Wadawurrung language

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EthnicityWathaurong people
Language codes
ISO 639-3wth
Kulin Map.PNG
The five Kulin nations. Wathawurrung ('Wathaurong') is in on the coast in green.

Wadawurrung, also rendered as Wathawurrung, Wathaurong or Wada wurrung, and formerly sometimes Barrabool, is the Aboriginal Australian language spoken by the Wathaurong people of the Kulin Nation of Central Victoria. It was spoken by 15 clans south of the Werribee River and the Bellarine Peninsula to Streatham. Glottolog classifies Wathawurrung as extinct, however various regional programs and initiatives promote the usage and revitalisation of Wathaurong language


Blake reconstructs Wadawurrung consonants as such;[2]

Labial Alveolar Laminal Retroflex Velar
Stops p/b [p] t/d [t̪] th/dh [t] rt/rd [ʈ] k/g [k]
Nasals m n [n̪] ny/nh [ɲ] rn [ɳ] ng [ŋ]
Laterals l [l] ly [ʎ̟] rl [ɭ]
Rhotics rr [ɾ/r] (r [ɽ])
Glides y [j] w

Due to the varied nature of attestations of the language, Blake reconstructs Wadawurrung consonants in complacence to the standard features of the Australian Languages.

It is presumed that Wadawurrung did not distinguish between voiced and unvoiced consonants ('Parrwong ~ Barwon' - Magpie).

What Blake attributes as a distinction between 'alveolar' and 'laminal' consonants is better described as a distinction between dental and post-alveolar pronunciation on nasal and stop consonants. This is a distinction in indigenous language families of the Australian south-east such as Yuin-Kuric (incl. Ngunnawal and Dharug) and the Gippsland languages (Incl. Dhudhuroa).

It is presumed there was no distinction between post-alveolar /n/ and palatal /ɲ/ ('Nhita' - to steal, fluctuates with 'nyita'). It is assumed that a similar correspondence occurs with the post-alveolar stop, thus mixed attestation between 'th', 'tj' & 'ty'.[2]

The post-alveolar consonants /ʎ̟/, /t/ & /ɲ/ in word final position are rendered as 'yl', 'yt' & 'yn', respectively. E.g. 'Gowayn' - Eel. The word final nasal after /a/ is always cited as 'ayn' due to its fluctuation with 'ng' in sources[2]

Blake asserts that sources do not differentiate between alveolar /r/ and retroflex /ɽ/ and the distinction is thus presumed from comparison to other Victorian Aboriginal Languages. Blake represents every rhotic as 'rr' unless drawing from modern sources such as Hercus.[2]

Blake does not specify the number of vowels present in Wadawurrung. The standard set of 'a', 'e', 'i', 'o' & 'u', are used, however Blake notes a consistent correspondence between 'a', 'u' and 'o' in various sources ('Djinang' - foot, variously attested as 'jinnung', 'genong').[2] There is also fluctuation between 'a' and 'e' as the last vowel in a word ('walart' - possum, compared to 'wollert'),[2] however Blake maintains that they are distinct vowels


Place names[edit]

Select placenames with attested origin in Wathawurrung language terms are;

Placename Origin
Barrabool Unclear, variously reported as "oyster", "slope down to water" or "rounded hill".[3]
Barwon From Barrwang meaning "Magpie", same origin as the town of Parwan.
Bungaree Meaning "hut" or "tent".[4]
Buninyong From Buninyouang, recorded by early colonists as meaning "Man lying on back with raised knee", in reference to the profile of Mount Buninyong.
Connewarre From koonoowarra, meaning black swan.[5] Same origin as the town of Koonwarra in South Gippsland.
Corio Possibly "Sandy cliffs", other sources state "small marsupial" or "wallaby".
Geelong From Djillong, City of Greater Geelong maintains it means "Land" or "Cliffs",[6] other sources suggest it was the original name of Corio Bay.[7]
Gheringhap Either from "gheran" as meaning "timber", then followed by a placename suffix "-hap",[8] or a reference to the black wattle tree.[9]
Gnarwarre Said to be from the name of a local wetland and its waterfowl, possibly same origin as Lake Connewarre from kunuwarra for the black swan.
Jan Juc Either "milk"[10] or "ironbark".
Koorweinguboora Either "where the crane eats frogs" or "land of many waters".[4]
Modewarre The musk duck.[10]
Moolap A meeting place for gathering shellfish.
Moorabool Either from a word for "ghost" or the name for the curlew.
Moriac Meaning "hill".
Myrniong The native yam-daisy, also spelled Murnong.
Parwan From Barrwang meaning "Magpie", same origin as that of the Barwon River.
Wendouree from wendaaree (the Wathawurrong word meaning go away).

When settler William Cross Yuille asked a local indigenous woman what the name of the lake was, she told him to go away.

hence the name

Werribee From Wirribi-yaluk, the name of the Werribee River, with Wirribi said to mean "spine" or "backbone".[11]
Wingeel From the word for the wedge-tailed eagle and creator spirit. Compare spelling Bunjil from other Kulin languages
Woady Yaloak River From Wurdi-yaluk meaning "big creek".
You Yangs Reportedly Ude Youang, meaning "big mountains".[12]

Animal Names[edit]

Wadawurrung vocabulary pertaining to local wildlife;


  1. ^ S29 Wathawurrung at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Blake, Barry J.; Clark, Ian; Krishna-Pillay, Sharnthi H. (1998). "Wathawurrung and the Colac language of Southern Victoria" (PDF).{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. ^ "Barrabool and Barrabool Shire | Victorian Places". www.victorianplaces.com.au.
  4. ^ a b "About the profile areas, Moorabool Shire Council". Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  5. ^ Threlfall, Gwen (20 December 2016). "The Woodworrongs". The Mount Duneed History Group. Retrieved 7 August 2020.
  6. ^ "Geelong City". City of Greater Geelong website. Archived from the original on 28 October 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-16.
  7. ^ Norman Houghton - Norman, Houghton. "The Story of Geelong". Archived from the original on 28 October 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-16.
  8. ^ Blake, L. J. (1973). Vision and Realisation: A Centenary History of State Education in Victoria (Volume 2). Education Department of Victoria. p. 1008.
  9. ^ National Library of Australia. "Geelong Advertiser 14 Dec 1918 VICTORIAN TOWN NAMES". Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  10. ^ a b "Data" (PDF). www.surfcoast.vic.gov.au. Retrieved 30 September 2021.
  11. ^ Clark, Ian; Heydon, Toby (2011). "Historical Information: Werribee River". VICNAMES. Government of Victoria. Archived from the original on 7 April 2014. Retrieved 24 April 2018 – via Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages.
  12. ^ "Aborigines of early Geelong". Mount Duneed History Group.