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The Gundungurra Language   By: (1841-1918)

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( Read October 4, 1901. )

The Dhar′rook and Gun′dungur′ra tribes respectively occupied the from the mouth of the Hawkesbury river to Mount Victoria, and thence southerly to Berrima and Goulburn, New South Wales. On the south and southeast they were joined by the Thurrawal, whose language has the same structure, although differing in vocabulary.

Besides the verbs and pronouns, many of the nouns, adjectives, prepositions and adverbs are subject to inflection for number and person. Similar inflections have, to some extent, been observed in certain islands of the Pacific Ocean, but have not hitherto been reported in Australia. I have also discovered two forms of the dual and plural of the first personal pronoun, a specialty which has likewise been found in Polynesian and North American dialects. Traces of a double dual were noticed by Mr. Threlkeld at Lake Macquarie, New South Wales, and traces of a double plural by Mr. Tuckfield in the Geelong tribe; but the prevalence of both forms of the dual and plural in different parts of speech in any Australian language has, up to the present, escaped observation.


Ninteen letters of the English alphabet are sounded, comprising fourteen consonants—b, d, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, r, t, w, y—and five vowels—a, e, i, o, u. Every word is spelled phonetically, the letters having the same value as in English, with the following qualifications:

Unmarked vowels have the usual short sound.

Vowels having the long sound are distinguished by the following marks:

ā as in fate ī as in pie oo as in moon â as in father ô as in pole ee as in feel ou as in loud

It is frequently difficult to distinguish between the short or unmarked sound of a and that of u. A thick or dull sound of i is occasionally met with, which closely approaches the short sound of u or a.

G is hard in every instance.

R has a rough trilled sound, as in hurrah!

Ng at the beginning of a word, as ngee=yes, has a peculiar sound, which can be got very closely by putting oo before it, as oong ee′, and articulating it quickly as ony syllable. At the end of a word or syllable it has substantially the sound of ng in our word sing.

The sound of the Spanish ñ is frequent, both at the beginning or end of a syllable.

Y, followed by a vowel, is attached to several consonants, as in dya, dyee, tyoo, etc., and is pronounced therewith in one syllable, the initial sound of the d or other consonant being retained. Y at the beginning of a word or syllable has its usual consonant value.

Dh is pronounced nearly as th in “that” with a slight sound of the d preceding it.

Nh has nearly the sound of th in “that” with an initial sound of the n.

The final h is guttural, resembling ch in the German word “joch.”

T is interchangeable with d, p with b, and g with k in most words where these letters are employed.

A sound resembling j is frequently given by the natives, which can be represented by dy or ty; thus, dya or tya has very nearly the same sound as ja.

In all cases where there is a double consonant, each letter is distinctly enunciated.

W always commences a syllable or word and has its ordinary consonant sound in all cases.

At the end of a syllable or word, ty is sounded as one letter; thus, in beety bal lee mañ, it is disappearing, the syllable beety can be obtained by commencing to say “beet ye,” and stopping short without articulating the final e, but including the sound of the y in conjunction with the t—the two letters being pronounced together as one.


The equivalents of the English articles, “a” and “the,” do not occur in this language.


Number. —Nouns have the singular, dual and plural:

(1) Singular A man Murriñ Dual A pair of men Murriñboolallee Plural Several men Murriñdyargang

(2) Singular A kangaroo Booroo Dual A pair of kangaroos Booroolallee Plural Several kangaroos Boorooyargang

It will be observed that the dual and plural suffixes vary slightly in form, according to the termination of the noun... Continue reading book >>

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