Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander word lists

The State Library of Queensland acknowledges that the language heritage and knowledge of these word lists always remains with the Traditional Owners, language custodians and community members of the respective language nations.

These pages include a number of word lists on various topics to support communities in their work to revive, document and preserve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. The language content is drawn from a range of historical texts found in State Library's collections.

Note: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages are oral languages that have only been written since European settlement; there may be several variations in spelling and pronunciation. Check with local language custodians as to the preferred local word and its’ spelling and pronunciation.

How do I pronounce Aboriginal sounds?

In pronouncing Aboriginal words, there are some sounds which are quite different to English and require practice.

English sound Aboriginal sound
dh Pronounced with the back of the teeth.
ng Closest to 'ng' sound found in singer.
ny Closest to 'n' sound found in onion.
rr Rolled 'r' sound, similar to a Scottish 'r'.

How do I pronounce Torres Strait Islander sounds?

In pronouncing Torres Strait Islander language words, there are some sounds which are quite different to English and require practice.

English sound Torres Strait Islander sound
dh Pronouced with the tongue at the back of teeth. Can sound like 'th'.
dz Can sound similar to 'dj'.
ng Closest to 'ng' sound found in singer.
oi Prolonged sound that can be between 'oi' and 'ai'.
p,s and z Sound similar to English.

 

Body parts

These pages provide a range of word lists on body parts to support communities in their work to revive, document and preserve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. Some of these wordlists complement the Gambara Gamu Biyu body chart poster; while others have been collated from State Library collection items.

Note: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages are oral languages that have only been written since European settlement; there may exist variations in spelling and pronunciation.  The following wordlists should be seen as a guide only - always consult local language speakers/custodians as to the preferred pronunciation.

Aboriginal sounds

In pronouncing Aboriginal words, there are some sounds which are quite different to English and require practice.

'dh' is different to English - it is pronounced with the tongue at the back of the teeth.

'dj' is similar to English - it can be between ‘j’ and ‘ch’.

'ng' is one sound in Aboriginal languages and is different to the 'n' sound in English - it is closest to the 'ng' sound found in singer.

'nh' is different to English - it is pronounced with the tongue at the back of the teeth.

'ny' is one sound in Aboriginal languages - it is closest to the 'n' sound found in onion.

'rr' is a rolled 'r' sound similar to a Scottish 'r'; at the end of a word it may sound like ‘d’.