Ngarinyman dictionary published after 25 year collaboration

Wednesday, 3 July 2019
(L-R) Mikayla Friday Shaw, Joy Campbell and Christine Daly with the ABC's Daniel Browning at the launch of the Ngarinyman to English Dictionary
(L-R) Mikayla Friday Shaw, Joy Campbell and Christine Daly with the ABC's Daniel Browning at the launch of the Ngarinyman to English Dictionary. Photo: AIATSIS

Twenty five years of intergenerational collaboration has come to fruition with the publication of the Ngarinyman to English Dictionary. The dictionary contains translations, illustrations and detailed encyclopaedic information about plants, animals and cultural practices. Also included is a guide to Ngarinyman grammar and an English index.

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

Ngarinyman Elder, Joy Campbell, has been working on the dictionary for five years and said the Ngarinyman to English Dictionary is an important resource to preserve language, culture and traditional knowledge for the younger generations.

“We need to get our children back to speaking Ngarinyman again so they can know what to say, what to do, in language. Even when they go out hunting, they know what to get,” Ms Campbell said.

These are sentiments echoed by Mikayla Friday-Shaw, a young Ngarinyman woman who also worked on the publication. She believes it will serve as a major resource for younger generations to learn about and live their culture.

“The Ngarinyman to English Dictionary is so full of useful information about Yarralin. It is a dictionary but it is much more than that,” Ms Friday-Shaw said.

“It has the history and Dreamtime stories, also kin names and kinship which plays a major role in cultural purposes. Also instructions on how to look after the animals, plants and Country - all of which are important to not only Ngarinyman people but all Aboriginal people.”

The Ngarinyman to English Dictionary is collaboration between multiple generations of Ngarinyman community members, a team of linguists, plus an ethnobotanist and anthropologist. It was made possible by Walangeri Aboriginal Corporation, Ngaliwurru-wuli Association, Northern Land Council, Australian Research Council, AIATSIS, The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) and four universities; Western Sydney University, University of Queensland, University of Manchester and the University of Toronto.

AIATSIS CEO and Co-Chair of the UNESCO Steering Committee for 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages celebrations, Craig Ritchie, said the publication of the dictionary is a wonderful milestone for the Ngarinyman community and the ‘AIATSIS Indigenous Language Dictionaries Project’.

“The Ngarinyman Dictionary has been a quarter of a century in the making and we are proud that it is the first publication out of many that will come out of the AIATSIS Indigenous Language Dictionaries Project. We thank everyone involved for their hard work,” Mr Ritchie said.

“Particularly in this year, the International Year of Indigenous Languages, it is imperative that we work together to preserve endangered languages, like Ngarinyman, so that future generations can benefit from the knowledge, culture and sense of identity that Indigenous languages critically uphold.”

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.

The Ngarinyman to English dictionary is available to order online for $34.95 RRP.

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Last reviewed: 3 Jul 2020