Pakanha language

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Native to Australia
Region Cape York Peninsula, Queensland
Coordinates 14°30′S 142°25′E / 14.500°S 142.417°E / -14.500; 142.417
Extinct 10 reported 1981[1]
not reported since[2]
  • Western Ayapathu
Language codes
ISO 639-3 pkn
Glottolog paka1251[3]
AIATSIS[2] Y64 Pakanh, Y181* Western Ayapathu
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Pakanha (Bakanha), or Ayabakan, is a nearly extinct Paman language spoken on the Cape York Peninsula of Queensland, Australia. In 1981, there were 10 speakers of the language, originally spoken by the aboriginal Pakanha people in the central part of the Cape York Peninsula.[1]



Pakanha has 5 vowel qualities:[4]

Short Long
Front Central Back Front Central Back
Close i /i/ u /u ~ ʊ/ ii /iː/ uu /uː/
Mid e /e ~ e̞/ o /o ~ ɔ/ ee /ɛː/ oo /oː/
Open a /a ~ ə/ aa /aː/


Pakanha has 15 consonants:[4]

Peripheral Laminal Apical Glottal
Bilabial Velar Palatal Dental Alveolar Retroflex
Plosive p /p/ k /k/ ch /c/ th /t̪/ t /t/ ' /ʔ/
Nasal m /m/ ng /ŋ/ ny /ɲ/ nh /n̪/ n /n/
Trill rr /r/
Approximant w /w/ y /j/ l /l/ r /ɻ /

Vocabulary/Topical Index[edit]

The following is a sample of words from a comparative wordlist/topical index produced by Philip Hamilton.[5] The Pakanha words are accompanied by corresponding words from the distantly related Uw Olkola and Uw Oykangand languages:

(P) = Pakanha, (Olk) = Uw Olkola, (Oyk) = Uw Oykangand.

The Body:

  • Body
    • nhangka (P)
    • idnhan (Olk, Oyk)
    • elpan (Olk)
  • Head
    • wele (P)
    • eka (Olk)
    • e.g. (Oyk)
  • Fontanel
    • wele ngangka (P)
    • ek ulpar (Olk)
    • e.g. ulbar (Oyk)
  • Skull
    • yenkan (P)
    • ek obher (Olk)
    • e.g. opher (Oyk)


  1. ^ a b Pakanha at Ethnologue (16th ed., 2009)
  2. ^ a b Pakanh at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies  (see the info box for additional links)
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Pakanha". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  4. ^ a b Hamilton, Philip (1998), Uw Oykangand and Uw Olkola Multimedia Dictionary, retrieved 20 January 2011 
  5. ^ Hamilton, Philip (1998), Uw Oykangand and Uw Olkola Multimedia Dictionary, retrieved 22 February 2011