Kaurna language

Kaurna language

Infobox Language
region=South Australia
extinct=being revived

Kaurna is the language of the Kaurna people, an indigenous ethnic group, in South Australia. Kaurna country extends down the Adelaide Plains from Crystal Brook and Clare in the north, to Cape Jervis in the south.


While a number of names for this group were recorded, they are now universally known as the Kaurna people. The term 'Kaurna' was first recorded by William Wyatt (1879: 24) for 'Encounter Bay Bob's Tribe'. At the same time he recorded Meeyurna for 'Onkaparinga Jack's Tribe'. Kaurna most likely derives from "kornar", the word for 'people' in the neighbouring Ramindjeri/Ngarrindjeri language. Onkaparinga Jack was Mullawirraburka, also know to the colonists as 'King John'. He was one of Teichelmann & Schurmann's main sources. Encounter Bay Bob, as his name suggests, came from Encounter Bay (Victor Harbor) and was most likely a Ramindjeri man. Thus Meyunna would probably be preferable as the name for this group, except for the fact that Norman B Tindale popularised the name Kaurna. As a result, it is used widely and universally today.

The Kaurna language is no longer spoken as a native language, but is being revived with the aid of a remarkable dictionary of Kaurna compiled by two German missionaries in the 1840s.

Efforts to revive Kaurna began in 1990 with the writing of several Kaurna songs originally written in Ngarrindjeri, Narrunga and Kaurna language. A second songbook, Kaurna Paltinna was published in 1999. Following one-off workshops in 1990 and 1991, a Kaurna language program was introduced into Kaurna Plains School in 1992. Kaurna is now taught at all levels of education, including a Kaurna linguistics course taught at the University of Adelaide (first introduced in 1997).

Kaurna today

Many prominent placenames are drawn from the Kaurna language. These include Ngangkiparringga (Onkaparinga) 'women's river place', Nurlongga (Noarlunga) 'corner/curvature place', Ngaltingga (Aldinga), Willangga (Willunga), Maitpangga (Myponga), Kanggarilla (Kangarilla) 'shepherding place', Yernkalyilla (Yankalilla) 'place of the fallen bits', Waitpingga (Waitpinga) 'wind place', Kauwandilla (Cowandilla) 'in the north', Yurridla (Uraidla) 'two ears' etc. (See Amery, 2002).

Several placenames, such as Warriparringga (Warriparinga) 'windy river place' and Piltawodli 'brushtail possum home' have been reinstated. Some other names, such as Yertabulti (Port Adelaide), Patpangga (Rapid Bay) 'in the south' and Pattawilya (Glenelg) 'swamp gum foliage', are known from historical sources, but are yet to be fully reinstated. (See Amery & Williams, 2002)

Since efforts to reintroduce the Kaurna language, beginning in 1980 with the naming of Warriappendi Alternative School, it has gained a profile within the public domain. Many people, pets, organisations, clubs, sporting teams, programs, places, buildings, and other items have taken (or been given) Kaurna names. The Kaurna language is used frequently to give speeches of Welcome to Kaurna Country. Many public artworks, beginning in 1995 with the Yerrakartarta installation outside the Hyatt Hotel on North Terrace, Adelaide, have incorporated words, phrases and text drawn from the Kaurna language.


R. M. W. Dixon classifies Kaurna as a dialect of the Kadli language, along with Nantuwara, Ngadjuri, Ngarangka, and Nukunu. [*cite book|first=R. M. W. |last=Dixon | authorlink=R. M. W. Dixon |title=Australian Languages: Their Nature and Development |publisher=Cambridge University Press |year=2002 |id=ISBN-10: 0521473780, ISBN-13: 9780521473781 |url=http://www.cambridge.org/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=0521473780]

Luise Hercus (1992) classifies Kaurna, along with Narungga, Nukunu and Ngadjuri, in the Meru subgroup of the larger group of Thura-Yura languages (which includes Yura Ngawarla or Adnyamathanha).


*cite book|first=C. G. |last=Teichelmann | coauthors=C. W. Schürmann |title=Outlines of a grammar, vocabulary and phraseology of the Aboriginal language of South Australia spoken by the natives in and for some distance around Adelaide|publisher=Tjintu Books|year=1982|origyear=1840|id=ISBN 0-9593616-0-X
* Amery, Rob (2000) "'Warrabarna Kaurna! Reclaiming an Australian Language." Swets & Zeitlinger, Lisse, The Netherlands. ISBN 9026516339
* Amery, Rob (compiler) (2003) "Warra Kaurna. A Resource for Kaurna Language Programs." Kaurna Warra Pintyandi, Adelaide. ISBN 0-9751834-0-0
* Amery, Rob (2002) 'Weeding out Spurious Etymologies: Toponyms on the Adelaide Plains.' In Luise Hercus , Flavia Hodges & Jane Simpson (eds) "The Land is a

* Amery, Rob & Georgina Yambo Williams (2002) 'Reclaiming Through Renaming: The Reinstatement of Kaurna Toponyms in Adelaide and the Adelaide Plains.' In Luise Hercus , Flavia Hodges & Jane Simpson (eds) "The Land is a

* Wyatt, William (1879) "Some Account of the Manners and Superstitions of the Adelaide and Encounter Bay Aboriginal Tribes with a Vocabulary of their Languages."

ee also

*Kaurna people

External links

*Kaurna Warra Pintyandi [http://adelaide.edu.au/kwp/]
*Kaurna Warra home page [http://kaurna.tripod.com/]
*Kudnarto [http://kudnarto.tripod.com/] an e-book by Bill Woerlee - Chapter 1: The Kaurna [http://kudnarto.tripod.com/ch1.htm]
*The Unaipon School [http://www.unisa.edu.au/unaipon/] at the University of South Australia
* [http://kaurnaplacenames.com/ Kaurna Place Names]

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