CDU launches first online Yolngu dictionary


The first online searchable and extendable Yolngu Matha (Languages) dictionary has been launched by CDU

The first online searchable and extendable Yolngu Matha (Languages) dictionary has been launched by CDU

The first online searchable and extendable Yolngu Matha (Languages) dictionary has been launched by Charles Darwin University as a tool for students, researchers, Yolngu language workers and the Yolngu community.

Dictionary creator John Greatorex said students and others interested in Australian Indigenous languages no longer needed to buy a CD or app, as the dictionary was free and available to all.

“The web-based dictionary is interactive and searchable by multiple means,” Mr Greatorex said. It has audio features with potential to be linked to parsing and translation software and would greatly enhance the study resources for students and researchers of Yolngu languages.

“As the Yolngu languages courses attract more international and cross-institutional students, there has been a need for a good on-line dictionary resource. This dictionary is designed to support online study by both internal and external students from remote, regional and international contexts.”

Mr Greatorex collaborated with the Yolngu Advisers to the Yolngu Studies Program at Charles Darwin University to revamp the existing work that would be integrated into the existing Yolngu Studies resources available, such as the interactive website and database. 

Yolngu Studies lecturer Yasunori Hayashi said the online dictionary would enable students to use a smart phone to search for Yolngu Matha words.

“It is more interactive and students with minimal internet access can look up the meanings of Yolngu Matha words on their smart phones, tablets and computers,” Mr Hayashi said.

“One of the practical functions of the dictionary is fuzzy search by which students can search words without knowing accurate spellings. This function may support students when they work on transcribing oral stories spoken in Yolngu Matha.”  

Mr Greatorex said that a major problem with previous hard copy and CD resources was that few new words had been added since their initial production.

“The online resource is more interactive, allowing users including Yolngu Studies students to add words,” he said. “This new data will be immediately accessible after moderation and approval by Yolngu studies lecturers. This will greatly enhance the research collaborations between Yolngu language speakers and non-Yolngu students and researchers.”

Those using the dictionary are asked to remember that Yolngu languages are owned by the Yolngu people.

For more information about Yolngu Studies or to view the online resource visit:

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