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About Barngarla Language

Barngarla (Parnkalla, Banggarla) is a sleeping Australian Aboriginal language that was spoken in Eyre Peninsula, South Australia, Australia. 

In the 1840s, a Lutheran missionary recorded the Barngarla language of the Eyre Peninsula in order to translate the Bible. In 2012 Ghil’ad Zuckermann (University of Adelaide) and the Barngarla community launched a reclamation of the language, based on those 170-year-old documents. [Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]


Image source: Language families and language groups of the world, 1927.

Schmidt, Wilhelm, Sprachfamilien und Sprachenkreise der Erde. Heidelberg: Carl Winters Universitätsbuchhandlung. [Atlas of 14 maps]



The letter R before N or L or D means that the N or L or D are what linguists call a “retroflex”.

A retroflex consonant is pronounced when the tip of the tongue is raised and bent backwards, so that the underside of the tongue is behind the alveolar ridge or touches the palate.

We will continue to practice it in our next reclamation workshop.

Retroflexes are also common in languages spoken in India.

















BaRNgaRLa (as opposed to Bungala in the photo)







Wadlada in Barngarla means both TREE and COMMUNICATION. 

Barngarla people are the original inhabitants of the area spanning from the Northern region of Spencer Gulf up to the south of Port Lincoln. 

Some of the Dreamtime stories of the Barngarla people connect us to the northern parts of the country too. 

Port Augusta has been a cultural hub, as well as a trading centre for the Aboriginal peoples across the region. For example, Barngarla people believe that there are many sacred places around Port Augusta, where ceremonies had been held and rituals were performed by the Aboriginal people.  




With the arrival of Europeans, Barngarla country was highly sought after for farming, mining, and sea access. It is well documented that dredging had been taking place in the wharf until 1980s. One of the socio-cultural implication of colonization is the obliteration of Aboriginal way of life, loss of our lands and disintegration of our families. 

Most of us ended up living in missions and reserves while many of us were left to become ‘fringe-dwellers’ on the edges of the towns and cities.Thus, our kinship system broke down. 

But the most devastating impact of the European colonization of our land has been the loss our language, to the point it was left with no native speakers. 

Schools in Eyre Peninsula have not taught the Barngarla language, and our children have been speaking either English or occasionally Aboriginal languages other than Barngarla. 

Until the 1980s, the Pitjantjatjara language was taught at schools in Port Augusta, then, Adnaymathanha was introduced at schools. But not Barngarla, the regional language. 



To keep our Barngarla identity, wellbeing, heritage, cultural autonomy and intellectual sovereignty, it is crucially important to reclaim our language that has not been spoken for over 50 years. 

The Barngarla language reclamation was established in 2011 by Professor Ghil'ad Zuckermann, Chair of Linguistics and Endangered Languages at the University of Adelaide, and the Barngarla community. 

It is pivotal to bring our children on board with us. Introducing user-friendly, innovating learning tools, such as language resource books, is something that can encourage our children to learn and speak Barngarla in their everyday life.

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