Language of the Week: Week Twenty-Two - Irukandji
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this blog post may contain images or refer 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 Twenty-Two of the A-Z of Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages!
This week's language of the week is Irukandji a language from the Cairns region in Far North Queensland, particularly Cairns North taking in Smithfield and Northern Beaches extending towards Port Douglas. Irukandji is also known as Yirrganydji, Irakanji, Yirkandji, Yirkanji, Yirgay, Yirrgay, etc. and seen as related to the Yidinji and Djabugay languages of Cairns and surrounding districts. Austlang includes some discussion on the nature of Irukandji / Yirrgay identifying it as a dialect of Djabugay, with linguists such as Patz also referring to the language as Djabuganjdji.
According to Oates' Linguistic survey of Australia, undertaken in 1970 [see image below], the language was spoken in a thin coastal strip from Cairns North to Port Douglas. There is also a reference to Yirgandji meaning or referring to 'peoplefrom the North'. Oates was unable to identify fluent speakers which is also reflected in contemporary surveys, including the National Indigenous Languages Survey (2015) and the ABS Census of 2016.
There are community efforts to revive the language, particularly through the Yirrganydji Land and Sea Ranger program coordinated by the Dawul Wuru Aboriginal Corporation. Documentation for Irukandji is minimal and usually included with linguistic texts on Djabugay or Yidinji written by Patz, Dixon and others. The following selection of words have been sourced from the Dawul Wuru Aboriginal Corporation website and reflect their ongoing connection to land and sea.
pama kulpul-parra = salt water people
Panal Wangal = Cairns, Trinity Inlet
Diju = Port Douglas
pulmpa = land
kulpul = sea country
To discover more about the work of the Yirrganydji Land and Sea Rangers, watch this clip from ICTV.
Next week's Language of the Week is Jangga from Central Queensland!
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
Jarjum Stories exhibition
Old Words, New Ways upcoming exhibition
Minya Birran: What next for Indigenous Languages?
Cover image: Aboriginal people standing above a waterfall near Cairns. Negative Number 36948
Views of the Barron River nearby Red Bluff north of Cairns, c 1890. Image number: API-006-0001-0006
Yirgandji entry from Oates (1970) A revised linguistic survey of Australia. Q 499.15 OAT
References and Further Reading
Bottoms, T. (1992) The Bama: people of the rainforest: Aboriginal-European relations in the Cairns rainforest region up to 1876. P 994.36 bot
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 continent. RBF 572.994 cur
Dixon, R. M. W. (1977) A grammar of Yidin. G 499.155 1977
Dixon, R. M. W. (1991) Words of our country: stories, place names and vocabulary in Yidiny, the Aboriginal language of the Cairns-Yarrabah region. G 499.15 1991
Gribble, E. R. B. (1930) Forty years with the Aborigines. G 266.0994 1930
Meston, A. (undated) Archibald Meston Papers Undated. OM64-17
Oates, W. J. and Oates, L. (1970) A revised linguistic survey of Australia. Q 499.15 OAT
Patz, Elisabeth. 1991. "Djabugay". In Handbook of Australian languages, vol. 4, eds R. M. W. Dixon and B. J. Blake, 244-347. J 499.15 HAN
Patz, E. (2002) A grammar of the Kuku Yalanji language of north Queensland. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. J 499.15 PAT
Roth, W. (1903) Reports to the Commissioner of Police and others, on Queensland aboriginal peoples 1898-1903. FILM 0714
Tindale, N. B. (1974) Aboriginal Tribes of Australia: Their Terrain, Environmental Controls, Distribution, Limits and Proper Names. Q 994.0049915 tin