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IRRA WANGGA LANGUAGE PROGRAM

Learning, Your Way

MORE ABOUT US

What We’re All About

The Irra Wangga Language Program is a professional Aboriginal-directed program, working both with and for the community. Staff at Irra Wangga are passionate about the preservation, revitalisation and maintenance of Aboriginal languages and culture, and it is this passion that drives the program.


The Irra Wangga Language Program provides essential services for the languages of the

Midwest, Murchison and Gascoyne regions of Western Australia. As a major cultural program of the Bundiyarra Aboriginal Community Aboriginal Corporation (BACAC), the program aims to preserve and comprehensively document the languages of the region, in addition to engaging with language communities to aide efforts of language maintenance and revitalisation.

Seven languages targeted by Irra Wangga Language Program:

The main objective of the Irra Wangga Language Program is to document and preserve the seven languages targeted by Irra Wangga through:

  • Assembling an extensive collection of recordings (in natural speech, and in a variety of discourses, where possible);

  • Transcriptions made of audio recordings;

  • Phonological, morphological and grammatical analysis of linguistic material;

  • Establishment of electronic databases;

  • Production of morphologies and sketch grammars;

  • Production of dictionaries;

  • Production of full descriptive grammars (where possible);

  • Safe archiving of all linguistic material

  • To work towards the revitalisation and maintenance of the Aboriginal languages of the region.

  • To produce language materials and resources to promote the Aboriginal languages of the region, and to assist in the teaching of the languages in the community.

  • To deliver training and support to language teachers, language and cultural workers, AIEOs and those wishing to teach Aboriginal languages.

  • To promote a greater understanding of Aboriginal languages and culture in the community.

  • To build capacity to serve a growing demand for information on Aboriginal languages and culture from language communities, schools, other government and non-government services and the general public by producing more teaching resources and establishing a language resource library.

Services Available

Language Documentation

Irra Wangga works with the community to record the languages of the region and use this collected information to produce dictionaries, grammars, books and other language materials.

Language Revitalisation 

  • Irra Wangga works with schools, Aboriginal organisations, other local community organisations and members of the wider community to assist in the teaching and promotion of Aboriginal languages.

  • Irra Wangga runs weekly Wajarri language classes, open to anyone in the community. See the language class section of the website for more information.


History and Culture

  • Culture is encapsulated within a language, and it is impossible to separate the two. Irra Wangga has worked with the community on several historical and cultural projects, including Footprints in the Sand, an oral history project collecting stories from members of the community.

  • Irra Wangga records (both in audio and video form) stories, songs, dancing and traditional activities with the local community. From this, educational material and books can be produced, such as Wajarri Wisdom, a book containing information on traditional Wajarri bush tucker and medicine. 

Research and Employment

Irra Wangga welcomes research partnerships with linguistic students, universities and other linguistic and Indigenous organisations.

Irra Wangga also welcomes partnerships with students wishing to conduct voluntary work experience internships at the centre, or on languages of the Mid-West, Murchison and Gascoyne regions.

Please contact us at consultant@irrawangga.org.au for more information.

Wajarri Language Classes

These courses are designed to develop speaking and listening skills, build vocabulary and develop practical competence of Wajarri, the most widely spoken Indigenous language of the Midwest region.  This course is open to anyone interested in learning Wajarri, from absolute beginners to advanced learners.

Fee for Service

An important role of the language centre is to aide the teaching and education of Indigenous languages, as well as raising awareness of Aboriginal languages and culture in the community. Irra Wangga is available to provide training, workshops and classes about Indigenous languages to a wide audience of people. Some of the activities we regularly provide include:

  • Teacher training for Aboriginal language teachers and AIEOs

  • Language Awareness Workshops

  • Reading and Writing Aboriginal Languages Workshops

  • Language Classes

  • Translation and interpreting services for Mid-West languages (limited capacity)

Reference Group

  

Irra Wangga Cultural Language Reference Group, which has representatives from each of the seven language communities, provides advice to Irra Wangga staff and the Bundiyarra Board on the priorities of the language communities and acts as a representative voice for their respective language communities.

LANGUAGE INDEX


Bundiyarra – Irra Wangga Language Program operates with language communities throughout the Mid-West, Murchison and Gascoyne, a region comprising over 275,000 square kilometres.  Based on the 2011 census over 63,000 people live in this vast region, with 6,600 identifying as Aboriginal.


Traditionally there were 12-15 distinct language groups in the Mid-West, Murchison and Gascoyne regions, however since European invasion Aboriginal languages and cultures have suffered enormous erosion. This unfortunate history has seen the loss of many of the languages of the region.

 

Badimaya

About the people and culture

Badimaya is the traditional language and name of the people from the area around Lake Moore, Ninghan Station and Paynes Find. Today, however, Badimaya people can be found in towns across the Murchison Region, including Geraldton, Mount Magnet, Yalgoo and Meekatharra.


Badimaya is a very endangered language, with only a handful of speakers remaining. However, there are many Badimaya people who know some words or phrases in the language, or who can understand some of the language when it is spoken.


About the language 

Badimaya is classified as a member of the Kartu subgroup of the southwest group of the Pama-Nyungan language family (Voegelin and Voegelin, 1966, p. 128).


Badimaya, like many Aboriginal languages, has been spelt many different ways in the past, including Badimia, Badimaia, Badimara and Patimaya.


Little research was recorded on Badimaya before the 1980s, with only brief information recorded by Tindale (1974), Gould (1968) and Day (1957). The first thorough research into the Badimaya language was in the early 1980s by linguist Leone Dunn. This research led to the publication of a Badimaya Sketch Grammar in 1988.


Since the early 1990s, linguists and language workers from YLAC and Bundiyarra – Irra Wangga have worked with several Badimaya speakers, mainly in and around Mount Magnet.


Resources available

 Irra Wangga has worked with community members to produce language-learning material, including two children's bilingual books, Joe Benjamin Stories: The Mallee Hen and Joe Benjamin Stories: The Porcupine Story.

Four more bilingual books (Bush Yarns from Mount Magnet: Finding Bimba, Bush Yarns from Mount Magnet: Looking for Quandongs, Bush Yarns from Mount Magnet: Where’s the Goanna, Badimaya Birds), a Badimaya seasonal calendar, Badimaya Guwaga: An Illustrated Badimaya Wordlist, and a Badimaya Dictionary.

 

Malgana

About the people and culture

The Malgana people traditionally lived in and around Shark Bay, known as Gathaagudu in the Malgana language. Malgana is surrounded by a number of languages, including Yingkarta to the north, Nhanda to the south and Wajarri to the east.


Malgana is no longer spoken today, but there are some people in the community who still know some words and phrases in Malgana.


About the language

Malgana is typical of the Pama-Nyungan type of Australian languages (Gargett 2012, p. 1).


Malgana, like many Aboriginal languages, has been spelt many different ways in the past, including Malkana, Madjana and Maldjana.


Research has been collected on the Malgana language sporadically for over a century, including wordlists by Hooley (1865), Barlee (1886), O’Grady (1960) and von Brandenstein (1966). The majority of the linguistic material collected on Malgana, however, has been from Florey (1992), and Marmion (Yamaji Language Centre, 1995). Gargett has also conducted research on Malgana, predominantly using material collected by Florey and Marmion, and this has resulted in the publication of a Malgana Sketch Grammar (Gargett 2012).


Resources available

Yamaji Language Centre worked with community members to produce a language learning resource, Malgana Wangganyina: An illustrated wordlist of the Malgana language of Western Australia. This is available from Irra Wangga.


A Sketch Grammar of Malgana (Gargett 2012) is available from Pacific Linguistics.

 

Nhanda

About the people and culture

Nhanda people traditionally lived along ‘a coastal strip 20-100 kilometres wide from present-day Geraldton north to the Murchison River’ (Blevins 2001, p. 1).


Nhanda country borders Malgana to the North, Wajuk (a northern dialect of Nyungar) to the south, and Wajarri to the northeast. It is unclear what languages were spoken between the southern extent of Nhanda and the northern extent of Wajuk, and between the eastern extent of Nhanda and the western extent of Badimaya (Blevins 2001, p. 5).

Nhanda is no longer fully spoken today, although there remain some partial speakers of the language, and there are many community members who know some Nhanda words and phrases.

About the language

Nhanda belongs to the Pama-Nyungan language family. Nhanda is unique among the languages of the Mid-West, in that it displays a voicing contrast which isn’t present in other languages of the region, and it has a distinctive sound – the glottal stop.

Nhanda, like many Aboriginal languages, has been spelt many different ways in the past, including Nanda, Nunda and Nhanta.

The main research conducted on Nhanda occurred in the late 1990s and early 2000s by the Yamaji Language Centre, and by linguist Juliette Blevins. This research resulted in the production of a Nhanda Sketch Grammar (Blevins 2001). Before this research, the only information collected on the language were several collections of nineteenth and twentieth century wordlists, including Foley (1985), Oldfield (1986), Goldsworthy (1986a, b), Bates, von Brandenstein (1965, 1973), Gratte (1967) and Drury (1989).

Resources available

Yamaji Language Centre worked with community members to produce a language learning resource, Nhanda Wangganhaa: An illustrated wordlist of the Nhanda language of Western Australia. This is available from Irra Wangga.


A Sketch Grammar of Nhanda (Blevins 2001) is available from University of Hawai’i Press.

 

Ngarlawangga

About the people and culture

Ngarla is the name of the language and people from the Upper Murchison – Gascoyne area of Western Australia.


Ngarla has also been referred to as Ngarlawangga, possibly to distinguish it from the unrelated Ngarla language in the north Pilbara Region. In respect of Ngarla Elders, however, we use the term that they prefer: Ngarla.


Ngarla country borders Yinhawangka to the North, Wajarri to the southwest, and Western Desert to the east.


Ngarla is no longer spoken today, although there remain some community members who know some words and phrases in the language.


About the language

Ngarla belongs to the Pama-Nyungan language family, in the Ngayarda sub-group. Other languages in this sub-group include Yinhawangka, Jurruru and Kurrama.


Resources available

Bundiyarra – Irra Wangga have worked with community members to produce language-learning resources in Ngarla, including Ngarla Numbers and Jamie’s Bush Tucker Trip.

 

Wajarri

About the people and culture

Wajarri is the traditional language and name of the people from ‘the area between the Wooramel and Gascoyne Rivers south to between the Murchison River and the Geraldton-Mount Magnet Road; in the west it approached the coastal highway and in the east it extended to around Mileura Station’ (Marmion 1996, p. 2). However today Wajarri people can be found scattered across the Mid-West, Murchison and Gascoyne regions.


Wajarri is the most widely spoken language of the region, yet still critically endangered with less than 30 fluent speakers remaining, most of whom are over 60 years old.


About the language 

Wajarri is classified as a member of the Kartu subgroup of the southwest group of the Pama-Nyungan language family (Voegelin and Voegelin, 1966, p. 128).


The language is sometimes (incorrectly) referred to as Yamaji, however this is actually a word from the Wajarri language which traditionally means ‘Aboriginal man’. However, today the meaning of ‘Yamaji’ has been extended to mean any Aboriginal person from the Mid-West/ Murchison region. Speakers of Wajarri refer to their language as Wajarri, and to themselves as both Wajarri and Yamaji people (Mackman 2011, p. 231).


Wajarri country covers a vast geographical area, so it isn’t surprising that the language consists of several distinct varieties, or dialects. Dialects occur when groups of speakers are separated from others of the same language for long enough that a noticeable change in their language takes place (Mackman 2011, p. 244). Some Wajarri dialects include Birdungu, Nharnu, Nhugarn, Byro, Mileura and Ngunuru.


Wajarri, like many Aboriginal languages, has been spelt many different ways in the past, including Wadjari, Watjarri and Wajeri.


Bundiyarra – Irra Wangga Language Program, and before this, the Yamaji Language Centre, have been conducting research on Wajarri since 1991. Prior to this several linguists and anthropologists have conducted research on the language. Bates (1913) collected some wordlists of Wajarri, however the most substantial research before the 1990s was by linguist Wilf Douglas in the 1960s. From this research a sketch grammar was produced (Douglas 1981).


Resources available

Yamaji Language Centre and Bundiyarra – Irra Wangga have worked with community members to produce several language-learning resources in Wajarri, including the Wajarri Dictionary, Wajarri Wangga: Wajarri Words, The Wajarri Alphabet Pack, Night Animals, The Lost Emu, How the Yamaji Got Fire and Dambamanmanha. These are all available from Irra Wangga.


In the 1980s a sketch grammar of Wajarri was published (Douglas 1981), and since then A Description of the Morphology of Wajarri was written by Doug Marmion, a linguist who worked at Yamaji Language Centre (Marmion, 1996).

 

Warriyangka

About the people and culture

Warriyangka is the name of the language and people traditionally living ‘along the upper Lyons River, and the Edmund River, and including the present-day stations of Minnie Creek, Gifford Creek and Edmund’ (Austin 1992, p. v).


Warriyangka country boarders Yingkarta to the south, Tharrgari to the west, Jiwarli and Thiin to the north and Wajarri to the east.


Warriyangka is no longer spoken today, although there remain some community members who know some words and phrases in the language.


About the language

Warriyangka is part of the Pama-Nyungan language family, a large group of Indigenous languages covering much of Australia. It belongs to the Mantharta sub-group of languages along with Jiwarli, Thiin and Tharrgari.


Resources available

A dictionary of Warriyangka was published in the 1990s (Austin 1992), however it is now out of print.


There are no other resources currently available in Warriyangka, however there are plans for the publication of more language materials for this language in the near future.

 

Yingkarta

About the people and culture

The Yingkarta people traditionally lived on the coast, along the Gascoyne and Wooramel Rivers, inland to around Gascoyne Junction.


Yingkarta is surrounded by a number of languages, including Maya, Bayungu, Tharrgari and Warriyangka to the north, Malgana to the south and Wajarri to the east.


Yingkarta is no longer fully spoken today, although there remain some partial speakers of the language, and there are many community members who know some Yingkarta words and phrases.

About the language

Yingkarta is a typical Australian language of the Pama-Nyungan type (Dench 1998, p. 5). Research suggests that there were two dialects of Yingkarta, a southern and northen dialect, although no distinct dialect names have been recorded (Dench 1998, p. 5).

Yingkarta, like many Aboriginal languages, has been spelt many different ways in the past, including Inggarda, Yinggarda and Ingarda.

Sporadic research was conducted in the late 1800s and the 1900s. This included wordlists and transcripts by Curr (1865), O’Grady & O’Grady (1958), O’Grady, Voegelin & Voegelin (1966) and Tindale (1974). The majority of the research on Yingkarta was conducted by Dench in the 1970s and 80s. From this research a sketch grammar was produced (Dench 1998). A dictionary of Yingkarta has also been written by Austin (1992).

Resources available

A dictionary of Yingkarta was published in the 1990s (Austin 1992), however it is now out of print. A sketch grammar of the language was written by Dench (1998).

There are no other resources currently available in Yingkarta, however there are plans for the publication of more language materials for this language in the near future.

Some phrases in Yingkarta

Yantakarni!                                   Come here!

Ngatharna kamu                          I’m hungry

Wantha ngathanu kantharri?   Where’s my mother?

 

CAN YOU HELP US TO SUSTAIN THE LANGUAGE IN YOUR COMMUNITY?

Can you speak any language?

If the answer is yes, our language team would be pleased to hear from you.  Be part of this very important process of preserving language in our communities.

We welcome you to phone us on (08) 9920 7900

email: consultant@irrawangga.org.au

 

HISTORY

In 1991 a group of Wajarri women were concerned that their Indigenous languages were not being used by the community or learned by children. They secured funding for the Yamaji Languages Aboriginal Corporation to be established, a program focussing on the maintenance and preservation of the Indigenous languages of the Mid-West region. YLAC operated until 2005.

  

In 2005, at the request of a funding body and with support of community leaders, the Bundiyarra Aboriginal Community Aboriginal Corporation (BACAC) took over the management of the program, and the Bundiyarra – Irra Wangga Language Program was established.

  

Since its inception, Irra Wangga has focussed on recording and documenting the languages of the Mid-West, Murchison and Gascoyne, which has lead to the production of wordlists, grammatical sketches, language books and other teaching resources.

  

Irra Wangga also strongly supports language revitalisation efforts in the Midwest, working closely with schools and other educational institutions. The program played an instrumental role in the development of the TEE Curriculum of Wajarri (one of only three Indigenous languages offered as a WACE subject in WA) with the WA Curriculum Council. The Program also provides regular courses of language classes to the Indigenous and non-Indigenous community.