Yir-Yoront language

Yir-Yoront (several other names; see below) is an Australian Aboriginal language spoken in coastal southwestern Cape York Peninsula, Queensland. It is the traditional language of the Yir-Yoront people, most of whom now speak English.


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 spelt Yirr-Yorront (with "rr" to indicate a tapped liquid). There is a valid alternative pronunciation with stress on the first syllable; this can be written YirrqYorront. Other spellings encountered include Yir Yoront (with a space) and Jir Joront.

Other names for the language include

  • Yirr-Thuchm ('from the sandridges')
  • Kok-Minychen, the name of this language in Koko-Bera (Kok-Kaper), now used by speakers of a number of other languages and occasionally used as a self-designation (other spellings encountered include Koko-Minychena, Kokomindjen, Mandjoen, Mind'jana, Mundjun, and Myunduno)
  • Kuuk-Thaanhon, the name of this language in Kuuk-Thaayorre
  • Gwandera (designating a language to the south in early sources, and occasionally incorrectly applied to this group)
  • Millera (no source given)


Yirr-Yorront and Yirrk-Thangalkl (known in Yirr-Yorront as Yirr-Thangell) are sister dialects. The territory of Yirr-Yorront is around the mouth of the Main Mitchell River and to the north and east; that of Yirrk-Thangalkl is south of there to the mouth of the South Mitchell, and running to the east and north. Yirrk-Thangalkl is also known as Yirrk-Mel (Yir Mel in the writings of the anthropologist Lauriston Sharp).

Inventory of Sounds

Yirr-Yorront contrasts stops and nasals at five points of articulation (labial: p, m; lamino-dental: th, nh; apico-alveolar: t, n; apico-post-alveolar (retroflex): rt, rn; lamino-alveopalatal: ch, ny; and dorso-velar: k, ng; it contrasts laterals at three of these positions (lh, l, rl), a retroflex tap at one position (rr), and glides at three positions (w, r, y); in addition, there is a contrastive glottal catch (q). There are five contrastive full vowels (i, e, a, o, u) and a schwa (v) that distinguishes certain syllable types.

Yirrk-Thangalkl has a similar system minus rt, rn, rl, and q.


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

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