Bidjara language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

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
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. The language is being revitalised and is being taught in local schools in the region.


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 Native Title Court 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]


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

The consonants in the Margany and Gunya dialects:


Front Central Back
High i iː u uː
Low a aː


Consonants are as follows,[7]

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 analyzed as /b, ɡ, d̪, ɟ, d, ɖ/.


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,[8] and is held in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney. He has also included other words and conversations in the language in his work.[citation needed]

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.[9]


  1. ^ Bidyara at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Gunya at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Gungabula at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Margany at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Wadjigu at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Mandandanyi at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    (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. ^ Dixon, Blake, Robert M. W., Barry J. (1981). Handbook of Australian Languages, Volume 2. p. 283.
  8. ^ priest, gail. "Issue 97 - video art: performance, politics, vision: video art in the 17th biennale of sydney". RealTime Arts. Retrieved 16 April 2020.
  9. ^ "Voice, treaty, truth: Celebrating our connection to culture this NAIDOC Week". Uniting. 8 July 2019. Retrieved 16 April 2020.

External links[edit]