11 August 2010

NYUNGAR Words: WIALKI: meaning 'not known'


"Latitude 30° 29' S Longitude 118° 07' E

The townsite of Wialki is ... 341 km north east of Perth and 25 km east of Beacon. ... Wialki was gazetted a townsite in 1933. The meaning of the name is not known."


The above is taken from the 'Landgate' website—as is the following:

"Landgate is the Agency responsible for Western Australia’s land and property information. Landgate’s transition from the Department of Land Information came into effect on 1 January 2007. As an Authority Landgate maintains the State’s official register of land ownership and survey information and is responsible for valuing the State's land and property for government interest."

The Landgate site includes a large number of WA placenames, of which 'Wialki' is one.

Although Landgate states the meaning of 'Wialki' is not known, there are some possibilities. An investigation begins with respelling the name, and continues with acceptance that the vowels in a word may be differently interpreted, and with the agreement to treat the suffix separately.


'Wialki' may be respelt wiyal-gi, wayal-gi, wuyal-gi, and any mixture of the vowels 'a', 'u' and 'i' in the word stem.


The following are some of the results when a search is undertaken for 'w@y@l', where '@' stands for 'any vowel' (in fact for 'any letter'):


Grey, and Moore, state 'wiyul/wayul' means 'thin' or similar.

"we-yool" wiyul = "thin; slight; wasted" thin: [4] Grey 1840 [410:24] [NYUNGAR]

"wy-yul" wayul = "slight" thin: [9] Moore 1884 [382:23] [NYUNGAR]

'[10 (b)]' is Curr. This source offered 'fly'.

"weale" wiyal = "fly" fly: [10 (b)] [176:3] [NYUNGAR]


Hassell and Rae offer 'Kangaroo rat' for 'wayal'. It is conceivable that such an animal, at the time the word was collected, was being described as 'slight' (compared with a full-sized kangaroo'), and the word was mistaken for 'kangaroo rat'. However, given a considerable range of examples of somewhat similar words for 'kangaroo rat' this seems unlikely.

"woyle" wayal = "kangaroo rat" kangaroo rat: [11] Hassell AA 1894 [?] [302:41] [NYUNGAR]

"woil" wayal = "kangaroo, rat" kangaroo rat: [13] Rae 1913 [302:19] [NYUNGAR]

"Woi-le?" wuyil = "(K.G.S.) A small species of kangaroo." kangaroo: Moore 1842 [107:8] [Minang]



The first three of the following display the inversion phenomenon, or 'metathesis', that has been noted in the Nyungar languages or dialects. The first group has '--l-y' and the second '--y-l'

"Wal-yo" walyu = "Kangaroo rat" kangaroo rat: Symmons, Charles [6:30] [NYUNGAR]

"Wal-yo" walyu = "Rat, kangaroo rat" kangaroo rat: Moore 1842 [153:13] [NYUNGAR]

"uaglio" walyu = "kangaroo-rat" kangaroo rat: [8 (E)] Salvado [302:40] [Balardung]

"woil" wayal = "kangaroo, rat" kangaroo rat: [13] Rae 1913 [302:19] [NYUNGAR]

"woyle" wayal = "kangaroo rat" kangaroo rat: [11] Hassell AA 1894 [?] [302:41] [NYUNGAR]

"woil" wayal = "kangaroo, rat" kangaroo rat: [13] Rae 1913 [302:19] [NYUNGAR]



Words for numbers greater than two often give rise to speculation as to whether the concept was correctly interpreted at the time the record was made. There are many examples of words having the format m-d-n for 'three' (e.g. 'madan', 'mirding'), but no back-up for 'wayal' in the following example:

"wyal" wayal = "three" three: [3] Lyon 1833 [ 412:28] [NYUNGAR]


No conclusion can be drawn as to the meaning of 'wayal', but it does seem that it might more probably have signified 'kangaroo rat' than 'thin, slight, wasted', or 'fly' or 'three'.


As for the suffix -ki, even less can be proposed at present. A common word incorporated into English in the Australian southwest for a small crayfish today is 'gilgie', as indicated by the [www.fish.wa.gov.au] wedsite:

"Gilgies can be commonly found in most streams, rivers and irrigation ..."

The same word was noted in 1842 by Moore, featuring the '-ki' suffix:

"Tjil-ki" dyilgi = "(K.G.S) A species of cray-fish." crayfish: Moore 1842 [96:16] [NYUNGAR]

Grey, however, recorded the word without the suffix:

"dtjil" dyil = "crayfish, a sp. of" crayfish: [4 (b)] Grey [246:8] [Minang]

Perhaps a clearer picture may emerge when suffixes are looked at more specifically in a later post.

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