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Language of the Week: Week Twenty-Six - Maiawali

By dcrump | 23 November 2020

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this blog post may contain 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 Twenty-Six of the A-Z of Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages!

This week's language of the week is Maiawali from Western Queensland, particularly the area surrounding the Diamantina Lakes taking in Springvale and Cork Stations. Maiawali is also known as Mayawarli, Majawali, Majuli, Mailly, Myall, Myallee, etc. and is closely related to Pitta Pitta and Kunkalanya. According to Austlang, there is minimal documentation and no known speakers.

Mayawarli (Maiawali) entry - Oates Linguistic Survey, 1970.

Mayawarli/Maiawali entry - Oates (1970) A revised linguistic survey of Australia.

The above image depicts the entry for Mayawarli/Maiawali in Oates' revised linguistic survey of Australia; at the time there were no known fluent speakers, however the text references Breen as documenting words from an informant at Boulia in 1969 as well as Blake recording another speaker in 1972. There are also historical wordlists from pastoral properties collected in the late 1800's.

From this minimal material comes the following selection of words from Maiawali:

  • thada = thigh
  • punda = bone
  • wintha = night
  • matyumpa = kangaroo
  • kukaparri = emu
  • wakari = fish
  • kuntara = snake
  • ngantya = I
  • yinpa = you
Languages of Western Queensland, Breen (1990).

Languages of Western Queensland, Breen (1990).

The image above from Breen (1990) shows languages of Western Queensland, highlighting the location of Mayawali (Maiawali) in relation to neighbouring languages. State Library collections holds the work of Breen and Blake relating to Maiawali and Western Queensland languages. Language recordings by Blake as well as Breen's field notes are held in AIATSIS. 


Join State Library for next week's Language of the Week - Nyawaygi from 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: Buildings on Cork Station, 1929. JOL Negative Number 37116

Mayarwali/Maiawali entry from Oates (1970) A revised linguistic survey of AustraliaQ 499.15 OAT

Map, Languages of Western Queensland from Breen (1990).


References and Further Reading

Blake, B.J. (1979b) “Pitta-Pitta”. In Dixon, R. M. W. & Blake, B. (Eds), The handbook of Australian languages 1, 182-242. G 499.15 1979

Breen, J.G. (1990) Salvage Studies of Western Queensland Aboriginal Languages.  J 499.15 bre

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

Desert Channels Queensland (2013) Pitta Pitta Pictorial Dictionary. Desert Channels Queensland: Longreach. JUVQ 499.9915 PIT

Dixon, R. and Blake, B. (Eds) (1981) Handbook of Australian Languages. The Australian National University Press; Canberra. G 499.15 1979

Holmer, N. (1988) Notes on Some Queensland Languages. Australian National University: Canberra. J 499.15 HOL

Meston, A. (undated) Archibald Meston Papers 1860-1960OM64-17

Oates, W. J. and Oates, L. (1970) A revised linguistic survey of AustraliaQ 499.15 OAT

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



AUSTLANG - Australian Languages Database 

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

Desert Channels Queensland website


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