Injinoo Ikya and the languages of Injinoo

This original song by Uncle Shorty – Meun Lifu –  is sung in Yadhaykenu, one of the three ancestral languages of Injinoo.


The locations of the language varieties of Cape York Peninsula shown on this map are not intended for Land Claim use, and are an approximate guide only. Individual language project locations are based on information from publicly available documents.  

This map is a work in progress and is to be regarded as a dynamic draft. Pama Language Centre welcomes additions and corrections to the draft map and to information about the language varieties listed.

In 1913, the remaining members of the Angkamuthi, Atambaya and Yadhaykenu Nations, wearied by decades of warfare with white settlers, made a tacit agreement to make peace and to settle together at Cowal Creek, known to them as Inychiinu.

In 1915, John William Bleakley – Chief Protector of Aborigines in Queensland –  happened upon a unique First Nations arcadia.  These three Nations had established a village with zones in which their Nation centred, with a network of streets running North-South and East-West, marked by an edging of white stones.

The Angkamuthi, Atambaya and Yadhaykenu spoke distinct varieties of a language described by investigators as “Urradhi” which was a blanket name designed to encapture the group of languages which used ‘urra’ for the word ‘here’ or ‘place’.

In fact, the three varieties are phonologically identical and though they shared norms and rules of a common language, they were observed to use the language in different ways. By the time the last fluent speakers of the language were being recorded in the twilight years of the last century, most people had begun to refer to their own language as ‘Injinoo Ikya’ or ‘Injinoo Speak’.

Users then had homogenised usage based on the norms of the Angkamuthi variety but took pride in identifying themselves as Atambaya people through the use of the word ‘iiba’ for yes, rather than the ‘inyang’ or ‘inya’ used interchangeably by both Angkamuthi and Yadhaykenu. Similar fossils were found to be in use by Yadhaykenu and Angkamuthi people, allowing them to connect their identities with some linguistic distinctions.

Over the past two decades, there has been a lurch in language loyalty towards a Cape York variety of Torres Strait Creole and English, which has left very few with any more than symbolic command over the language

Injinoo Ikya Language Revitalisation

Anab Inychiinu Ikyang uyu ikyan – A Pilot Course for Injinoo Ikya funded by the Ely Trust

Background and story of the development of the project

In 2015, Pama Language Centre was asked to work with a group of Injinoo elders to revitalise their language.  Working with a core group of Sandra Sebasio (Angkamuthi), Roy McDonnell (Atambaya), Cecilia Ropeyarn (Atambaya) and Meun Lifu (Yadhaykenu), we have together been reviving their collective lingua-cultural heritage as a group known as the Injinoo Ikya Ancestral Language Action Team (ALAT).

We have worked together to record traditional Injinoo Ikya songs which have been played on the radio, run corpus development workshops (Pama Language Centre’s Songs on Country Program) to write original songs in Injinoo Ikya language varieties which have been learned by students in the NPA primary schools and made into film clips on YouTube. We have also compiled picture dictionaries illustrating kinship terms and bodyparts.

The next critical step required to build a viable future for Injinoo Ikya is to increase and consolidate language proficiency within the Injinoo Ikya community to enable Injinoo Ikya people to effectively champion and transmit the languages of the land. To this end, the Injinoo Ikya ALAT applied to the Ely Community Projects Charitable Trust for assistance in developing a course to teach people their language.

First year of a three-year course in Injinoo Ikya was planned and developed to run in 2021 as a series of 3 workshops. The overview of Year one is as follows:

Year 1 – An introduction to Injinoo Ikya language varieties

– The history of Injinoo Ikya

– The sounds and patterns of Injinoo Ikya

– Greetings in Injinoo Ikya

– Building sentences in Injinoo Ikya

– Our environment in Injinoo Ikya

– Writing in Injinoo Ikya – Prose, poetry and song

The First Injinoo Ikya Language Intensive

Bamaga TAFE, 24th to 27th May 2021

Facilitated by Xavier Barker

Workshop 1 was conducted at the Bamaga Campus of Queensland TAFE over 4 nights in May.

On the first evening, 15 participants learnt a number of phrases that might be used in greetings, farewells and first encounters with new people.  They also learnt about the history of the language and a little about Injinoo. The class was also introduced to two animated tutors: Amalitadthi and Wutpu.

On the second evening, after some revision, our participants practiced the words for identifying themselves and each other as Angkamuthi, Atambaya or Yadhaykenu people.  They also had their first practice making novel sentences based on their new knowledge of sentence structures in Injinoo Ikya.

Evening three saw the group begin to practice learning about tense, mood and aspect of the language, allowing them to place events in time and to give commands. Hand puppets joined the class and allowed participants to take part in role play.

We introduced kinship terms, body parts and seasons on the final evening and ways of talking about our environment – both natural and built. Participants received a kit of home signage which utilises Augmented Reality to allow them to engage in and practice Injinoo Ikya at home with their families and friends. Completing the last evening, we enjoyed a meal together.

Describe activities and participation

How are you?

How are you all?

We are both pleased to see you’ve all come here.

We are Injinoo-kuchinu (injinoo people)

“We’d like to see it continue forever.”

George Ropeyarn

Injinoo Ikya learning resources:

Attach HERE:

Revision activity sheets GREETINGS.

Attach HERE:

Revision  Activity sheets Injinoo Ikya KINSHIP.

Attach HERE:

Revision  Activity sheets Injinoo Ikya ????.


downloadable  Injinoo Ikya home signage (Make a sign that is a button leading to a page with the rest of them)

Augmented reality home signage brings Injinoo Ikya language into the home

The Injinoo Ikya class is piloting interactive augmented reality home signage. Stick these colour coded signs up around the house, school room or work place, scan them with your phone and the sign springs to life with Injinoo Ikya audio and animation.


LANGUAGE VARIETY COMPLEXName of largest mutually intelligible complex.

Select: Revival, Revitalisation, Renewal, Reclamation, Maintenance. Perhaps also include Second Language Learning if non-ethnic users are learning in an L2 situation.

CURRENT LANGUAGE ACTIVITYOverview of current activities

and links to relevant projects within website

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND Summary of Present Situation, Past Investigations + links to further reading
LINGUISTIC NOTES & SOURCESInclude any standardisation efforts, regularisation, engineered phonology (e.g. diachronic syncope, aphaeresis…). List any available sources, link to any online resources.
PAST LANGUAGE REVIVAL ACTIVITYInclude any previous (pre-Pama Language Centre) revival (or other type) of work. Include production of texts (Bibles, newspapers…), recordings (songs, dance videos, other videos…). Include other language-related activities (scripted welcome-to-countries…).
TEACHING & LEARNING RESOURCES Links to Pama Language Centre resources and open access resources, link to PLC shop if valid. Include any online resources (wordlists, online forums, facebook groups)
DICTIONARY WATCH THIS SPACEList links to Dictionaries. List Harvard-system reference.
OPEN ACCESS ARCHIVAL RESOURCES Link to archival resources, conditions of access to be determined by relevant ALAT.
List details of all those capable of translations, esp NAATI-qualified.
CONNECT WITH SPEECH COMMUNITY Facebook groups, community websites, phone numbers. NGOs, Local groups (church, youth, women, men, clan…)

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