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Ngarinyman Dictionary launched

Caroline Jones, Felicity Meakins, Indigenous Languages, IYIL, Shape

Date: 5 July 2019

The first dictionary for Ngarinyman, a language of central-western Northern Territory, has been launched by Rachel Perkins at the 2019 AIATSIS Research Conference this week, and is the result of a 25-year collaboration between 30 community members and seven linguists.

Ngarinyman is an Aboriginal language of the northern Victoria River District. Many Ngarinyman people live in Yarralin, Bulla Camp, Amanbidji (Kildurk) and around Timber Creek.

Rachel Perkins launches the dictionary at the AIATSIS National Indigenous Research Conference

Rachel Perkins launches the dictionary at the AIATSIS National Indigenous Research Conference.

Joy Campbell, Ngarinyman community leader at Yarralin, helped support different generations of Ngarinyman people to check the dictionary.  “This has been a big collaborative project including the old people – they would have been proud of it,” Joy said.

Mikayla Friday-Shaw, a young Ngarinyman woman, agreed: “I am thrilled that the dictionary is finally finished but my heart aches for my Elders who were a part of the collaboration and passed away before it was published. We honour their memories in this book.”

The dictionary contains Ngarinyman words with English translations, illustrations and detailed encyclopaedic information about plants, animals and cultural practices, plus place names. It also includes a guide to Ngarinyman grammar and an English index.

Felicity Meakins, Mikayla Friday-Shaw, Caroline Jones, Joy Campbell, Christine Daly, Jean South, Fiona Towney and Daniel Browning

L to R: Felicity Meakins, Mikayla Friday-Shaw, Caroline Jones, Joy Campbell, Christine Daly, Jean South, Fiona Towney and Daniel Browning at the launch.

Lead compiler Caroline Jones said that due to the hard work of so many community members down the years, the dictionary is a trove of their cultural knowledge. “This dictionary can now be a resource for future community-led projects, in education, arts, tourism and health,” Caroline said.

Felicity Meakins, one of the dictionary’s four compilers, said Indigenous ranger groups and national parks find the dictionaries useful because they contain so much ecological knowledge. “The process also helps with the inter-generational transmission of that knowledge,” Felicity said. “When creating new dictionary entries or checking them, you have elders who are talking about their languages and younger generations sitting around and listening, which is really important.”

 

“These books allow us to share our stories and have our voices heard on a much wider platform. They are a symbol of the strength of our culture and languages.” (Lucy Pedwell, community leader)

 

Rachel Perkins, President of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) Foundation, said that the Ngarinyman dictionary is the first of about 20 dictionaries in the works by AIATSIS planned to be published over coming years. The dictionary team are very grateful to have been awarded funding by the Foundation.

The dictionary project has been made possible by permissions from the Northern Land Council, approval from Walangeri Aboriginal Corporation and Ngaliwurru-wuli Aboriginal Corporation, and funding from the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language as well as AIATSIS. It was published by Aboriginal Studies Press and is available through the AIATSIS shop.

 

Ngarinyman to English Dictionary cover

 

(Main image: Joy Campbell with the dictionary at its launch in Yarralin.)

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