Bidjara language

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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 (Bidyara, 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.[5]

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 consonants in the Margany and Gunya dialects:


Front Central Back
High i iː u uː
Low a aː


Consonants are as follows,[6]

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 and the inaugural Charlie Perkins Scholar, University of Oxford, Christian Bumbarra Thompson employs his Bidjara language in his video work in attempt to redistribute his language into the public realm. His work 'Gamu Mambu' which means 'Blood Song' in Bidjara is a video work of a Dutch Baroque Opera Singer singing in Bidjara. It was included in the 17th Sydney International Biennale ' The Beauty of Distance: Songs of Survival in a Precarious Age' and is held in the Museum of Contemporary Art Collection, Sydney. His work 'Desert Slippers' was also included in the National Indigenous Art Triennial 'Culture Warriors' and features Thompson and his Father greeting each other in Bidjara. His work ' Decent Extremist' was also included in the Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art. The sound work features the words 'Nguwal' meaning bee swarm and 'muna' meaning bee. Thompson voice saying these phrases has manipulated to sound like an actual bee swarm and individual bee, created in collaboration with Carlos Vaquero. His most recent work 'Dhagunyilangu' meaning brother in Bidjara again employs a British male opera singer to interpret the song written in Bidjara and is included in the TarraWarra Biennial in Melbourne and also at the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford University, Britain in 2012. He has recently collaborated with James Young formally of Nico (Velvet Underground) and recorded his own version of 'Dhagunyilangu' and created a video work of himself singing in Bidjara as part of the Massey University International Art Residency, Wellington, New Zealand. The video work titled 'Refuge' is part of a larger series of works titled 'Eight Limbs' shown at the Te Whare Hera Gallery, Wellington, 2014.


  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. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Southern Maric". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  5. ^ E43 Yagalingu at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
  6. ^ Dixon, Blake, Robert M. W., Barry J. (1981). Handbook of Australian Languages, Volume 2. p. 283.

External links[edit]