Umbuygamu language

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Native toAustralia
EthnicityLamalama, possibly Barungguan
Extinct(date missing)
Language codes
ISO 639-3umg

Umbuygamu, or Morrobalama (Morrobolam), is an extinct Paman language from Princess Charlotte Bay in far-north Queensland.


In 1898, the aboriginal population of the Princess Charlotte Bay numbered around 1,000. However, white settlement of the region caused them to lose almost all of their traditional lands. The many Aboriginal groups of the region were forcibly moved to missions and were exposed to diseases like syphilis and Spanish influenza. This resulted in the Aboriginal population of the region declining by 90% from 1898 levels. In the 1930s many of the surviving Aborigines were moved to the Old Lockhart Mission. Those Aborigines who remained in their territory were from the Morrobalama, Lamalama, and Umbindhamu tribes, and lived there until 1961. During that time, most of the Aborigines worked on local cattle stations or were killed by mounted police. In 1961 the Aborigines who had remained on their lands were moved to the tip of the Cape York Peninsula. By the 1990s, the total number of speakers was reduced to four elderly speakers. Only two of those speakers, Nancy Gunnawarra and Mabel Kullakulla, spoke the language on a regular basis. Most younger people of the community could understand the language but were unable to speak it.[3]



Umbuygamu's vowel system is typical of Australian Aboriginal languages in that it contains only five vowels.[3]

Front Back
Close i u
Close-mid e o
Open a

All vowels show contrastive vowel length.


Unusually for an Australian language, Umbuygamu has a relatively large consonantal inventory, including fricatives, prestopped consonants, and other consonants not normally found in Aboriginal languages.[3] In this table, the orthographic symbols are bolded where they differ from IPA orthography.

Bilabial Dental Alveolar Postalveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar Glottal
plain prestopped plain prestopped plain prestopped plain prestopped
Stop voiceless p tt /t̪/ t tj /c/ k ' /ʔ/
voiced b dd /d̪/ d dj /ɟ/ g
Fricative voiceless f /β/ th /θ/ sh /ʃ/ h /x/
voiced v /ð/ dh /ð/
Nasal voiceless kng /kŋ/
voiced m pm /pm ttnh /n̪/ n tn /tn/ ny /ɲ/ ng /ŋ/ gng /gŋ/
Approximant plain y /j/
lateral lh /l̪/ l rl /ɭ/ ly /ʎ/ w
Trill voiceless rh /r̥/
voiced rr /r/
Flap r /ɽ/


Umbuygamu is an ergative–absolutive language.

Nouns and Pronouns[edit]

Personal pronouns have two cases: nominative for intransitive and transitive subjects, and accusative for transitive objects. Nouns have an ergative case for transitive subject function and an absolutive case for intransitive subject and transitive object function. There are a total of at least 10 noun cases, and the case-marking suffix is dependent on the final consonant in the root word. The absolutive case is the only case suffix that is not final consonant-dependent, and has a zero as a suffix.[3]

atha -Ø la-ngan

fire-ABS burn - 3sg0

"The fire is burning now."

Pronouns are attached to the end of the verb as a suffix, either as nominal or possessive.[3]


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Umbuygamu". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ Y55 Umbuygamu at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
  3. ^ a b c d e Sarah, Ogilvie, (1994). "The Morrobalama (Umbuygamu) language of Cape York Peninsula, Australia". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)