T2: Oyster Bay Tasmanian

AIATSIS code: 
AIATSIS reference name: 
Oyster Bay Tasmanian


ABN name
ABS name
Horton name
Ethnologue name
ISO 639-3 code
Tindale name
Oyster Bay
Thesaurus heading language
Thesaurus heading people
Tindale (1974)
O'Grady et al (1966)
Other sources
Paredarerme, Oyster Bay tribe, Oyster Bay, Little Swanport, Mid eastern

The Tasmanian languages/dialects records are sparse. According to Crowley and Dixon, Oyster Bay and Big River T8 have 85% of vocabulary in common and are very likely to be dialects of a single language. Little Swanport T15 language data indicate a dialectal relationship with this language (1981:401).

Crowley (1993:54) concludes from examination of vocabulary lists and comments from colonial observations about who could and who could not understand each other that at least eight separate languages and possibly as many as twelve belong to Tasmania. Crowley and Dixon ((1981:404) conclude there is no evidence to indicate a single Tasmanian language family, available evidence indicates two, four or even eight distinct families. Bowern (2012) groups twelve languages into four language macro-families (northeastern, Oyster Bay, southeastern (Bruny) and western) using methods from evolutionary biology to systematically investigate vocabularies, from thirty five language lists.

Crowley and Dixon (1981:402-403) compare collected vocabularies from fifteen regions. This database assigns reference names for Tasmania based on this regional list. See also Northern T1; North-western T3; Northern Midlands T4; South-eastern T5; Macquarie Harbour T6; Ben Lomond T7; Big River T8; Cape Portland T9; South-western T10; Robbin Island T11; Circular Head T12; Port Sorrell T13; Piper River T14 and Little Swanport T15.

The areas defined as Oyster Bay and Little Swanport T15 in Crowley and Dixon's map (1981:394) roughly coincides with the area defined as Paredarerne by Horton in the AIATSIS map of Aboriginal Australia. Oyster Bay language data, along with historical sources from all Tasmanian language varieties form the basis of palawa kani language T16 .


  • Beattie, J W. 1913. List of native words of the Oyster Bay tribe, V.D.L. [Van Diemens Land]. Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania. p. 79-81.
  • Bowern, Claire. 2012. The riddle of Tasmanian languages. Proceedings of the Royal Society. 279, 4590-4595. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2012.1842
  • Crowley, Terry, and R. M. W. Dixon. 1981. Tasmanian. In Handbook of Australian languages vol. 2, eds R. M. W. Dixon and B. J. Blake, 395-421 + map p. Canberra: ANU Press.
  • Crowley, Terry. 1993. Tasmanian Aboriginal language : old and new identities. In Language and Culture in Aboriginal Australia, eds Michael Walsh and Colin Yallop, 51-71. Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press.
  • Milligan, Joseph. 1855. On the dialects and language of the Aboriginal tribes of Tasmania, and on their manners and customs. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania 3:275-282. Also in Smyth 2 (1878):410-434
  • Milligan, Joseph. 1887. Vocabulary of dialects of Aboriginal tribes of Tasmania in Curr, E M. The Australian race: its origin, languages, customs, place of landing in Australia, and the routes by which it spread itself over that continent. Vol 3. Melbourne: John Ferres, Government Printer; London: Trübner.
  • Taylor, John Albert. 2010. Dictionary of Palawa ('Tasmanian Aboriginal') Place Names. MS 4970
  • Scott, Thomas. 1887. Vocabulary of the Oyster Bay tribe, drawn up in 1826 in in Curr, E M. The Australian race: its origin, languages, customs, place of landing in Australia, and the routes by which it spread itself over that continent. Vol 3. Melbourne: John Ferres, Government Printer; London: Trübner.
State / Territory: 
Location information: 


Indigenous organisations: 
Year Source Speaker numbers

Speaker numbers were measured differently across the censuses and various other sources listed in AUSTLANG. You are encouraged to refer to the sources.

Speaker numbers for ‘NILS 2004’ and ‘2005 estimate’ come from 'Table F.3: Numbers of speakers of Australian Indigenous languages (various surveys)' in 'Appendix F NILS endangerment and absolute number results' in McConvell, Marmion and McNicol 2005, pages 198-230 (PDF, 2.5MB).

Type Documentation Status Documentation Score
Word list Less than 20 pages 1
Text Collection None 0
Grammar None 0
Audio-visual None 0
Manuscript note: 
not available
Source Family Group Sub-group Name Relationship
Ethnologue (2005)          
Dixon (2002)          
Wurm (1994) Tasmanian Stock     Tasmanian Languages  
Walsh (1981) Tasmanian Languages     Mid-eastern  
Oates (1975)          
Wurm (1972)          
O'Grady, Voegelin and Voegelin (1966)