The Wiradyuri and Other Languages of New South Wales
by Robert Hamilton Mathews
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By R. H. Mathews, L.S., Corres. Memb. Anthrop. Soc., Washington, U.S.A.

Synposis.—Introductory.—Orthography.—The Wiradyuri Language.—The Burreba-burreba Language.—The Ngunawal Language.—Vocabulary of Wiradyuri Words.—Vocabulary of Ngunawal Words.

The native tribes speaking the Wiradyuri language occupy an immense region in the central and southern portions of New South Wales. For their eastern and northern boundaries the reader is referred to the map accompanying my paper to the American Philosophical Society in 1898.[1] The western boundary is shown on the map with my article to the Royal Society of New South Wales the same year.[2] Their southern limit is represented on the map attached to a paper I transmitted to the Anthropological Society at Washington in 1898.[3] The maps referred to were prepared primarily to mark out the boundaries of the social organisation and system of marriage and descent prevailing in the Wiradyuri community, but will also serve to indicate the geographic range of their language.

The Wiradyuri language is spoken over a greater extent of territory than any other tongue in New South Wales, and the object of the present monograph is to furnish a short outline of its grammatical structure. I have included a brief notice of the Burreba-burreba language, which adjoins the Wiradyuri on the west. A cursory outline is also given of the language of the Ngunawal tribe, which bounds the Wiradyuri on a portion of the east. The Kamilaroi tribes, whose language I recently reported to this Institute,[4] adjoin the Wiradyuri on the north.

In all the languages treated in this article, in every part of speech subject to inflexion, there are double forms of the first person, of the dual and plural, similar in character to what have been reported from many islands in Polynesia and Melanesia, and the tribes of North America. Separate forms for "we two," and "he and I," were observed by Rev. James Guenther among the pronouns of the Wiradyuri natives at Wellington,[5] but as he does not mention anything of the kind in the plural, we may conclude that he did not observe it.

The materials from which this paper has been prepared have been gathered by me while travelling through various parts of the Wiradyuri country, for the purpose of visiting and interviewing the old native men and women who still speak the native tongue, from whom I noted down all the information herein reproduced. When the difficulties encountered in obtaining the grammar of any language which is purely colloquial are taken into consideration, I feel sure that all necessary allowances will be made for the imperfections of my work.

The initiation ceremonies of the Wiradyuri tribes, which are of a highly interesting character, have been fully described by me in contributions to several societies and other learned institutions.[6]

It will be as well to state that in 1892, Dr. J. Fraser, from the MSS. of the late Rev. James Guenther, published some gramatical rules and a vocabulary of the Wiradyuri language. This forms part of a volume entitled An Australian Language (Sydney, 1892), Appendix, pp. 56-120.

Mr. E. M. Curr published several vocabularies collected in different parts of the Wiradyuri territory.—The Australian Race, vol. iii, pp. 363-401.


The system of orthoepy adopted is that recommended by the Royal Geographical Society, London, with the following qualifications:

Ng at the beginning of a word or syllable has a peculiar sound, which I have previously illustrated.[7] At the end of a syllable or word, it has substantially the sound of ng in "sing."

Dh and nh have nearly the sound of th in "that," with a slight initial sound of the d or n as the case may be.

Ty and dy at the commencement of a word or syllable, as dyirril (a spear), has nearly the sound of j. At the end of a word, as gillaty (to-day), ty or dy is pronounced nearly as tch in the word "batch," but omitting the final hissing sound.

w always commences a syllable or word, and has its ordinary sound. G is hard in all cases. R has a rough trilled sound, as in "hurrah!"

The sound of the Spanish n is frequent. At the commencement of a syllable or word I have given it as ny, but when terminating a word I have used the Spanish letter.

T is interchangeable with d; p with b; and g with k in most words where they are used.

As far as possible, vowels are unmarked, but in some instances, to avoid ambiguity, the long sound of a, e and u are indicated thus: a, e, u. In a few cases the short sound of u is marked u. Y at the beginning of a word has its ordinary consonant value.

The Wiradyuri Language.


There are no articles, properly so-called, in the language. The demonstratives "this" and "that" do duty for our "a" and "the." If it be desired to definitely say that only one is meant, the numeral, ngunbai, is employed.

In all the sentences illustrating the cases of nouns and other parts of speech in this paper, the demonstratives are omitted. A native would say, "Man [that over yonder] beat child [this in front]," the proper demonstratives being inserted where illustrated by the brackets.


Number.—There are three numbers, singular, dual and plural. Wamboin, a kangaroo. Wamboinbula a couple of kangaroos. Wamboingirbang, several kangaroos.

Gender.—In human family different words are used, as men or gibir, a man; bulladyeru or inar, a woman; birrengang, a boy; ingargang, a young girl; yiramurung, a youth; megai, a maiden; burai, a child.

Among animals, word are used signifying "male" and "female" respectively. Wille bidyur, a buck opossum; wille gunal, a doe opossum. Ngurun burramai, hen emu; ngurun bidyur, a cock emu.

Case.—The cases are the nominative, nominative-agent, genitive, accusative, instrumental dative and ablative.

The nominative simply names the person or thing under attention, as, mirri or burumain, a dog; burrandang, a native-bear; wille or womburan, an opossum; wagan, a crow; bulgang or burgan, a boomerang.

The nominative-agent requires a suffix to the noun, as, gibirru womburan dhe, a man an opossume ate. Bulladyerudu dhurung bume, a woman a snake struck (or killed). Inarru wille dharalgiri, a woman an opossum will eat. Burrandangu gurril dhara, a native-bear leaves is eating. Mirridu wille buddhe, a dog an opossum bit.

Genitive.—Mengu bulgang, a man's boomerang. Bulladyerugu kunne, a woman's yamstick. Burrandanggu bullung, a native-bear's head.

Dative.—Dhurrangu, to the creek (dhurrang). Ngurangu, to the camp (ngurang).

Ablative.—Dhurrandyi, from the creek; ngurandyi, from the camp. In this case, and also in the dative, the final g of both words is omitted before applying the suffix.

The accusative is the same as the simple nominative, as will be seen by the examples given under the nominative-agent.

Instrumental.—When an instrument is the remote object of the verb, the accusative remains unchanged, but the instrumental case takes the same suffix as the nominative-agent; thus, mendu wagan burgandu bume, the man hit a crow with a boomerang. Inarru burumain kunnedu bangabe, the woman cut a dog with a yamstick.

In the above examples, as well as in the sentences illustrating the nominative-agent, it will be seen that the agent suffix has euphonic changes according to the termination of the word it is attached to. This may be said of the suffixes in all the cases of nouns and adjectives.


Adjectives take the same inflexions for number and case as the nouns they qualify, and are placed after them. They are without gender.

Womboin munun, a kangaroo large. Womboinbula mununbula, a pair of large kangaroos. Womboinmuddu mununmuddu, several large kangaroos.

Burumaindu munundu womburan buddhe, a dog large an opossum bit. Inarru bubadyallu burai bume, a woman small a child beat.

Womboingu munungu dhun, a large kangaroo's tail.

A big waterhole, dha-u munun. Dha-ugu munungu, to a big waterhole. Dha-wadyi munundyi, from a big waterhole.

Comparison.—Nyila murrumbangbun-gan, this is vey good. Nyilangai murrumbang wirrai, that is not good. If the articles compared be equal in quality, a native would say, This is good—that is good, and so on.


Pronouns are inflected for number and person, and comprise the nominative, possessive and objective cases, a few examples in each of which will be given. There are forms in the dual plural to express the inclusion or exclusion of the person addressed.


Nominative. Possessive. Objective. 1st Person I Ngadhu Mine Ngadyi Me Ngunnhal. 2nd " Thou Ngindu Thine Nginnu Thee Nginyal. 3rd " He Ngagwa His Ngagwaiula Him Ngunnungga.


1st Person We, incl. Ngulli Ours, incl. Ngulliging Us, incl. Ngullinya. We, excl. Ngulliguna Ours, excl. Ngulligingula Us, excl. Ngullinyuggu. 2nd " You Ngindubla Yours Nginnubulala You Nginyalbula. 3rd " They Ngagwainbula Theirs Ngagwabulagu Them Ngunnainbula.


1st Person We, incl. Ngeani Ours, incl. Ngeaniging Us, incl. Ngeaninyagu. We, excl. Ngeaniguna Ours, excl. Ngeaniginguna Us, excl. Ngeaninyaguna. 2nd " You Ngindugir Yours Nginnugir You Nginyalgir. 3rd " They Ngagwainguler Theirs Ngagwagulaia Them Ngunnagulella.

There are other forms of the objective case meaning "from me," "with me," "towards me," etc., which have numerous modifications.

The extended forms of the pronouns given in the above table are not much used as separate words, except in answer to interrogatives, or assertively. Ngulliguna might, for example, be given in answer to the question, "Who killed the kangaroo?" "Whose boomerang is this?" might elicit the reply, Ngaddyi.

In a common conversation, however, the pronominal affixes are employed.

The third personal pronouns have several forms and are subject to much variation, depending upon the position of the parties referred to. Many of them are practically demonstratives.

Interrogatives.—Who, ngandi? Who (agent), nganduwa? Who (dual), nganduwanbula? Who (plural), nganduwandugir? Who for, ngandigula? Whose is this, ngangunginna? Nganduga is equivalent to "I wonder who?" or "I don't know who." Who from, ngangundiburrami? What, minyang? What is that, minyawanna? What for, minyangula? What from, minyalli? How many (what number), minyanggulman?

Demonstratives.—The following are a few examples:—This, nginna. These (dual), nginnabula. This other one, nginnagwal. From this, nginnalidhi. Belonging to this, nginnagula. With this, nginnadhurai. That, ngunnila. That other one, ngunniloagwal. That yonder, ngunnainbirra. A native will frequently state the location of an article by its compass direction from a particular tree or other well-known spot.

These demonstratives are very numerous—many of them being used as pronouns of the third person, and are declined for number, person, and case. They also vary according to the position of the object referred to in regard to the speaker, and likewise change with the relative position of the object to the person addressed.

In all parts of aboriginal speech, words are occasionally met with so closely alike in pronunciation that it is almost impossible for any one but a native to detect the difference.


The moods are the indicative, imperative, conditional, and infinitive. The verb stem and a contraction of the necessary pronouns are incorporated, and the words thus formed are used in the conjugation. These are, however, modifications of the affixed particles in the past and future tenses to express differences in time.

In the following conjugation of the verb "to beat" the present tense is given in full. In the past and future tenses, one example in the first person singular is thought sufficient, because any required person and number in each tense can be obtained by following the directions given in the text.

Indicative MoodPresent Tense.

Singular 1st Person I beat Bumurradhu. 2nd " Thou beatest Bumurrandu. 3rd " He beats Bumurragwa. Dual 1st Person We, incl., beat Bumurrali. We, excl., beat Bumurraliguna. 2nd " You beat Bumurrandubla. 3rd " They beat Bumurragwainbula. Plural 1st " We, incl., beat Bumurrani. We, excl., beat Bumurraniguna. 2nd " You beat Bumurrandugir. 3rd " They beat Bumurragwainguler.

Past Tense.

1st Person I beat just now Bumulbendhu. Singular, I beat this morning Bumulngurrindhu. I beat yesterday Bumulgwandhu. I beat, indefinite Bumedhu. I beat long ago Bumulgridyu.

Dhu, softened to dyu in some cases, is a contraction of ngadhu.

Future Tense.

1st Person I will beat, indefinite Bumulgiridyu. Singular, I will beat, soon Bumulyawagiridyu. I will beat in the morning Bumulngurrigiridu.

Owing to the several inflections of the verb in the past and future tneses, for immediate, proximate, and more or less remote times of the performance of the action,[8] it is often found convenient, especially when speaking in the dual or plural, to prefix a complete pronoun from the table of pronouns. Thus, instead of saying, Bumulbenli, a native frequently expresses it, Ngulli bumulben. Again, instead of saying, Bumulgiriniguna, he would use, Ngeaniguna bumulgiri. This leaves the termination of the verb freer for the numerous inflexions.

Imperative Mood.

Singular Beat thou Buma. Dual Beat you Bumandubla. Plural Beat you Bumandugir.

Conditional Mood.

Perhaps I will beat. Yama bumulgiridyu.

Infinitive Mood.

To beat Bumulli.


There is a reflex form of the verb, as when one does anything to himself:

I am beating myself Bumungadyillindyu.


The dual and plural contain a reciprocal form of the verb, as where two or more persons beat each other:

We, (dual excl.,) are beating each other Ngulliguna bumullen. We, (pl. excl.,) are beating each other Ngeaniguna bumullen.

There is no passive. The sentence, A woman was bitten by a dog, is expressed by, A dog bit a woman.

The prohibitive or negative in all the moods, tenses, and numbers is obtained by using the word Kurria with the verb, thus: Kurria buma, beat not. Kurria bumulgiridyu, I will not beat. Another form is used where there is uncertainty, as, Wirraigurra bumulgiridyu, which expressed the meaning "I don't think I will beat," or, "Perhaps I will not."

Murrung nginyadhu has the meaning of "I am well," and may be called a substitute for our verb "to be." By incorporating yalu with this expression, it makes it more emphatic, as, Yalu murrung nginyadhu, "Really I am well." Any adjective describing a human attribute may be taken as a predicate, as, good, bad, strong, sleepy, and employed with the modifications of the word nginya.


A number of prepositions are independent words, as: Behind, yabbungura. In front, willidya. Across, dargin. Around, waiangadha. Outside, or, on the other side, ngunningura. Inside, muguma. This side, nginnungaradha. Billaga ngunningura, the other side of the creek. On the right, bumalgala. On the left, mirrangur. Ahead, banganan. In the rear, ngunnagangura.

Frequently the verb includes the meaning of a preposition, as in the following examples:

Ngadhu ngadyen dyirramuddyi gullegiri, I that hill go-up-will. Ngadhu dyila dyirramuddyi birrawagiri, I that hill go-down-will. Ngadhu ngidyi gigulle waiangugiri, I that tree go-round-will. Ngeani birgudyi wurungiri, We (pl. incl.) the scrub through-will-go. Ngulliguna billadyi errugiri, We (dual excl.,) the creek will-cross. Ngadhu dyirramudyi ngagungurgu gulleamurrigiri, I will climb over the hill.


The following are a few of the adverbs, some of which are inflected for number, case, and tense: Wirrai, no. Ngaiin, yes. Yandhal, now. Dhallan, soon. Yere, to-day. Ngurrungal, the morning. Yeregwala, yesterday. Ngunnigunala, day before yesterday. Ngunnungalagal, day after to-morrow. Murradhulbul, long ago. Buruandhangga, night-time.

Here (now), nginna. Here (was), nginni. This way, dhain. Farther away, ngunna. Still farther, ngunneng. A good way off, ngunnagunalla. There in the rear, ngunnagangura. These pronominal adverbs, like the demonstrative pronouns, are very numerous and also include the points of the compass.

How, _widdyallangalu?_ How thou, _widdyawandu?_ How you (dual), _widdyawandubla?_ How you (plural), _widdyawandugir?_ How obtained, _widdyunggurrunda burramai?_ _Widdyunggawa has the meaning of "when?"

Where is it, dhagawana? Where (having the meaning of "which one,") dhagala? Where are thou, dhagawandu? Where are you (dual), dhagawandubla? Where are you (plural), dhagawandugir? From where, dhadyindaburramai? Where art thou from, dhadyigalliwandu? Where is the camp, dhagawa ngurung?


Yah! calling attention. Wai! look out. Wah! ngarrarbang! Ah! poor fellow! Listen, winnangga! Any vocative can be inflexed for number.


Ngunbai, one; bulla, two.

The Burreba-Burreba Language.

The Burreba-burreba is spoken from about Deniliquin to Moulamein, and from the latter southerly towards the Murray river. The following is a sketch of its grammatical structure. A dialect of this language, called Bureba, is spoken on the Murray river, near Swan Hill.

Number.—There are the singular, dual, and plural numbers. Wille, an opossum; willebulet, a pair of opossums; willebarak, or willeguli, several opossums.

Gender.—Wuthu, a man; leurk, a woman; bangga, a boy; kurregurk, a girl; buban, a child of either sex; wuthuginbal, means a man and his wife. The gender of mammals and birds is marked by adding mamuk for male, and babuk for female; thus, gure mamuk, a buck kangaroo; gure babuk, a doe kangaroo.

Case.—The language has the nominative, nominative-agent, genitive, accusative, instrumental, dative and ablative cases. In the nominative, there is no change in the noun, except when it is the subject of a transitive verb, and then it requires the agent-suffix; as, Wuthung wirrungan burdumin, a man a dog beat; leuru wirringal kurgin, a woman a perch caught; wirrunganu gure bundin, a dog a kangaroo bit.

In the possessive case, the name of the proprietor and of the property each take a suffix, as, Wuthunggety wanuk, a man's boomerang; leurgety larnuk, a woman's camp; wirrungangety birkuk, a dog's tail.

Instrumental.—This is the same as the nominative-agent, thus, Ngaty gure duggin wanu, I a kangaroo hit with a boomerang.

Dative.—larngak, to a camp. Ablative.—wuthunyu, from a man. The accusative is the same as the nominative.


Adjectives follow the nouns and take similar declensions.

Number.—Wuthu kurumbirt, a man large. Wuthubulet kurumbirtbulet, a couple of big men. Wuthubarak kurumbirtbarak, several big men.

Nominative-agent.—Wuthung kurumbirru wille burdumin, a large man an opossum killed.

Possessive.—Wuthunggety kurumbirungety wanuk, a big man's boomerang.

_Ablative_.—Wuthunyung kurumbirung_, from a big man.

The comparison of adjectives follows rule similar to those explained in my article on "The Gundungurra Language."[9]

It will be observed that there are modifications in the case-endings of nouns and adjectives, depending upon the termination of the word declined. Moreover, these suffixes for number and case are applied to the simple nominative—not the nominative-agent.


Pronouns take inflexion for number, person and case. There are two forms in the first person of the dual and plural—one in which the person or persons addressed are included with the speaker, and another in which they are exclusive of the speaker; these are marked "incl." and "excl." in the following table:


1st Person I Ngaty Mine yekaiuk. 2nd " Thou Ngin Thine Ngindaiuk. 3rd " He Malu His Maigungety.


1st Person We, incl. Ngal Ours, incl. Ngallaiuk. We, excl. Ngalung Ours, excl. Ngallunguk. 2nd " You Ngluen Yours Ngulaiuk. 3rd " They Malubulak Theirs Magaty-bulagaty.


1st Person We, incl. Yangur Ours, incl. Yangureuk. We, excl. Yandang Ours, excl. Yandeuk. 2nd " You Ngut Yours Nguteuk. 3rd " They Malugulik THeirs Ngugaty-guligaty.

Interrogatives.—Who, winyar? (singular)—winyarbula (dual) and winyartukuli (plural). What, nganyu? which also has a dual and plural form.

Demonstratives.—This, ginga, which has a dual and plural suffix. Malu, that; kila, that near you. Munya, that farther away. Kigety, belonging to that. Kigety-bulugety, belonging to those two. Kigety-guligety, belonging to all those.


Verbs have the same tenses and moods as those of the Wiradyuri, as will be demonstrated in the conjugation of the verb "to beat." In the Burreba-burreba verb there are, however, no regular modifications of the past and future tenses, such meanings being expressed by separate words.

Active VoiceIndicative Mood.

Present Tense.

1st Person I beat Ngaty tyilba. 2nd " Thou beatest Ngin tyilba. 3rd " He beats Malu tyilba.

Past Tense.

1st Person I beat Ngaty tyilbin.

Future Tense.

1st Person I will beat Ngaty tyilben.

Imperative Mood.

Beat, tyilbak. Beat not, burreba tyilbak.

Conditional Mood.

Perhaps I will beat, Ngaty tyilben mumbun.

In all the foregoing examples, the remaining persons and numbers of the verb can be supplied by the table of pronouns.

Middle VoiceIndicative Mood.

Present Tense.

Singular. I am beating myself. Tyilbanyungbenggat.

The conjugation can be continued through all the moods, tenses, etc., the same as in the indicative mood.


We two (incl.) are beating each other, Tyilptyerrungal. We all (incl.) are beating each other, Tyilptyerrungungur.

There are forms for all the persons and tenses.


Yes, ngungui. No, burreba. To-day, gillaty. To-morrow, perbur. Yesterday, dyelli-dyellik. By and bye, gillandam. Some time ago, gillenadya. Long ago, yagaluk-wanda. Where, windyella? (singular); windyellaubul? (dual); windyellat? (plural). How many, nyabur? Here, kingga. There, nyua.


One, kaiapmin. Two, buletya.

Initiation Ceremonies and Marriage Laws.

The initiation ceremonies of the Burreba-burreba are the same in all essential respects as those of the Wiradyuri tribes, which I have described in detail elsewhere.[10] The social organisation is also similar to the Wiradyuri, comprising two phratries, each of which is subdivided into two sections, as exemplified in the following synopsis:—

Phratry. A man. Marries Sons and Daughters. A Murri Ippatha Umbi and Butha. Kubbi Butha Ippai and Ippatha. B Ippai Matha Kubbi and Kubbitha. Umbi Kubbitha Murri and Matha.

Although marriages generally follow the above rules, yet in certain cases Murri can marry Butha, and Kubbi may take Ippatha as his spouse— a similar liberty being allowed the men of phratry B. Again, where there is no objection arising from nearness of kin, a Murri man may marry a Matha woman, but her totem must be different from his, and she must belong to a distant family. This applies to the men of every section. By the strict letters of the foregoing table, it would appear that the child of a brother can marry the child of a sister, but this is rigorously forbidden—the table being construed to mean that a brother's child's child marries a sister's child's child.

Each phratry has attached to it a group of totems, consisting of animals and inanimate objects. Every man, woman, and child in the community has his particular totem, which is inherited from birth. For further information on this subject the reader is referred to numerous papers contributed by me to different scientific societies.

The Ngunawal Language.

The native tribes speaking the Ngunawal tongue occupy the country from Goulburn to Yass and Burrowa, extending southerly to Lake George and Goodradigbee.

In a contribution to the Anthropological Society at Washington in 1896, described the Bunan ceremony,[11] an elaborate type of initiation practised by the Ngunawal in common with other communities. In 1900 I published an account of the Kudsha[12] or Kuddya, an abridged form of inaugural ceremony which is likewise in force among the same people. The social organisation regulating marriage and descent, which I described in the last mentioned article,[13] also applies to the Ngunawal.

The Ngunawal is one of an aggregate of tribes whose sacred songs I have learnt and published, with the accompanying music, in an article I communicated to the Royal Geographical Society of Queensland in 1901.[14] These are the first sacred songs of the Australian Aborigines which have ever been set to music.


Number.—Nouns have three numbers. Mirri, a dog; mirribula, a couple of dogs; mirridyimma, several dogs.

Gender.—Baual, a man; bullan, a woman. Words for "male" and "female" distinguish the gender of animals, as, gurabun muddun, a bear, male; gurabun dhuruk, a bear, female.

Case.—The principal cases are the nominative, causative, instrumental, genitive, accusative, dative and ablative.

The nominative is the name of the sbuject at rest, and is without flexion.

The causative, or nominative-agent, represents the subject in action, as, bullanga gudha ngubumuin, a woman a child beat.

Instrumental.—Baualga burraingu nguburin dyuinga, a man a wallaby killed with a spear. Here the instrument, a spear, takes the same suffix as the causative. The wallaby, burrai, takes the genitive affix, as being the possessor or recipient of the killing.

Accusative.—Except in such instances as the wallaby in the last example, the accusative is the same as the nominative.

The genitive case is represented by an affix to the name of the property as well as to that of the owner, a peculiarity which I was the first to report[15] in Australian languages. Baualngu mirriwung, a man's dog.

Every object over which ownership may be exercised can be declined for number and person, as under:— Singular 1st Person My dog (dog my) Mirridya. 2nd " Thy dog Mirridyi. 3rd " His dog MIrriwung. and so on through all the persons of the dual and plural.

If a couple or more articles be claimed, an infix is inserted between the noun root and the possessive affix, thus: Mirribuladya, dogs both mine; mirridyimmadya, dogs several mine.

Dative.—Ngurani munnagai, to the camp come.

Ablative.—Ngurawurradyi yerribiwurri, from the camp go away.


Adjectives follow the qualified nouns, and are inflected in the same manner for number and case. Buru mununmang, a kangaroo large; burubula mununbula, a couple of large kangaroos; burudyimma munundyimma, several large kangaroos.

Casuative.Baualga mununga mirri ngubuningga, a man large a dog will beat. The other cases are also declined like the nouns. Frequently one of the affixes, both in number and case, is omitted sometimes the affix of the noun, and in other instances that of the adjective, being thus eliminated, according to the euphony of the expression.

A predicative adjective becomes an intransitive verb, and is conjugated accordingly. An example in the singular will be sufficient:

Singular 1st Person I am large Mununmangga. 2nd " Thou art large Mununmandyi. 3rd " He is large Mununman.

Comparison of adjecitves is effected by such expressions as, Gudba ngunu, yeddhung nin, bad this, good that. Yeddhung madi ngunu, this is very good.


These are declined for number, person and case, but are without gender. They contain the inclusive and exclusive forms in the first person of the dual and plural:

Singular 1st Person I Gulangga. 2nd " Thou Gulandyi. 3rd " He Dhanu.

Examples in the dual and plural are omitted, as their terminations will appear in the conjugation of the verbs. The foregoing full forms of the pronouns are used chiefly in answer to a question. In ordinary conversation the pronominal suffixes to verbs, nouns and other parts of speech, supply their place.

Towards, or with, me, gulangguria. Away from me, gulangguridyia. Belonging to me, gulangguia. Myself, mittimbaldya, and so on. All these can be inflected for number and person.

Demonstratives.—These may be classed under different heads, of which the following are a few examples:

Position.—Ngunu, this, close. Ngunubun, this also. Nin, that. Ninwulu, that only. Wurranaguddha, that, a little way off. Warranandiwang, that, farther still. Mudhamaguwarri, a long way off.

Direction.—Ngunaga, that (in rear of speaker). Barunggo, that (in front of speaker). Ngunainbil, that this side (of something). Nguna-au, that on other side (of something). Gagurwarru, that in the hollow. Warrugunnawang, that on the rising ground, or hill.

Size.—Warranalang, that large one. Warranuggada, that small one.

Possessive.—Ningulangu, belonging to that. Warranalangu, belonging to that large one. Nidyulangu, belonging to those two persons.

Number.—Warranungulu, those two. Warradyimmilan, those several animals or things.

Person.—Ngunadya, this mine. Ngunadyi, this thine. Ngunawung, this his.

"This" and "that" in all the foregoing examples can also mean "here" and "there" according to the context.

Interrogatives.—Who, ngunnaga? Whose, ngunnagangu? Who from, ngunnaganguridyi? What, minya? What (did something), minyaga?


The verb has the usual moods and tenses, and is inflected throughout for number and person. In the first person of the dual and plural there is a variation in the affix to the verb to indicate the inclusion or exclusion of the person spoken to.

Indicative MoodPresent Tense.

Singular 1st Person I beat Ngubumangga. 2nd " Thou beatest Ngubumandyi. 3rd " He beats Ngubuman. Dual 1st Person We, incl., beat Ngubumanga. We, excl., beat Ngubumangalu. 2nd " You beat Ngubumanbu. 3rd " They beat Ngubumanbula. Plural 1st Person We, incl. beat, Ngubumanyin. We, excl. beat, Ngubumanyilla. 2nd " You beat Ngubumanhu. 3rd " They beat Ngubumandyula.

Past Tense.

1st Person I beat, indefinite Nguburingga. Singular, I beat recently Ngubumuingga. I beat going along Ngubunyirringga. I beat long ago Nguburiangga.


I will beat, indefinite Ngubuningga. I will beat soon Ngubumunningga.

The inflections extend through all the persons and numbers of the past and future tenses by means of the suffixed particles shown in the present tense.


Singular Beat thou Ngubi. Dual Beat you Ngubidyaiau. Plural Beat you Ngubidyaianhu. Negative or prohibitive Beat not Ngubimuga.

Conditional Mood.

Perhaps I will beat Ngubuninggawundu.


I am beating myself Ngubuwillimangga. I was beating myself Ngubuwilliringga. I will beat myself Ngubuwilliningga. and so on for the other persons and numbers. Imperative.—Beat thyself Ngubuwilli.


Dual We, excl., beat each other Ngubuwillaringalung. Plural We, excl., beat each other Ngubuwillarinyilla.

Imperative reciprocal.

Dual Beat each other Ngubilliau. Plural Beat each other Ngubillianhu.

An infix, muga, between the stem of the verb and the termination, gives a negative meaning, as, Ngubumugamangalu, we, dual exclusive, did not beat.

There is no passive form of the verb, all sentences being in the active voice, thus, instead of saying, "A boomerang was thrown by the man," the phrase would be, "The man threw a boomerang."

The verb is inflected for the same number as the noun. A kangaroo saw I, buru nangurringga. A pair of kangaroos saw I, burumbla nangurringbla. Several kangaroos saw I, burulula nangurringdyula.

Different shades of meaning are imparted to verbs by additions to the affixes: I was eating going along, dhaimballinyirrimuingga. I beat before (some event), ngubururingawung. I beat after (some event), ngubullaringawung. I threw frequently, yerrimbillidyingga. I was throwing alone, yerrilimuingga. I am always beating, ngubadyingga.


Yes, ngi. No, gurragan. Now, yanggu. Yesterday, burranda. By and by, gaugau. Long ago, nudyina. Always, bulu.

How, ngindyin. How many, or what number, wunnamalan. Where, wunda. Certainly, ganni. Then, yanbi. Very or really, madi. Perhaps, wundu. Not, muga. When, wundin.

Certain adverbs can be inflected for person and number, thus: Where shall I go? Wundayerrabunningga? Where shalt thou go? Wundayerrabunnindyi? Where shall he go? Wundayerrabunnin? and so on for all persons and numbers.


On top, gunna. Down, dhugga. Between, dhuri. Behind me, bengalwarria. Outside, bunnungga. Out of that, barridyi. In rear of me, wullingaia. In here, ngunna. In or under there, ngunnin.

Words meaning "is here," "was here," "will be here," also exist in this language.

Many prepositions can be inflected for number and person: Singular 1st Person In front of me Ngunalundya. 2nd " In front of thee Ngunalundyi. 3rd " In front of him Ngunalung. and so on through the dual and plural.


Ya! calling attention.—Bungamugi, cease!


One, meddhung. Two, bullala.

Vocabulary of Wiradyuri Words.

This vocabulary contains about 430 words collected personally among the Wiradyuri natives on the Lachlan, Macquarie, and Murrumbidgee rivers. Instead of arranging the words alphabetically they are placed together under separate headings:—Family terms—Parts of the body— Natural objects—Animals—Trees—Weapons—Adjectives—Verbs. As the equivalents of English terms will most frequently be required they are put first.[16]


A man gibir or men. Old man bidyar. Husband nguban. Clever man wiardhuri. Young man walwi. Small boy gibirgang. Woman inar or buladyeru. Old woman buddung. Girl gunnadhurai. Child, either sex burai. Father bubbin. Mother guni. Elder brother gagang. Younger brother galbuman. Elder sister min-gan. Younger sister barrigan. Infirm old person gugun.


Head bullang. Forehead ngulung. Hair of head wuran. Beard yerran. Eye mill. Eyebrow nyer. Eyelid milk-kuruganna. Eyelash dyirmir. Nose murudha. Nostrils mirral-mirril. Cheek dhuggal. Lower jaw nhami. Back of neck nhun. Throat guddhe. Ear wudha. Mouth ngun. Lips willin. Tongue thallun. Teeth irang. Liver guralu. Kidneys munggar. Breasts, female ngammung. Heart gen. Navel birran. Navel-string gural. Belly burbing. Ribs dhur. Middle of back wangan. Back birra. Shoulder wulgar. Arm buggur. Elbow nyuna. Armpit gilgin. Hand murra. Wrist dhummal. Little finger budyen. Thumb gunin. Finger nail yulu. Calf of leg wuluma. Thigh dhurrang. Knee bungang. Kneecap gurigurer. Shin buyu. Foot dyinnang. Big toe gunin. Heel dhungang. Intestines burbin. Blood go-an. Fat wammo. Skin yulun. Bone dhubbul. Buttocks mugun. Anus bubul. Groin gulin. Penis dhun. Glans penis nyiren. Testicles biddha. Sexual desire wurrunha. Fornication yungurrang. Vulva thundu. Nymphae dyurun. Meatus urinarius munil. Pubic hair bui. Copulation tharralabena. Semen gubbung. Masturbation kuddiguddimunna. Urine kil. Excrement kuna. Venereal buggin.


Sun yere. Moon gyu-wong. Stars, collectively mimma. Pleiades inar-inharr. Venus gibirgun. Rainbow yulubirgin. Clouds yuru. Sky gununggullung. Thunder muruburrai. Lightning maru. Rain yurung. Dew gunggil. Mist guddhalbar. Fog guang. Snow gunama. Frost dyuggar. Hail ilwurrai. Cloud yurong. Water gulling. Ground dhuggun. Mud bingan. Stones wallung. High hill dyirrama. Sand-hill gurrai. Light ngullan. Sunshine iradadhuna. Darkness buruandhang. Heat wugil. Cold bulludhai. Fire wi. Smoke guddhal. Camp ngurung. Hut gundyi. Food dhungang. Flesh dhin. Watercourse dhurrang. Grass, collectively bogarru. Trees, collectively gigil. Bark of trees dhurang. Firewood gigil. Ashes bunun. Charcoal ngurra. Leaves of trees gurril. Eggs kubbuga. Honey ngurru. Edible grub dhumun. Pathway muru. Shadow guramun. Tail of animal dhun. Echo warrul. Fur of opossum, etc. gidyung. Spines of porcupine girrigul. Scales of fish yirin.


Native bear _burrandang_. Wombat _bunggada_. Dog _burumain_ or _mirri_. Wild dog _yuke_. Opossum _womboran_ or _wille_. Water rat _biggun_. Kangaroo rat _gulbo_. Native cat (black & white) _mabi_. Native cat (yellow & white_ _dhalbirrang_. Porcupine _gunyi_. Wallaby _murriwan_ Flying fox _bullauir_. Platypus _dhumbirrity_. Bandicoot _gudyun_. Flying squirrel, small _budharung_. Ringtail opossum _gindang_. Kangaroo _womboin_. Wallaroo _gundharwar_. Red kangaroo _murri_.


Birds, collectively dyibbin. Crow wagan. Laughing jackass guguburra. Curlew gurebun. Plain turkey gumbal. Mallee hen yunggai. Quail gunama. Plain lark dyilburi. Lark buraigarama. Eaglehawk mullian. Emu ngurun. Native companion burolgang. Common magpie gurruba. Black magpie wibu. Peewee guliridyi. Black duck budhanbang. Pelican gulaiguli. Ibis bururgen. Swan dhundhu. Mopoke ngugung. Pigeon (bronze wing) yammar or wubba. Rosella parrot bulanbulangang. Ground parrot buran. Green parrot gunungburdyang. Parrokeet dhungan. Common hawk walga. Fish hawk bibbidya. Kingfisher dhalir. White cockatoo muran. Plover bullaradyara. Blue crane murgu. Grey crane burragang or gungarung.


Perch gagalen. Black bream gubir.


Tree iguana gugar. Ground iguana guda or dhuli. Jew lizard nhurran. Sleepy lizard burrendhar. Shingle-back lizard buggai. Death adder dhummin. Frog gulangga. Turtle gudumang. Carpet snake yubba. Black snake Kullendyulin or budhang. Brown snake warraleng. Common grey lizard guddhan.


Locust, large kalangkalang Locust, small inggal. Blowfly buga. Louse munhu. Nit of louse thundin. Jumper ant yalgo. Bulldog ant burungang. Centipede gen. Mosquito kummun. Scorpion dhunbun. Greenheaded ant gunama. Mussel bindugan.


A "squeaking-tree" maburan. Leaning tree dhalgang. Dead tree yalgu. Hollow tree ngarl. Apple tree gubbut. Stringy bark gundai. Wattle yanagang. Ironbark muggar. Yellow-box bargang. White-box biri. Cherry-tree bumborean. White gum yarra. Jeebung bumbadhulla.


Tomahawk dhauain. Koolamin marin. Yamstick kunnai. Spear, wood thuli. Spear, reed dyirril. Spear-thrower wommar. Spear, shield girran-girran. Waddy shield ngummal. Fighting club bundi. Hunting club birrang. Boomerang burgan, bulgang. Net bag kalbon. Fish net mia. Nose-peg bun-gal.


Alive murun. Dead bullu. Large munun or binnal. Small bubadyul. Long bamirr. Short bumbandhul. Good, right murrumbang. Bad, wrong nunnaibiddi. Hungry ngurran. Thirsty gullinginda. Red girri-girri. White burra-burra. Black budhang. Green, as grass gidyen-gidyen. Quick burrai. Slow indang-yunne. Bilnd mugin. Deaf mugudha. Strong yurdhura. Weak or light wura. Heavy bunggawal. Valiant mirringan. Afraid gelgel. Sweet nguddhai. Bitter burradyung. Straight dhulu. Crooked wulliwulli. Tired birrabumain. Silent dyilmung. Ripe yigi. Unripe gumba. Blunt edge mugu. Sharp edge yunggalli. Fat wammu. Lean nunnaigan. Hot wogil. Cold balludhai. Clear ngullar. Dirty dhuggungir. Angry dhullai. Sleepy yurai. Glad guddhang. Sorry ngurrar. Greedy miral. Grey-headed yiribang. Sick yinggal. Stinking buga. Wide munnar. Narrow kurbandul. Baldheaded gumbu. Many muddu. Few gulbir. Some bubadyul. Jealous ngulbuldhai. Lame wirgannha. Near kuginda. Far birrungga. Deep ngurambul. Shallow gunnan. Pregnant burbimbal. Hard wallan. Soft bunya. Dry burung. Wet giddha. Scarce burambe. Plentiful muddu. Easy yeddung. Difficult nhunnai.


Die bullung. Eat dhurra. Drink widyara. Sleep yurai. Stand wurrannha. Sit winya. Lie wirrinya. Come dhanyana. Go yunyunna. Talk yerra. Walk yanninna. Run bunbunna. Bring dhangangga. Take gangga. Carry dyirramurra. Make dhurburra. Break bungamurra. Beat bumulli. Fight bumullinnha. Kill bullubuni. Arise burrangga. Fall bundinya. See ngaga. Stare at muramia. Hear winnunga. Know winnungumma. Think ngunnulla. Grow yurunnha. Give ngungga. Love guraimurra-dhunganang. Hate widdabu-dyingandulla. Sing bubbilli. Weep yungga. Play wagagi. Cook gyu-walli. Marry burramullina. Cough kurra. Steal mundubang. Burn gunnannha. Beg ngundadha. Barter ngungiladha. Bite buddha. Blow with breath bumbe. Catch burrama. Climb kulliana. Conceal kurugunber. Cut bangadya. Frighten gelgel. Fly (as a bird) burrannha. Hang up bielgumbirra. Hold murama. Jump burubidya. Keep wirrimbir. Laugh gindadha. Scratch wunyadha. Leave off yalu. Lose nhunnainmi. Pinch nyimma. Praise murrambambungan. Rejoice guddhabungan. Remember winungadhunnal. Forget wangganyi. Go ahead muramuddha. Turn off waiambiddya. Turn back ngulungguggi. Send wannamumbia. Shake dyllinga. Shine gudhara. Spread billaima. Suck widyarra. Swim yawidya. Taste nguddha. Touch yude. Twist waiama. Rub nanma. Seek wurrabinya. Spit dyumber. Smell budadha. Throw birrumba. Pitch wannungga. Help yamma. Sweat ngulwai. Roast giwa. Whistle wilbuddha. Avenge dhullaibungando. Pretend or lie yambulyala. Kiss wiumbannhal. Vomit mulama. Dance wuggama. Dive wubunginya. Sting dhni. Dream yeddharmurra.

Vocabulary of Ngunawal Words.

The following vocabulary contains 290 of the most commonly used words in the Ngunawal language, with their English equivalents. Every word has been noted down carefully by myself from the lips of old men and women in the native camps.

A man murrin. Husband ma-ung. Clever man muyulung. Youth warrumbul. Boy bubal. Elder brother dyiddyang. Younger brother gugan. Elder sister dhaddung. Younger sister gulwan. A woman bullan. Wife man. Girl mullangan. Child (neuter) gudha. Children gudhaiar.


Head guddagang. Hair of head dherrung. Eye migalaity. Nose nyigity. Back of neck nhun. Throat guddity. Ear guri. Mouth dhambir. Teeth yerra. Breast, female ngumminyang. Navel nyurra. Belly bindhi. Back bengal. Arm nhurung. Hand murrangga. Fingers yulu. Finger-nails birril. Thigh dhurra. Knee ngumung. Foot dyunna. Heart gauar. Blood dyinggi. Fat bewan. Bone wiak. Penis dhun. Testicles gurra. Pubic Hair buruwarri. Sexual desire burundunnung. Copulation yangiliri. Masturbation natymiliri. Semen burung. Vulva binnan. Anus dhula. Excrement gunung. Urine dyungur. Venereal middyung.


Sun winyu. Moon kubbadang. Stars dyurra. Pleiades dyin-ding-gang. Clouds gurrang. Sky mindyigari. Thunder murungul. Lightning meup-meup. Rain garrit. Dew dyingidyirrang. Frost dhugguru. Water ngadyung. Ground dhaura. Dust dhungul. Mud murung. Stone gurbung. Sand dyardyar. Charcoal murrungga. Light dhurrawang. Darkness buranya. Heat gunnama. Cold gurrita. Dawn birrimbigang. East wind bulyanggang. West wind guraguma. Whirlwind wingguraminya. Pipeclay gubbity. Red ochre gubur. Fire kanbi. Smoke muril. Food, flesh ngulli. Food, vegetable dyaraban. Flowers gamburra. Day bural. Night kagu. Dusk dyirranggan. Grass gurwai. Leaves dyirrang. Eggs kubbugang. Honey kauanggal. A liar kwigarak. Grubs, collectively gauin. Grubs, gum tree burrung. Grub, river oak dyigung. Pathway mura. Camp nguru. Shadow of tree kumburu. Shadow of man buak. Summer winyuwangga. Winter magarawangga.


Native bear gurabun or gula. Dog mirri. Opossum wille. Kangaroo rat balbu. Native cat murugun. Bandicoot mundawari. Small rat gunnimang. Rock wallaby burrai. Porcupine burugun. Kangaroo buru. Platypus malunggang. Flying squirrel banggu. Ringtail opossum dyindan. Bat nguddya-nguddyan.


Birds, collectively budyan. Crow wagulan. Laughing jackass guginyal. Curlew warabin. Swan dyinyuk. Eaglehawk mulleun. Common magpie karrugang. Black magpie dyirrigang. Mopoke yuyu. Night owl binit-binit. Rosella parrot bunduluk. Common hawk walga. Kingfisher diktigang. Peewee giliruk. Plover bindirradirrik. Crane galu. Pheasant dyagula. Black cockatoo, small gang-gang. Black cockatoo, large wamburung. Bower-bird dyara.


Perch dhinngur. Herring berrumbunnung. Eel yumba. Gudgeon budang. Black-fish wuggar.


Water iguana dhurrawarri. Frog dyirrigurat. River lizard biddyiwang. Tree iguana wirria. Sleepy lizard muggadhang. Small lizard bunburung. Death adder muddyawit. Turtle gudamang. Carpet snake wagur. Any snake mugga. Brown snake wurungal. Black snake dyirrabity. Tiger snake berragundhang. Jew lizard nurrung. Tree snake mulundyulung.


Locust, large gulan-gulan. Locust, small dyirribrit. Mother louse gunggal. Nit of louse dyanding. Young lice maiadi. House fly menga. Bulldog ant bulbul. Jumper ant dyambity. Maggot dhurraunda. Centipede gururigang. Mussel bindugan.


Any tree ngulla. Ti-tree mudda. Wattle nummerak. Pine buggumbul. Oak dulwa. Cherry-tree mummadya. Gum-tree yerradhang. Yellow-box bargang. Honeysuckle dhulwa. Ironbark thirriwirri. Stringybark burin. Yam dharaban. Bulrushes gummiuk.


Tomahawk mundubang. Koolamin gungun. Yamstick gaualang. Spear dyuin. Spear lever womur. Spear shield bimbiang. Waddy shield murga. Fighting club kudyeru. Hunting club bundi. Boomerang berra. Net bag goan. Canoe mundang. Headband gamban. Kilt burran.


Alive mulanggari. Dead burrakbang. Large buggarabaug. Small nyerrigurang. Tall or long bamir. Low or short gungur. Good yeddung. Bad gudba. Red dhirrum dhirrum. White duggurugurak. Black buru-bura. Mad gauang. Crazy yugi-yugang. Stubborn wambarung. Valiant gurumbul. Quick burrai. Slow gunyan. Strong yurwang. Afraid dyaui-dyauty. Tired yurrity. Sharp midyir-midyir. Fat bewanbang. Lean ngauatyba. Hot winyudha. Cold gurrit. Angry yugo. Sleepy gung-gung. Glad waddhir. Sorry ngaralda. Greedy merradhin. Sick ger. Stinking bugung. Much gurung. Little muinggang. Pregnant malingilimang. True gundyaina.


Die berak. Eat dhaimbaliri. Drink wimbaliri. Sleep ngambori. Stand dharri-iri. Sit ngulla-iri. Talk dhuniai. Tell dhuniung. Walk yerrabi. Run munni. Bring munnagali. Take mali. Make bungi. Break mudyat. Chastise millai. Beat ngubi. Arise badyi. Fall down buggali. See nangi. Look naii. Hear ngurrambai. Listen wanggirrali. Give yunggi. Cook dyandai. Steal gurrangi. Request dyunggadyai. Sing yunggaballi. Weep nyimali. Blow, with breath bumbi. Blow, as wind bunima. Climb bui-i. Conceal buddai. Jump dyutbi. Laugh birrigai. Scratch birradilli. Tear bunggur. Forget walagi. Do bungi. Send iddyi. Suck bindi. Swim yerra. Fly yerra. Bathe ngaugi. Search for gadi. Spit dyugai. Smell billai. Bite burri. Play woggabaliri. Touch or catch mungga-iri. Throw yerrambi. Pitch wadhi. Whistle windi. Pretend kwigai. Vomit garrugi. Dance wagi. Dive burugi. Sting dyandi. Hunt gadali. To scent, as a dog gundali. Drive dhurali. Go yerrabi. Come munnagai. Burn gunnami. Chop gudbaiiri. Feel burrangiri.

[1] "Initiation Ceremonies of Australian Tribes," Proc. Amer. Philos. Soc., vol. xxxvi, pp. 54-73, map.

[2] "The Group Divisions and Initiation Ceremonies of the Bar-Kunjee Tribes," Journ. Roy. Soc. N.S. Wales, vol. xxxii, pp. 240-250, map. That map includes with the Wiradyuri, the territory of the Burreba-burreba tribe, because their initiation ceremonies and marriage laws are the same.

[3] "The Victorian Aborigines: their Initiation Ceremonies and Division Systems," American Anthropologist, vol. xi, pp. 325-343, map.

[4] "Languages of the Kamilaroi and Other Tribes of New South Wales," Journ. Anthrop. Inst., vol. xxxiii, p. 259.

[5] "An Australian Language" (Sydney, 1892), Appendix, p. 60.

[6] "The Burbung of the Wiradyuri Tribes," Journ. Anthrop. Inst., vol. xxv, pp. 295-318. Ibid., vol. xxvi, pp. 272-285. "The Initiation Ceremonies of the Aborigines of the Upper Lachlan," Proc. Roy. Geog. Soc. Austr., Queensland Bch., vol. xi, pp. 167-169.

"The Burbung or Initiation Ceremonies of the Murrumbidgee Tribes," Journ. Roy Soc. N.S. Wales, vol. xxxi, pp. 111-153.

"The Burbung of the Wiradhuri Tribes," Proc. Roy. Soc. Queensland, vol. xvi, pp. 35-38.

[7] "The Aboriginal Languages of Victoria," Journ. Roy. Soc. N.S. Wales, vol. xxxvi, p. 76.

[8] Compare with my "Yookumbil Language," Queensland Geog. Journ., vol. xvii, pp. 63-67.

[9] Proc. Amer. Philos. Soc., Philadelphia, vol. xl, No. 167.

[10] "The Burbung, etc., of the Murrumbidgee Tribes," Journ. Roy. Soc. N.S. Wales, vol. xxxi, pp. 111-153.

[11] American Anthropologist, vol. ix, pp. 327-334, Plate VI.

[12] Journ. Roy. Soc. N.S. Wales, vol. xxxiv, pp. 276-281.

[13] Ibid., pp. 263-364.

[14] "Aboriginal Songs at Initiation Ceremonies," Queensland Geographical Journal, vol. xvii. pp. 61-63.

[15] See my "Thurrawal Language," Journ. Roy. Soc. N.S. Wales, vol. xxxv, p. 131.

[16] Compare with my "Dharruk Language and Vocabulary," Journ. Roy. Soc. N.S. Wales, vol. xxxv, pp. 155-160.


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