RE: Australian bird names

Subject: RE: Australian bird names
From: "Conole, Lawrie" <>
Date: Tue, 16 Jun 1998 09:53:24 +1000
> 2. How would we know that the name we had chosen for a particular
> species
> actually means the species we assign it too. The majority of
> Aboriginal
> languages are no longer spoken and the wordlists that were taken down
> were
> taken down, in the main, ,by non-ornithologists, and by people who
> were not
> fluent in the language. Therefore the faunal names in these word-lists
> would
> tend to lack exactness (often in these lists the meaning given to a
> word is
> 'a small bird' or some such).
Regrettably I have to agree with John here, having done a considerable
amount of research in this area myself.  See 

for a discussion of some of these issues relating to a group of
south-west Victorian languages.  Many names can be unequivocally linked
to a "species", but many cannot, and the problem lies both with
inexperienced European data collectors, and with variations between
indigenous and European taxonomies. 

> 3. Many of the Aboriginal names for birds are difficult to assimilate
> to the
> phonetic system of English (the original of Gang-gang for example was
> something like Ngang Ngang-not impossible to say, but difficult to say
> easily). If we water down Aboriginal names into 'English-friendly'
> forms, we
> might as well not bother.
Agreed again.  I naively thought that I might get some names back into
popular usage, but they are on the whole "too hard", and I can't bear to
hear them butchered by ignorant/careless speakers!  There are some
beautiful names in many languages, particularly some of the onomatopoeic
and ecological names, but how would we choose which language name to


Lawrie Conole
58 Holden Street, Fitzroy North 3068
Victoria, Australia
Tel +61 3 9486 4575

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU