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Gamilaraay language

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Title: Gamilaraay language  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Ngunnawal language, Walgalu people, Kuurn Kopan Noot language, Ngumpin–Yapa languages, Warumungu language
Collection: Gamilaraay, Wiradhuric Languages
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Gamilaraay language

Darling tributaries
Region Central northern New South Wales
Ethnicity Gamilaraay people
Native speakers
35 speak mixed Gamilaraay–English  (2006 census)[1]
Yuwaaliyaay (Euahlayi)
Wirray Wirray (Wiriwiri)[2]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 kld
Glottolog gami1243[5]

The Gamilaraay or Kamilaroi (see below for other spellings) language is a Pama–Nyungan language of the Wiradhuric subgroup found mostly in south-east Australia. It was the traditional language of the Kamilaroi people, but is now moribund—according to Ethnologue, there were only 35 speakers left in 2006, all mixing Gamilaraay and English.[6] However, there are thousands of people of mixed descent both within the native populations as well as immigrant populations, who identify themselves as Kamilaroi. Kamilaroi is also taught in some Australian schools.


  • Name 1
  • Geographic distribution 2
    • Dialects 2.1
  • History 3
  • Phonology 4
    • Vowel 4.1
    • Consonants 4.2
    • Stress 4.3
  • Grammar 5
  • Gamilaraay words in English 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


The name Gamilaraay means gamil-having, gamil being the word for "no". Other dialects and languages are similarly named after their respective words for "no". (Compare the division between Langue d'oïl and Langue d'oc in France, distinguished by their respective words for "yes".) "yarma" means "hello".

Spellings of the name, pronounced (listen) in the language itself, include:

  • Camilaroi
  • Kamalarai
  • Kamilaroi
  • Gamilaraay
  • Gamilaroi

Geographic distribution

A map of the tribes of New South Wales, published in 1892. Gamilaraay is marked I.


  • Yuwaalaraay
  • Yuwaaliyaay (Euahlayi)
  • Gunjbaraay
  • Gawambaraay
  • Wirray Wirray (Wiriwiri)[2]
  • Walaraay


Southern Aboriginal guides led the surveyor John Howe to the upper Hunter River above present-day Singleton in 1819. They told him that the country there was "Coomery Roy [=Gamilaraay] and more further a great way", meaning to the north-west, over the Liverpool Range (see O'Rourke 1997: 29). This is probably the first record of the name.

A basic wordlist collected by Major Thomas Mitchell in February, 1832 is the earliest written record of Gamilaraay.

The Presbyterian missionary William Ridley studied the language from 1852 to 1856.



Front Back
High i, iː u, uː
Low a, aː

/wa/ is realized as [wo].


Peripheral Laminal Apical
Bilabial Velar Palatal Dental Alveolar Post-
Stop b ɡ ɟ d
Nasal m ŋ ɲ n
Lateral l
Rhotic r ɻ
Semivowel w j

Initially, /wu/ and /ji/ may be simplified to [u] and [i].


All long vowels in a word get equal stress. If there are no long vowels, stress falls on the first syllable.

Secondary stress falls on short vowels which are two syllables to the right or to the left of a stressed syllable.


Gamilaraay words in English

Several loanwords have entered Australian English from Gamilaraay, including:
Common nouns
Anglicised form Gamilaraay Meaning
bindi-eye, bindii, bindies bindayaa The burrs of several plant species that stick in one's feet.
brolga burralga A bird species, Grus rubicunda.
possibly budgerigar gidjirrigaa A bird species, Melopsittacus undulatus.
galah gilaa A bird species, Eolophus roseicapilla
Proper nouns
Anglicised form Gamilaraay Meaning
Kamilaroi gamilaraay The Gamilaraay people or language.
Anglicised form Gamilaraay Meaning
Boggabri bagaaybaraay having creeks
Boggabilla bagaaybila full of creeks
Collarenebri galariinbaraay having acacia blossoms


  1. ^ Gamilaraay at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ a b There is quite some confusion over the names Wirray Wirray, Wiriyarray, and Wirraayarray. See AIATSIS:Wirray Wirray
  3. ^  
  4. ^ Gamilaraay at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
  5. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Gamilaraay". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  6. ^ "Gamilaraay".  

Ash, Anna et al. Gamilaraay, Yuwaaaraay and Yuwaalayaay Dictionary. Alice Springs: IAD Press 2003.

  • O'Rourke, Michael. "The Kamilaroi Lands. Canberra, 1997". 

External links

  • The Gamilaraay (Kamilaroi) Language, northern New South Wales — A Brief History of Research (PDF)
  • Gutenberg Project Browse By Language: Gamilaraay
  • Online dictionary
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