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A weird language which only three women in the world can speak

shark
“The five different words women and men have for shark shows how close a bond Yanyuwa have with the animal” – Graham Friday

There are different kinds of people in this vast world. And they have different languages in which they are used to interact. It is not possible for us to know about all the existing languages but every language has its own beauty. Today, we are going to talk about one such language which not many are aware of.

We are talking about the Yanyuwa language of the Yanyuwa people of the Sir Edward Pellew Group of Islands in the Gulf of Carpentaria outside Borroloola. What makes the language different from other languages in the world is the fact that it has separate dialects for men and for women at the morphological level. The only time the women’s dialect is used by the men is when they are quoting someone of the opposite sex and vice versa.




The language is a beautiful one with a poetic touch to it. It rhythms sound like the sea it so perfectly describes. It perfectly shows how the local people are accustomed to nature as it describes the complex natural phenomenon in a single world precisely expressing a sense of place.

Shark Fin
Preserving the Yanyuwa language is tied to preserving the creatures of the sea

Only three women in the world speak the women’s dialect fluently now and there are just a few men who speak the men’s perfectly. There are not many people who remember the beautiful language as the locals in previous decades were forced to speak English.

However, Yanyuwa is not restricted just to dialects. It also had a sign language which not many remember now. The sign language was used for hunting when people needed to be signaled while entering a sacred place or when they needed to be quiet.

The aboriginal people are really close to the sea and the creatures. The Tiger Shark which travels over thousands of kilometers from these coastal waters to the Pacific Ocean each year would have been a powerful mythological figure for them. The five different words women and men have for shark shows how close a bond Yanyuwa have with the animal.




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