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‘That’s white fellow’s talk you know, missis’
Wordlists, songs, and knowledge production on the colonial Australian frontier

Colonial linguistic studies are fascinating textual sources that reveal much about everyday life and knowledge production under frontier conditions. Gender also influenced the conditions of language learning and cultural exchange. This chapter uses the archival traces left by two women in colonial Australia to explore the relationship between language study and knowledge production, paying particular attention to linguistic texts that reveal traces of cross-cultural relationships and the Indigenous intermediaries who engaged in knowledge-making practices. Eliza Hamilton Dunlop learnt languages in New South Wales in the 1840s, and published poetry that included Indigenous vocabulary. Harriott Barlow lived on the Queensland frontier in the late 1860s, and she worked with local Indigenous people to make one of the first language studies of the region, published in one of Britain’s leading anthropological journals. These intimate exchanges on colonial frontiers reveal the imbrication of language collection, knowledge production, Indigenous engagement, and settler advocacy, and determined in what forms these issues emerged from the colonial south to influence imperial print culture.

Colonial linguistic studies are complex and intriguing textual sources that reveal much about everyday life and knowledge production under frontier conditions. Halfway through her Kamilaroi vocabulary, the Irish-Australian poet Eliza Hamilton Dunlop recorded the phrase: ‘Yalla murrethoo gwalda[.] moorguia binna / Speak in your own language[.] I want to learn as I am stupid.’1 Dunlop’s self-positioning is clearly designed to put her Indigenous teachers at ease, setting the terms for her instruction. Yet as the phrase suggests, for Europeans in the Australian colonies, learning Indigenous languages could be an unsettling experience. Curious settlers placed themselves in awkward, dependent relationships with Indigenous people, whose motivations to engage with and teach settlers were various, but whose patience and precision were noted by those attempting to learn. So too their frustration and amusement: the missionary Lancelot Threlkeld described how Indigenous men such as his long-term collaborator Biraban ‘shew the greatest readiness in pronouncing again and again not without laughing at my stupidity in not understanding quickly’ when he attempted to learn the Awabakal language from Newcastle.2 As David A. Roberts notes, this was ‘a humbling experience, laden with rich, self-effacing moments that unsettled his cultural assumptions. … At a time when much opinion was being aired about the supposed innate deficiency of the Aboriginal intellect, Threlkeld was moved to remark that his Aboriginal tutors thought him somewhat dim-witted in not being able to easily attain their native language’.3

This chapter uses the archival traces left by two colonial women to explore the relationship between language study and knowledge production, paying particular attention to linguistic texts that reveal traces of cross-cultural relationships and the Indigenous intermediaries who engaged in knowledge-making practices across the contact zone. In 1838, Eliza Hamilton Dunlop arrived from Ireland with her family: she was already a published poet with an acute ear for language and broad reading, having spent a privileged childhood reading philosophical, historical, and classical texts in her father’s library. Her interest in and use of Irish in her poetry prepared her for interest in Indigenous languages and forms of knowledge, and she had an acute political sense that was outraged by violence against Indigenous people. Her long residence at Wollombi, New South Wales enabled her to learn languages and to use Indigenous knowledge for poetic inspiration. Harriott Barlow’s politics were less clearly expressed than Dunlop’s; however, her residence on the Queensland frontier exposed her to a variety of Indigenous people and their cultures. Between 1868 and 1874, she brought up her four children at her husband’s sheep and cattle station, which failed to thrive in the harsh environment. Barlow was an intelligent, educated woman: when the family’s finances declined and the bank foreclosed on the station, she established a highly regarded private girls’ school in the nearby city of Toowoomba, which she ran for nearly twenty-five years. During her time on Warkon station, however, she worked with local people to make one of the first language studies of the region, and she sent it to London, where it was published in the leading anthropological journal. Gender made a difference to the kinds of language collected and the Indigenous knowledge to which settlers could become privy: women’s collections were comparatively marginal at the time, and they were often missed among the large knowledge-aggregating projects of well-connected imperial collectors such as Sir George Grey and Sir Joseph Banks.4 Gender also influenced the conditions of learning and exchange. These intimate forms of exchange on colonial frontiers reveal the imbrication of language collection, knowledge production, Indigenous engagement, and settler advocacy, and determined in what forms these issues emerged from the colonial south to influence imperial print culture.

Linguistics and colonialism on the Australian frontier

Language studies, like other forms of knowledge collection and dissemination, were inevitably bound up with the process of imperial expansion and colonial governmentality.5 Colonised populations were marked, measured, and managed by their languages, even though many settler states sought to stamp out traditional languages and replace them with English, the lingua franca of commerce, education, labour, and the law across the British Empire. In Australia, James Cook’s Endeavour journals provide the first hundred or so Indigenous words collected, in the Guugu Yimidhirr language of Cape York Peninsula. Early attempts to learn Australian Indigenous languages tended to be undertaken by individuals marked by a personal curiosity and, often, close relationships with particular Indigenous individuals or groups. Yet because of the vast array and complexity of Indigenous Australian languages – estimated to be over 300 in the precolonial period – the task was difficult; the work was local and inchoate, and the effort made by some First Fleet officers to obtain the Sydney language beyond a purely functional exchange was soon abandoned, or else relegated to a personal interest pursued outside of official duties. On the colonial frontier, however, Indigenous people sought to communicate and sometimes to connect deeply with individual settlers, and some Europeans with a curiosity to learn recorded their findings.

The reciprocal relationship between the colonial officer and astronomer William Dawes and the Eora woman Patyegarang is perhaps the best known early example of linguistic knowledge production.6 Arriving in 1788 with the First Fleet, Dawes was trained in scientific observation, and his employment at the Sydney Observatory joined together his independence of mind and interest in the natural world: a set of skills that made him open to a short but deep study of what the Indigenous linguist Jakelin Troy has defined as the ‘Sydney language’. Although the late 1780s marked a ‘brief “golden age” for language study’, by the 1790s cultural contact between Indigenous and first settlers ensured that a nascent pidgin language was mostly used.7 A range of Indigenous people are named in Dawes’ account, including noted figures such as Bennelong. Dawes’ language studies – two notebooks, containing around a thousand lexemes, approximately fifty sentences, and fourteen dialogues – are the fullest provided by any of the early colonial officials.8 Troy notes that Dawes’ informants were among the first Indigenous Australians to become familiar with the daily life of the English colonists, and that they were learning from Dawes reciprocally.

Patyegarang’s engagements with Dawes are particularly notable for their interpersonal richness. As Ross Gibson suggests, accounts of Patyegarang’s motivations for her connection with Dawes often bear the traces of authorial desires and speculations rather than definitive empirical evidence, but across the scholarship the young Eora woman is easily recognisable as an intelligent and energetic interlocutor, who provided Dawes not only with words and phrases but with close, physical, interpersonal opportunities to learn language and negotiate its meaning in context. Dawes’ records reveal that Patyegarang was not averse to correcting his errors, and that pragmatic concerns such as access to food and resources were central to her purposes, as they were for other Indigenous people in Sydney.9 Dawes’ language learning was brief and intense: its scale was notable given his three short years of colonial residence.

Given the rapid changes and displacement (both linguistic and social) wrought by colonialism, few field studies of the Sydney language were produced until the late nineteenth century.10 Gibson reads Dawes’ language notebooks – only found in a London archive in 1972 – as prismatic and ever-expanding sources of insight into the momentous changes brought about by close and regular contact between English and Indigenous worlds in the early colonies. Like Troy, Smith, and Gibson, I argue that linguistic sources provide rich information that reveals much about intimate exchanges and attempts at communication under colonial conditions, even as aspects of the sources remain puzzling and resistant to elucidation, on both sides of the encounter. Dawes’ studies reveal how his scientific training in observation affected his capacity to observe and learn from Patyegarang and other Eora people. Other colonists brought different motivations, but were no less reliant upon Indigenous knowledge and trusted guides. Indigenous motivations are harder to trace definitively, but we can make some conclusions drawing from textual evidence as well as from the gaps in the linguistic records.

For Lancelot Threlkeld at Lake Macquarie in the 1820s, language learning was central to his evangelical message and religious outreach to the Awabakal people.11 Threlkeld had been trained by the London Missionary Society (LMS) at Gosford Academy, where the Rev. Samuel Greatheed collected information about Polynesian languages from returned LMS missionaries and other naval sources to train new recruits for the expanding Pacific mission field. Threlkeld was advantaged by his first posting in Rai’iatea, where he learned Polynesian languages and how to discern different dialects on neighbouring islands. Very early in his twenty-two years as a missionary in New South Wales, he met and developed a close relationship with Biraban, or Johny M’Gill: ‘my black teacher’, as Threlkeld first described him.12 Threlkeld published his language studies assiduously between 1825 and 1859, sending them to colonial officials and others in a global imperial network of evangelists and language enthusiasts. From the 1830s, Threlkeld explicitly acknowledged his dependence upon Biraban, noting that ‘[a]n aboriginal of this part of the colony was my almost daily companion for many years, and to his intelligence I am principally indebted for much of my knowledge respecting the structure of the language’.13 His publication A Key to the Structure of the Aboriginal Language (1850) bore a portrait of Biraban on the frontispiece as ‘a tribute of respect to the departed worth of M’Gill, the intelligent aboriginal’, and a brief account of his life.14 This text was produced specifically for display at the Royal National Exhibition in London in 1851. Threlkeld’s motivation for publication was political – to provide evidence to support his often controversial mission – and humanitarian: an ‘anxiety to satisfy the friends of humanity, that our employment is not altogether without hope … and that success may ultimately be expected with the Divine aid’.15 Threlkeld’s studies were joined by other missionary linguistic studies, including those carried out by German missionaries at nearby Wellington Valley, but the relationship between Threlkeld and Biraban (like that of Dawes and Patyegarang) marked these foundational language studies as distinctive: indeed, as early examples of settler–Indigenous co-production of knowledge.16

Such examples of knowledge sharing and exchange between settler and Indigenous cultures have been identified individually and noted for their rich, interpersonal qualities. Yet the emergence of scholarship about Indigenous intermediaries requires a more comprehensive analysis that moves beyond the at times hagiographic accounts of unusually principled settlers and distinctive Indigenous celebrity figures.17 Without losing the stories of intriguing individuals, situating linguistic encounters within a spectrum of interdependencies between visitors, settlers, and Indigenous guides of various kinds opens up the field for more complex mappings that allow extrapolation beyond individual cases. It also requires a subtle and complex reassessment – one that remains alert to the lure of settler apologetics – that sees frontier relations as marked both by violence and by intimacy, by dispossession and by curiosity. This demands an acknowledgement that the frontier, in Jan Critchett’s memorable phrase, was sometimes as close as the body sharing your bed:

The frontier was represented by the woman who lived near by and was shared by her Aboriginal partner with a European or Europeans. It was the group living down beside the creek or river. It was the ‘boy’ used as guide for exploring parties or for doing jobs now and then. The ‘other side of the frontier’ was just down the yard or as close as the bed shared with an Aboriginal woman.18

These messy, proximate intimacies between settlers and First Nations people did not make violence less likely: shockingly, as the latest work on colonial massacres reveals in repeated Australian cases, familiarity made victims more vulnerable to attack, because they were close by, less likely to flee or resist, and easy targets for settler vigilantes.19 Yet intimacy also meant that communication, interdependence, and quotidian colonial life depended on workable relationships between settlers and Indigenous individuals, and that language learning was part of a complex array of mutually dependent and constitutive relationships.20 This was particularly so for colonial women, often dependent upon Indigenous domestic labour to maintain households and family farms in remote locations. To this end, exploring linguistic studies carried out by two literate and educated women can provide an insight into this vector of colonial experience and its relationship to, and inclusion in, the wider print culture that underpinned Britain’s second empire, as well as revealing European perceptions of Indigenous people both within and from outside settler colonial Australia.

Eliza Hamilton Dunlop and the linguistic frontier at Wollombi, 1839–80

In 1839, Eliza Hamilton Dunlop followed her police magistrate husband David Dunlop to his new posting at Wollombi, eight kilometres inland from the rough, thriving penal town of Newcastle, New South Wales. The small township was situated in a green, lush, and fertile valley, nestled below mountains and scattered with massive sandstone boulders and caves. It was Darkinyung country, rich with spiritual places, traditions, and stories, and a traditional meeting place between Darkinyung, Awabakal, and Wonnaruah people. The region was deeply influenced by the wave of change and often violent dispossession that swept up the northern frontier as pastoral holdings expanded, underpinned by convict labour.21 The Upper Hunter valley police magistracy to which David Dunlop was appointed was amateur, self-interested, and resistant to the new Whig bureaucracy of Governor George Gipps, whose early initiatives added a new role of Aboriginal protection for police magistrates.22 David Dunlop took his protection duties seriously, regularly petitioning the increasingly reluctant government for blankets to support Indigenous communities and encourage their participation in the colonial economy. He was well aware of their symbolic value, too, declaring to an 1845 inquiry that blankets functioned ‘as a recognised tie between the ruler and the ruled’. They provided ‘no sufficient recompense’ for the loss of Aboriginal land, trees, and possums, but Aboriginal people ‘accepted [them] from want’.23

Eliza Dunlop was equally concerned with Indigenous welfare, having published her striking poem ‘The Aboriginal Mother’ in response to the 1838 Myall Creek massacre of approximately thirty Wirrayaray and Kamilaroi women, children, and elderly men on the north-western frontier, which had been widely reported during divisive trials and judgements in the Dunlops’ first year in the colony.24 Dunlop’s poem empathised with the Indigenous dead and the women and children survivors of the massacre, and it was published in the Australian newspaper only days before the perpetrators were publicly and controversially hanged: the most significant punishment of colonial violence against the Aboriginal population in the nineteenth century. The family’s move to Wollombi provided the poet with personal connections to Indigenous communities, from whom she eagerly sought information about language, custom, and culture.

From the beginning of their Wollombi posting, Eliza and David Dunlop engaged with Indigenous people and interested local settlers to learn more about the different languages of the region. A table in Eliza Dunlop’s papers records ‘Different languages spoken in Seven of the Upper Districts’, noting the information was gathered from an 1839 ‘Question and Answer between Mr Somerville, Mr Cox, and the Tribes’.25 On the settler side, that meeting was witnessed by the Dunlops, most likely with Morris Townshend Somerville (a Hunter Valley landowner) and William Cox, junior (a pastoralist with stations very close to the site of the Myall Creek massacre). On the Indigenous side, it most likely included Boni (a senior man in the Wollombi clan of the Darkinyung people), other as yet unidentified members of the local Indigenous community (which likely included people displaced from Newcastle and the violent northwest frontier), and probably also visiting Aboriginal people, such as the noted songman Wulatji, who provided comparative information.26

The table maps four words against the different districts: water, fire, sun, and moon. The language names noted were improvisational, but they bear a phonetic relationship to the language groups that are now listed under the designated AIATSIS category Gamilaraay / Gamilaroi / Kamilaroi language (D23) (NSW SH55–12).27 This archival source is a fair copy, made some time after the meeting, and it shows Dunlop’s grasp of key aspects of Indigenous languages and places, such as noting how place names are formed from dialect names, how adoption practices worked on the death of a parent, and the importance of kinship terms, such as ‘cousin or brother are often synonymous terms’. Two other brief comments link the local language-learning context to broader issues in settler society and global intellectual history: first, a note that a particular phrase means ‘I am not telling a lie; it is true, should they use these words falsely a fight generally results’. This pertains to the intense public and legal debate throughout the 1830s and 40s about whether Indigenous witnesses should be allowed to give evidence in the colonial courts.28 Second, the term ‘Youroo’ is noted as a term for God, though ‘only known from white people’. Dunlop quotes Cicero – ‘at inter homines gens nulla est tam fera quae not sciat Deum’ – a well-known phrase used by moral philosophers and preachers of the period to argue for an innate, or natural, religion that cohered the human race, even if non-Christian nations were assumed to have not yet appreciated the proper (i.e. western) Christian mode of religion and civil society.29 Dunlop’s note questions this universalist assumption – asking, ‘what shall we say of’ Cicero’s aphorism, in the light of Youroo being a recently acquired word – while other documents in her linguistic collection provide a detailed account of Indigenous ‘Gods and Goddesses’, describing named spiritual entities, their function, and their place within culture.

Dunlop’s broad reading ensured that she contextualised her local, colonial experience within debates about religion, humanity, and race.30 Ignorance of a deity was core to the exclusion of Indigenous people from full participation in court processes (even though they were subject to them, including death sentences); a presumed lack of Indigenous understanding of the consequences for perjury, along with a lack of translators, was used by many jurists to refuse Indigenous testimony. Settlers with knowledge of both language and culture argued strongly against this legal conundrum, especially Lancelot Threlkeld whom with Biraban translated many of the major cases of the 1830s. Such cases proliferated as violent conflict followed the pastoral frontier as it moved up the New South Wales central coast and interior.

Dunlop’s acute awareness of the political aspects of knowledge about Indigenous languages was no doubt enhanced by her marriage to an officer of the courts. Other linguistic work related more to her own interpersonal and poetic engagements with Indigenous people in the region. One early, short study was titled ‘Words of the Wollombi Tribe of Aboriginal Natives New South Wales’.31 Lists of female and male names open the study, perhaps including those who spoke to her. Dunlop became aware of different kinds of knowledge that she could gain from different interlocutors, and that gender influenced both the knowledge made available to her and its transmission within the community. The predominance of recorded terms about food collection and distribution on an intimate, domestic level sketches out a process of linguistic collection that saw Dunlop undertaking local travels with Aboriginal women, collecting food, and naming the items and the means of subsistence.32 These are the intimate spaces and experiences in which language learning took place: Dunlop moving among Aboriginal women and sharing their daily pursuits and domestic economies. She recorded variant terms showing her careful, phonetically acute response to the languages that surrounded her, aided by her poetic training, as well as the diverse language groups and the multilingual skills of her informants.33

Dunlop’s longest vocabulary was ‘Murree gwalda or Black’s Language of Comileroi’ (now Kamilaroi). Midway through this source, Dunlop noted the previously mentioned phrase that set the terms for her instruction: ‘Yalla murrethoo gwalda[.] moorguia binna / Speak in your own language[.] I want to learn as I am stupid.’34 Like most field vocabularies, the terms collected reveal the interpersonal conditions of language learning: parts of the body, which could only have been identified by the inquirer and the informer sitting very close, touching their own and each other’s bodies. Relationships among families too could only be determined by personal knowledge of individuals and their interaction. Directive statements, questions, and phrases – ‘Rub it’, ‘Bring them home’, ‘Did you eat enough?’, ‘Do you think it will rain?’ – reveal how Indigenous people shared quotidian aspects of their lives with Dunlop to enhance communication. Importantly, the terms shared are not only traditional knowledge about the environment or practice, but also emerge from the contiguous colonial situation shared by the Dunlops and Kamilaroi-speaking people in Wollombi. Terms for Indigenous weapons, tools, and food preparation – including what materials were involved, how they were made, and what processes had to be undertaken – co-existed in Dunlop’s wordlist alongside terms for European domestic and farm labour, from making the beds to milking.

Beyond the obvious quotidian advantages of having learned a variety of functioning Indigenous languages, Dunlop used her poetic and linguistic skills together to record Indigenous songs for posterity, to translate or ‘versify’ them for publication, and to provide inspiration for her own original poetry. Even before she had moved to Wollombi, in writing ‘The Aboriginal Mother’ Dunlop had used Indigenous words in her poetry to mark a sense of place and authenticity. In this, she participated in the widespread Romantic fascination with Indigenous and other exotic cultures.35 Unusually, though, Dunlop’s long residence in New South Wales meant that her knowledge deepened beyond what early correspondents in the vicious colonial press criticised as her ‘cockney … knowledge of the aboriginal natives … acquired by reading the Last of the Mohicans’.36 English poetry of the period was understood as being in a state of abeyance, if not decline, and ‘slashing reviews’ of a ‘middle-class Cockney school’ of liberal poets were common in British periodicals such as the Quarterly Review and Blackwood’s.37 Colonial writers, readers, and critics followed these debates closely and they influenced assessments of local writing, too. Yet when the sheet music of ‘The Aboriginal Mother’ was published in Sydney in 1842, the full lyrics were reproduced on the frontispiece, including a glossary of the Indigenous words and an extract from the legal case pertaining to the Myall Creek massacre. This set of authorising paratexts explicitly countered early press criticism, both gendered and racist, of Dunlop’s poem.38 Undaunted, Dunlop included Indigenous words, customs, and themes in several published poems in the 1840s, including ‘The Eagle Chief’ (1842), ‘The Aboriginal Father’ (1843), and ‘Native Poetry: Nung-Ngnun’ (1848). Dunlop’s notes on her poems acknowledged her sources, including Boni, who both shared information with Dunlop about secret–sacred objects and provided advice about what information she could not access based on gender rules about cultural knowledge.39 She had to abide by his polite but firm refusal to elucidate certain aspects that inspired ‘The Eagle Chief’. ‘Wallatu’ was named by Dunlop as an Indigenous ‘god of Poesy’, a muse and source of inspiration for the ‘Native Poetry’.40 Within her lifetime Lancelot Threlkeld explained that Wallatu was likely a variation on the name Wulatji, a man in the Awabakal community who was revered as a songman and travelled the region to communicate his knowledge.41 Wulatji was likely a living man transmitting traditional knowledge within colonial society, one who had inherited and was the custodian of a vital source of spiritual, intergenerational knowledge, as Jim Wafer suggests.42

Dunlop attempted a ‘versification’ of songs that Wulatji shared, despite her comments about the difficulties of translating Aboriginal songs. It is perhaps best considered an adaptation, and the first verse is:

Our home, is the gibber-gunyah,

Where hill joins hill, on high;

Where the Turruma, and berrambo,

Like twisted serpents lie!

And the rushing of wings, as the Wangas pass,

Sweeps the Wallaby’s prints, from the glistening grass. (lines 1–6)43

The poetic themes are familiar from Dunlop’s oeuvre – home places, local environments marked by hills and water, and gendered landscapes deep with history, mythology, and meaning – and distinguished by specific, rich linguistic terms. Here Indigenous words and ideas inflect Dunlop’s colonial verse, so that the home is ‘the gibber-gunyah’, which she glosses for readers as a cave in a rock (distinctive features of Wollombi Valley). The sounds of Wanga (pigeon) fill the air; Makooroo / Makoro (fish) and Kanin (eel) glide in deep shady pools. This is a meaning-laden, self-sustaining human and animal landscape, inhabited by Indigenous people ‘[t]hat an Amygest’s (whiteman’s) track hath never been near’. On the one hand, we can read this poem as a settler fantasy: an appropriation of an autochthonous worldview akin to the prelapsarian Garden of Eden.44 Yet, on the other, it falls within a minority Empire-wide tradition that considered Indigenous culture worth preserving and articulating for new audiences, especially settler colonial readers negotiating their own complex allegiances to place and nationality.45

Harriott Barlow on the Balonne River, 1868–74

Harriott Barlow compiled records of language groups from Aboriginal workers on Warkon Station in the Maranoa District south of Charleville, Queensland between 1868 and 1874. Indigenous people taught Barlow how to distinguish between eight different language groups, and how to talk about food collection, songs, gender and skin rules, and childcare. If Dunlop’s motivation for engaging with Indigenous languages was interpersonal, political, and poetic, Barlow’s intentions appear to have been both interpersonal and scholarly. She was brought to colonial Queensland by her older husband, Alexander, who had returned to England to marry. Alexander Barlow owned and traded pastoral property successfully in inland New South Wales in the 1840s and 50s, and bought Warkon Station in 1858, in the newly independent colony. The colonial frontier arrived late in Queensland, with much of violence carried out under the auspices of official bodies such as the Native Police, which had a fearsome reputation for violent dispossession of Indigenous communities.46 In 1850, Yuleba River near Warkon Station had seen the violent dispersal of Mandandanji people as part of the preparation of pastoral leases for sale.47 In 1861, the Culin-la-Ringo massacre had taken place 500 kilometres north of Warkon Station, part of a series of reprisals following the abduction of two young Aboriginal boys by visitors looking to secure a pastoral station.48 In a violent escalation, seventeen members of the Wills family had been murdered; the Native Police then killed nearly seventy Indigenous people from the Comet and Dawson Rivers region, as widely reported in the colonial press: ‘One of the blacks who was shot, cried out, “Me no kill white fellow!” showing plainly they well comprehended the proceeding.’49 The Sydney Morning Herald ran a concerted campaign attempting to contextualise the Indigenous response, and condemning the disproportionate slaughter by the Native Police. The capacity and understanding of the Indigenous speaker of English was a point the paper made repeatedly: ‘extermination’ was not a policy that a British government should assist, ‘inhabitants both black and white are subject to English law, and are equally entitled to its protection’, and the reported declaration of innocence by the Indigenous man proved that justice and an ‘appeal for quarter’ should have prevailed.50

Harriott Barlow thus arrived into a violently disrupted frontier society. Her life on Warkon Station was rich with family and Indigenous society but isolated from other settler women: most of the nearby farms were ‘bachelor stations’.51 The climate was too harsh even for a regular fruit and vegetable garden, although the rivers were rich with fish, and both the Barlow children and the local Indigenous people caught large fish and game for the family’s dinner table. Indigenous people clearly found Warkon Station under the Barlows a safe site: Harriott’s son Frederick remembered a large number of family groups, up to eighty individuals, visiting and working on the site, although perhaps only thirty to forty people formed a consistent community. These groups would have included Aboriginal workers from several neighbouring language groups. Men worked on itinerant farm tasks as bark strippers, shepherds, and stockriders, while others hunted and women attended to the sheep. Aboriginal women helped his mother

not so much in house-work … but in such as sewing possum skins together to make a rug, while my Mother sat and made notes of aboriginal words and language and customs, from their information. She obtained a very good vocabulary of the language & dialects of different tribes in the district, by this means.52

Harriott Barlow learned Indigenous languages through the slow accretion of intimacy across needles in a possum-skin rug. Her manuscript provides detailed wordlists relating to eight Aboriginal groups.53 These are among the earliest documentations of the Indigenous languages of South West Queensland. Barlow’s notes accompanying the vocabulary provide precise information about groups and their relationship to particular boundaries based on river systems, kinship systems, medical and spiritual practices, and stories about particular named Indigenous people.

Although the vocabulary began ambitiously by mapping relationship terms, parts of the body, and time and place terms matched to the natural world across all eight dialects, Gungarri was the language to which Barlow had most access, and she noted it was the lingua franca for the diverse Indigenous groups in the region. Tellingly, given the conditions of her language collection, the term ‘to sew’ was named only in Gungarri, even though possum cloaks were named in six languages. Like Dunlop walking through the Wollombi valley, Barlow obviously shared food gathering and preparation tasks with Indigenous women. The edible roots, seeds, and stalks of the blue water lily were detailed along with other edible plants like water yams, orchids, and grass trees (xanhorrhoea). Three different kinds of grasses, located in precise environments (plains, sand ridges, and lagoons), were listed before terms for grinding slabs, grindstones, and phrases for ‘Now it is ground’, ‘To bake or roast’, and ‘It is ready’.54 Phrases useful for minding children were noted, such as how to comfort a child crying for its mother (‘By and by she will come back’, or ‘Ka-boo ka nung a’, a melodic phrase) and how to call a mother back to soothe a child; again, these were always in Gungarri, with only two other dialects known to Barlow on such intimate terms. The latter part of her vocabulary contains phrases predominantly in Gungarri, with some comparative data occasionally noted in other dialects. It was in Gungarri that Barlow learned to say ‘I do not understand’ and ‘What do you mean?’. Her lists end with two columns of proper names, divided into gender. These lists include the names of a few Indigenous individuals whose stories emerge in her notes: Yehdell, a young man who communicated and translated corroboree songs for Barlow; and Yaboongoo and Boondidoo, Gungarri women who told Barlow stories about Yehdell’s ‘matrimonial troubles’.

Local Indigenous men such as Yehdell provided Barlow with some evidence about traditional songs, but also evidence about cross-cultural adaptation and linguistic borrowing, revealing a subtle and reflexive process of language exchange. Barlow was less intuitive than Dunlop. The poet had noted the use of repetition in Indigenous songs: ‘The flights of the lyric Poets are marvellously short[:] perhaps the beauty of sentiment supplies the apparent deficiency – if not, repetition must – for all the aboriginal songs I have heard are frequently repeated.’55 Barlow’s ear was less trained, and her assessment was blunt: ‘In singing all Corroboree songs the blacks keep repeating and transposing the words; apparently making utter nonsense for the sake of varying or preserving the rhythm, to suit their fancy or adapt it to the tune.’56 Barlow fell back here on a long tradition of dismissing Indigenous languages in the Australian colonies. Threlkeld was incensed that settlers ‘flatter themselves that they are of a higher order of created beings than the aborigines of this land, whom they represent as “mere baboons, having no language but that in common with the brutes!”’.57 Refusing to recognise Indigenous linguistic skills and intellectual capacity was a key trait of those bent upon dispossession and dispersal, and part of a set of settler colonial practices that rendered Indigenous peoples as less than human and thus not entitled to rights, recognition, and sovereignty.

Despite Barlow’s obvious difficulties in learning Indigenous languages and forms, she was also open to correction. The term for a fishing net made of kurrajong bark was ‘birra’. Barlow noted: ‘This word has a sound between “bizza” and “birra”. I should prefer to write it bizza, but for the persistency with which the blacks corrected me.’58 Such comments provide insight into the interplay between the scribe and the informer in linguistic encounters, for her informants were far from passive and naive interlocutors; rather, they were personally involved in both the transmission of knowledge and its most accurate written representation. It bears emphasising that this was the first time these languages were committed to writing, and that both the knowledge holder and the scribe were constructing an orthography as they proceeded. Three songs were recorded in a kind of running translation by Yehdell. Two are only brief. The ‘Wugga-Wugga Song’ (likely Wakka Wakka, AIATSIS code E28, from South East Queensland) is the longest:

An old woman told me

She think she hears ‘mun ni nar’

The splashing of water.59

Yehdell pointed out to Barlow that the Wakka Wakka version borrows words from English: ‘“Olg ooman” – that white fellow’s talk you know missis, old woman!’ He explained each phrase carefully, using his body to explain terms such as hearing, and explaining the meaning as well as the vocabulary, as part of a careful reciprocal negotiation of knowledge:

old woman frightened, that cobon dark, she thinks she hears somebody bogie (bathing); ‘gay-ro, gay-ro’ – like it this way, beat the water, then it jump up –

Splashing [Barlow inquires]? –

Yes, that the way, hear him water splashing.60

Barlow’s understanding of the nature of these songs – their meaning within local cultures, their allegorical function, and their status as knowledge invested with precedent and authority – was only partial. This was, in some significant and painful ways, salvage ethnography: data collected from individuals who were literally remnant populations, violently dispossessed of their lands and often, through massacre, disconnected from long-standing traditions of knowledge transmission based upon age, gender, and cultural authority.61 Yet it also provides evidence of the deliberate and forward-thinking adaptations made by Indigenous individuals and communities to colonial modernity as it arrived in their country.

Barlow was in no doubt that Warkon Station sat on Indigenous country: her notes evidence what was painstakingly described to her as a dense landscape marked by environmental boundaries such as rivers, and linguistic boundaries that marked culture and society. For Indigenous Australians, ‘country’ has a multivalent meaning. Deborah Bird Rose defines it as ‘a living entity with a yesterday, today and tomorrow, with a consciousness, and a will toward life’.62 What might be understood as salvage linguistics was also a vital recording of ongoing knowledge traditions, shaped by the strategic choices made by individuals such as Yehdell to engage with new systems of epistemology and transmission.

Barlow made two important interventions in the preservation of the Indigenous knowledge she herself only partially understood. Her meticulous archival record was kept: unusually for colonial women’s papers, her vocabulary was deposited in state archives. L. Schwenssen, a later owner of Warkon Station who was interested in its history, also transcribed her papers and enriched them by conducting interviews with Barlow’s surviving sons in the 1950s. Second, Barlow sent her ‘Vocabulary of Aboriginal Dialects of Queensland’ to the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain in 1871, where it was refereed, read at an Institute meeting in 1872, and published in 1873. It appeared in the newly merged Institute’s second edition of their new journal, and was discussed by members at the meeting alongside a study of ‘Names and their Origins’ reflecting on Celtic languages and their influence on early Britain.63 The surrounding discussion reflected the tension at the time between classical philology and comparative linguistics. Dr Richard Charnock deemed the preceding author’s interpretations of Celtic naming traditions as ‘far-fetched etymologies’. Of Barlow’s paper, he confined his commentary to noting resemblances between sounds and meaning correspondences between the dialects.64

The reception of Barlow’s work in the context of the Royal Anthropological Institute remains hazy, not least because of her gender.65 Other colonial field collectors were made Fellows of the Institute for their contribution.66 Barlow was not, as women were only admitted as such in 1875.67 The cursory discussion that surrounds Barlow’s paper is doubtless indicative of the imperial anthropological consumption of colonial data: the collateral intellectual benefits to the centre of violent, dispossessive colonialism. Governments used anthropological (including linguistic) knowledge of Indigenous populations to manage them: in the Australian context this included incarceration on reserves, removing children (particularly mixed-race) from families, and the complete regulation of Aboriginal lives (in Queensland under the Aboriginals Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act 1897), all of which were not only destructive of Indigenous culture, knowledge, and well-being, but which set up the conditions for multi-generational disadvantage that continues to plague contemporary communities. Yet, as this chapter has argued, it may be possible to keep both the dispossessive colonialism and the knowledge preservation in dual focus when approaching these southern archives of linguistic encounter.

Colonial archives and their afterlives

Colonial linguistic archives and textual sources provide compelling insights into both collectors and holders of traditional knowledge. Of course, they are not neutral spaces of unmediated sources, but highly constructed sites for preserving and creating knowledge. Nicholas Dirks identifies the ‘archival structure of the conditions of historical knowledge’, and notes the intersection of archives with ‘the modern colonial state and its documentary apparatus’.68 Linguistic sources are tainted by their imbrication with the power and racial privilege that adhered in settler colonial governance. Whose papers, whose donation, and who continues to undertake both the curation and the creation of knowledge from archives are acute (and politically significant) questions. Evidently, gender played a part in the proximity of particular linguistic sources to overt political structures, but also the status that these collections accrued in the colonial period and in posterity. Traces of Indigenous voices and agencies – including their knowledge and culturally specific modes of authority – have been deposited in linguistic texts and archives in the context of colonial interests, and in our current era these sources can appear tainted by their association with colonial-era ideologies. Yet the personal and political nature of the collaboration between Indigenous knowledge holders such as Patyegarang, Biraban, Boni, and Yehdell and their settler scribes complicates a reading of these sources as purely hegemonic. Reading along rather than against the grain of linguistic texts from the colonial field, we might hope to reconstruct not only the scientific, poetic, and scholarly motivations of scribes such as Dawes, Threlkeld, Dunlop, and Barlow, but also glimpses of how Indigenous knowledge holders engaged strategically and selectively with some settlers to communicate and continue their own long-standing knowledge traditions.

These sources remain open for new meanings and new interpretations by scholarly readers, future researchers, and Indigenous descendants and communities. Most powerfully, language reclamation and revitalisation projects are gaining momentum and critical mass in Indigenous communities across Australia. These colonial texts are put into action alongside community memories and oral histories to form an emerging renaissance of Indigenous languages, evident not only in the gradual increase of users of language, but also public interventions such as the State Library of New South Wales’ Rediscovering Indigenous Languages website, a public source that is freely available to all users and which collects data and text corrections from communities in a dynamic fashion.69 Related initiatives such as Indigenous ‘Word of the Week’ are often drawn from colonial texts, and now broadcast on national radio and social media, revoiced by Indigenous speakers who put the terms back into a cultural context for broad audiences.70 Recent exhibitions such as the State Library of Queensland’s Spoken: Celebrating Queensland Languages have displayed Barlow’s manuscript alongside contemporary Indigenous communities’ use of language sources: Central West Queensland communities describe how ‘[w]ords written on scraps of paper recorded by linguists … are now held in great esteem. [Communities use] collections and word lists to build and preserve their words for future generations’.71 Such collateral and progressive uses of southern colonial print cultures suggest that new meanings will continue to be found and generated into the future.


1 [Eliza Hamilton Dunlop], ‘Mrs. David Milson Kamilaroi Vocabulary and Aboriginal Songs, 1840’, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney, A 1688.
2 Lancelot Threlkeld to Saxe Bannister, 27 September 1824, Council for World Mission (CWM), London, Australia Box 2.
3 David Andrew Roberts, ‘“Language to Save the Innocent”: Reverend L. Threlkeld’s Linguistic Mission’, Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, 94:2 (2008), 107–25.
4 On George Grey’s collection, see Lara Atkin, Sarah Comyn, Porscha Fermanis, and Nathan Garvey, Early Public Libraries and Colonial Citizenship in the British Southern Hemisphere (Cham: Springer International Publishing, 2019). On Banks’ collection, see Vanessa Smith, ‘Joseph Banks’s Intermediaries: Rethinking Global Cultural Exchange’, in Samuel Moyn and Andrew Sartori (eds), Global Intellectual History (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013), pp. 66–86; and John Gascoigne, ‘Cross-Cultural Knowledge Exchange in the Age of the Enlightenment’, in Shino Kinoshi, Maria Nugent, and Tiffany Shellam (eds), Indigenous Intermediaries: New Perspectives on Exploration Archives (Canberra: Australian National University Press, 2015), pp. 131–46.
5 Rachael Gilmour, Grammars of Colonialism: Representing Languages in Colonial South Africa (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006); Johannes Fabian, Language and Colonial Power: The Appropriation of Swahili in the Former Belgian Congo 1880–1938 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986); Judith T. Irvine, ‘The Family Romance of Colonial Linguistics: Gender and Family in Nineteenth-Century Representations of African Languages’, Pragmatics, 5:2 (1995), 139–53; Alastair Pennycook, English and the Discourse of Colonialism (London and New York: Routledge, 1998); Christopher Herbert, ‘Epilogue: Ethnography and Evolution’, Victorian Studies, 41:3 (1998), 485–94.
6 See Jakelin Troy, ‘The Sydney Language Notebooks and Responses to Language Contact in Early Colonial NSW’, Australian Journal of Linguistics, 12:1 (1992), 145–70; Keith Smith, Bennelong: The Coming in of the Eora, Sydney Cove 1788–1792 (East Roseville: Kangaroo Press, 2001); Deirdre Coleman, Romantic Colonization and British Anti-Slavery (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005); Ross Gibson, ‘Event-Grammar: The Language Notebooks of William Dawes’, Meanjin, 68:2 (2009), n.p., and 26 Views of the Starburst World: William Dawes at Sydney Cove 1788–91 (Crawley: University of Western Australia Publishing, 2012); and Stephen Page, Patyegarang (San Francisco: Kanopy Streaming, 2015).
7 Troy, ‘The Sydney Language Notebooks’, 145–70.
8 David Collins, Watkin Tench, Philip Gidley King, and Governor Philip all recorded some language terms, but they acknowledged Dawes as the most sophisticated linguist, motivated by ‘curiosity and philanthropy’ to engage in a variety of projects related to better communication and more just relations across racial lines. Tench, quoted in Troy, ‘The Sydney Language Notebooks’, 149. See Coleman’s Romantic Colonization and British Anti-Slavery on Dawes’ subsequent career and anti-slavery activism in Sierra Leone.
9 Troy, ‘The Sydney Language Notebooks’, 145–70.
10 Troy notes: ‘The later studies (Ridley and Rowley 1875; Mathews 1903) are very brief and incomplete. Therefore, the Sydney language notebooks stand unique as the only known substantial records of the language still extant’ (‘The Sydney Language Notebooks’, 147).
11 A full account of Threlkeld’s linguistic work can be read in chapter 2, Anna Johnston, The Paper War: Morality, Print Culture, and Power in Colonial New South Wales (Crawley: University of Western Australia Press, 2011). See also Hilary M. Carey, ‘Lancelot Threlkeld and Missionary Linguistics in Australia to 1850’, in Otto Zwartjes and Even Hovdhaugen (eds), Missionary Linguistics / Lingüística Misionera: Selected Papers from the First International Conference on Missionary Linguistics, Oslo, March 13th–16th, 2003 (Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2004), pp. 253–75; and Roberts, ‘“Language to Save the Innocent”’, 107–25.
12 Lancelot Threlkeld, Specimens of a Dialect of the Aborigines of New South Wales; Being the First Attempt to Form Their Speech into a Written Language (Sydney: Arthur Hill, 1827).
13 Lancelot Threlkeld, A Key to the Structure of the Aboriginal Language; Being an Analysis of the Particles Used as Affixes, to Form the Various Modifications of the Verbs; Shewing the Essential Powers, Abstract Roots, and Other Peculiarities of the Language Spoken by the Aborigines in the Vicinity of Hunter River, Lake Macquarie, Etc., New South Wales: Together with Comparisons of Polynesian and Other Dialects (Sydney: Kemp and Fairfax, 1850).
14 Threlkeld, A Key to the Structure of the Aboriginal Language.
15 Threlkeld, Specimens.
16 Hilary M. Carey, ‘Lancelot Threlkeld, Biraban, and the Colonial Bible in Australia’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 52:2 (2010), 447–78; ‘Lancelot Threlkeld and Missionary Linguistics’, 253–75.
17 Lynette Russell (ed.), Colonial Frontiers: Indigenous–European Encounters in Settler Societies (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2001); Felix Driver and Lowri Jones, Hidden Histories of Exploration: Researching the RGS–IBG Collections (London: Royal Holloway, University of London, and Royal Geographical Society [with IBG), 2009); Rachel Standfield (ed.), Indigenous Mobilities: Across and beyond the Antipodes (Canberra: Australian National University Press, 2018); Tiffany Shellam, Maria Nugent, Shino Konishi, and Allison Cadzow (eds), Brokers and Boundaries: Colonial Exploration in Indigenous Territory (Canberra: Australian National University Press, 2016); Konishi et al. (eds), Indigenous Intermediaries.
18 Jan Critchett, A ‘Distant Field of Murder’: Western Districts Frontiers, 1834–1848 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1990).
19 The Myall Creek massacre is a paradigmatic case: see Lyndall Ryan, ‘Massacre in the Black War in Tasmania 1823–34: A Case Study of the Meander River Region, June 1827’, Journal of Genocide Research, 10:4 (2008), 479–99; Philip G. Dwyer and Lyndall Ryan, ‘Massacre in the Old and New Worlds, c.1780–1820’, Journal of Genocide Research, 15:2 (2013), 111–5; and Jane Lydon and Lyndall Ryan (eds), Remembering the Myall Creek Massacre (Sydney: NewSouth, 2018). See also the University of Newcastle’s Colonial Massacre Map, (accessed 10 January 2020).
20 Penelope Edmonds and Amanda Nettelbeck (eds), Intimacies of Violence in the Settler Colony: Economies of Dispossession around the Pacific Rim (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018).
21 Lisa Ford and David A. Roberts, ‘Expansion, 1820–1850’, in Stuart Macintyre and Alison Bashford (eds), The Cambridge History of Australia (Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 2011), pp. 121–48.
22 Hilary Golder, High and Responsible Office: A History of the NSW Magistracy (Sydney: Sydney University Press, 1991); Amanda Nettelbeck, Indigenous Rights and Colonial Subjecthood: Protection and Reform in the Nineteenth-Century British Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019).
23 NSW Parliament Legislative Council, Report from the Select Committee on the Condition of the Aborigines, with Appendix, Minutes of Evidence and Replies to a Circular Letter (Sydney: Government Printing Office, 1845).
24 See Roger Milliss, Waterloo Creek: The Australia Day Massacre of 1838, George Gipps and the British Conquest of New South Wales (Ringwood: McPhee Gribble, 1992); Lydon and Ryan (eds), Remembering the Myall Creek Massacre; and Anna Johnston, ‘“The Aboriginal Mother”: Poetry and Politics’, in Lydon and Ryan (eds), Remembering the Myall Creek Massacre, pp. 68–84.
25 Although misleadingly titled and attributed, Dunlop’s linguistic work is compiled in ‘Mrs. David Milson Kamilaroi Vocabulary and Aboriginal Songs, 1840’.
26 Jim Wafer provides a rich, detailed account of the songman in ‘Ghost-Writing for Wulatji: Incubation and Re-Dreaming as Song Revitalisation Practices’, in Jim Wafer and Myfany Turpin (eds), Recirculating Songs: Revitalising the Singing Practices of Indigenous Australia (Canberra: Asia-Pacific Linguistics Australian National University, 2017), pp. 193–256.
27 AIATSIS, ‘Language Thesaurus’, (accessed 10 January 2020).
28 For an overview, including the role of Lancelot Threlkeld and Biraban in the colonial courts, see Johnston, The Paper War.
29 Thomas Moir glossed the phrase: ‘There is no creature but man who has the least knowledge of God. But amongst men there is no nation so barbarous as not to know that they ought to believe in the existence of God; although they may be ignorant of the attributes proper to this Divine Being.’ A Treatise on the Existence of a Supreme Being, and Proofs of the Christian Religion (London: Lackington & Company, 1819), p. 40.
30 See Anna Johnston and Elizabeth Webby (eds), Eliza Hamilton Dunlop: Writing from the Colonial Frontier (Sydney: Sydney University Press, 2021).
31 ‘Mrs. David Milson Kamilaroi Vocabulary and Aboriginal Songs, 1840’.
32 By corollary, Threlkeld writes about going fishing with Awabakal men on Lake Macquarie.
33 For a longer discussion of this source and ‘The Eagle Chief’, see Anna Johnston, ‘Mrs Milson’s Wordlist: Eliza Hamilton Dunlop and the Intimacy of Linguistic Work’, in Penelope Edmonds and Amanda Nettelbeck (eds), Intimacies of Violence in the Settler Colony: Economies of Dispossession around the Pacific Rim (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), pp. 225–47.
34 ‘Mrs. David Milson Kamilaroi Vocabulary and Aboriginal Songs, 1840’.
35 Tim Fulford, Romantic Indians: Native Americans, British Literature, and Transatlantic Culture 1756–1830 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006); John O’Leary, Savage Songs and Wild Romances: Settler Poetry and the Indigene, 1830–1880 (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2011); Jason Rudy, Imagined Homelands: British Poetry in the Colonies (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017).
36 ‘Domestic Intelligence: New Music’, Sydney Herald (18 April 1842), p. 2.
37 Marilyn Butler, ‘Culture’s Medium: The Role of the Review’, in Stuart Curran (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to British Romanticism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), pp. 127–52.
38 See Duncan Wu, ‘“A Vehicle of Private Malice”: Eliza Hamilton Dunlop and the Sydney Herald’, The Review of English Studies, 65:272 (2014), 888–903; and Johnston, ‘“The Aboriginal Mother”’, pp. 68–84.
39 Deborah Bird Rose, ‘Gendered Substances and Objects in Ritual: An Australian Aboriginal Study’, Material Religion, 3:1 (2007), 34–46.
40 Eliza Hamilton Dunlop, ‘Native Poetry: Nung-Ngnun’, Sydney Morning Herald (11 October 1848), p. 3.
41 L. E. Threlkeld, ‘Reminiscences. Aborigines – the Muses – Poetry’, Christian Herald, and Record of Missionary and Religious Intelligence (11 November 1854), pp. 315–16.
42 Wafer, ‘Ghost-Writing for Wulatji’.
43 Dunlop published the first version of this poem in 1848. This version is sourced from the new selected edition of Dunlop’s poems; see Johnston and Webby (eds), Eliza Hamilton Dunlop.
44 See Terry Goldie, Fear and Temptation: The Image of the Indigene in Canadian, Australian and New Zealand Literatures (Kingston: McGill University Press, 1989); Patrick Brantlinger, Dark Vanishings: Discourse on the Extinction of Primitive Races, 1800–1930 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003); and John O’Leary, ‘Giving the Indigenous a Voice – Further Thoughts on the Poetry of Eliza Hamilton Dunlop’, Journal of Australian Studies, 28:82 (2004), 92.
45 O’Leary, Savage Songs and Wild Romances; Jason Rudy, ‘Floating Worlds: Émigré Poetry and British Culture’, ELH, 81:1 (2014), 325–50, and Imagined Homelands.
46 Bob Reece, ‘Review of Patrick Collins, Goodbye Bussamarai: The Mandandji Land War, Southern Queensland 1842–1852 (2002)’, Bulletin (Australian Historical Association), 96 (2003), 78–82; Patrick Collins, Goodbye Bussamarai: The Mandandanji Land War, Southern Queensland, 1842–1852 (St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2002).
47 ‘Domestic Intelligence’, Moreton Bay Courier (6 April 1850), p. 2.
48 See the Colonial Frontiers Massacre Map.
49 ‘The Nogoa Tragedy: Slaughter of Upwards of Sixty of the Supposed Murderers’, Sydney Morning Herald (10 December 1861), p. 5.
50 Sydney Morning Herald (11 December 1861), p. 5.
51 F[red]. W. Barlow, ‘Notes Regarding Warkon Station,’ [1945], Fryer Library, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, F1733.
52 Barlow, ‘Notes Regarding Warkon Station’.
53 Coongurrin (now Gungarri, AIATSIS Language Code D37); Wirri-Wirri (also Wirray-Wirray, AIATSIS code D66, a dialect of Gamilaraay spoken on the Balonne River); Ngoorie (Nguri, AIATSIS code D46, which extends along the Maranoa River); Yowalleri (Yuwaalaraay, AIATSIS code D27, connected to Gamilaraay and spoken from the Culgoa River north up the Balonne River); Cooinburri (Guyinbaraay, AIATSIS code D34, a dialect of Gamilaraay); Begumble (Bigambul, AIATSIS code 34, based on the Weir and Moonie Rivers south of Warkon); Cambooble (Gambuwal, AIATSIS code D29); and Parrumgoom (Barunggam, AIATSIS code D40). For this local historical knowledge, mapping on to the AIATSIS language codes, I am indebted to Desmond Crump’s blogpost, Harriott Barlow Manuscript, ca. 1865, John Oxley Library-State Library of Queensland,–69-harriet-barlow-manuscript-ca-1865/ (accessed 10 January 2020).
54 Barlow notes: ‘The grasses were ground between two stones, and then made into a sort of damper. The Coongurri have no word for flour’ (‘Notes’, 174).
55 ‘Mrs. David Milson Kamilaroi Vocabulary and Aboriginal Songs, 1840’.
56 H. Barlow, ‘Vocabulary of Aboriginal Dialects of Queensland’, Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, 2:2 (1872), 166. On song forms, see Jim Wafer and Myfany Turpin (eds), Recirculating Songs: Revitalising the Singing Practices of Indigenous Australia (Canberra: Australian National University Press, 2017).
57 Threlkeld, Key to the Structure of the Aboriginal Language, p. 4.
58 Barlow, ‘Vocabulary of Aboriginal Dialects of Queensland’, 166.
59 Barlow, ‘Vocabulary of Aboriginal Dialects of Queensland’, 166.
60 Barlow, ‘Vocabulary of Aboriginal Dialects of Queensland’, 166.
61 Jacob W. Gruber, ‘Ethnographic Salvage and the Shaping of Anthropology’, American Anthropologist, 72:6 (1970), 1289–99; James Clifford, ‘The Others: Beyond the “Salvage” Paradigm’, Third Text, 3:6 (1989), 73–8.
62 Rose, ‘The Year Zero and the North Australian Frontier’, in Rose and Anne Clarke (eds), Tracking Knowledge in North Australian Landscapes: Studies in Indigenous and Settler Ecological Knowledge Systems (Casuarina: North Australia Research Unit, Australian National University, 1997), pp. 19–36.
63 On the Institute, see George W. Stocking, Jnr, ‘What’s in a Name? The Origins of the Royal Anthropological Institute (1837–71)’, Man, 6:3 (1971), 369–90.
64 Barlow, ‘Vocabulary of Aboriginal Dialects of Queensland’, 165–75. Classical philologists were primarily interested in languages and classical literary traditions; comparativists by contrast characterised their method as ‘scientific’, although they were barely interested in anthropological evidence, focusing instead on systematic comparisons of sound and meaning correspondences between related languages or dialects. Neither group considered the hundreds of synchronic grammatical studies, such as those produced by Dawes, Threlkeld, Dunlop, and Barlow, as particularly important work, although the comparativists needed it. Rather it was the synthetic, high-level work that mattered: at least until the widespread acceptance of Darwinian evolution changed this vibrant field from the 1870s onwards. See Frederick J. Newmeyer, The Politics of Linguistics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986); and Tomoko Masuzawa, The Invention of World Religions: Or, How European Universalism Was Preserved in the Language of Pluralism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).
65 No correspondence has been found about how Barlow’s manuscript was published by the Institute.
66 Threlkeld was made a Corresponding Fellow of the precursor organisation, the Ethnological Society, in 1854.
67 Many thanks to Royal Anthropology Institute Curator Sarah Walpole for this contextual information.
68 Nicholas B. Dirks, ‘Annals of the Archive: Ethnographic Notes on the Sources of History’, in Brian Keith Axel (ed.), From the Margins: Historical Anthropology and Its Futures (Durham: Duke University Press, 2002), p. 50.
69 State Library of New South Wales, (accessed 10 January 2020).
70 For an example drawn from Dunlop’s wordlist, see Indigenous Services, State Library of New South Wales, Rediscovering Indigenous Languages: Word of the Week, (accessed 10 January 2020).
71 Spoken: Celebrating Queensland Languages, Exhibition Text, State Library of Queensland, 21 November 2019–19 April 2020.
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Worlding the south

Nineteenth-century literary culture and the southern settler colonies


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