Ngadjon Language Resource

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Traditional Aboriginal Knowledge


Ngadjon Language Resource

Ngadjon vocabulary is small as is common a hunter-gatherer cultures. A great deal is communicated non-verbally. Maintaining silence in the rainforest is essential both in terms of hunting and opportunistic acquisition of protein while gathering food. broken twigs  sticks in pattern  twigs 
placed objects  objects  objects
blazes  branches ties together to form ring  markers
tracks communicate a great deal of information  green grocer cicada bio-indicatorbio-indicator  bio-indicators

Spreadsheet of all 1981 Ngadjon Words and Sources
(download and open in spreadsheet progam)
2022 - Now includes some verbs  .xls format .csv format

Spreadsheets as of April 2022  shows  1981 words plus 309 loan words

Ngadjon – English Glossary

- 1421 words

English – Ngadjon Glossary

-1421 words

A Guide to the Sounds in Ngadjon

An appeal for Open Source

Language by Category...(links open in a new window)

Animals Ngadjon – English

Birds - Ngadjon – English

Ceremony and Tradition - Ngadjon – English

Family - Ngadjon – English

Fish - Ngadjon – English

Insects and Small Creatures - Ngadjon – English

Land and Water - Ngadjon – English

Loan Words - Ngadjon – English

Parts of Body - Ngadjon – English

People - Ngadjon – English

Plants – Trees - Ngadjon – English

Plants – Other - Ngadjon – English

Reptiles and Amphibians - Ngadjon – English

Sounds - Ngadjon – English

Things We Use - Ngadjon – English

Time - Ngadjon – English

Weather and Sky - Ngadjon – English

Additional words and Place Names

Tribal and Language Name and Associations...

It should be noted that where verbs are listed, only one form is shown in the list.
Speakers of the language will be familiar with other forms.
Likewise, speakers will be aware of gender markers (bayi, balan, balam, bala) which are not shown in the list.
We would welcome a listing of more verbs but currently those that we are aware of are behind a university/ publisher paywall.
You don't have to pay to use English.
Some university students may have access to these resources

A Guide to the Sounds in Ngadjon

Note:It is essential to refer to local language speakers for accurate pronunciation of specific words and phrases. Several guides are provided dating at different times...
Professor 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.

Letter English sound as in... Ngadjon word
a above mala
aa path daaru
i sick bigin
ii yield jiinji
u put gugu
uu poor duugu
b bat buni
d desk dandu
g good gagu
j jam jawa
l lolly galbu
m mum midin
n no nigu
ng sing ngagi
ny onion nyamu, marrginy
r rag ruguju
rr Rolled “rr as in Scottish Robert the Bruce

water wana
y yellow yabun

"There are thirteen consonants - b,d,g,j,l,m,n,ny,ng,r,rr,w,y.
  1. b and m are sounds pronounced with the lips, exactly like b and m in English.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
There are only three vowel sounds, many fewer than in English. ...
  1. 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' ...
  2. 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' ...
  3. 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' ..."
from "Writing down Jirrbal and Girramay", Bob Dixon, Canberra 1978.

More from Dixon (1984 Memoirs) on pronunciation of Dyribal words...
ng is a single sound; it occurs only at the end of a syllable in English - the single sound after the vowel in sing for instance.
One way of learning how to say a word like nga "yes" (in Dyribal) is to begin with sing, add an a , and on repetition drop off the si-, thus singa. singa, nga. Unlike in the English word finger, there is no hard g sound as in nga

is a single sound, like an n and y pronounced simultaneously; it is like the sound in the middle of English onion (and is identical to the Spanish ñ)

is like d and y pronounced simultaneously; a sharper sound than that in English words like judge

is trilled or rolled r as in Scottish pronumciation

r is very close to the Australian or English pronunciation as in arrow

and w can be pronounced almost exactly as in English

i is pronounced like the vowel in English bit

is pronounced like the vowel in English took

is pronounced like the vowel in English ban

Doubling of a vowel letter indicated a lengthened vowel...

 ii is like the vowel in beat only longer

uu is like that in soup only longer

aa is like the vowel in southern English pronunciations of grass, only longer

Each vowel should be pronounced carefully and distinctly; they should never be reduced to the vowel sound of the English the, for instance


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.
The Ngadgon people classify nouns in a unique manner which has made linguists need to re-think ways in which language can be organised.

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 lines:
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" - an outline of his division of nouns is given below (based on powerpoint presentation slides)

Dyribal Noun Classification

Using Language to Suggest a View of the World
The noun "gender"diagram below may gives some insight into the way the Ngadjonji  view the world.
When a Ngadjon person enters their rainforest they enter the "greatest supermarket in the world", no specialising here,  everything they will need for their entire lives is to be found here.
They are, simultaneously, of the rainforest, the landscape, the past, present and the future, not necessarily looked at separately, but as a whole.
Males associate directly with hunted food, where to camp, defence, ritual, spiritual
Females associate with interconnectness, daily food and materials, family lines, bio-indicators
In a largely vegetarian society there is a special relationship with the plant world.
Some things durable and enduring supply messages , guidelines , tools...
and everywhere stories link things together.

Dyirbal Classification by gender scheme

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.

Tribal and Language Names

(after Dixon 1984 Memoirs with minor addenda)

Dialects of Dyirbal Other language groups..

An appeal for Open Source

from Universities and Museums: More information is out there but much, often,  for no logical reason, is now considered "copyright",  "access denied" or hidden behind "paywalls". 
The Ngadjon should have access. It is their culture.  The vast majority of cultural research, taking into account cultural sensibilities, in an enlightened society, should be open source.**)

Knowledge is pointless unless it is shared...  Shared knowledge builds bridges of understanding. .. Without understanding reconciliation is no more than a dream

Ngadjon - English Glossary    English - Ngadjon Glossary
Animals     Birds    Ceremony and Tradition     Family    Fish    Insects and Small Creatures
Land and Water    Loan Words    Parts of Body    Plants Other   Plants Trees    Reptiles and Amphibians
Scientific Names   Sounds    Things We Use    Time    Weather and Sky    Additional Words and Place Names