Language of the Week: Week Two - Birria

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

This week's language of the week is Birria, a language spoken in Western Queensland, particularly in the area around Cooper Creek, Jundah and Whitula Creek. Birria is also known as Pirriya and is closely related to Kungkari with many shared words. The Birria language region includes the landscape within the local government boundaries of the Barcoo Shire Council.

According to Austlang, there are no known speakers of Birria; however, there are community language revival activities within the region. Oates in a 1975 linguistic survey of Australia was unable to identify known speakers and highlighted the limited vocabulary available.

Town of Jundah (1902) JOL Negative number: 60600.

Gavan Breen in his work on Western Queensland languages, includes wordlists from Birria. There is also an historical wordlist from Whitula Creek, collected in the 1870's by J Heagney, a pastoralist. The Heagney wordlist was published in Curr's "The Australian Race ..." publication - this list is somewhat unreliable and has been analysed by Breen in his work Salvage Studies of Western Queensland Aboriginal Languages.  The Birria words documented include everyday words such as animals, plants, people and country as well as several phrases or simple sentences. 

Vocabulary of the Birria Language (Curr, 1874)

On the State Library Spoken exhibition webpages, view a digital story from Central West Queensland featuring community members from neighbouring languages to Birria sharing their language journeys.


Join State Library for next week's Language of the Week - Dalleburra from North-West 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?


References and Further Reading

State Library collections have some material relating to Birria; however, these are part of texts or items referring to Aboriginal languages of Western Queensland, particularly work undertaken by Gavan Breen.

Relevant items in the collections include the following:

Breen, J.G. (1990) Salvage Studies of Western Queensland Aboriginal Languages. Pacific Linguistics Series B – No. 105. Australian National University: Canberra. J499.15 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 continent. John Ferres Government Printer: Melbourne. RBF 572.994 cur

Kennedy, E. B., Turner, A. A. and Blubber Head Press (1983) Kennedy, the Barcoo and beyond, 1847: the journals of Edmund Besley Court Kennedy and Alfred Allatson Turner with new information on Kennedy's life. Blubber Head Press: Hobart. J 919.4042 BEA

Mitchell, T. L. (1969) Journal of an expedition into the interior of tropical Australia: in search of a route from Sydney to the Gulf of Carpentaria.  J 919.404 MIT

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

Queensland Place Names Board (n.d.) Aboriginal place names, words and meanings collected at ‘Terrick Terrick’, Blackall, Central Queensland about 1886. Queensland Place Names Board: Brisbane. VF 919.43003 que

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


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