Although marked differences exist between the various Australian languages, and also considerable differences in frame and physiognomy between the various tribes; still the fundamental unity of the population from Swan River to Botany Bay, and from the Gulf of Carpentaria to Bass's Straits is generally admitted.
The natives have no written language and our alphabet is totally inadequate to give expression to some of the sounds which are so volubly emitted. Then of course there are very many different dialects of which the following may be said to be the most important:--
Kamilaroi.--This is spoken from the Castlereagh to the Darling and also on the Namai.
Kailwun.--Spoken on the Barwan, below the junction with the Namai.
Kogai.--This is the dialect in use by all the nations roaming to the Westward of the Baloune all along the Maronoa and the Congoon.
Rukumbul.--Around Calandoon in Queensland; also on the Weir and Macintyre.
Dippil.--About Durundrum on the north side of Moreton Bay and thence towards Wide Bay and the Burnett district in Queensland.
Turrabul.--On the Brisbane River.
Turruwal.--Once spoken by the tribe of Port Jackson, now extinct.
Wodi-Wodi.--In Illawarra, from Wollongong to the Shoalhaven.
Waradgeri.--On the Murrumbidgee and Lauchlan.
Within the boundaries of Western Australia itself there are numerous dialects spoken. I will only trouble my readers with one illustration. From King George's Sound to Champion Bay a baby is known as "Good-ja" or "Nuba"; in the New Norcian District about 80 miles north from Perth, the word is "Chiengallon"; in the Eastern District it would be called "Coo-long", and in the neighbourhood of Albany, "Culong". Again at Banbury, Busselton, and along the coast, the infant becomes "Duaing"; at Blackwood, "Noba"; at Champion Bay, Victoria District, "Nurellee"; while at Nickol Bay and in the Roeburn District it rejoices in the cheerful name of "Yandeeyarrah."
Of the three principal languages used near the settled districts, it may be said, in common, that they are rendered extremely difficult to Europeans, by the--to our way of thinking--utter want of method in arrangement of words in sentences.
An illustration of my meaning may, perhaps, best be given, by submitting the following exercise, written by the late J. F. Armstrong, Government Interpreter to the Western Australian tribes.
In English the exercise runs thus:--
"When we first landed here we wanted to be friendly with you natives. Why were you so angry, why did you spear the white people? We did not want to kill you or hurt you in any way. Why would you
not be friends and let us learn your language? We could shew you how to use a gun, make nets, boats, and many other things; but you set yourselves against us for years, until you found that we were the strongest, otherwise you should have killed us all, as you killed the other white people."
To put that speech into a possible form, for comprehension for the blacks, the words would have to be re-arranged and altered thus:--
"We at first here came reside we angry not, and so on; heart good you to; you why us hate? Why you us with no cause speared? We you in anger thought not beat, and so on. You why heart bad? We then your language soon understand correctly. We then you gun good use shew or tell; net and such like shew tell; boat and such like and numerous nameless things good and common. But you us angry strong, winter summer many. Then we really fought. You then said 'Ah! the whites strong.' If we weak you long ago us kill all others like."
To give the reader an idea of how the words of a native language look when printed the above may be literally translated thus:--
"Nganneel ingar-ungar nhalla bart nginnaga, nganneel gurrangbroo na-broo; goordoo gwabba nurang-uk; nurang nyte-juk gnalleekuk dellut-a bart Nyte-juk nurang nganneel in yaga yaga daanugga? Nganneel nureel en gurrang Katteege-broo booma-broo na-broo. Nurang nyte-juk Goordoo wendang? Nganneel garoo nureeluk mya gete kateega met in Nganneel garoo
nureel in gun gwabbyne wurrung-un net, na may wurrungun boat ware na ware nyteby nyteby na gwabbyne ware warra. Garoo nureel nganneeluk gurrang moordooit. Muggore, Beroke, boola, garoo ngallutta boondojil, bukadge; mureel garoo wangga-Nah! Djanga moordoit jil. Minning ngullara babba, nurang goord nganneel in booma, moondang-um-um waame-ma mogin."