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Yir-Yoront language

Native toAustralia
RegionCape York Peninsula, Queensland
Extinctby 2005[1]
Yir Yoront Sign Language
Language codes
ISO 639-3Either:
yyr – Yir Yoront
yrm – Yirrk-Mel
yiry1245  bookkeeping with bibliography[3]
AIATSIS[1]Y72 Yir Yoront, Y214 Yirrk-Thangalkl
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Yir-Yoront was a Paman language spoken in two settlements, Kowanyama and Pormpuraaw on the southwestern part of the Cape York Peninsula, Queensland in Australia, by the Yir-Yoront people. In 1991 only 15 speakers remained,[4] with the rest of the Yir-Yoront people speaking English or even Kuuk Thaayorre as many speakers of Yir-Yoront apparently are using Kuuk Thaayorre in daily conversation.[5] At present it is thought to be extinct.[6] There are two sister dialects, Yir-Yoront proper and Yirrk-Thangalkl, which are very close. The shared name Yir is sometimes used for both taken together.


The first part of both of the name, Yir, is from the word yirrq meaning speech or language. Following is the ethnonym.[7]

Yir-Yoront is written hyphenated as a way of indicating that the syllable following the hyphen is stressed. In the standard orthography, it is correctly spelled Yirr-Yorront, with "rr" representing the consonant /r/. There is a valid alternative pronunciation with stress on the first syllable; this can be written YirrqYorront. Other spellings encountered include Yir Yoront and Jir Joront.

Other names for the language include:

  • Yirr-Thuchm: Meaning "from the sandridges"
  • Kok-Minychen: The name of the Yir-Yoront in the Koko-Bera language
    • Koko-Minychena: Alternative spelling
    • Kokomindjen: Alternative spelling
    • Mandjoen: Alternative spelling
    • Mind'jana: Alternative spelling
    • Mundjun: Alternative spelling
    • Myunduno: Alternative spelling
  • Kuuk-Thaanhon: The name of the Yir-Yoront in the Kuuk Thaayorre language
  • Gwandera: A name incorrectly applied to the Yir-Yoront people and their language
  • Millera: No source available


The following description is for Yir-Yoront proper. For another dialect, see Yirrk-Thangalkl dialect.


Yir-Yoront has 6 vowels:

Front Central Back
Unrounded Unrounded Rounded
Close i u
Close-mid e o
Mid ə
Open a


Yir-Yoront has 20 consonants:

Peripheral Laminal Apical Glottal
Bilabial Velar Postalveolar
Dental Alveolar Retroflex
Nasal m /m/ ng /ŋ/ ny /ɲ/ nh /n̪/ n /n/ rn /ɳ /
Plosive p /p/ k /k/ ch /c/ th /t̪/ t /t/ rt /ʈ / q /ʔ/
Trill rr /r/
Tap r /ɾ/
Approximant w /w/ y /j/ lh /l̪/ l /l/ rl /ɭ /

Sign language

The Yir Yoront have (or had) a well-developed signed form of their language.[8] It may have had some influence in the broader Far North Queensland Indigenous Sign Language, though it may have gone extinct too early for that.

External links

  • Paradisec has language materials for Yir Yoront as part of the Arthur Capell collection (AC1) and the Barry Alpher collection (BA1)



  1. ^ a b Y72 Yir Yoront at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies  (see the info box for additional links)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Yir Yoront". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Yir Yoront (retired)". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. ^ Ethnologue
  5. ^ Gaby, Alice Rose (2006). A Grammar of Kuuk Thaayorre. p. 6.
  6. ^ Moseley, Christopher (ed.). 2010. Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger, 3rd edn. Paris, UNESCO Publishing. Online version: []
  7. ^ Alpher, Barry (1991). Yir-Yoront Lexicon: Sketch and Dictionary of an Australian Language. p. 3.
  8. ^ Kendon, A. (1988) Sign Languages of Aboriginal Australia: Cultural, Semiotic and Communicative Perspectives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press


Alpher, Barry (1991). Yir-Yoront lexicon: Sketch and dictionary of an Australian language. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.