Woiwurrung–Taungurung language

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EthnicityWoiwurrung, Wurundjeri, Taungurung, ?Ngurelban, etc.
  • Woiwurrung
  • Taungurung
Language codes
ISO 639-3Either:
wyi – Woiwurrung
dgw – Daungwurrung
AIATSIS[1]S36, S37
The five Kulin nations. Woiwurrung proper is in yellow, Taungurung is in the northeast in green.
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.
Marn grook football, played by speakers of Woiwurrung from the Wurundjeri clan, c. 1857
Building signage says Welcome - Wominjeka
Welcome sign on Medley building, University of Melbourne

Woiwurrung (sometimes spelt Woiwurrong, Woiworung, Wuywurung) and Taungurung (Taungurong, Daungwurrung Dhagung-wurrung, Thagungwurrung) are Aboriginal languages of the Kulin nation of Central Victoria. Woiwurrung was spoken by the Woiwurrung and related peoples in the Yarra River basin, and Taungurung by the Taungurung people north of the Great Dividing Range in the Goulburn River Valley around Mansfield, Benalla and Heathcote. They are often portrayed as distinct languages, but they were mutually intelligible.[2] Ngurai-illamwurrung (Ngurraiillam) may have been a clan name, a dialect, or a closely related language.[3]


The following is the Woiwurrung dialect:

Peripheral Laminal Apical
Bilabial Velar Palatal Dental Alveolar Retroflex
Plosive b/p ɡ/k ɟ/c / d/t ɖ/ʈ
Nasal m ŋ ɲ n ɳ
Lateral l ɭ
Rhotic r ɽ
Glide w j

It is not clear if the two rhotics are trill and flap, or tap and approximant. Vowels in Woiwurrung are /a e i o u/.[4]


In the case of the Woiwurrung pronouns, the stem seems to be the standard ngali (you and I), but the front was suffixed to wa-, so wa+ngal combines to form wangal below.[5] In Kulin languages there is no grammatical gender.[6]

Person Singular Dual Plural
Woi. IPA Eng. Woi. IPA Eng. Woi. IPA Eng.
1st Inc. Wangal [wa.ŋal] We two (you) Wanganyin [wa.ŋa.ɲin] We (& you)
1st Exc. Wan [wan] I Wangan [wa.ŋan] We two (not you) Wanganyinyu [wa.ŋa.ɲi.ɲu] We (not you)
2nd Warr [war] You Wabul [wa.bul] You two Wat gurrabil
Wat gurrabilla
Wat balak
Wat wurdundhu
[wat ɡu.ra.bil]
[wat ɡu.ra.bil.la]
[wat ba.lak]
[wat wu.ɖun.d̪u]
3rd Munyi [mu.ɲi] He/She/It Munyi gurrabil [mu.ɲi ɡu.ra.bil] Those two Malu gurrabila [ma.lu ɡu.ra.bi.la] They

Other vocabulary[edit]

  • biik = land, country
  • boorondara = shade, darkness, night (origin of the name of the City of Boroondara)
  • nyilum biik = poor soil / hard land (origin of the name of Nillumbik Shire)
  • wominjeka = hello / welcome (womin = come, je [dji] = asking to come, ka = purpose)
  • yabber = to talk (this word, with the same meaning, has made its way into informal English)[7]
  • yarra = flowing, (also means "hair"). It is thought to have been mistakenly given to the Yarra River (referred to as Birrarrung in the Woiwurrung language) by an early settler who asked a boy what it was called, who was confused and answered "it is flowing".

Number and sign system[edit]

A numbering system was used when Wurundjeri clans sent out messengers to advise neighbouring clans of upcoming events, such as a ceremony, corroboree, a challenge to fight or Marn grook ball game. Messengers carried a message stick with markings to indicate the number and type of people involved and a prop to indicate the type of event, such as a ball for a Marn grook event. The location of meeting was spoken, but neighbouring clans might not use the same language, so a sign language was used to indicate the number of days in the future when the people should assemble. The number was indicated by pointing to a location on the body from 1 to 16. After 16, at the top of the head, the count follows the equivalent locations across the other side of the body.[8]

Numeral Spoken number Sign of the number Literal meaning
1 bubupi-muningya little finger child of the hand
2 bulato-ravel third finger little larger
3 bulato middle finger larger
4 urnung-meluk forefinger urnung means a direction, meluk means a large grub found in some eucalypti
5 babungyi-muningya thumb the mother of the hand
6 krauel wrist-joint
7 ngurumbul the divergence of the radial tendons a fork
8 jeraubil the swelling of the radial muscles
9 thambur the inside of the elbow-joint a round place
10 berbert biceps the ringtail possum and also the name of the armlet made from the pelt of that animal, worn on the bicep during festive occasions
11 wulung shoulder-joint
12 krakerap the collar-bone the place where the bag hangs by its band
13 gurnbert the neck reed necklace, or place where the reed necklace is worn
14 kurnagor the lobe of the ear the point or end of a hill, or of a spur or ridge
15 ngarabul the side of the skull a range or the ridge of a hill
16 bundial top of the head the cutting-place, the place where the mourner cuts himself with some sharp instrument, from budagra meaning to cut
17+ From the top of the head, the count follows the equivalent locations across the other side of the body. 17 is the other side of the skull.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ S36 Woiwurrung–Taungurung at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies  (see the info box for additional links)
  2. ^ Barry Blake 1991: 31
  3. ^ S83 Ngurai-illamwurrung at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
  4. ^ Hercus (1969).
  5. ^ Barry J. Blake. 1991 Woiwurrung In: The Aboriginal Language of Melbourne and Other Sketches, ed. R. M. W. Dixon and Barry J. Blake, pp. 31–124, OUP, Handbook of Australian Languages 4
  6. ^ Blake, Barry. "Dialects of Western Kulin, Western Victoria Yartwatjali, Tjapwurrung, Djadjawurrung" (PDF). VCAA. Retrieved 2 March 2022.
  7. ^ Oxford Dictionary of English, p 2,054.
  8. ^ Howitt, Alfred William (1901). "Chapter 11" . Native Tribes of South-East Australia. McMillan. p. 701 – via Wikisource.

Further reading[edit]

  • Taungurung : liwik-nganjin-al ngula-dhan yaawinbu yananinon. Melbourne: Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages. 2011. ISBN 9780987133717.
  • Blake, Barry (1979). Handbook of Australian languages. Canberra: Australian National University Press. ISBN 0195530977.
  • Morrison, Edgar (1981). The Loddon Aborigines: tales of old Jim Crow. Daylesford, Vic.: Daylesford and District Historical Society.

External links[edit]