Bidjara language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Southern Maric
Native toAustralia
RegionQueensland, between Tambo and Augathella, Warrego and Langlo rivers
EthnicityBidjara, Kongabula, Maranganji, Gunya, Wadja, Gayiri, Wadjalang, Wadjabangai, Iningai, Mandandanji, Gunggari, Koamu (Kooma), ?Ganulu, ?Nguri, ?Yagalingu(pronounced wadja-lingu/wod-ja-ling-goo)
Extinctby 1987[1]
Some people might know a few words (2008)[2]
  • Bidjara (& Gungabula)
  • Marrganj (Margany/Mardigan) & Gunja (Gunya)
  • Wadjingu (Wadjigu = Wadja)
  • Gayiri (Kairi)
  • Wadjalang (Dharawala)
  • Wadjabangayi
  • Yiningayi
  • Yanjdjibara
  • Kogai (Mandandanyi/Mandandanjdji, Gunggari/Kunggari, Guwamu/Kooma)
  • Ganulu?
  • Nguri?[3]
  • Yagalingu?
Language codes
ISO 639-3Variously:
bym – Bidyara
gyy – Gunya
gyf – Gungabula
zmc – Margany
wdu – Wadjigu
zmk – Mandandanyi
gwu – Guwamu
kgl – Kunggari
wdy – Wadjabangayi
xyb – Yandjibara
ygi – Yiningayi
AIATSIS[2]E37 Bidjara, D38 Kogai, D42 Margany, E39 Wadjingu, E44 Gayiri, D45 Wadjalang, L39 Wadjabangay, L41 Yiningay, L44 Yandjibara, E64 Ganulu, D46 Nguri

Bidjara, also spelt Bidyara or Pitjara, is an Australian Aboriginal language. In 1980, it was spoken by twenty elders in Queensland between the towns of Tambo and Augathella, or the Warrego and Langlo Rivers. There are many dialects of the language, including Gayiri and Gunggari. Some of them are being revitalised and is being taught in local schools in the region.


Map of traditional lands of Aboriginal people around Rockhampton and Gladstone, Queensland

The Bidjara language included numerous dialects, of which Bidjara proper was the last to go extinct. One of these was Gunya (Kunja), spoken over 31,200 km2 (12,188 sq mi), from the Warrego River near Cunnamulla north to Augathella and Burenda Station; west to between Cooladdi and Cheepie; east to Morven and Angellala Creek; at Charle-ville. Fred McKellar was the last known speaker. Yagalingu is poorly attested but may have been a dialect of Bidjara.[4]

Natalie Kwok prepared a report on Gunggari for the National Native Title Tribunal in Australia.[citation needed] In it she says:

Language served as an important identity marker between the Gunggari and Bidjara peoples. Although academically speaking, differences between the two languages have been found to be minor, from an emic point of view such distinctions were meaningful and consequential. Lynette Nixon recounts that when her father used to converse with the Gadd brothers it was understood that, although communication was possible, they each spoke in their own tongue. Ann-Eckermann recounts,
I was present many times when Bert Mailman (Bidjera) and Aunty Mini Dodd and Aunty Annie Currie would sit outside their houses calling out to one another in language – it was explained to me that Bert spoke Bidjera from Augathella and that the two old ladies were speaking Gunggari – and that, although some of the words were mutually intelligible, Bert really couldn't understand what the ladies were saying – and it was driving him crazy because the women were making fun of him. (pers. comm.)

The Wadjigu (also known as Wadja, Wadya, Wadjainngo, Mandalgu, and Wadjigun) language[5] region includes the local government areas of the Aboriginal Shire of Woorabinda and Central Highlands Region, including the Blackdown Tablelands. the Comet River, and the Expedition Range, and the towns of Woorabinda, Springsure and Rolleston.[6]

Language revival[edit]


Australian Bidjara artist Christian Bumbarra Thompson employs his Bidjara language in his video work in an attempt to redistribute his language into the public realm. His work Gamu Mambu, which means "Blood Song", is a video work of a Dutch Baroque opera singer singing in Bidjara. It was included in the 17th Sydney Biennale, The Beauty of Distance: Songs of Survival in a Precarious Age.[7]

During NAIDOC Week in 2019, Bidjara man Owen Stanley shared his insights on the loss of language, and his sadness at not being fluent in his own language, with an audience at Uniting NSW. He said that his grandmother was one of the last 20 elders who died with the language, and attempts were being made to revive the language.[8]


As of 2021 there were only three native speakers of the Gunggari language left, including Elder of the Year Aunty Lynette Nixon, and a major language revival effort has been under way in Queensland schools since St Patrick's School in Mitchell started teaching it around 2013. Since then, Mitchell State School has also started teaching Gunggari. Aunty Lynette, along with the Gunggari Native Title Corporation (NTC), have been compiling the first Gunggari dictionary.[9] Gunggari NTC have also developed language workshops, for adults to learn their people's language, holding the first off-country in Toowoomba. As of November 2021 they were planning to extend the workshops to Brisbane, Woorabinda and Mitchell.[10]


The consonants in the Margany and Gunya dialects:


Front Central Back
High i iː u uː
Low a aː


Consonants are as follows:[11]

Peripheral Laminal Apical
Labial Velar Dental Palatal Alveolar Retroflex
Plosive p k c t ʈ
Nasal m ŋ ɲ n ɳ
Lateral ʎ l ɭ
Rhotic r
Approximant w j ɻ

The plosives could also be analysed as /b, ɡ, d̪, ɟ, d, ɖ/.


  1. ^ Bidyara at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
    Gunya at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
    Gungabula at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
    Margany at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
    Wadjigu at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
    Mandandanyi at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
    (Additional references under 'Language codes' in the information box)
  2. ^ a b E37 Bidjara at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies  (see the info box for additional links)
  3. ^ Breen (1973, 1981), cited in RMW Dixon (2002), Australian Languages: Their Nature and Development, p xxxiii. Some additional names were apparently not distinct dialects.
  4. ^ E43 Yagalingu at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
  5. ^ E39 Wadjiga at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
  6. ^ CC BY icon-80x15.png This Wikipedia article incorporates CC-BY-4.0 licensed text from: "Wadja". Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages map. State Library of Queensland. Retrieved 5 February 2020.
  7. ^ Priest, Gail. "Issue 97 - video art: performance, politics, vision: video art in the 17th biennale of sydney". RealTime Arts. Retrieved 16 April 2020.
  8. ^ "Voice, treaty, truth: Celebrating our connection to culture this NAIDOC Week". Uniting. 8 July 2019. Retrieved 16 April 2020.
  9. ^ Hosier, Phoebe (26 May 2021). "An outback Queensland school leads the way to keep endangered Indigenous language alive". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 13 February 2022.
  10. ^ Moodie, Anthea (27 November 2021). "Indigenous language workshops connecting Gunggari people to culture". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 13 February 2022.
  11. ^ Dixon, Blake, Robert M. W., Barry J. (1981). Handbook of Australian Languages, Volume 2. p. 283.

External links[edit]