2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages: Word of the Week - Week Forty.

As part of State Library's commitment to the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages, we will be promoting a 'word of the week' from one of the 125+ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages and dialects from across Queensland.

State Library's IYIL2019 Word of the Week: Week 40.

To coincide with World Smile Day on 4 October, this week's word is yimirr-yimirr from the Warrungu language of North Queensland. It means 'being happy'!

World Smile Day website.

World Smile Day commenced in 1999 as a means to devote one day of the year for smiles and acts of kindness. The idea evolved from the designer of the 'smiley face' Harvey Ball, a commercial artist from Worcester, Massachusetts in the United States.

Text from Alf Palmer ( Jinbilnggay) in Tsunoda (2011).

Warrungu, also known as Worrongo, Warrongo, War-oong-oo, etc. is closely related to Gugu-Badhun and Gudjal and is classed as one of the languages of the Upper Burdekin. The Warrungu language takes in the town of Mt Garnet south-east towards the Upper Herbert River. The language is considered endangered with minimal speakers; some Palm Island Community members were removed from the area and may retain knowledge of Warrungu.

Tasaku Tsunoda and Alf Palmer.

Tasaku Tsunoda has undertaken linguistic work on Warrongo and believes there are two dialects, an Eastern and a Central variety. Tsunoda's work with Alf Palmer (Jinbilnggay) led to the publication A Grammar of Worrongo which is the main source for the language and can be accessed as an online document via One Search. An article on the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation website highlights Tsunoda's work and identifies several everyday words.

"I am the last one to speak Worrongo. When I die this language will die. I will teach you everything I know. So put it down properly."

These are the words of Alf Palmer who sat down with Tsunoda and highlight the fragile nature of Queensland's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages.

The loss of language and resilience of community language revival will be a feature of State Library's upcoming language exhibitions. Join the conversation as we post a new word for each week!

Week Forty 1-7 October 2019.

#slqIYIL #IYIL2019 #IYIL #IY2019WordoftheWeek #SLQIndigenousLanguages

Desmond Crump

Indigenous Languages Coordinator, State Library of Queensland

State Library of Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages Webpages

State Library of Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages Map

Jarjum stories: A kuril dhagun showcase focusing on children’s books and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. Opens 19 October 2019-10 May 2020.

Spoken: celebrating Queensland languages: A major exhibition exploring the survival and revival of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages throughout Queensland. Join in the many talks and events to celebrate the rich and diverse languages spoken today. Opens 21 November 2019-19 April 2020.

UN IY2019 Links

UN International Year of Indigenous Languages webpages

UN International Year of Indigenous Languages Resources


The word of the week has been sourced from the following item in the State Library collections.

Source:  Tsunoda, T. (2011) A grammar of Warrongo. Online access via One Search.

Further Reading

Other materials in the State Library collections relating to Warrungu and neighbouring languages, including Gugu Badhun include the following:

Breen, G. (2009) “The Biri dialects and their neighbours”. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia, V133, No.2. SER 506.942

Cadet-James, Y., James, R., McGinty, S. and McGregor, R. (2017) Gugu Badhun: people of the Valley of Lagoons. J 305.89915 CAD 

Curr, E. M. (1887) The Australian Race: its origins, languages, customs, place of landing in Australia and the routes by which it spread itself over that continent. RBF 572.994 cur

Terrill, A. (1998) Biri. J 499.15 TER

Tindale, N. B. (1974) Aboriginal Tribes of Australia: Their Terrain, Environmental Controls, Distribution, Limits and Proper NamesQ 994.0049915 tin


ABC online article: "Japanese linguist helps revive an Aboriginal language"

Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS)

Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation webpages:  "Linguist revives lost language".

Courier Mail - online article: "Teacher brings Worrongo language home"

North Queensland Regional Aboriginal Corporation Language Centre

World Smile Day website


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