Yolŋu languages

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Yolŋu Matha
Yuulngu
EthnicityYolngu
Geographic
distribution
northeastern Arnhem Land, including Elcho Island, Crocodile Islands, Wessel Islands, English Companys Islands, Northern Territory, Australia
Linguistic classificationPama–Nyungan
  • Yolŋu Matha
SubdivisionsSigned form:
Yolŋu Sign Language
Glottologyuul1239
Yolngu languages.png
Yolŋu languages (green) among other Pama–Nyungan (tan)

Yolŋu Matha, meaning the "Yolŋu tongue", is a linguistic family that includes the languages of the Yolngu (also known as the Yolŋu and Yuulngu languages), the indigenous people of northeast Arnhem Land in northern Australia. The "ŋ" in Yolŋu is pronounced as the "ng" in "singing".

Varieties[edit]

Yolŋu Matha consists of about six languages, some mutually intelligible, divided into about thirty clan varieties and perhaps twelve different dialects, each with its own Yolŋu name. Put together, there are about 4600 speakers of Yolŋu Matha languages. Exogamy has often meant that mothers and fathers speak different languages, so that children traditionally grew up at least bilingual, and in many cases polylingual, meaning that communication was facilitated by mastery of multiple languages and dialects of Yolŋu Matha. The linguistic situation is very complicated, given that each of the 30 or so clans also has a named language variety. Dixon (2002) distinguishes the following:[1]

Dhangu-Djangu language Nhangu language Dhuwal language Ritharngu language Djinang language Djinba language
Wan.gurri Gamalaŋga Gupapuyngu Ritharngu Yirritjing Ganhalpuyngu
Lamamirri Gorryindi Gumatj Wagilak Wurlaki Manjdjalpuyngu
Rirratjingu Mäḻarra Djambarrpuyngu Djardiwitjibi
Gaalpu Bindarra Djapu Mildjingi
Ngayimil Ngurruwulu Liyagalawumirr Balmbi
Warramiri Walamangu Guyamirlili Djuwing
Mandatja Dhalwangu Marrangu
Djarrwark Murrungun
Manyarring

Bowern (2011) adds the varieties in parentheses as distinct languages.

Phonology[edit]

Consonants[edit]

The basic consonant inventory is common across Yolŋu varieties. However, some varieties do differ.[2]

Peripheral Apical Laminal Glottal
Bilabial Velar Alveolar Dental Retroflex Palatal Glottal
Lenis b /b/ g /ɡ/ d /d/ dh/d̪/ /ɖ / dj /ɟ/ ' /ʔ/
Fortis p /p/ k /k/ t /t/ th/t̪/ /ʈ / tj /c/
Nasals m /m/ ŋ /ŋ/ n /n/ nh /n̪/ /ɳ / ny /ɲ/
Rhotics rr /r/ r /ɻ/
Laterals l /l/ /ɭ/
Approximants w /w/ y /j/

Yolŋu languages have a fortis–lenis contrast in plosive consonants. Lenis/short plosives have weak contact and intermittent voicing, while fortis/long plosives have full closure, a more powerful release burst, and no voicing.

Vowels[edit]

Front Central Back
Close i /i/, e /iː/ u /u/, o /uː/
Open a /a/, ä /aː/

A three-way vowel distinction is shared between Yolŋu varieties, though not all Yolŋu varieties have a contrast in length. In the varieties that do have a length contrast, long vowels occur only in the initial syllable of words.[3]

In popular culture[edit]

The films Ten Canoes (2006) and Charlie's Country (2013), both directed by Rolf de Heer and featuring actor David Gulpilil, feature dialogue in Yolŋu Matha. Ten Canoes was the first feature film to be shot entirely in Australian indigenous languages, with the dialogue largely in the Ganalbiŋu variety of Yolŋu Matha.

Dr. G Yunupingu was a popular Australian singer who sang in the Gumatj dialect of Yolŋu Matha, as did the Aboriginal rock group Yothu Yindi.

Baker Boy, from the community of Milingimbi in North Eastern Arnhem Land released the song "Cloud 9" in 2017, in which he raps in Yolŋu Matha.[4] As Young Australian of the Year in 2019, the International Year of Indigenous Languages, and with two of his songs in the 2019 Triple J Hottest 100,[5] he raised the profile of Yolŋu Matha in mainstream media as well as giving people at home pride in their language.[6][7][8]

Dictionaries and resources[edit]

Dictionaries have been produced by Beulah Lowe, David Zorc and Michael Christie. A free, web-based searchable dictionary created by John Greatorex was launched in February 2015 by Charles Darwin University.

There are also several grammars of Yolŋu languages by Jeffrey Heath, Frances Morphy, Melanie Wilkinson and others.[9]

A Graduate Certificate in Yolŋu Studies is offered at Charles Darwin University, teaching Yolŋu kinship, law and the Gupapuyŋu language variety.

ABC Indigenous News Radio broadcasts a news program in Yolngu Matha and also in Warlpiri on weekdays. The Aboriginal Resource and Development Services (ARDS) broadcast live radio in northeast Arnhem Land, Darwin and Palmerston and provide recordings of past programs on the internet.

Words and expressions[edit]

  • Gakal = skill, talent, ability
  • Gapumirr = with water (bucket with water), watery.[10]
  • Manymak = Good, OK
  • Yol (pronounced 'Yo') = Yes
  • Yaka = No
  • Yothu = Child
  • Yindi = Big
  • Yothu Yindi = denotes the link between two different entities which is characterised as a mother-child relationship.[11]

Vocabulary[edit]

Capell (1942) lists the following basic vocabulary items:[12]

gloss Wan‘guri Warameri Galbu Riraidjango Yanango Golba Gobabwingo Djambarbwingo Dalwongo Ridarngo Gomaidj Manggalili Maṙaṙba Djinba Yandjinang
man jọlŋọ jọlŋọ jọlŋọ jọlŋọ jọlŋọ jọlŋọ jọlŋọ jọlŋọ jọlŋọ jọlŋọ jọlŋọ jọlŋọ jọlŋọ julŋi djäriwidji
woman baɖami baɖami miälg da‘iga miälg miälg miälg miälg mareːbulu diŋ‘ daigaːwuru daigaːwuru miälg miälg miːlg
head muɽguɽ muɽguɽu mulguɽ mulguɽ daːmbu daːmbu lia lia mulguɽ lia lia lia mulguɽ gungu gɔɳgi
eye maŋudji maŋudji miːl, maŋudji miːl maŋudji miːl miːl miːl maŋudji miːl miːl miːl miːl mili mïːl
nose ŋọrọ gamuru ŋọrọ ŋọrọ gamuru ŋọrọ ŋọrọ ŋọrọ ŋọrọ ŋọrọ ŋọrọ ŋọrọ ŋɔrɛ ŋɔrɛ
mouth ḏa djurwara ḏa ḏa durwara ḏa ḏa ḏa ḏɛlŋ ḏa ḏa ḏa ɽari ɽari
tongue ŋaːnar maḏa maḏa ŋaːnar ŋaːnar mada maḏa maḏa ŋaːnar maḏa ŋaːnar ŋaːnar maḏa djäliŋan djɛlaŋ
stomach guru gulun gulun dulmọ gulun gulun gulun gulun dulmọ gulun gulun gulun gulun gulun budjiri
bone maṙiṙin ŋaɽaga ŋaɽaga ŋaɽaga maṙiṙin ŋaɽaga ŋaɽag ŋaɽaga ŋaɽaga ŋaɽaga ŋaɽaga ŋaɽaga ŋaɽaga ŋiɽigɛ
blood gulaŋ jilaŋ gulaŋ gulaŋ gulaŋ gulaŋ maŋgo, gulaŋ maŋgo, gulaŋ gulaŋ gula gulaŋ wuɽuŋgul gulaŋ gulaŋ bɔṙɛ
kangaroo wiːɖi wiːɖi mundbia mulbia wiːɖi wiːɖi wiːɖi ganguɽul ŋarggọ mulbia mulbia mulbia ŋarggọ ŋargọ
possum ɽubu marŋo marŋo marŋo marŋo marŋo marŋo marŋo ɽubu marŋo marŋo ɽubu marŋo märŋo marŋo
emu maluiːja wurban ’maluja maluiːja baɖaːwuma wurban wurban wurban wurban wurban wurban wurban
crow galgmanda waːg gälgäriŋọ waːg galgmanda waːg waːg waːg waːgia waːg waːg waːg waːgia waːgire
fly buad gädiŋälọ wurubul buad buad wurulul wurulul gädiŋäli buad gädiŋälọ gädiŋäli wurulul bolgi muruläl
sun walọ walọ walọ walọ bïːn walọ walọ walọ larŋgai walir walọ walọ walọ djäɽbiɽ walir
moon wa̱lmura boːla ŋaɭindi wa̱lmura walmura wa̱lmura ŋaɭindi ŋaɭindi ŋaɭindi ŋaɭindi, gulgia ŋaɭindi wirmu naɭindi galgi ɽangu
fire ŋurdja ŋurdja ḏäŋuḏa ḏäŋuḏa bwiːmar guɽda̱ guɽḏa guɽḏa ḏäŋuḏa guɽḏa goɽḏa ’bujuga ŋuɽa djoŋgɛ djoŋgɛ
smoke ŋawurŋawur ḏiliwur ŋäräli ŋäräli ḏiliwur ḏiliwur ḏiliwur ŋäräli baːn ḏiliwur diliwur ŋäräli mälggɛ ŋaɽimbi
water ŋargula gaɽmag magadi gabu gabu gabu gabu gabu gudjärg gabu gabu gudjäɽg gabu gabi gabe

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Dixon, R. M. W. (2002). Australian Languages: Their Nature and Development. Cambridge University Press. p. xxxvi.
  2. ^ Wilkinson, Melanie (2012). Djambarrpuyŋu: A Yolŋu Variety of Northern Australia. Muenchen: Lincom Europa. pp. 44–45. ISBN 978-3-86288-360-8.
  3. ^ Wilkinson, Melanie (2012). Djambarrpuyŋuː A Yolŋu Variety of Northern Australia. Muenchen: Lincom Europa. pp. 44–45. ISBN 978-3-86288-360-8.
  4. ^ ABC News
  5. ^ "1-100: Hottest 100 2017 - triple j". ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 11 November 2011. Retrieved 27 January 2020.
  6. ^ Reich, Hannah (25 January 2020). "Baker Boy ends his tenure as Young Australian of the Year by taking Yolngu language and dance further into the mainstream". ABC News (ABC Arts; Stop Everything!). Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 26 January 2020.
  7. ^ Kelly, Barb (25 January 2019). "Baker Boy is named 2019 Young Australian of the Year" (video). ABC News. Retrieved 26 January 2020.
  8. ^ Newstead, Al (28 January 2018). "Baker Boy brings Indigenous language to the Hottest 100 top end". triple j. Retrieved 27 January 2020.
  9. ^ ARDS Language Publications
  10. ^ Trudgen, Richard, 2000, 'Thirteen years of wanting to know', Why warriors lie down and die, Aboriginal Resource and Development Services, Inc. Darwin, pp. 97-112
  11. ^ Christie, Michael J. (2013). Yolŋu language and culture: Study Notes. Darwin, Australia: Yolŋu Studies, Charles Darwin University. p. 40. ISBN 978-1-921576-20-1.
  12. ^ Capell, Arthur. 1941-1942, 1942-1943. Languages of Arnhem Land, North Australia. Oceania 12: 364-392, 13: 24-51.

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]