New Bininj Kunwok Alphabet Chart

We are happy to launch new literacy resources. The first is our alphabet chart and phonics books. These feature illustrations by 15 year old Corben Nabanardi from Jabiru.

alphabet long poster

Or if you prefer it in compact layout:

alphabet chart square

The alphabet strip is available for classrooms and community language teaching groups in the Kakadu and Western Arnhem Land region. Each letter of the Bininj Kunwok alphabet is used in a word. Here's the alphabet:

a b d dj rd e h i k l rl m n ng nj rn o r rr u w y

DOB_8863 alphabet chart

Bininj Kunwok alphabet chart. (L > R) Julie Beer, Martina Balmana, Kaylene Djandjomerr, Shannon McLeod, Kestianna Djandjomerr, Christianna Djandjomerr, Marcus Dempsey, Annie Cameron, Murray Garde, Sonya Nango and Dion Hietmann kabirri-karrme Bininj Kunwok alphabet chart. (bim: Dominic O'Brien)


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Balang Djimarr Kebbarurrinj

In this post we will learn the verb -barung 'to cover in paint or ochre, to smear'.


In this picture Balang Djimarr (a speaker of Kuninjku) has painted his body and face. His body has a plant design painted in black ochre. This plant is called wurrurrumi in Kuninjku which is a vine that botanists call Tinospora smilacina. This is also the name of a song series that Djimarr sings. That's why he has that design painted on his body. On his face he has white ochre or delek splattered in a design known as bedjek-bedjek.

The verb -barung means to cover with paint or ochre or to smear a surface with some liquid or viscous substance (like paint, glue, oil etc). There is another verb -bimbun which means to draw, write or paint an image. This has a different meaning to -barung which means to smear, cover a surface with paint, ochre or some other similar substance.

Here are some examples of the verb with a few different pronoun prefixes:

nga-barung 'I smear it'

yi-barung 'you smear it'

karri-barung 'we are (all) smearing it'

kabirri-barung 'they are smearing it'

You can incorporate a noun into the verb, between the pronoun prefix and the verb. The word kun-keb means 'nose/face' but when it gets incorporated into the verb you drop off the noun class prefix kun- like this:

kabi-kebbarung 'he is painting/smearing his (another person's) face'. In this example, the prefix kabi-means 'he/she acting on another single person' (third person singular subject acting on a third person singular object). If you wanted to say he/she is painting their faces you would use:


The prefix kaben- means that a single person is acting on a plural (three or more) object i.e. 'he/she acting on them'.

If you are painting your own face, then you need to use the reflexive form of the verb which is -barurren [baru-rr-en]. This is the present or future tense form. In the past tense the reflexive is -barurrinj. 

If I want to say 'he painted his face' then in the third person singular past tense, there is no prefix on the verb. It is what linguists call a zero prefix. We need to keep the noun 'face' incorporated however so we end up with this:


ø-             keb- baru-  rr-             inj


Then we can change the "mood" to an event that is not real, i.e. something that didn't happen, or what is known as "irrealis mood". This form of the verb occurs with the negative marker minj 'not'. If you wanted to say 'she didn't smear/cover it with paint' you would say:

minj baruyi

But if Balang didn't paint his face with the ochre in the above picture, you would say this:

Balang minj kebbarurremeninj.

Balang did not paint/smear his/her (own) face.


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Bush-waken Man-me

Bush-waken Man-me

Bush Tucker

Wurdurd Manmoyi-beh kabirri-wayini, bush-waken manmeken.


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Kunmarung Mankerrnge Website Bedberre

Kunmarung Mankerrnge Website Bedberre

There is a new Mawng language website

Kure kakbi Mardbalk, kabirri-wokdi Kun-marung. Bolkkime bedda warridj kabirri-karrme website bedberre kure yi-borlbme Kun-marung dja man-karre bedberre.

mawng_card_back mawng_card_front


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The Resource Network for Linguistic Diversity has been posting some great Australian language tongue-twisters recently. Here is a selection from across the country. Sometimes the texts are also given in the International Phonetic Alphabet as well as a practical community spelling:

A tongue-twister from Bininj Kunwok (Kuninjku dialect):

ngangangh-ngangangh ʼngehngehʼ yimeng

(ŋaŋaŋʔŋaŋa ŋɛʔŋɛʔ yimeŋ)

The grey-crowned babbler said nge’ nge’.

and another favourite:

Dabborrabbolk birribidbom bembem birribimbom.

dabːorabːolk bɪrɪbitbom bembem bɪrɪbɪmbom

'The old people climbed up and painted a sole fish.'

--Murray Garde

From: Burarra/Gun-nartpa

rrugurrgurda jin-digigirrnga

'the crab crawls around'

--Margaret Carew

Here are some Lardil ones:

Dubuduburr durathur dulbiribiriwu burururu.

(ɖubudubur ɖuɹaðuɹ ɖulbiɹibiɹiwu buɹuɹuɹu)

'The tiger mullet will tickle the rain bird with a (species of bush used for firedrill)'

Burbur bana buribur bana burdu.

(buɹbuɹ bana buɹibuɹ bana buɖu)

'Both the feather and the gun are short'

Dulbiribiri dulburri burrurri.

(ɖulbiɹibiɹi ɖulburi bururi)

'The rain bird picked seaweed up off the ground'

--Norvin Richards


I’m loving these tongue twisters!  My students always struggle with this

one when learning Murrinhpatha - it’s a good test for the initial velar


ngunungam-ngem ngarra Kungarlbarl

‘I’m going to Kungarlbarl’.


--Rachel Nordlinger


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