Gamilaraay language

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Darling tributaries
RegionCentral northern New South Wales
EthnicityGamilaraay, Ualarai, Kawambarai
Extinct"recently extinct" as of 2007[1][2]
Revival105 claim to speak Gamilaraay, 1% of total population (2016 census)
  • Gamilaraay
  • Yuwaalaraay
  • Yuwaaliyaay (Euahlayi)
  • Gunjbaraay
  • Gawambaraay
  • Wirray Wirray (Wiriwiri)[3]
  • Walaraay[4]
Language codes
ISO 639-3kld
Map of New South Wales as occupied by the native tribes.jpg
A map of the tribes of New South Wales, published in 1892. Gamilaraay is marked I.
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The Gamilaraay or Kamilaroi (see below for other spellings) language is a Pama–Nyungan language of the Wiradhuric subgroup found mostly in south-east Australia. It was the traditional language of the Gamilaraay, but is now endangered—according to Ethnologue, only 35 speakers were left in 2006, all mixing Gamilaraay and English.[7] However, thousands of Australians of mixed descent identify as Gamilaraay. The Gamilaraay language is also taught in some Australian schools.


The name Gamilaraay means gamil-having, with gamil being the word for "no". Other dialects and languages are similarly named after their respective words for "no". (Compare the division between langues d'oïl and langues d'oc in France, distinguished by their respective words for "yes".)

Spellings of the name, pronounced [ɡ̊aˌmilaˈɻaːj] in the language itself, include:

  • Goomeroi
  • Kamilaroi
  • Gamilaraay
  • Gamilaroi

Geographic distribution[edit]


  • Yuwaalaraay
  • Yuwaaliyaay (Euahlayi)[8]
  • Gunjbaraay
  • Gawambaraay
  • Wirray Wirray (Wiriwiri)[3]
  • Walaraay


Traditional lands of Australian Aboriginal tribes around Sydney, New South Wales[9]

Southern Aboriginal guides led the surveyor John Howe to the upper Hunter River above present-day Singleton in 1819. They told him that the country there was "Coomery Roy [=Gamilaraay] and more further a great way", meaning to the north-west, over the Liverpool Ranges (see O'Rourke 1997: 29). This is probably the first record of the name.

A basic wordlist collected by Thomas Mitchell in February, 1832, is the earliest written record of Gamilaraay.

Presbyterian missionary William Ridley studied the language from 1852 to 1856.



Front Back
High i ⟨i⟩, ⟨ii⟩ u ⟨u⟩, ⟨uu⟩
Low a ⟨a⟩, ⟨aa⟩

/wa/ is realized as [wo].


Peripheral Laminal Apical
Bilabial Velar Palatal Dental Alveolar Post-
Stop b ɡ ɟ ⟨dj⟩ ⟨dh⟩ d
Nasal m ŋ ⟨ng⟩ ɲ ⟨ny⟩ ⟨nh⟩ n
Lateral l
Rhotic r ⟨rr⟩ ɻ ⟨r⟩
Semivowel w j ⟨y⟩

Initially, /wu/ and /ji/ may be simplified to [u] and [i].


All long vowels in a word get equal stress. If no long vowels are present, stress falls on the first syllable. Secondary stress falls on short vowels, which are two syllables to the right or to the left of a stressed syllable.



Gawambaraay Dialect

Subject pronouns[10]:

Singular Dual Plural
1st person ngaya ngali ngiyaani
2nd person ngindu ngindaali ngindaay
3rd person nguru (nguru)gali ganu

Gamilaraay words in English[edit]

Several loanwords have entered Australian English from Gamilaraay, including:

Common nouns
Anglicised form Gamilaraay Meaning
bindi-eye, bindii, bindies bindayaa The burrs of several plant species (Emex australis, Tribulus terrestris, and Soliva sessilis) that stick in one's feet
brolga burralga A bird species, Grus rubicunda
possibly budgerigar gidjirrigaa A bird species, Melopsittacus undulatus
galah gilaa A bird species, Eolophus roseicapilla
yarran yarraan A species of acacia tree, Acacia homalophylla[11]
Proper nouns
Anglicised form Gamilaraay Meaning
Kamilaroi gamilaraay The Gamilaraay people or language
Place names
Anglicised form Gamilaraay Meaning
Boggabri bagaaybaraay having creeks
Boggabilla bagaaybila full of creeks
Collarenebri galariinbaraay having acacia blossoms


  1. ^ Gamilaraay language at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ ABS. "Census 2016, Language spoken at home by Sex (SA2+)". Retrieved 2017-11-01.
  3. ^ a b There is quite some confusion over the names Wirray Wirray, Wiriyarray, and Wirraayarray. See AIATSIS:Wirray Wirray
  4. ^ Dixon, Robert M. W. (2002). Australian Languages: Their Nature and Development. Cambridge University Press. p. xxxiv.
  5. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Yuwaalaraay-Gamilaraay". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  6. ^ D23 Gamilaraay at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
  7. ^ "Gamilaraay". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2013-12-10.
  8. ^ For more information on the Euahlayi dialect and tribe, see The Euahlayi Tribe. A Study of Aboriginal Life in Australia by K. Langloh Parker.
  9. ^ This map is indicative only.
  10. ^ Austin, P. (1993) A Reference Grammar of Gamilaraay, Northern New South Wales.
  11. ^ Oxford Dictionary of English, p 2,056


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]