The territory which belonged to the Burduna people was located along the Yannarie and Upper Lyndon Rivers, inland from the coast of Western Australia. Burduna country includes what are now Towera, Nyang, and Maroonah Stations. Their immediate neighbours were the Bayungu, Dhalanyji, Dharrgari and Warriyangga.
Due to the impact of white settlement in the Gascoyne Region, Burduna ceased to be used as a daily language in the first half of the 20th century, and as a result the recordings we have of it are not very extensive. In comparison to the information available on other languages of the Gascoyne Region, Burduna is relatively poorly documented.
Today, there are some Burduna descendants living in Carnarvon and elsewhere, but no-one can speak the language fluently. It is unclear how much interest there is to revive the language.
The name of the language and the people who speak it has been spelled in various ways, including Boordoona, Budina, Budoona, Buduna, Poodena, Poordoona, Purduma, and Purduna.
Linguistically, Burduna has been classified as a member of the Kanyara group of languages, along with Bayungu, Dhalanyji and Binigura. They all share words in common and have similar grammar, but are not mutually intelligible. Burduna sounds rather different from the other Kanyara languages, however, as it has undergone a number of pronunciation changes throughout its history, and has many words with long vowels, such as ngii ‘you’ and nyaa ‘there’, as well as consonant clusters not found in the other languages. Here are some examples:
- db in gadba ‘spider’
- dg in gadgara ‘above, up’
- rdb in bardga ‘big’
- rdg in ngardga ‘beard’
- jg in dhulujgu ‘ibis, crane (bird)’
Note that Burduna, along with Dharrgari, makes a contrast in the middle of words between p and b, k and g, and t and d. This is unusual for most Australian Aboriginal languages, and p, t, and k occur where the other Kanyara languages have mb, nd, and ngg, as in:
- Burduna bapura ‘blind’ (Bayungu and Dhalanyji bambura)
- Burduna bukurdi ‘kangaroo’ (Bayungu and Dhalanyji bunggurdi)
- Burduna mitulu ‘fingernail’ (Bayungu and Dhalanyji mindulu)
Also, in the middle of words, Burduna has y where the other languages have dh or j, as in:
- Burduna ngayal ‘cousin’ (Bayungu and Dhalanyji ngadhal)
- Burduna guyuru ‘language’ (Bayungu and Dhalanyji gujuru)
Compare the following Burduna and Dhalanyji sentences which show these differences clearly. They mean ‘You speak my language’
Burduna: ngii wakayi ngayangu guyuru
Dhalanyji: nyinda wanggayin jurdi gujuru