Language of the Week: Week Thirty-Two - Yiman

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this blog post may contain images or refers to 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 Thirty-Two of the A-Z of Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages!

This week's language is Yiman from the Central Queensland region, particularly the Upper Dawson River extending from Bigge Range south towards Great Dividing Range, taking in localities of Theodore, Taroom, Cracow and Wandoan. Yiman is also known as Yeeman, Iman, Jiman, Ji:man, Emon, etc. The language group is centred on the Dawson which saw a lot of frontier violence in the 1850's with groups forced to flee south to avoid the ongoing reprisals from Hornet Bank and Cullin-la-Ringo. As a result, the language and the people were considered 'extinct'; however, Yiman descendants are actively reaffirming their identity along with reviving their language.

Austlang indicates there are no known speakers of Yiman; there are community revival efforts supported by the Central Queensland Language Centre which draws upon historical materials as well as community knowledge. There exist limited vocabularies and wordlists, mainly historical sources, which indicate there is a relationship to the Wakka Wakka language chain. Tindale in his work refers to the group as Jiman and his collection at the South Australian Museum holds some material - the image below is the entry for Jiman.

Jiman entry, Tindale Collection (SA Museum).

Curr in his 1887 publication The Australian Race ... has several wordlists from the Dawson River area which may include Yiman vocabulary. A further source in the State Library collections is OM78-02 Kathleen Emmerson Papers which includes several wordlists from the Dawson River Catchment with one identified as being 'Ji:man' in a comparative table with Wakka Wakka. 

This is the source for the following Yiman words:

  • booran - wind
  • djura - hungry
  • karbong - ground, earth
  • kroman - kangaroo
  • merwa - thunder
  • muree - emu
  • nunda - camp
  • warren - boomerang


The A-Z of Queensland Languages series will have a short break in the New Year; with the upcoming International Decade of Indigenous Languages 2022-32, State Library will be seeking input from guest bloggers to share their language journeys!


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: Dawson River flooding Taroom. John Oxley Library Negative number: 60814

Jiman Entry, Tindale Collection, South Australian Museum website.


References and Further Reading

State Library collections have limited material relating to Yiman and neighbouring languages; however, most of these items are part of larger, general linguistic or historical references on Central Queensland, particularly Wakka Wakka and Biri.


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

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

Holmer, N. (1983) Linguistic Survey of South-Eastern QueenslandJ 499.15 HOL

OM78-02 Kathleen Emmerson Papers 1933-1968.

Mathew, J. (1910) Two representative tribes of Queensland: with an inquiry concerning the origin of the Australian race. J 306.0899915 MAT

Mathew, J. (1926) "Vocabulary of (i) the Kiramai Language, Herbert River, Queensland, and of (ii) the Wulili Language, Auburn, Redbank, Camboon, Walloor on the Dawson", Report of the Eighteenth Meeting of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science, pp. 547-550. NAT 500 AUS 

Roth, W. (1898) The Aborigines of the Rockhampton and surrounding coast districts. Microfilm. FILM 0714

Tennant-Kelly, C. and University of Queensland (2011) The Caroline Tennant-Kelly ethnographic collection: fieldwork accounts of Aboriginal culture in the 1930s.  (CD-ROM) HCF 305.89915 CAR

Terrill, A. (1998) BiriJ 499.15 TER

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



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

Central Queensland Language Centre

South Australian Museum - Tindale Collection

Woorabinda Indigenous Knowledge Centre (IKC)


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