Learners Guide to Yan-nhaŋu
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Learners Guide to Yan-nhaŋu

About the Book

About the Author

Claire Bowern
Claire Bowern

Claire Bowern is Associate Professor of Linguistics. Following graduation from Harvard University in 2004, she spent four years in Rice University’s Department of Linguistics before coming to Yale in 2008. Her research focuses on the languages and history of Indigenous Australia. She has been working with speakers of endangered, Indigenous languages since 1998, both through fieldwork with the last speakers of several languages from Northern Australia and through archival work with historical records, ranging from the 1770s to the mid 1960s. Her work combines traditional methods of language documentation and reconstruction with computational methods more familiar from work in biology. She is associate editor at Language and Diachronica, past chair of the Linguistic Society of America’s Ethics Committee, and a current LSA media liaison. Her work is funded by the National Science Foundation.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 6

Preface 8

Tips for using this book 9

Key to symbols used in this book 11

Learning a language 12

1 About Yan-nhaŋu 14

2 Yan-nhaŋu sounds and spelling 22

3 Simple sentences 48

4 Verbs: words for doings and happenings 60

5 Nouns and their endings 87

6 Pronouns: words that stand instead of names 116

7 Describing things: adjectives and adverbs 125

8 More on verbs 136

9 More complicated sentences 141

10 Where to go from here 147


Causes Supported

Endangered Language Fund


ELF supports endangered languages all over the world.

ELF is a 501(c)3 founded in 1996 with the goal of supporting endangered language preservation and documentation projects. Our main mechanism for supporting work on endangered languages has been funding grants to individuals, tribes, and museums. ELF’s grants have promoted work in over 30 countries and have seen a wide range of projects, from the development indigenous radio programs in South Dakota, to recording of the last living oral historian of the Shor language of western Siberia, to the establishment of orthographies and literacy materials to be used by endangered language teaching programs all over the world.

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