Ngadjonji GlossaryNgadjonji History of the Rainforest People
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contains images of aboriginal people now
Note on PronunciationProfessor Bob Dixon pioneered linguistic studies amongst Aboriginal people in North Queensland and in writing this glossary I have tried to adhere to his basic outlines for writing dialects of the Dyribal language group.
I will quote him briefly here, however anyone seriously interested in studying Ngadjon language is well advised to go to the source.
Special note on b and p - Dixon's scheme uses b to cover both these sounds since there are no word pairs (such as bat and pat in English) that would require the distinction. However, contemporary Ngadjon uses a distinct p sound for some words. Where this is the case, we have used p in this list. - M.H.
"There are thirteen consonants - b,d,g,j,l,m,n,ny,ng,r,rr,w,y.
There are only three vowel sounds, many fewer than in English. ...
- b and m are sounds pronounced with the lips, exactly like b and m in English.
- d and n are also quite like English sounds; they are pronounced with the tip of the tongue just touching the ridge just behind the top teeth.
- j and ny are rather different from any sounds that occur in English. The sound we write j for is like a d and a y pronounced at the same time ... ny is like n and y pronounced at the same time. These sounds are pronounced with the front part of the tongue against the front part of the roof of the mouth, with the tip of the tongue just behind the teeth.
- g is exactly like the English sound and ng is like the sound that occurs at the end of some words in English (as in 'bang' and 'sing'). These are made by the back of the tongue being pressed against the back part of the roof of the mouth.
- i - the front of the tongue raised up towards the roof of the mouth. This usually sounds like the vowel in the English word 'beet' but it can sound like the vowel in 'bit' or even that in 'bet' ...
- u - the back of the tongue is raised towards the roof of the mouth. This usually sounds like the vowel in English 'boot' or 'tool' but it can sound like the vowel in 'put' or enen that in 'bought' ...
- a - with the mouth quite open and the tongue lying in the bottom of the mouth. This is like the sound in English 'bat' and 'man', but it can be pronounced like the vowel in 'half' or even that in 'not' ..."
"Writing down Jirrbal and Girramay", Bob Dixon, Canberra 1978.
bajiri water dragon, goanna
Barany Lake Barrine
barrga (Calamus caryotoides), the lawyer cane used most for making baskets.
bibiya (Archontophoenix alexandrae - Alexandra palm) The heart was chopped, cooked and eaten.
birrarr (Argyrodendron perlatum - Red Tulip Oak)
birring the sea
Bulaba Bora Ground near Lamins Hill
Bulgina The place around the Bora Ground, Butchers Creek
bunban (Endiandra insignis - Hairy Walnut) Kernel processed for starchy food.
bunyji ( Ficus destruens - Boonjie Fig) Sticky sap smeared on bird perching areas to trap them. Fruit eaten by cassowary. Edible fresh or cooked. Note origin of place name Boonjie.
buyu thick rainforest.
dagurrba (Ficus congesta - Red Leaf Fig) Bark used to make string. Ripe figs eaten.
danggaja (Athertonia diversifolia - Atherton Oak) Kernel of fruit is eaten. Also eaten by musky rat-kangaroo and native rats. The fruit is called didaja.
dawurrga (Mammea touriga - Brown Touriga) Ground seeds used to catch scrub turkey.
didaja the fruit of Atherton Oak - see danggaja
duguba bag for carrying water, sugar etc., supported by forehead.
duguu the rainforest edges.
dulabul morning star
dunu (Prunus turneriana - Almondbark) Used raw for treating toothache.Kernel processed for food.
durrgim white tailed rat
gabi (Ficus pleurocarpa - Banana Fig) The inner bark was used to make blankets as well as containers for carrying water and honey. The wood from the flange buttresses was used to make shields.
gama corroborees involving only people of the Ngadjonji tribe
gamama (Cycas media) - The seeds of this cycad were processed and eaten.
gambil the tablelands.
ganggi (Beilschmiedia bancroftii - Yellow Walnut) The nut kernels were steamed, ground, leached and eaten. Also used to catch scrub turkeys.
ganyjuu (Castanospermum australe - Black Bean) An important food source after processing. Stored in pits in the wet-season camps.
garpu carpet snake
garri the Sun
gugi flying fox, fruit bat
gugulu clapping stick
gulagaa (Ficus copiosa - Sandpaper-leaf Fig) Leaves used to sand spears, shields, etc. Young unripe fruits, yalanda, are cooked before eating. Ripe fruit is yanggi.
gumbala pupal stage of witchetty grub - see jambun.
gupa pademelon (rainforest wallaby)
guwaa (Endiandra palmerstonii - Black Walnut) Ground seed used to catch scrub turkeys. Seed eaten after cooking; tastes like bread.
guygi The leaves of jungganyu, used for thatching mija.
guyu (Pothos longipes - Candle Vine) Ripe red fruit eaten, mostly cooked but can be eaten fresh.
jaanggany (Alstonia scholaris - Milky Pine) Wood used as base plate for fire stick. White sap used as a glue in making rafts, to stick turkey feathers on body as a corroboree decoration and also used to heal sores. Note, place name Jaggan derived from this word.
jambun witchetty grub (larva stage), gumbala pupa, wirri adult.
jangganyu (Calamus moti) Cane used for climbing and framework of mija. Shoots of young rosette plants are edible after cooking - taste like asparagus. Can have laxative effect.
janjuu lawyer cane basket
jarragan scrub hen
jidu fire stick. Also the name of the tree which is used (Halfordia scleroxylla)
jiigan (Lomandra longifolia) Used to make baskets. Base edible
Jillan the Bora Ground near Butchers Creek, said by the Ngadjonji to be the site of a massacre (see Massacre)
jimama turkey trap
jiman (Tetrasynandra laxiflora - Tetra Beech) Preferred wood for the twirling stick to make fire.
jubula (Prumnopitys amara - Black Pine) Kernel processed for starchy food.
julu julu (Xanthostemon whitei - Red Penda) Wood used for spear tips and for yam sticks.
junjum (Xanthostemon chrysanthus - Golden Penda) used for swords.
Jurra Julam Mt. Bartle Frere
juubari (Lepidozamia hopei) Seeds of this cycad are processed and eaten.
magurra (Ficus variegata - Variegated Fig) Used sometimes for making shields.
malay malay (Elaeagnus triflora - Millaa Millaa Vine) Sweet flesh of ripe fruit eaten. Note origin of place name Millaa Millaa.
mapi tree-climbing kangaroo
mija dome-shaped, rain proof thatched huts. Also home country, home.
mayi the native bee
munggarra scrub turkey
muramba aboriginal people
murrgan (Elaeocarpus angustifolius - Silver Quandong) Edible fruit.
Naypa Naypami Mt. Hypipamee Crater
ngunuy (Xanthorrhoea johnsonii - Grass Tree) A word shared by Yidiny and Ngadjon. The resinous sap is used as a lacquer in shield making.
Ngunyinbarra Russell River to Lamins Hill clan of the Ngadjonji
nigu (Calamus radicalis - Vicious Hairy Mary) Very thick lawyer cane.
Nuta Lake Euramo
nuta black possum
warrama corroborees involving a number of tribes
warrgin open forest
Wiinggina Lake Eacham
wiiraa (Davidsonia pruriens - Davidson Plum) Ripe flesh eaten.
wirri adult stage of witchetty grub - see jambun.
wundajilla green possum
yagal (Pandanus spp) Generic term for pandanus, used for baskets.
yalanda Young unripe fruits of gulagaa, cooked before eating - taste like potatoes.
Yamani the rainbow serpent, also rainbow.
yanggi ripe fruit of gulagaa
yapulam (Calamus australis) Lawyer cane used for handles of baskets
yara fishing line
yarra man, men. Also aboriginal people.
yawala (Bowenia spectabilis - Zamia Fern) Root processed and eaten.
yimba no or nothing
yurrgan white woman
Dyirbal (also Djirubal) is a
tonal and ergative Australian Aboriginal language spoken in northeast
Queensland by about 5 speakers. It possesses many outstanding features
that have made it well known among linguists.
Dyirbal actually has only four places of articulation for the stop and nasal consonants—this is fewer than most other Australian Aboriginal languages, which have six. This is because Dyirbal lacks the dental/alveolar split typically found in these languages. It also lacks voiceless consonants, an extremely uncommon trait among languages. Its vowel system is similarly small, with only three vowels: /i/, /a/ and /u/.
The language is best known for
its system of noun classes, numbering
four in total. They tend to be divided among the following semantic
I - animate objects, men II - women, water, fire, violence III - edible
fruit and vegetables IV - miscellaneous (includes things not
classifiable in the first three)
The class usually labeled "feminine" (II), for instance, includes the
word for fire and nouns relating to fire, as well as all dangerous
creatures and phenomena. This inspired the title of the George Lakoff
book "Women, Fire and Dangerous Things".
Some linguists distinguish
between such systems of classification and the gendered division of
items into feminine, masculine, and sometimes neuter found in, for
example, many Indo-European languages.
Dyirbal is remarkable because
it shows a split-ergative system.
Sentences with a first or second person pronoun have their verb arguments marked for case in a pattern that mimics nominative-accusative languages. That is, the first or second person pronoun appears in the least marked case when it is the subject (regardless of the transitivity of the verb), and in the most marked case when it is the direct object. Thus Dyirbal is morphologically accusative in the first and second persons, but morphologically ergative elsewhere; and it is still always syntactically ergative.
There used to be in place a highly complex taboo system in Dyirbal culture. A speaker was completely forbidden from speaking with his/her mother-in-law, child-in-law, father's sister's child or mother's brother's child, and from approaching or looking directly at these people. In addition, a specialized and complex form of the language, with essentially the same phonemes and grammar, but with a lexicon that shared no words with the non-taboo language, was used when within hearing range of taboo relatives. It existed until about 1930 when the taboo system fell out of use.