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Dharug language

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(Redirected from Darug language)

RegionNew South Wales
EthnicityDharug, Eora (Yura) (Gadigal, Wangal, Cammeraygal, Wallumettagal, Bidjigal)
ExtinctLate 19th / early 20th century
RevivalSmall number of L2 speakers
  • Dharuk
  • Gamaraygal
  • Iora
Language codes
ISO 639-3xdk
Dharug is classified as Critically Endangered by the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger
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.
The word "koala" is derived from gula in the Dharuk and Gundungurra languages
A Yuin man, c.1904

The Dharug language, also spelt Darug, Dharuk, and other variants, and also known as the Sydney language, Gadigal language (Sydney city area), is an Australian Aboriginal language of the Yuin–Kuric group that was traditionally spoken in the region of Sydney, New South Wales, until it became extinct due to effects of colonisation. It is the traditional language of the Dharug people. The Dharug population has greatly diminished since the onset of colonisation.[2][3] Eora language has sometimes been used to distinguish a coastal dialect from hinterland dialects, but there is no evidence that Aboriginal peoples ever used this term, which simply means "people".[4] Some effort has been put into reviving a reconstructed form of the language.


The speakers did not use a specific name for their language prior to settlement by the First Fleet. The coastal dialect has been referred to as Iyora (also spelt as Iora or Eora), which simply means "people" (or Aboriginal people), while the inland dialect has been referred to as Dharug, a term of unknown origin or meaning.[5][4] Linguist and anthropologist Jakelin Troy (2019) describes two dialects of the Sydney language, with neither Dharug (S64) Eora being in the historical record as language names.[1][3]

A website devoted to Dharug and Dharawal resources says "The word Daruk was assigned to the Iyura (Eora) people as a language group, or more commonly referred to as the people that sustained their diet by the constant digging of the yams as a vegetable supplement. The Dark, Darug, Tarook, Taruk Tarug is related to the word Midyini, meaning yam".[6]


Portrait of Bennelong, a senior Wangal man of the Eora peoples

Historical area[edit]

The traditional territory of the coastal variety ("Iyora/Eyora", or Kuringgai) was estimated by Val Attenbrow (2002) to include "...the Sydney Peninsula (north of Botany Bay, south of Port Jackson, west to Parramatta), as well as the country to the north of Port Jackson, possibly as far as Broken Bay".[4]

Attenbrow places the "hinterland dialect" (Dharug) "...on the Cumberland Plain from Appin in the south to the Hawkesbury River in the north; west of the Georges River, Parramatta, the Lane Cove River and Berowra Creek". R. H. Mathews (1903) said that the territory extended "...along the coast to the Hawkesbury River, and inland to what are now the towns of Windsor, Penrith, Campbelltown".[1]

Eora people[edit]

The word "Eora" has been used as an ethnonym by non-Aboriginal people since the late 19th century, and by Aboriginal people since the late 20th century, to describe Aboriginal peoples of the Sydney region, despite there being "no evidence that Aboriginal people had used it in 1788 as the name of a language or group of people inhabiting the Sydney peninsula".[7][1]

With a traditional heritage spanning thousands of years, approximately 70 per cent of the Eora people died out during the nineteenth century as a result of the genocidal policies of colonial Australia, smallpox and other viruses, and the destruction of their natural food sources.

Earliest habitation[edit]

Radiocarbon dating suggests human activity occurred in and around Sydney for at least 30,000 years, in the Upper Paleolithic period.[8][9] However, numerous Aboriginal stone tools found in Sydney's far western suburbs gravel sediments were dated to be from 45,000 to 50,000 years BP, which would mean that humans could have been in the region earlier than thought.[10][11]

First European records[edit]

Dharug people recognise William Dawes of the First Fleet and flagship, the Sirius, as the first to record the original traditional tongue of the elder people of Sydney Dharugule-wayaun.[12][13] Dawes was returned to England in December 1791, after disagreements with Governor Phillip on, among other things, the punitive expedition launched following the wounding of the Government gamekeeper,[14] allegedly by Pemulwuy, a Yora man.

Extinction of language[edit]

The Indigenous population of Sydney gradually started using English more in everyday usage, as well as New South Wales Pidgin. This, combined with social upheaval, meant that the local Dharug language started to fade from use in the late nineteenth/early twentieth century.[15] A wordlist of the local Sydney language was published by William Ridley in 1875, and he noted that, at that time, very few fluent speakers were left.[16]


Prof. Jakelin Troy at the CinC2017 congress in Portugal

The Dharug language had largely been lost as an extinct language, mainly due to the historical effects of colonisation on the speakers.[17] Some vocabulary had been retained by some Dharug people, but only very little grammar[18] and phonology. For many years non-Aboriginal academics collected resources for Aboriginal languages to preserve them, and more recently, Aboriginal people have been getting involved in the process, and designing tools to reclaim the languages.[6] During the 1990s and the new millennium, some descendants of the Dharug clans in Western Sydney have been making considerable efforts to revive Dharug as a spoken language. In the 21st century, some modern Dharug speakers have given speeches in a reconstructed form of the Dharug language, and younger members of the community visit schools and give demonstrations of spoken Dharug.[19]

A recreated version of the language is spoken at welcome ceremonies conducted by the Dharug people.[18]

As of 2005, some children at Chifley College's Dunheved campus in Sydney had started learning the reconstructed Dharug language,[20][21] and parts of the language have been taught at the Sydney Festival.[22]

In December 2020, Olivia Fox sang a version of Australia's national anthem in Dharug at the Tri Nations Test match between Australia and Argentina.[23]



Peripheral Laminal Apical
Bilabial Velar Palatal Dental Alveolar Retroflex
Stop b k c t
Nasal m ŋ ɲ n
Lateral ʎ l
Rhotic r ɻ
Semivowel w j


Front Back
High i u
Low a

The language may have had a distinction of vowel length, but this is difficult to determine from the extant data.[24]


The Dharug language highlights the strong link between people and place through its clan naming convention. This can be seen through the suffix identifier -gal and -galyan which refer to -man of and -woman of.[25]

Clan names such as Burramuttagal (identifying the people) therefore translate to man of Burramutta - also known as Parramatta (identifying the place those specific people are from); Gadigal (identifying the people), man of Gadi - Sydney within Gadigal Country (identifying the place those specific people are from); and, Kamaygalyan (identifying the people), woman of Kamay - Botany Bay (identifying the place those specific people are from). This people-and-place naming convention within the Dharug language can be seen throughout all of the clans of the Eora Nation.

Another example of the strong link between people and place, but without the suffix, can be seen with the nation name 'Eora' itself, which translates to people and from here or this place. The name Eora refers collectively to the people of the Sydney region and also translates to the name of the (Greater Sydney) region inhabited by those people.[9]

English borrowed words[edit]

Examples of English words borrowed from Dharug are:


  1. ^ a b c d S64 Dharug at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
  2. ^ Troy (1994): p. 5.
  3. ^ a b Troy, Jakelin. 2019. The Sydney language [blurb]. 2nd edition. Canberra : Aboriginal Studies Press. "The language is now called by its many clan names, including Gadigal in the Sydney city area and Dharug in Western Sydney. The word for Aboriginal person in this language is 'yura', this word has been used to help identify the language, with the most common spellings being Iyora and Eora."
  4. ^ a b c S61 Eora at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
  5. ^ Troy (1994): p. 9.
  6. ^ a b "Introduction: Aboriginal Languages of Sydney Region". Dharug and Dharawal Resources. Retrieved 31 July 2022.
  7. ^ Attenbrow, Val (2010). Sydney's Aboriginal Past: Investigating the archaeological and historical records. Sydney: University of New South Wales Press Ltd. p. 36. ISBN 978-1-74223-116-7.
  8. ^ Macey, Richard (2007). "Settlers' history rewritten: go back 30,000 years". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 5 July 2014.
  9. ^ a b "Aboriginal people and place". Barani Sydney Aboriginal History. sydneybarani.com.au. Retrieved 22 February 2022.
  10. ^ Attenbrow, Val (2010). Sydney's Aboriginal Past: Investigating the Archaeological and Historical Records. Sydney: UNSW Press. pp. 152–153. ISBN 978-1-74223-116-7. Retrieved 11 November 2013.
  11. ^ Stockton, Eugene D.; Nanson, Gerald C. (April 2004). "Cranebrook Terrace Revisited". Archaeology in Oceania. 39 (1): 59–60. doi:10.1002/j.1834-4453.2004.tb00560.x. JSTOR 40387277.
  12. ^ "The notebooks of William Dawes". School of Oriental and African Studies and NSW Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Retrieved 21 September 2010.
  13. ^ Troy, Jakelin (1992). "The Sydney Language Notebooks and responses to language contact in early colonial NSW" (PDF). Australian Journal of Linguistics. 12: 145–170. doi:10.1080/07268609208599474.
  14. ^ Dawes, William (1762 - 1836). Australian Dictionary of Biography Online. Retrieved 16 September 2010.
  15. ^ Troy, Jakelin (1994). The Sydney Language (PDF). Canberra. p. 5.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  16. ^ Troy, Jakelin (1994). The Sydney Language (PDF). Canberra. p. 15.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  17. ^ "UNPO: Aboriginals of Australia: Revive Dharug Language". unpo.org. Retrieved 16 July 2023.
  18. ^ a b Everett, Kristina (2009). "Welcome to Country … Not". Oceania. 79 (1). Wiley: 53–64. doi:10.1002/j.1834-4461.2009.tb00050.x. ISSN 0029-8077.
  19. ^ "Dharug Dalang". CITIES. Retrieved 21 September 2010.
  20. ^ "Lost Aboriginal language revived". 14 April 2009. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  21. ^ "The first time I spoke in my own language I broke down and wept". The University of Sydney. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  22. ^ Ding, Ann (28 December 2017). "Sydney Festival's Bayala: How we all speak some Darug". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  23. ^ "'Spine-tingling': Rugby viewers praise Australian national anthem sung in First Nations language". SBS News. 6 December 2020. Retrieved 6 December 2020.
  24. ^ Troy (1994): p. 24.
  25. ^ "2. THE PEOPLE – A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF THEIR LIFE AND CULTURE". Pre-colonial Aboriginal land and resource use in Centennial, Moore and Queens Parks – assessment of historical and archaeological evidence for Centennial Parklands Conservation Management Plan. Val Attenbrow, Australian Museum. Archived from the original on 1 April 2019. Retrieved 22 February 2022.
  26. ^ boomerang.org.au Archived 8 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine; see under "The Origin of Boomerang". Retrieved 16 January 2008.
  27. ^ PETERS, PAM (26 April 2007). The Cambridge Guide to Australian English Usage. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780511294969.
  28. ^ Dalzell, Tom; Victor, Terry (26 June 2015). The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English. Routledge. ISBN 9781317372516.
  29. ^ Dalzell, Tom; Victor, Terry (27 November 2014). The Concise New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English. Routledge. ISBN 9781317625124.
  30. ^ Oxford Dictionary of English, 3rd ed., p 977.


External links[edit]