Yinggarda

The territory which belonged to the Yinggarda people extended from the coast at the northern end of Shark Bay between the Gascoyne and Wooramel rivers, along the rivers inland to Red Hill and Gascoyne Junction. Their immediate neighbours were the Mandhi, Maya, Bayungu, Dharrgari and Warriyangga to the north, Malgana to the south, and Wajarri to the east. Yinggarda, together with Wajarri, Malgana, Badimaya and a more southern language, Nhanda, have been classified as members of the Kartu group of languages. They share words in common and have similar grammar, but are not mutually intelligible. Yinggarda also shares lots of words in common with Bayungu, which was traditionally spoken along the coast north of Carnarvon.

 

Yinggarda is a fully developed language with a vocabulary of many thousands of words and quite a complicated grammar. Due to the impact of white settlement in the Gascoyne Region, Yinggarda 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, Yinggarda is relatively poorly documented.

There are several dialect forms of Yinggarda as different people used quite different words depending on where they came from. For example, in the Southern area of Yinggarda territory we have barna for ‘ground’ while in the Northern are Yinggarda people say bulaya. The structure (or grammar) of Northern and Southern Yinggarda however is quite similar and people who spoke the different dialects of Yinggarda could easily understand one another even though they sometimes used different words.

Southern Yinggarda is fairly close to the Wajarri language which is spoken along the Murchison River south of Yinggarda country (and now spoken in Carnarvon, Geraldton, Mullewa and Meekatharra); both say maga for ‘head’, and mayu for ‘child’ for example. Northern Yinggarda shows similarities to the Bayungu language which was traditionally spoken north of Carnarvon and the Gascoyne River along the coast.

Today, there are many Yinggarda descendants living in Carnarvon and elsewhere, but very few people can speak the language fluently. Efforts are underway to recover knowledge and develop materials to support language learning, such as a Yinggarda-English dictionary, which will include an outline of the grammar of the language.

The name of the language and the people who speak it has been spelled various ways, including Yingkarda, Ingarda, Ingada, Jinggarda, Ingara, Ingarrah, Inparra, Kakarakala, Inggadi, Angaardi, Angaardie, Ingarra, Ingra, Ingadi, Kurudandi, Jaburua, Inggarda. Note that the initial y can sometimes sound weak to English speakers, which is why some people spell it as beginning with I. For more about spelling see this page.