First ever Umpithamu dictionary published

Monday, 3 August 2020

A Dictionary of Umpithamu

A Dictionary of Umpithamu, with notes on Middle Paman, the first comprehensive dictionary of a Cape York language to be published in over two decades, has been released through the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS).

The dictionary provides detailed information about the grammar, meaning and use of Umpithamu words, generously illustrated with example sentences. All information can also be accessed through an index of English translations, organized alphabetically and thematically.

The Umpithamu language belongs to the Princess Charlotte Bay region on the east coast of Cape York Peninsula, in northeastern Australia.

‘This dictionary is the result of 17 years of work with the Umpithamu community’, says linguist Jean-Christophe Verstraete. Elaine Liddy, cultural officer for the Lamalama people, adds that ‘the dictionary is a great way to preserve the Umpithamu language. It will be a very useful resource in the Junior Ranger program, where it will allow the younger generation of Lamalama people to learn about their cultural heritage.’

The dictionary further offers phonetic transcriptions, cognates and (Middle) Paman reconstructions for most words, as well as ethnographic notes and identifications of plant and animal species, making it a significant resource for linguists, anthropologists and biologists and other disciplines.

AIATSIS CEO, Craig Ritchie, said the new book is much needed infrastructure for the cultural strengthening of Umpithamu and is significant Australia’s cultural heritage.

“A Dictionary of Umpithamu will aid the strengthening of Umpithamu, strengthening not only the words and grammar, but the cultural knowledge that is embedded in the language”, Mr Ritchie said.

“The book is a wonderful new resource for all Australians wanting to learn Umpithamu and connect with the rich and continuing Aboriginal heritage of the Charlotte Bay region of the Cape York Peninsula.”

A Dictionary of Umpithamu, with notes on Middle Paman is the latest title to be published through the Indigenous Languages Preservation: Dictionaries Project, run by AIATSIS and funded by the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA).

  • This dictionary and other titles can now be ordered online through the publishing arm of AIATSIS, Aboriginal Studies Press.

Media enquiries

commsmedia@aiatsis.gov.au or 0476 843 522.

Last reviewed: 3 Aug 2020