The words of the Mibiny available to learn in new dictionary

Friday, 10 April 2020

The ancestral languages of the Tweed and Logan River areas of New South Wales and Queensland can be learned by new generations thanks to the Gurgun Mibinyah dictionary, published today by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS).

Gurgun Mibinyah: Yugambeh, Ngarahngwal, Ngahnduwal A dictionary and grammar of Mibiny language varieties from the Tweed to the Logan rivers, aims to support the cultural and language revitalisation of the Mibiny people and provide a valuable resource to anyone interested in learning the Aboriginal languages and heritage of the Tweed and Logan river regions.

AIATSIS CEO, Craig Ritchie said, “I am thrilled that the Mibiny people now have this dictionary, which will provide great support to their language revitalisation and cultural resurgence. In fact all Australians will be able to deepen their understanding of the Tweed and Logan river regions by reading Gurgun Mibinyah.”

The languages covered in the dictionary (Yugambeh, Ngarahngwal, Ngahnduwal) are the northern varieties of the language Yugambeh-Bundjalung, or Bandjalangic, spoken from the Tweed River area of the northeast corner of New South Wales to the Logan River area in the Gold Coast area of southern Queensland. Other dialects of this language exist down to the Clarence River, and west to Allora and Warwick.

All varieties of the language, including the Mibinyah varieties, have dropped out of regular use in the area. However, there are rich written records dating back to the nineteenth century as well as audio recordings from some areas from the later twentieth century. Speakers, partial speakers and ‘rememberers’ remain, and a few words are commonly used by local English speakers. 

'Gurgun Mibinyah' translates in English to “words of the Mibiny” and was compiled and edited by linguist, Margaret Sharpe. The book contains English translations, example sentences that illustrate their use, and a section including information about plants and animals. There is also a guide to the grammar, and an English word index.

Dr Sharpe said: “Dictionaries such as this one, relying in large part on older written sources, many by people who could not fully hear sounds that differed from the sounds of English, has at times to rely on intelligent guesses on pronunciation and remembered words from descendants of past speakers, guided by the audio recordings. However, there will always be some who will disagree with my choices in some words, especially from some who have had a particular spelling or pronunciation handed down to them. Such debates are healthy for language revitalisation.”

Gurgun Mibinyah: Yugambeh, Ngarahngwal, Ngahnduwal A dictionary and grammar of Mibiny language varieties from the Tweed to the Logan rivers is published by AIATSIS’ publishing arm, Aboriginal Studies Press and is available to purchase online.

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Last reviewed: 22 May 2020