Guwamu project

The Guwamu (also spelled Koamu or Kooma) are an Australian Indigenous group whose traditional territory lay in what is now south-west Queensland. According to Wikipedia they are associated with “the Balonne River starting south of St. George, as far as Angledool, Hebei, and Brenda. Their western terrain extended to Bollon and Nebine CreekDirranbandi also was part of their territory.” 

The Guwamu language belongs to the Maric group which stretches north and west throughout most of central Queensland. They share many words in common, such as mari or mardi for ‘person, man’ (hence the name of the group) or gamu ‘water’. Breen (1990) presents the following map of Maric languages on the Barcoo and Thomson Rivers, north-west of Guwamu territory.

In 1955 the late Stephen A. Wurm collected basic materials on the Guwamu language in Goodooga with speaker Willy Willis. Wurm’s materials consist of a set of fieldnotes written in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) with Hungarian shorthand translations. These notes were hand copied by me in 1976, with English glosses provided by Wurm added by me to the copy. Copies of these notes were lodged at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) in Canberra, Australia.

I have been analysing Wurm’s notes using the Linguist’s  Toolbox computer program to create a database of glossed sentence and a Guwamu-English lexicon – this work has been done over many years, whenever I found time during other duties to add to and check the analysis. I have now expanded the lexicon to include Guwamu vocabulary in the comparative wordlist in Lynette Oates’ Grammar of Muruwari, and identified cognates in that language, as well as neighbouring Bidjara, Margany and Gunya. Other sources on Guwamu, such as Ian Sim’s materials or data collected by Gavan Breen, have not yet been added to the basic data set which derives from Wurm’s data from Willy Willis.

I have created a draft Guwamu-English dictionary organised alphabetically and by semantic fields, plus an English-Guwamu finderlist.

Here is a sample page from the draft Guwamu-English dictionary.


Breen, Gavan. 1990. Salvage Studies of Western Queensland Aboriginal Languages. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.