Rare language fact file: Mudburra

Native to: Australian Northern Territory

Number of native speakers: 47

Spoken by: The Mudburra people

Learn some: Most Mudburra people speak several languages, including English, so you are unlikely to need it! But if you had Mudburra guests, you could wish them bon appetit by saying “nganja!”

Interesting facts:

  • Mudburra is similar to some other Australian aboriginal languages in that it has a signed element. Many words have their own signs, which can stand in for the spoken words or accompany them. The Mudburra dictionary, published in 2019, is the first to include physical signs alongside the words.
  • Mudburra shares similarities with other aboriginal languages from a relatively large area, and shares almost 100% of its nouns with a language called Jingulu. In pre-colonial times, tribes would mix regularly to trade or share resources. Nowadays, Mudburra children tend not to learn the language, opting instead for English and Kriol, a hybrid of English and aboriginal languages.
  • In 2020, a Mudburra musician called Ray Dimakarri Dixon released an album of songs that blend English and Mudburra. The songs call for protection for the Mudburra land, which is under threat from fracking. Dixon said: “I was writing songs in English, but then I thought that being a strong Mudburra man that it’s better for my country to give my message to my people from my language. We don’t want to lose that culture. We want to keep it strong.” Read more about it and listen to the songs here.

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