A Grammar for the Awabakal Language - 2nd Edition

Extract from Introduction

This document constitutes a treatise on the reconstruction of the grammar of the language known as Awabakal. In most places, it is like any descriptive grammar developed for a language, laying out the detectable patterns of phonology, morphology and syntax. But one fact that keeps this project somewhat distinct from many others is that the corpus of data comprises a set of sentential "illustrations" compiled by the Reverend Lancelot Edward Threlkeld; one set was published in 1827 and another in 1834. There is no other source with equal authority vis-à-vis sentence structures and the like that is not itself supervenient on the work of Threlkeld. Threlkeld published another work in 1850, but by this time he had developed a "phono-semantic theory" (see below), and was more focussed on his translation of the Gospel According to St Luke, and "illustrations" therein are either excerpts from the translation or present his own ruminations on modes of expression.

Another feature that distinguishes this work is that it is intended from the outset as a work for the sake of the local community and is not produced for the strict purpose of advancing the science of linguistics. For this reason, certain conventions have been adopted to facilitate the possibility of reintroduction. These conventions are noted and explicated; it is ultimately a matter for a prospective community of speakers to adopt or reject all such conventions.




An Introduction to the Awabakal Language - 2nd Edition

Extract from Foreward

The project to recover the language now known as Awabakal is based almost entirely on the admirable philological work carried out by the missionary the Reverend Lancelot Edward Threlkeld. He produced a number of published works documenting the language as well as he could manage given that he lived prior to the development of any methods of modern linguistic science. This current sketch of the grammar of Awabakal is based mainly on two of Threlkeld's documents, his Specimen of a Dialect (Threlkeld, 1827) and An Australian Grammar (Threlkeld, 1834), though use has also been made of A Key to the Structure (Threlkeld, 1850), and some of his manuscripts. Threlkeld left many gaps in his treatment and left us many obscurities, not least an unclear account of the sound system of the language. The current reconstruction of the sound system is based on considering Threlkeld's own English accent, given his parentage (from Cumberland near the Scottish border) and the fact that he born and raised in Devon in the late 18th century. With his background in mind, I have made a detailed study of his orthographical system, especially in terms of scrutinising the way he hyphenated words in his word list (Threlkeld, 1834), and his various recommended sound correspondences. On this basis, I have arrived at a system of orthography and spelling that approximates the sound system of the original language to the optimal degree available from the documentation.



Nupaleyalaan Palii Awabakalkoba - Teach Yourself Awabakal

Extract from Greetings and Farewells

Getting Started: Greetings and Farewells.

There is no standard greeting recorded for Awabakal. That is, there is no reliable record of what people might always say to each other when they met. 6 Because of this, we have to be a little creative. It is an extensive practice in Queensland for various Aboriginal groups to use the English expression "Which way", not as a question, but as a simple greeting. Aftersome thought and discussion, it has been decided to adopt the Awabakal phrase Wontakalowa (which way) as a simple, everyday greeting.7 Let me explain this a little more. There are certain words recorded that were said to be used to attract attention or call people over; in such situations, these recorded expressions would still be more suitable. We've all heard of the common Australian attention‐getter, "cooee", which is from an Aboriginal language spoken within, what is today, the Sydney precincts. In Awabakal, the same expression was pronounced kaayi. There is also an expression wau (see pronunciation guide for how to pronounce au), used to attract attention in a more intimate setting. However, for the ordinary situation of running into someone in day to day activity, it has been decided that Wontakalowa is to serve as the standard greeting. To reply, one can utter A,8 which is a way to say yes or to agree with somebody: it has as many senses as the English expressions, 'ah' and 'oh'. Another reply could be to say ngaba, which means more or less the same as A; or one could say Maroong which means "good". One could even reply by repeating Wontakalowa. Normally, when speaking to others, parts of words are added to a main word (or word‐root), which acknowledges the person or persons being spoken to. It has been decided that when wontakalowa is being used as a greeting, that such refinements can be dispensed with. (If it is used as an actual question, however, the word‐additions should be used). At this stage, we want to get a "feel" for the language, and at the same time pick up a little something that we could use everyday so that we can say that we are using the language every day.

A little "greeting ritual" seems like a good way to achieve this: A and B are to be regarded as individual speakers. A quick‐reference Pronunciation Guide is located on the inside front cover of this booklet.

A Wontakalowa "which way" (a greeting)

B Ngaba, wontakalowa Yeah, good, "which way" (return greeting)


Palii Awabakalkoba Ngarabangaliingeyn - Understanding Awabakal Language

Extract from Class 1: Common Nouns

Common nouns fall into four sub-categories (called Groups), depending on how many syllables they have and with which sound (letter) their stems end. Let us first examine a table carrying the full set of suffixes for all four groups of Class 1 nouns, and then spell out the details..

Table 5

Set of Common Suffixes Available for Class 1 Nouns


group 1

group 2

group 3

group 4


no suffix

no suffix

no suffix

no suffix



























Learning Awabakal - Wildlife Resource Booklet

Extract from Hunting and Gathering

The gathering and hunting of these animals and marine life was quite clever and skilful. Small animals like bandicoots and wombats were caught by the women and children using a digging stick and club. They would first dig them out of the burrow and then club them. This method was also used for small lizards or goannas. The larger animals and birds were mainly hunted by the men although sometimes assisted by the women and older children on a large hunt. One of the main methods used to catch large prey was very skilful. As soon as the sun was fully in the sky, the whole clan, men and women, would prepare for the hunt and gather their spears, throwing sticks, axes and fire brands. Once everyone had their hunting tools, they would arrange themselves up and around the valley and hills leaving only the opening of the valley guarded by the male hunters with their spears. Once everyone was in position the women and children would start to shout and bash the bushes in a rhythm which would scare the animals and make them head for the entrance of the valley where they would be speared by the hunters. This was very successful as seven to eight animals could be caught within a few hours. Possums, on the other hand, were found in the trees. The trees were climbed by cutting notches into the trunks which were then used as steps. They would then club the possum. Birds were usually speared in mid-flight, by the men, with great skill and precision. Although the emu had to be tracked, chased and then speared by the men. In the breeding seasons, baby mutton birds and eggs were gathered by the women and children of the lake clans and regarded as a highly valued feast.