The People and their Traditional Country
The Tharrkari people traditionally lived in the south-west inland corner of the Pilbara region of Western Australia between the towns of Onslow and Carnarvon. Their traditional country includes part or all of the pastoral stations of Ullawarra, Middalya, Williambury, Maroonah and Glen Florrie, and the Barlee Range Nature Reserve. To the north and west is Thalanyji and Burduna country.
Klokeid in 1967 gives Middalya, Williambury and formerly Mangaroon Stations as being the centre of Tharrkari territory. The Kennedy Range has many important mythological sites of significance for Tharrkari people.
Most Tharrkari people now live outside their traditional country, mainly in the town of Carnarvon, but retain close ties with the land and their culture. The Tharrkari people lease and manage the Ullawarra cattle station situated on their traditional country.
In 2004 there were estimated to be two speakers of the Tharrkari language. Many more people have a partial or passive understanding of the language. Many more people identify as being from Tharrkari heritage but speak other languages. Tharrkari is considered to be a critically endangered language.
Austin worked with Tharrkari speakers living in Carnarvon in 1985. Some of the people who worked with him on the language were Chubby Yowadji, Jack Butler, Tom Darby, Jessie Darby, Anne Eagles and Donald Willering. Jack Butler assisted Austin in identifying words which were from the Jiwarli language rather than from Tharrkari.
Language Resources and Recordings
Tharrkari was first recorded by Klokeid in 1967. Austin recorded more of the language in 1976 and 1985 and produced a wordlist and a sketch grammar in 1992. There are very few other records about this language.
Tharrkari is classified as being a Pama-Nyungan language of the south-west (Nyungic) group. Its family is the Mantharta group of languages which includes Warriyangka, Thiin and Jiwarli. However, some linguists have classified Tharrkari as belonging to the Kanyara group of languages. This needs to be resolved.
Austin (1994) identified two variations of Tharrkari language. There don’t appear to be names for each variation and the differences appear to be at a phonological level only.
Tharrkari language has been spelt in the past as Tharrkari, Thargari, Dal gari, Dhargari, Dalgari, Dargari, Targari, Tarkari, Tarkarri, Tarlgarri, Tarugari and Thadgarri.
Written Examples of the Tharrkari Language
Kanyaralu pirrimayinha nhanyara.
The man will see the woman.
The man will go.
Kanyara pirrimayiyu kurnira.
The man will look for the woman.