Language of the Week: Week Seventeen - Yukulta

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this blog post contains images or names of Aboriginal people who have passed; this is not meant to cause distress or offence but raise awareness of our shared history and the story of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages across Queensland.

Welcome to Week Seventeen of the A-Z of Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages!

This week's language of the week is Yukulta, one of the languages of the Gulf region. Yukulta, also referred to as Ganggalida, is also spelt as Yokulta, Jugulda, Jogula, Jokala, etc. Traditionally it was spoken on the coastal region opposite the Wellesley Islands taking in the localities of Westmoreland and Massacre Inlet extending east towards Burketown. Following removals, contemporary speakers and knowledge holders now live at Doomadgee Community Council and Mornington Island. 

Austlang indicates that languages from the North Wellesley Islands and adjoining mainland include Yukulta, Kayardild, Lardil and Yangkaal which O'Grady et al (1966) classify in the 'Tangkic' group (tangka means 'person' in all four languages).

Wellesley Islands showing the four language groups in the coastal region.

Austlang also identifies only a handful of fluent speakers are known in the region; community revival efforts include teaching of Ganggalida at Doomadgee State School and the compilation of a Ganggalida to English community dictionary which features a CD with audio content. Community efforts are also supported through the North Queensland Regional Aboriginal Corporation Language Centre. Further linguistic work in the region has been undertaken by Evans, Nancarrow and Mushan; several publications are held within the State Library collections, while additional material including sound recordings are held at AIATSIS.

Join State Library for next week's Language of the Week; we are back to the start of the alphabet - Agwamin from Far North Queensland!


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


Spoken: Celebrating Queensland languages exhibition

Spoken Virtual Tour

Jarjum Stories exhibition

Old Words, New Ways upcoming exhibition

Minya Birran: What next for Indigenous Languages?



Cover image: Two young boys at the rodeo, Doomadgee, Queensland, ca. 2008-2011. Image number: 30818-0001-0013

Map of Wellesley Islands - from Memmott, P., Robins, R. and Stock, E. (2008) "What exactly is a fish trap? Methodological issues for the study of aboriginal intertidal rock wall fish traps, Wellesley Islands region, Gulf of Carpentaria, Australia." [Accessed from UQ eSpace]


References and Further Reading

State Library collections have some material relating to Yukulta / Ganggalida and neighbouring languages; however, most of these items are part of larger, general linguistic or historical references on the Gulf.

Evans, N. (1995) A grammar of Kayardild : with historical-comparative notes on TangkicJ 499.15 EVA

Evans, N. (ed.) (2003) The non-Pama-Nyungan languages of northern AustraliaJ 499.15 NON

Holmer, N. 1988. "Gangulida" in Notes on some Queensland languagesJ 499.15 HOL  

Keen, S. 1983. "Yukulta" In Handbook of Australian languages, Dixon & Blake (eds). Vol 3. G 499.15 1979

Mushin, I. (2012) A Grammar of (Western) GarrwaJ 499.15 MUS

Nancarrow, C. (2014) Gangalidda to English dictionary. Compiled by Cassy Nancarrow. J 499.15 GAN 

Nekes, H., Wurms, E. and McGregor, W. (2006) Australian LanguagesJ 499.15 NEK

Roth, W. E. (1898-1903) “Reports to the Commissioner of Police and others, on Queensland aboriginal peoples 1898-1903.” FILM 0714

Tindale, N. B. (1962) Geographical knowledge of the Kaiadilt people of Bentinck Island.  P 994.0049915 tin

Tindale, N. B. (1974) Aboriginal tribes of Australia: their terrain, environmental controls, distribution, limits and proper namesQ 994.0049915 tin




AIATSIS - Australian Insitute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies

Austlang: Australian Languages Database

North Queensland Regional Aboriginal Corporation Language Centre.


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