An Australian university has created the first online dictionary for languages of the Indigenous Yolngu people.
“As the Yolngu languages courses attract more international and cross-institutional students, there has been a need for a good online dictionary resource,” said the dictionary's creator John Greatorex said in a statement from Queensland's Charles Darwin University (CDU).
Greatorex is a lecturer in Yolngu studies at the CDU. Although he said the dictionary is designed to help students studying from abroad or isolated areas, it's also expected to benefit Yolngu communities and language workers. The dictionary itself is also interactive, and new words can be added by researchers.
“This will greatly enhance the research collaborations between Yolngu language speakers and non-Yolngu students and researchers,” Greatorex explained.
According to another CDU Yolngu studies lecturer, Yasunori Hayashi, the dictionary can also be viewed on smart phones.
“Students with minimal internet access can look up the meanings of Yolngu Matha words on their smart phones, tablets and computers,” Hayashi stated.
The dictionary is open to words from all of the dozens of variations of the Yolngu language.
The Yolngu are an Indigenous Australian people from Arnhem Land, in the Northern Territory.
Collectively known as Yolngu Matha, Yolngu languages are among the few Indigenous Australian languages still in use today. At the time of European colonization in the late 18th Century, there may have been as many as 750 Indigenous languages and dialects. Today, around 150 are still used, though all but 20 are considered endangered.
Yolngu Matha are not only not considered endangered, but they have also gained international prominence from well-known Yolngu cultural icons, such as singer Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu. Most of Gurrumul's most well-known songs are in the Gumatj dialect of Yolngu Matha.song Wiyathul is in Yolngu Matha.
The 2006 film Ten Canoes also drew international attention to Yolngu Matha. It was the first full-length film entirely in an Indigenous Australian language – Yolngu's Ganalbiŋu dialect.