Language of the week: Gurindji

In honour of the recent 40th anniversary of the Wave Hill walkoff, this week’s language is Gurindji.

I suspect that Gurindji is one of the few language names that are nonindigenous Australians know. That’s because of the walkout and the subsequent hand back of land by the then Prime Minister Gough Whitlam.

Gurindji is a member of the Ngumpin-Yapa subgroup of Pama-Nyungan. It’s a Ngumpin language and is thus quite closely related to Walmajarri and Jaru, and less closely related to Warlpiri.

Patrick McConvell has been working on the language for quite a long time now, and has a number of publications on various aspects of Gurindji synchronic language, language contact, and historical linguistics.

It’s actually quite difficult to find Web materials on Gurindji. Most of the information available is about the Wave Hill walk off/strike and the subsequent handing back of land. There’s nothing on Gurindji in David Nathan’s virtual library of Australian languages, for example. The Daguragu community web site has a couple of sentences on language. And there’s a nice web page on the Gurindji Kriol project run by Patrick McConvell, Jane Simpson and Gillian Wigglesworth. Patrick has a paper on emergent mixed languages, which includes Gurindji as an example (along with Tiwi), and Felicity Meakins and Patrick have a rippper of a paper on Gurindji Kriol in an AJL from 2005 (link to papers resulting from the Gurindji Kriol project is here and includes the AJL paper).

Here’s a link to the Google scholar search for Gurindji grammar if you’re interested in the non Web publications on Gurindji. I would have a link here to a search on Mura, but the site was down when I was writing this post. It is almost never down, though so you check back soon.


9 responses to “Language of the week: Gurindji

  1. Using ODIN and looking under Gurinji (GUE) leads to a link to a paper by Michael Cysouw with a couple of interlinearised Gurindji sentences (on page 6).

  2. It’s a shame there isn’t more around on Gurindji because it’s quite a strong language, especially for langauges in the Katherine region. It would be great if there was a good dictionary around (as far as I know, it’s only in draft form). And there hasn’t been much language work happening there in the past few years (apart from the ACLA project) partly because the school has been pretty striclty English-only. I think it’s a shame because there is a lot of potential there for some great community work. Usmob at Katherine Language Centre have started talking about how good it would be to have a language centre at Kalkarindji like we have here at Ngukurr. Hopefully it can happen… who wants to contribute some funds?? :-)

  3. The good news is that there is a new Principal of the school, so there might be room for change. Apart from the ACLA project, a DOBES project is also focussing on Gurindji. Hopefully the dictionary will come out of that, and a relatively finalised grammar.

    It would be great to set up a language centre there similar to Ngukurr. Lots of interesting possibilities for language work!

  4. Here’s some interesting reading on the subject

  5. Hey im a 16 year old boy who lives in brisbane. I played rugby this year for the national indigenous team called lloyd mcdermott rugby development team. i am a gurrindji boy but i have never been to my homeland. when i have finished school it is the number 1 priority on my list. I always feel left out when the boys at school talk in the lingo from there mob i just wish i could learn myn. are there any books or sources online wich could teach me my mobs lingo

  6. Hi Lincoln,
    send me an email (bowern @ and I’ll give you the names and email addresses of some people to talk to. I don’t know about anything online for Gurindji but these people will know about the school books they have at Daguragu and that sort of thing.
    Claire (Anggarrgoon)

  7. Pingback: Endangered Languages and Cultures » Blog Archive » Bits and obits

  8. Hi there I would like to say I’m real gurindji and we speak our language strong and it is in our trible law yes we do speak gurindji with little bit of English to make people understands us the meaning of our language and after that we teach them the hard wards of gurindji so that they can know what wards to pronounce how we speak our language if u learn the first step of our language then you can pick up the hard one but its not vary easy to learn gurindji it,ll take you years and years to learn my language because i speak my language stongly and I’m a gurindji bloke who come from gurindji country and we do speak gurindji the old way because that’s how we speaks it but we are not aloud to speak about these things because it is in our trible law not to talk about all this thing but if you do wanna learn gurindji is best for you to come to wattie creek and learn the language from the people urself ,,,thanks

  9. Thank you! That’s great to hear. I’d love to come to Wattie Creek someday.

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