibal, Warwick Dialect, Gidabal, Dinggabal
Lower Richmond Between the Lower Richmond and Lower Clarence River Catchments Nyangbal, Bandjalang, Wiyabal, Minyangbal
Middle Clarence Middle Clarence catchment Wahlubal, Casino Dialect, Birihn, Baryugil
Tweed-Albert Between the Logan and Tweed River catchments. Yugambeh, Ngarangwal, Nganduwal


Condamine - Upper Clarence[edit]
# Co-ordinates Dialect Areas Spoken Alternate Names
1. Kalibal Kyogle area Dinggabal, Galibal, Gullybul
2. Dinggabal Tabulam Area Dingabal, Dingga, Gidabal
3. Gidabal Woodenbong and Tenterfield Area Githabul
4. Geynan Warwick area Warwick dialect
Middle Clarence[edit]
# Co-ordinates Dialect Area Spoken Alternate Names
1. Wahlubal South of Tabulam to Drake Bandjalang, Western Bandjalang
2. Casino Dialect Casino Area Bandjalang
3. Birihn Rappville Area Bandjalang
4. Baryulgil Baryulgil Area Bandjalang
Lower Richmond[edit]
# Co-ordinates Dialect Area Spoken Alternate Names
1. Nyangbal Ballina Area Bandjalang
2. Bandjalang Proper Bungwalbin Creek & Casino Area Bandjalang
3. Wiyabal Lismore Area Wudjehbal, Bandjalang
4. Minyangbal Byron Bay area Bandjalang, Arakwal
# Co-ordinates Dialect Area spoken Alternate names
1. Yugambeh Logan & Albert River basins Yugam, Yugambah, Minyangbal
2. Ngarangwal Coomera & Nerang River basins Nerang, Nerangbal, Yugambeh, Yugam, Minyangbal
3. Nganduwal Tweed River basins Yugambeh, Yugam, Ngandu, Minyangbal


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. ^ [1]
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Bandjalang". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  4. ^ a b c Terry., Crowley, (1978). The middle Clarence dialects of Bandjalang. Smythe, W. E. Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. ISBN 0855750650. OCLC 6041138. 
  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]