Language of the Week: Week Thirty - Umbuygamu

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this blog post contains 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 of State Library's A-Z of Queensland languages - each week the blog will highlight a different Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language from across Queensland communities. This week's language of the week is Umbuygamu, a language spoken on Eastern Cape York, particularly in the area around Princess Charlotte Bay. The language group is centred on Repmana or Dinner Hole, a lagoon that transects the sand ridges about 10 km west of the North Kennedy mouth.

Umbuygamu is also known as Morrobalam and AUSTLANG indicates that three languages Lamalama, Rimanggudinhma and Morrobolam form a genetic subgroup of Paman known as Lamalamic. Available linguistic research indicates that Morrobolam is the name of a clan who speak a language also known as Umbuygamu.

Umagico IKC, Northern Peninsula Area.

With the onset of missions, people from the region were forcibly removed to Northern Peninsula Area, notably Umagico community where descendants live today - while speakers were recorded in the 1960's Austlang data there are no known fluent speakers. The language is undergoing community revival efforts supported by Pama Language Centre drawing upon historical materials.

Linguistic research was undertaken as early as the 1930's by Hale and Tindale; while recent work was undertaken by Rigsby and Sommer who recorded speakers in the 1970's at Coen and Bamaga. In 2020 A dictionary of Umpithamu : with notes on Middle Paman was compiled by Jean-Christophe Verstraete with  Florrie Bassani and Joan Liddy as the main language consultants. This recent publication includes reference to Umbuygamu and Lamalama. 

A selection of words from Umbuygamu / Morrobalam inlcude:

  • Bird(s) – ettarr
  • Canoe – arrirr
  • Child - arran butjinh
  • Day – lawnarr
  • Fish – nyalangam
  • Hand – alam
  • Lagoon – okngarhim
  • Water (fresh) – oknganamrha


Join State Library for next week's Language of the Week - Wulgurakaba from the Townsville region of 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

Minya Birran: What next for Indigenous Languages?



Cover image: Scenic location at the Normanby River, Cape York Peninsula (1984). Image No. 407-47-06

Umagico IKC, Northern Peninsula Area. Author's photograph.


References and Further Reading

State Library collections have minimal material relating to Umbuygamu with some content on Lamalama; other language content can be found in generic language studies of Cape York. The work of Rigsby and Sommer is held at the Fryer Library, University of Queensland, while Tindale's materials can be found at the South Australian Museum.

Bassani, P., Lakefield, A. and Popp, T. (2006) Lamalama country : our country : our culture-way. Edited by Bruce Rigsby and Noelene Cole. P 305.89915 BAS

Hafner, D. (1990) The dugong hunters of Cape York today: factors in the formation of identity and the emergence of the Port Stewart Lamalama "tribe". Online article access via One Search.

Hale, H. and Tindale, N. B (1934) Aborigines of Princess Charlotte Bay, North Queensland.  Reprinted from: Records of the South Australian Museum, v. 5, no. 1, August 31, 1933 & v. 5, no. 2, July 31, 1934. J 994.38089915 HAL 

Kinslow Harris, J., Wurm, S. and Laycock, D. (1971) Papers in Australian linguistics, no. 4Q 499.15 kin

Sutton, P. (ed) (1974) Languages of Cape York: papers presented to the Linguistic Symposium, Part B, held in conjunction with the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies Biennial General Meeting, May,1974 G 499.15 1976

Verstraete, J. (2020) A dictionary of Umpithamu: with notes on Middle Paman. Main language consultants, Florrie Bassani and Joan Liddy. J 499.1503 VER



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

Fryer Library, University of Queensland

Pama Language Centre

South Australian Museum - Tindale Collection


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