Northeastern Paman
Native toAustralia
RegionCape York Peninsula, Queensland
EthnicityUmpila, Pakadji, Kaantju, Uutaalnganu (Kawadji)
Native speakers
12 (2005)[1]
Umpila Sign Language
Language codes
ISO 639-3Variously:
kbe – Kanju
kuy – Kuuku-Yaʼu
ump – Umpila
AIATSIS[1]Y45 Umpila, Y211 Uutaalnganu, Y169 Kuuku Iʼyu

Umpila is an Aboriginal Australian language, or dialect cluster, of the Cape York Peninsula. It is spoken by about 100 Aboriginals, many of them elderly.[4]

Geographic distribution

The land territory associated with the Umpila language group is located along the northeastern coast of Cape York Peninsula and stretches from the northern end of Temple Bay south to the Massey Creek region at the top of Princess Charlotte Bay, and west of the Great Dividing Range towards the township of Coen. Most of the remaining Umpila and Kuuku Ya'u speakers reside in Lockhart River Aboriginal Community, which is located at Lloyd Bay, roughly at the boundary between Umpila and Kuuku Ya'u lands.


The chief varieties of Umpila, variously considered dialects or distinct languages, are:


Umpila consonant inventory[5]

Bilabial Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Stop p t c k ʔ
Nasals m n ɲ ŋ
Lateral l
Rhotic r
Semivowels j w

Umpila vowel inventory[5]

Front Back
High i iː u uː
Low a aː


Typologically, Umpila is an agglutinative, suffixing, dependent-marking language, with a preference for Subject-Object-Verb constituent order. Grammatical relations are indicated by a split ergative case system: nominal inflections are ergative/absolutive, pronominals are nominative/accusative. Features of note include: historical dropping of initial consonants, complex verbal reduplication expressing progressivity and habitual aspect, 'optional' ergative marking.[6]

Sign language

Main article: Australian Aboriginal sign languages

The Umpila have (or had) a well-developed signed form of their language.[7] It is one of the primary components of Far North Queensland Indigenous Sign Language.

See also



  1. ^ a b Y45 Umpila at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies  (see the info box for additional links)
  2. ^ Endangered Languages Project data for Kuuku-Ya'u.
  3. ^ Endangered Languages Project data for Kaanju.
  4. ^ "Umpila". Retrieved 4 August 2015.
  5. ^ a b O’Grady, G.N. “Wadjuk and Umpila: A Long-Short Approach to Pama-Nyungan.” In Studies in Comparative Pama-Nyungan, edited by G.N. O’Grady and D.T. Tyron. Pacific Linguistics Series C 111, 1990.
  6. ^ "Umpila — Language and Cognition — Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics". Retrieved 4 August 2015.
  7. ^ Kendon, A. (1988) Sign Languages of Aboriginal Australia: Cultural, Semiotic and Communicative Perspectives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press