Bininj Gun-wok (a dialect chain), Jawoyn, and Rembarrnga are three other languages of the Gunwinyguan family, the same family as Dalabon. These languages are also spoken in Arnhem Land and around the town of Katherine (Northern Territory, Australia). Guninyguan languages resemble each other with respect to phonology, morphosyntax and vocabulary, like French, Spanish and Italian for instance resemble each other. Within the family, languages in the Bininj Gun-wok dialect chain and Dalabon are genetically very close. Rembarrnga and Dalabon also display a high degree of resemblance, in spite of being more distant genetically.
In pre-colonial times, these four languages were spoken in neighboring regions, among groups of people who used to interact together socially. They shared the same beliefs and mythical stories, carried out rituals together, intermarried, and simply lived together. Many people spoke several of these four languages, sometimes all of them. Therefore, these language groups formed a cultural unit.
Jawoyn and Rembarrnga are extremelly endangered, like Dalabon. Bininj Gun-wok dialects, on the other hand, are still spoken by about 1,500 people, and learnt by children, in several Aboriginal communities of northern Arnhem Land. In more recent times, Bininj Gun-wok, Dalabon, Jawoyn, and Rembarrnga were the four main languages in co-presence when the creole called Barunga Kriol was adopted in Aboriginal communities in this region. Therefore, it is likely that each of these four languages had some influence on Barunga Kriol.
Since 1998, while working on Dalabon, I have also spent a lot of time with speakers of these other three other Gunwinyguan languages. Just like Dalabon speakers, some of them are very keen to work with linguists in order to document their language. In 2014, I collected data on emotions in Bininj Gun-wok and Rembarrnga. In the years to come, I plan to analyze the linguistic encoding of emotions in Bininj Gun-wok, Jawoyn, and Rembarrnga, so as to compare these languages with Dalabon, and understand how grammatical and cultural variation impacts on the way people talk about emotions.
Some literature on Bininj Gun-wok,
Jawoyn, Rembarrnga, and the Gunwinyguan family
Evans, Nicholas. 1992. “Wanjh! Bonj! Nja!”: Sequential organization and social deixis in Mayali interjections. Journal of Pragmatics 18(2-3). 101–118.
Evans, Nicholas. 2003a. Bininj Gun-Wok: A pan-dialectal grammar of Mayali, Kunwinjku and Kune. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
Evans, Nicholas. 2003b. The non-Pama-Nyungan Languages of Northern Australia: Comparative studies of the continent’s most linguistically complex region. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
Garde, Murray. 2010. Bininj Gunwok Talk about Health: Medical Terms and Vocabulary for Health Professionals. Jabiru: Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation.
Merlan, Francesca. 1989. Jawoyn relationship terms: Interactional dimensions of Australian kin classification. Anthropological Linguistics1 31(3-4).
Merlan, Francesca & Pascale Jacq. 2005a. Jawoyn-English Dictionary and English Finder List. Katherine: Diwurruwurru-Jaru Aboriginal Corporation.
Merlan, Francesca & Pascale Jacq. 2005b. Jawoyn Topic Dictionary (Thesaurus). Katherine: Diwurruwurru-Jaru Aboriginal Corporation.
Saulwick, Adam. 2003a. A First Dictionary of Rembarrnga. Maningrida: Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation, Maningrida Arts and Culture.
Saulwick, Adam. 2003b. Aspects of the verb in Rembarrnga, a polysynthetic language of northern Australia: Grammatical description, texts and dictionary. PhD Dissertation. Melbourne: University of Melbourne.