Wiradjuri language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

RegionNew South Wales
EthnicityWiradjuri, Weraerai, ?Jeithi
Native speakers
1479 (2021)
  • Wirraayaraay (Wiraiari)
  • Jeithi (?)
  • Warramunga
  • Marrinbula
  • Binjang
  • Mowgee
  • Dabee
  • Kaliyarrpiyalung
  • Ngarrumayiny
Language codes
ISO 639-3wrh
Wiradjuri is classified as Critically Endangered by the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger

Wiradjuri (/wəˈræʊri/;[2] many other spellings, see Wiradjuri) is a Pama–Nyungan language of the Wiradhuric subgroup. It is the traditional language of the Wiradjuri people, an Aboriginal Australian people of New South Wales, Australia. Wiraiari and Jeithi may have been dialects.[3][4]

A revival is under way, with the language being taught in schools, TAFE college, and at Charles Sturt University.



The Wiradjuri language has been taught in primary schools, secondary schools and at TAFE since before 2012 in the towns of Parkes and Forbes.[5] It is taught at Condobolin. Northern Wiradjuri schools such as Peak Hill, Dubbo, Narromine, Wellington, Gilgandra, Trangie, and Geurie by AECG[a] language and culture educators.[citation needed] All lessons include both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.[citation needed] As of 2017 the language was also being taught in Young, having a positive impact on the number of pupils self-identifying as Aboriginal.[6]

Charles Sturt University also offers a two-year course in Wiradjuri language, heritage, and culture, focusing on language reclamation.[7] This course, which commenced in 2014, was developed by Wiradjuri Elder, Dr Stan Grant Senior, as part of their Wiradjuri Language and Cultural Heritage Recovery Project.[8][9]


The process of reclaiming the language was greatly assisted by the publication in 2005 of A First Wiradjuri Dictionary[10] by elder Stan Grant Senior and academic John Rudder. Rudder described the dictionary: "The Wiradjuri Dictionary has three main sections in just over 400 B5 pages. The first two sections, English to Wiradjuri, and Wiradjuri to English, have about 5,000 entries each. The third sections lists Names of Things grouped in categories such as animals, birds, plants, climate, body parts, colours. In addition to those main sections the dictionary contains an introduction to accurate pronunciation, a basic grammar of the language and a sample range of sentence types." A revised edition,[11] holding over 8,000 words, was published in 2010[12] and launched in Wagga Wagga, with the launch described by the member for Wagga Wagga to the New South Wales Parliament.[13][14] A mobile app and web-based version based on the book is also available.[15] A Grammar of Wiradjuri language[16] was published in 2014.



Peripheral Laminal Apical
Labial Velar Dental Palatal Alveolar Retroflex
Plosive b ⟨b⟩ ɡ ⟨g⟩ ⟨dh⟩ ɟ ⟨dy⟩ d ⟨d⟩
Nasal m ⟨m⟩ ŋ ⟨ng⟩ ⟨nh⟩ ɲ ⟨ny⟩ n ⟨n⟩
Lateral l ⟨l⟩
Rhotic r ⟨rr⟩
Approximant w ⟨w⟩ j ⟨y⟩ ɻ ⟨r⟩

In most Pama-Nyungan languages, sounds represented by ‘k’ or ‘g’ are interchangeable. As are sounds ‘b’ and ‘p’. As well as ‘t’ and ‘d’.


Front Central Back
short long short long short long
Close ɪ ⟨i⟩ ⟨ii⟩ ʊ ⟨u⟩ ~ ⟨uu⟩
Mid/Open ə ⟨a⟩ ⟨aa⟩

The phonemes /ə/ and /aː/ tend to be considered as belonging to the same pair (refer to the orthography table below).[17]

Sample vocabulary[edit]

"Wagga Wagga"[edit]

Route 41 Wagga Wagga sign (Mills St)

The Aboriginal inhabitants of the Wagga Wagga region were the Wiradjuri people and the term wagga wagga, with a central open vowel /aː/, means 'dances and celebrations',[18] and has also been translated as 'reeling like a drunken man'.[19] The Wiradjuri word waggon means 'crow', which can be pluralised by reduplication.[20]

Until 2019, it was claimed by the Wagga Wagga council and others that Wagga Wagga translates to “the place of many crows”.[21] However, as Uncle Stan Grant Snr has stated, "Wagga Wagga does sound a bit like Waggon Waggon, but it’s not quite the same. If you say “Waggon Waggon,” you’re saying 'many crows'. And Wagga Wagga means dance celebrations… But the fact is, it’s my language, our language, and it’s got nothing to do with crows whatsoever.".[22]


The term Ngamadidj ('ghost', or 'white people'), used in the Kuurn Kopan Noot language in Victoria, is also recorded as being used in Wellington, New South Wales by local Wiradjuri people about a missionary there.[23]


English Wiradjuri
animal (in general) gidyira, balugan
animal (male) wambi
animal (female) gunal
baby (chicken or pup) mangga
bat ngarradan
bat/bird (in general) budyaan
bilby ngundawang, bilbi, balbu, barru
brushtail possum (male) gidyay
brush-tailed rock-wallaby wirrang, barrbay
bunyip waawii seema
butterfly budyabudya
cattle gurruganbalang
cockatiel guwariyan
common wallaroo walaruu, yulama
dingo yugay, warragul, dinggu, dawarang, garingali (female)
dog mirri
echidna wandayali, wandhayirra, ganyi, ginaginbaany, guwandiyala, wambiyala
emu dinawan
frog gulaangga
horse yarraman
horse (stallion) yindaay
kangaroo (eastern grey) wambuwuny
koala barrandhang, gurabaan
kookaburra gugubarra
long-nosed bandicoot gurawang, guyand, gurang
magpie garuu
owl ngugug
platypus biladurang
possum wilay
red kangaroo (female) bandhaa
snake gadi
sugar glider gindaany
swan dhundhu
quoll mabi, babila, mugiiny-mabi
wombat wambad


English Wiradjuri
man gibir
woman yinaa
mother gunhi, ngama, baba
father babiin, mama
son wurrumany
sister (older) mingaan
sister (younger) minhi
brother (older) gaagang
brother (younger) gagamin
girl migay
boy birrany
baby gudha
grandmother badhiin, gunhinarrung


English Wiradjuri
one ngumbaay
two bula
three bula ngumbaay
four bula bula
five marra[b]
six marra ngumbaay
seven marra bula
eight marra bula ngumbaay
nine marra bula bula
ten marra marra


English Wiradjuri
body (whole) garraba
backside bubul
chest birring
eye mil
hand marra[b]
testicles buurruu, garra


English Wiradjuri
to dance waganha
to dig wangarra
to laugh gindanha
to swim bambinya
to stay wibiyanha


English Wiradjuri
yes ngawa
no/not wiray
home gunyi
money/stone walang
left wayburr
right bumaldhal, bumalgala
perhaps gada
boomerang (general term) balgang, bargan, badhawal
but/however gulur, ngay



English Wiradjuri
What's your name? Widyu-ndhu yuwin ngulung?
My name is James. Yuwin ngadhi James.
Who's this one? Ngandhi nginha?
This is mother. Nginha gunhi.


English Wiradjuri
Good day! Yiradhu marang!
Are you well? Yamandhu marang?
Yes, I'm well. Ngawa baladhu marang.
That's good. Marang nganha.


English Wiradjuri
Love Ngurrbul
I love you Nginyugu ngurrbul
You are beautiful Nghindu nguyaguyamilang

Influence on English[edit]

The following English words come from Wiradjuri:

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Aboriginal Education Consultative Group, a NSW Government insrumentality
  2. ^ a b These two words share the same meaning.
  1. ^ D10 Wiradjuri at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
  2. ^ "Wiradjuri". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  3. ^ Dixon, R. M. W. (2002). Australian Languages: Their Nature and Development. Cambridge University Press. p. xxxiv.
  4. ^ There is quite some confusion over the names Wirraayarray, Wiriyarray, and Wirray Wirray. See AIATSIS:Wirraayaraay.
  5. ^ Taylor, Suzi. How a language transformed a town. ABC, 4 July 2012. "The boundary of the Wiradjuri Nation extends from Gilgandra in the north, straddling the Great Dividing Range down to the Murray River and out to western NSW. It includes the townships of Dubbo, Condobolin, Orange, Bathurst, Wagga Wagga, Narrandera and Griffith."
  6. ^ "Young blood keeping ancient Indigenous languages alive". SBS News. Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  7. ^ Marketing. "Graduate Certificate in Wiradjuri Language, Culture and Heritage". study.csu.edu.au. Retrieved 16 March 2022.
  8. ^ "Wiradjuri Language and Cultural Heritage Recovery Project – About". About.csu.edu.au. Retrieved 12 April 2022.
  9. ^ Charles, Bronte; Grant, Lowanna (19 April 2024). "This Wiradjuri language course is celebrating a 10 year milestone". NITV. Retrieved 21 April 2024.
  10. ^ Rudder, John; Grant, Stan, 1940– (2005), A first Wiradjuri dictionary : English to Wiradjuri, Wiradjuri to English and categories of things, Restoration House, ISBN 978-0-86942-131-4{{citation}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  11. ^ Wiradjui Dictionary, Stan Grant Snr and John Rudder, 2010
  12. ^ Grant, Stan; Grant, Stan, 1940–; Rudder, John (2010), A new Wiradjuri dictionary, Restoration House, ISBN 978-0-86942-150-5{{citation}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  13. ^ ABC news interview with Grant
  14. ^ Hansard of Parliament of New South Wales, Daryl Maguire & Barry Collier, 12 November 2010
  15. ^ "Wiradjuri Dictionary – RegenR8". Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  16. ^ Grant, Stan; Rudder, John (2014), A grammar of Wiradjuri language, Rest, ISBN 978-0-86942-151-2
  17. ^ Grant; Rudder, Stan; John (2010). A New Wiradjuri Dictionary.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  18. ^ "Wagga Wagga officially drops 'crow' and adopts city's Aboriginal meaning as 'dance and celebrations'". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 27 August 2019.
  19. ^ "Wagga Wagga – The Name".
  20. ^ Grant, Stan (2022). Heiss, Anita (ed.). Growing up Wiradjuri. Western Australia: Magabala Books Aboriginal Corporation. p. 32. ISBN 978-1-922613-74-5.
  21. ^ "History".
  22. ^ Grant, Stan (2022). Heiss, Anita (ed.). Growing up Wiradjuri. Western Australia: Magabala Books Aboriginal Corporation. p. 33. ISBN 978-1-922613-74-5.
  23. ^ Clark, Ian; Cahir, Fred (2014). "6. John Green, Manager of Coranderrk Aboriginal Station, but also a ngamadjidj? New insights into His Work with Victorian Aboriginal People in the Nineteenth Century". In Brett, Mark; Havea, J. (eds.). Colonial Contexts and Postcolonial Theologies: Storyweaving in the Asia-Pacific. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 129–144. doi:10.1057/9781137475473_9. ISBN 978-1-349-50181-6. Retrieved 12 July 2020. Whole e-book
  24. ^ Oxford Dictionary of English, 3rd ed., p 977.
  25. ^ Oxford Dictionary of English, p 1,451
  26. ^ Oxford Dictionary of English, p 1,452


External links[edit]