Mudburra to English first dictionary to include handsigns

Friday, 22 November 2019

The publication of the Mudburra to English Dictionary is the first dictionary to include a comprehensive set of handsigns including photos and QR-code linked videos demonstrating the signs.

Mudburra is an Aboriginal language of the Northern Territory (Australia). Many Mudburra people live in Elliot, Marlinja, Yarralin and Kalkaringi.

Ray Dixon, Mudburra leader and member of the band Rayella, said “The dictionary is a long time coming for Mudburra mob. We should still respect our elders. They started putting down own language and it’s up to us to keep this work going. We don’t want to lose our language. It is a valuable thing. We want to use this Mudburra dictionary in the schools so that young kids can learn their language and be proud of it.”

Heather Wilson, traditional owner and language teacher at Elliott School said “Getting a new dictionary will be a great help for our Language and Culture Program integrated with Science at our school. The students are happy learning about the parts of their body in Mudburra language, English and scientific names and how their body parts work.”

Felicity Meakins, linguist who headed the project said “It was a privilege to work with Mudburra elders documenting these languages. 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.”

The Mudburra to English Dictionary is a collaboration between community members, a team of linguists, and anthropologists. It was made possible by The University of Queensland, AIATSIS, Papulu Apparr-Kari Aboriginal Corporation, Karungkarni Art and Culture Aboriginal Coporation and, The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C).

The preservation of languages like in the Mudburra dictionary is critical to strengthening the cultures, identities, and wellbeing of Indigenous Australians.

The dictionary team (front, l-r) Pompey Raymond, Shannon Dixon, Warren Snowden, Ray Dixon (back, l-r) Eleanor Dixon, Jenny Green, Felicity Meakins, Rob Pensalfini, Rebecca Green and Amanda Hamilton

The AIATSIS Indigenous Language Preservation: Dictionaries Project is funded by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. The project aims to publish 20 Australian Indigenous languages dictionaries in 2019-2020, providing vital infrastructure for language preservation and strengthening across Australia.

Purchase the dictionary online from the AIATSIS shop.

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Last reviewed: 3 Jul 2020