Yaama John,

How are you? It’s Bonnie from WALGETT. I was asked a question regarding Aboriginal language. They asked if any Aboriginal language has a s sound in it? Can you clarify this? Thanks

Yaama Bonnie.

Very few Australian Indigenous languages have ‘s’, or other fricatives. On ‘fricatives’ Wikipedia says: Fricatives are consonants produced by forcing air through a narrow channel (made by placing two articulators close together.) e.g. English f, v, sh, j and …. .

Professor Jane Simpson points out that Ngan’gi is one of the few languages that does have fricatives. Go to and search the dictionary for ‘f’ and ‘s’.

Aboriginal languages have many sounds which are not in English, e.g those written dh/nh [tongue tip between the teeth, or on bottom teeth], rd/rn/rl [like d, n and l but with the tongue tip further back] and rr [trilled or a tap].  I have heard Paakantji has 4 ‘l’ sound, whereas English just has one. 

It would be more accurate to say that English has sounds such as dh and nh, but because the differences don’t matter, don’t make a difference to the meaning, we don’t hear them. We hear dh and d as the same sound, ditto for nh and n. Try using nh instead of n and see if anyone notices. In GY the g/k, d/t, b/p difference were like that. They did not matter so people did not notice them.

Garay guwaaldaya. Talk the language. John

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