Awabakal language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from ISO 639:awk)
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Hunter River – Lake Macquarie
Native toEastern New South Wales, Australia
RegionLake Macquarie, Newcastle
EthnicityAwabakal, Geawegal, Wonnarua
ExtinctSometime late in the 19th century. The language is currently in early stages of revival.
  • Awabagal
  • Geawegal
  • Wonarua[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3awk

Awabakal (also Awabagal or the Hunter River – Lake Macquarie (HRLM) language) is an Australian Aboriginal language that was spoken around Lake Macquarie and Newcastle in New South Wales. The name is derived from Awaba, which was the native name of the lake. It was spoken by Awabakal and Wonnarua peoples.


Awabakal is a Pama–Nyungan language, most closely related to the Worimi language, within the Yuin–Kuric group of Pama–Nyungan.


An Australian Aboriginal language, as spoken by the Awabakal

Awabakal was studied by the Reverend Lancelot Threlkeld from 1825 until his death in 1859, producing a grammar and dictionary in An Australian Grammar. The speaker of Awabakal who taught him about the language was Biraban, the tribal leader. Threlkeld and Biraban's Specimens of a Dialect of the Aborigines of New South Wales in 1827 was the earliest attempt at exhibiting the structure of an Australian language. Threlkeld's work was republished in 1892 as An Australian language as spoken by the Awabakal, the people of Awaba, or lake Macquarie contains a grammar and vocabulary, popularizing the name Awabakal for the language grouping more broadly referred to as the Hunter River-Lake Macquarie language.[4]

Modern revival[edit]

The language is currently being revived. A new orthography and reconstruction of the phonology has been undertaken. To date, several publications have been produced including "A grammar for the Awabakal language",[5] "An introduction to the Awabakal language : its orthography, recommended orthoepy and its grammar and stylistics " [6] and "Nupaleyalaan palii Awabakalkoba = Teach yourself Awabakal".[7]


[citation needed][Inventory seems unlikely]

Awabakal ceased to be a spoken language since long before the creation of recording equipment, and part of the revival process has been the reconstruction of the phonology. Therefore, the exactness of the language's sounds will never be historically precise. This process has, however, produced one which will be satisfactory for the purpose of revitalisation.


a – similar to English cut /a/
aa – long father /aː/
ai – eye /aɪ/[dubious ]
au – cut and bull together quickly. Similar to Scottish English "cow" /aʊ/[dubious ]
e – air but short[dubious ] /æ~e/
ei – way /eɪ/[dubious ]
i – pit /i/
ii – need /iː/
o – or but shorter[dubious ] /œ/[dubious ]
oo – or but longer[dubious ] /œː/[dubious ]
u – food but shorter /u/


b,p – closer to English p than b – The lips are tense. [p͈] – labio-tensive[dubious ]
k – Like English k but further back [q][citation needed]
l – value [l̻] – laminal, possible palatised in some situations
m – like English m [m͈] – labio-tensive[dubious ]
n – something like onion [n̻] ~ [n̺] – laminal when beginning a syllable, apical when word final
ng – sing, ring [ŋ] – possibly further back, [ɴ], like the k
r – trilled or rolled r [r]
t – something like tune in Australian English [t̻] – laminal stop, slightly aspirated, sometimes similar to an affricate[citation needed]
w – like English w, lips not as close together [β̞][citation needed]
y – like English y, tongue not as close to the top palate [j] – but the tongue is mid-centralised[citation needed]



There exist three noun classes. The first has 4 declension patterns. A noun can exist in any of 13 cases.

1st class – Common nouns, descriptors, demonstratives and minaring ('what?'). 2nd class – Place names, words of spatial relations and wonta ('where?'). 3rd class – Persons' names, kinship terms and ngaan ('who?').

The default, unmarked case of nouns is the absolutive. Unlike English and many European languages, in which an unmarked noun is the nominative case, and is (in the active voice) the subject of the sentence, Awabakal merely references a particular noun with this case.


There is a category of words in Awabakal called descriptors. They can stand as referring terms and are in these cases similar to nouns, like adjectives or intransitive verbs/predicative verb-adjective phrases. They can be declined into nominal cases.


There are four number words.

  • Wakool – one
  • Bulowara – two
  • Ngoro – three
  • Wara – four or five (also the word for the palm of the hand → a handful of)

Pronominal enclitics[edit]

Pronominal enclitics are suffixes which have several functions and can be attached to verbs, descriptors, appositions, interrogatives, negatives and nouns. The numbers are: singular, dual and plural with a feminine/masculine distinction in the first person. They mark verbs for person, number, case and voice. The "ergative" enclitcs imply an active transitive situation and the "accusative" implies a passive intransitive situation. There are three true pronouns which could be called a nominative or topic case. There are only found at the beginning of an independent clause. These pronominals are found in ergative, accusative, dative and possessive cases.


There are 3 degrees. They are declined for 10 cases.

  • 'this' near the speaker
  • 'that' near the addressee(s)
  • 'that' there (but at hand)

Appositive demonstratives[edit]

Here too, there are 3 degrees. These terms indicate place. They decline for 13 cases.


The default verbative voice of Awabakal verbs is neutral. I.e. they do not give a sense of active or passive. The pronominal enclitics indicate which voice the verb should be analysed as being in. There are 3 present tenses, 8 future and 7 past, with various voice, aspect and mood modifications.


Kariwangku minaring tataan?







kariwang+ku minaring ta+taan?

magpie+ERG what(ABS) eat+PRES

'What does the magpie eat?'

Minaringku kariwang tataan?







minaring+ku kariwang ta+taan

what+ERG magpie(ABS) eat+PRES

'What eats the magpie?'


There are 10 forms of negatives which work with different types of words or phrases.


Conjunctions are not commonly used in comparison to many languages. Sentences can often be connected without their use. These also have various combinations and case declinations.


Traditional lands of Australian Aboriginal tribes of eastern New South Wales.[8]
  • Ngaan – who?
  • Minaring – what?
  • Wonta – where?
  • Yakowai – how?
  • Yakowanta – when?
  • Korakowa – why not?
  • Wiya – say (how about) ...


Wonto ba kauwȧllo mankulla unnoa tara túġunbilliko ġurránto ġéen kinba,
2. Yanti bo ġearun kin bara ġukulla, unnoa tara nakillikan kurri-kurri kabiruġ ġatun mankillikan wiyellikanne koba.
3. Murrȧrȧġ tia kȧtan yantibo, koito baġ ba tuiġ ko ġirouġ Teopolo murrȧrȧġ ta,
4. Gurra-uwil koa bi tuloa, unnoa tara wiyatoara banuġ ba.
—Introduction of the Gospel of Luke[9]


  • Threlkeld, Lancelot Edward (1827). Specimens of a Dialect of the Aborigines of New South Wales; Being the first attempt to form their speech into a written language.
  • Threlkeld, Lancelot Edward (1834). An Australian grammar: comprehending the principles and natural rules of the language, as spoken by the Aborigines in the vicinity of Hunter's River, Lake Macquarie, &c. New South Wales.
  • Threlkeld, Lancelot Edward (1836). An Australian spelling book in the language as spoken by the Aborigines in the vicinity of Hunter's River, Lake Macquarie, New South Wales.
  • Threlkeld, Lancelot Edward (1850). A key to the structure of the Aboriginal language; being an analysis of the particles used as affixes, to form the various modifications of the verbs; shewing the essential powers, abstract roots, and other peculiarities of the language spoken by the Aborigines in the vicinity of Hunter River, Lake Macquarie, etc., New South Wales: together with comparisons of Polynesian and other dialects.
  • Threlkeld, Lancelot Edward (1858). Language of the Australian Aborigines. Waugh's Australian Almanac for the Year 1858. 60-80
  • Threlkeld, Lancelot Edward (1892). Fraser, John (ed.), An Australian language as spoken by the Awabakal, the people of Awaba or Lake Macquarie (near Newcastle, New South Wales) being an account of their language, traditions and customs.
  • Arposio, Alex (2009). A grammar for the Awabakal language.""
  • Arwarbukarl Cultural Resource Association Incorporated (2009) Awabakal Dictionary – Research Edition.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dixon, R. M. W. (2002). Australian Languages: Their Nature and Development. Cambridge University Press. p. xxxiv.
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Awabakal". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ S66 Awabakal at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
  4. ^ Threlkeld, Lancelot Edward; Biraban, H. Livingstone; George Taplin; James Günther; William Grant Broughton; William Ridley (1892). An Australian language as spoken by the Awabakal, the people of Awaba, or lake Macquarie (near Newcastle, New South Wales): being an account of their language, traditions, and customs. C. Potter, Govt. Printer.
  5. ^ Arposio, Alex; Threlkeld, L. E. (Lancelot Edward), 1788-1859; Arwarbukarl Cultural Resource Association (2008), A grammar for the Awabakal language (Rev. (Nov 2008) ed.), Arwarbukarl Cultural Resource Association, retrieved 26 June 2019CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ Arposio, Alex; Arwarbukarl Cultural Resource Association Inc (2009), An introduction to the Awabakal language : its orthography, recommended orthoepy and its grammar and stylistics (Rev. ed.), Arwarbukarl Cultural Resource Association, ISBN 978-0-9804680-5-2
  7. ^ Arposio, Alex; Arwarbukarl Cultural Resource Association Inc (2010), Nupaleyalaan palii Awabakalkoba = Teach yourself Awabakal, Arwarbukarl Cultural Resource Association Inc, ISBN 978-0-9804680-2-1
  8. ^ This map is indicative only.
  9. ^ This orthography is from the original works of Threlkeld. A new orthography was created in 2004.

External links[edit]