Jawoyn, known as Kumertuo, is a non-Pama–Nyungan language and belongs to the Macro-Gunwinyguan group of languages of Arnhem land. Recently both the Gunwinyguan and Pama-Nyungan languages have been grouped as branches of a proto-Macro-Pama–Nyungan languages. It was spoken in several dialect forms, but after resettlement in the post-war period these dialects have tended to confluesce into a standard language.
The traditional lands of the Jawoyn were located in the Katherine Gorge area in the Northern Territory, which they call Nitmiluk, which derives its name from nitmi meaning the 'cicada song' Nabilil the crocodile heard when he set up camp at the entrance to the gorge (luk signifying 'place'). Nitmiluk denotes specifically to a 12 kilometre stretch there consisting of a spectacular chain of chasms and ravines. It has been suggested that Jawoyn people are not only those who speak that language, but also those who are associated with the landscapes inscribed in the Jawoyn language according to their foundational mythology of the Dreamtime.[a] The language itself, in several varieties was spoken along the Katherine River system as far as the Mainoru River.
A widespread belief in Aboriginal thought holds that each language emerged during the formative time of creation when a demiurgic totem figure moved through the landscape crafting it and, simultaneously, endowing each topological feature with its proper word. The creative being changed the language at certain transit points which then were taken as boundary markers between tribes speaking different languages. Thus in Jawoyn thinking, the landscape of the Katherine Gorge, were created in the primordial time (Burr) by Nabilil (Crocodile) who named all of the area's distinctive features in the Jawonn language. He came from the sea, furnished with his firestick (meya) and moved through what became Dagoman and Nangiomeri lands before reaching the gorge.
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- Yowoyn. 'Yes', 'alright'.
- Bobo. 'Goodbye.'
- Djauan, Adowen, Jawan, Jawony, Kumertuo.
- 'Jawoyn people are Jawoyn not because they speak Jawoyn. But bercause they are linked to places to which the Jawoyn language is also linked'.
- Dixon, Robert M. W. (2004) [First published 2002]. Australian Languages: Their Nature and Development. 1. Cambridge University Press. pp. 201–228. ISBN 978-0-521-47378-1.
- Dunbar-Hall, Peter; Gibson, Chris (2004). Deadly Sounds, Deadly Places: Contemporary Aboriginal Music in Australia. University of New South Wales Press. pp. 201–228. ISBN 978-0-868-40622-0.
- "Djauan". Ethnologue. 2016.
- "Language". Jawoyn Association Aboriginal Corporation. 2016.
- Merlan, Francesca (1998). Caging the Rainbow: Places, Politics, and Aborigines in a North Australian Town. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 978-0-824-82045-9.
- Merlan, Francesca (2016). "Correlation of Textual and Spatial Reference:This and That". In Verstraete, Jean-Christophe; Hafner, Diane. Land and Language in Cape York Peninsula and the Gulf Country. John Benjamins Publishing Company. pp. 199–217. ISBN 978-9-027-26760-3.
- Reid, Alan J. (1995). Caging Banksias and Bilbies: Seasons of Australia: a Weekly Guide to Natural Events in Australia, with Space for Your Own Records. Gould League of Victoria. ISBN 978-1-875-68726-8.
- Rumsey, Alan (2005) [First published 1993]. "Language and Territoriality in Aboriginal Australia". In Walsh, Michael; Yallop, Colin. Language and Culture in Aboriginal Australia. Aboriginal Studies Press. pp. 191–206. ISBN 978-0-855-75241-5.
- Tsunoda, Tasaku (2006). Language Endangerment and Language Revitalization: An Introduction. Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-110-89658-9.