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Language of the Week: Week Six - Jarowair

By dcrump | 4 July 2020

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

This week's language of the week is Jarowair, a language spoken in the Toowoomba district, particularly Toowoomba City and extending north towards Crow's Nest. Jarowair is also written as Yarrowair, Yarow-wair, Yarrow Wair while the language is also referred to as Barunggam or Djakunda. Linguistically, it is part of the Wakka Wakka language chain and shares similar words and grammar. Due to limited linguistic data, there is some uncertainty over the status of Jarowair as it may be a clan group or a dialect of Wakka Wakka.

The Jarowair language region includes the landscape within the local government boundaries of the Toowoomba Regional Council, particularly Toowoomba north to Crow’s Nest and west to Oakey. Giabal is the Southern neighbour in Toowoomba City; however, while Giabal is related to the Bundjalung chain of languages, there were shared words between the two languages.

Austlang indicates that Jarowair has minimal speakers and is considered endangered. There is an historical wordlist entitled 'Toowoomba language' collected by Meston in 1875 when he was the editor of the Darling Downs Gazette. Harriet Barlow includes some Jarowair words in her Aboriginal Dialects of Queensland papers. A further limited list of words was recorded by Joshua Bell at Jimbour Station. These items represent the only material for the language and provided the basis for contemporary linguistic work by Holmer, Kite and Wurm and more recent community-based work undertaken by the Condamine Alliance.

Condamine Alliance Languages of the Condamine Resource: Jarowair.

Condamine Alliance Resource: Languages of the Condamine - Jarowair Vocabulary.

The above image depicts a Jarowair word list from the Condamine Alliance, developed as part of a community project in 2013 which documented languages along the Condamine River Catchment. This resource is held in the State Library collections and includes a learning kit for schools as well as words and basic vocabulary structures for several languages along the Condamine River.


Join State Library for next week's Language of the Week - Kayardild from the Gulf of Carpentaria!


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

Minya Birran: What next for Indigenous Languages?



Postcard: Margaret Street, Toowoomba c. 1906. State Library Image Number: 4831-0005-0194

Condamine Alliance Resource: Languages of the Condamine - Jarowair Vocabulary. P 499.9915 LAN


References and Further Reading

State Library collections have some material relating to Jarowair and the Toowoomba languages; however, most of these items are part of larger, general linguistic or historical references on Toowoomba and the Darling Downs. Collection items include the following:

Harriet Barlow Manuscript ca. 1865. OM91-69

Condamine Alliance (2013) Languages of the Condamine: schools Activity guideP 499.9915 LAN

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 continentRBF 572.994 cur

Feehely, D. (1997) The fire people 1830s-1930s: a history of the Burra, the Aboriginal people of the Eastern Darling DownsQ 305.89915 fee

Holmer, N. (1983) Linguistic Survey of South-Eastern Queensland. Australian National University: Canberra. J 499.15 HOL

Kite, S. & Wurm, S. (2004) The Duungidjawu language of Southeast Queensland: Grammar texts and vocabularyJ 499.15 KIT

OM64-17 Archibald Meston Papers

Riethmuller, N. (2006) The Darling Downs Aborigines, 1787-2004: genocide and survivalP 994.33 RIE

L R Schwennesen Papers. M 292

Steele, J. G. (1984) Aboriginal Pathways in Southeast Queensland and the Richmond RiverQ 994.3102 ste

Watson, F. J. (1944) Vocabularies of Four Representative Tribes of South Eastern QueenslandREFJ 499.15 wat


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