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Mudburra dictionary launched

Felicity Meakins, Indigenous Languages, IYIL, Shape

Date: 22 November 2019

Mudburra to English Dictionary was launched in Elliott by Warren Snowdon, federal Member for Lingiari, on 20 November to celebrate the UNESCO International Year of Indigenous Languages. It is the result of a 40 year collaboration between the Mudburra community of the Northern Territory and linguists, most recently those from the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language.

The dictionary contains Mudburra words with English translations, illustrations and detailed encyclopedic information about plants, animals and cultural practices, as well as place names and a grammar guide. This is also the first Indigenous language dictionary to include hand signs.

 The dictionary team. Front L-R: Pompey Raymond, Shannon Dixon, Warren Snowdon and Ray Dixon. Back, L-R: Eleanor Dixon, Jenny Green, Felicity Meakins, Rob Pensalfini, Rebecca Green and Amanda Hamilton-Hollaway.
The Mudburra dictionary team. Front L-R: Pompey Raymond, Shannon Dixon, Warren Snowdon and Ray Dixon. Back, L-R: Eleanor Dixon, Jenny Green, Felicity Meakins, Rob Pensalfini, Rebecca Green and Amanda Hamilton-Hollaway.

Ray Dixon, Mudburra elder and contributor to the dictionary, said it’s up to the community to keep the language alive. “Our elders started this dictionary and we don’t want to lose our language – it’s a valuable thing,” he said. “We want to use the Mudburra dictionary in schools so that young kids can learn and be proud of their language.”

Fellow community member and co-compiler Eleanor Dixon agrees: “This is a humbling experience to see the hard work of my old people come to life. It's been something they have envisioned for us to help us preserve our language.

“Language is poetry. Language is energy. Language is spirit and language is identity. I am grateful to all that have been a part of this journey. Thank you to the community and my elders for this opportunity. Marndaj.”

Co-compiler and Centre Chief Investigator Felicity Meakins said that Australia is a rich tapestry of over 300 Indigenous languages and dictionaries are significant records of these languages.

“They are crucial for the inspiring renewal of Indigenous languages, cultures and ecological knowledge systems underway in Australia,” she said. “Dictionaries are a key resource for adult and child learners. They can make possible many other projects across a range of sectors, for example in education, land management and health.”

“It was a privilege to work with Mudburra elders documenting these languages.”

 Mudburra elder Ray Dixon cuts up the cake for the Elliott school children.
Mudburra elder Ray Dixon cuts up the cake for the Elliott school children.

Mudburra is an Aboriginal language of the Northern Territory (Australia). Many Mudburra people live in Elliott, Marlinja, Yarralin and Kalkaringi. This volume is ideal for both beginners and advanced speakers of Mudburra, for translators and interpreters, and for anyone interested in learning more about Mudburra language and culture. The dictionary has been published by Aboriginal Studies Press. It was made possible by permissions from the Northern Land Council, approval from Papulu-Apparr Kari Aboriginal Corporation, and funding from the Australian Research Council and AIATSIS.

 

(Main image: The Hon Warren Snowdon MP, Member for Lingiari, launches the dictionary with Mudburra speaker Ray Dixon interpreting. All images by Jennifer Green. For more information and interview, contact: Felicity Meakins on 0411404546 or f.meakins@uq.edu.au)


Mudburra elder Shannon Dixon with the Hon Warren Snowdon MP

Mudburra elder Shannon Dixon with the Hon Warren Snowdon MP

 

Mudburra to English Dictionary cover 

  • Australian Government
  • The University of Queensland
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Western Sydney University