Tongue Twisters in Australian Languages.

A fun post at Endangered Languages and Cultures:

A lively thread has been unwinding over on the RNLD email list recently, in response to a request for examples of Australian tongue twisters.

So many great phrases have come out of the woodwork that it behooves us to set them down here for posterity.

Oddly, listing them in alphabetical order by language means that (for me, at least) the best are at the top, beginning with


Intelyapelyape yepeyepe-kenhe lyepelyepele anepaneme
‘The butterfly is sitting on the sheep’s intestines’

Thanks, Yoram!


  1. David Marjanović says

    Majestic flapflaps!

    As I have learned on these hallowed pages, “butterfly” in Yorùbá is labalábá

  2. Nice! I wish there was a bit more background — it looks like these might be a mix of recognized “tongue twisters” and just words and phrases that are hard for non-native speakers to say. (Like, surely speakers of Western Desert don’t think of “Nganananya”, apparently simply meaning “ours”, as something along the same lines as “She sells sea shells”? Or do they? I guess you can’t rule anything out in linguistics.)

    The “finger twister” is great — first time I’ve seen one of those!

  3. I wish there was a bit more background — it looks like these might be a mix of recognized “tongue twisters” and just words and phrases that are hard for non-native speakers to say.

    I wondered the same thing.

  4. 15 самых сложных скороговорок в русском языке

  5. La Horde Listener says

    “~La Ba La, Ba Barbara Ann~” I think the Belgian band La Horde does that one. That’s some mighty good listening! And good looking, too!

  6. At last your moniker is explained!

  7. Bathrobe says

    I was tempted to add nganganghnganga to the “Naming” section for the Grey-crowned Babbler at Wikipedia. All those boring English names and not a single indigenous name! But I doubt it would fit Wikipedia guidelines…

  8. The Lardil ones, at least, were just phrases that struck me as hard for non-native speakers to say. The request that motivated all the posts was from someone working on “activities to support pronunciation skills development for learners of Australian languages”; he asked for tongue-twisters that would have “phones and phonotactics that are considered problematic for English speakers.” So I wouldn’t be surprised if none of the entries had been run by native speakers.

  9. La Horde Listener says

    Ah, I figured I’d use that name instead of I-wanna-sit-on-Greg’s-lap-woof-woof-woof-ow-wooooo!-rrrruff!-ruff!-rayrrrr!-Thumpa-thumpa-Pant!Pant!Pant! or something. Even though that’s the more accurate, La Horde Listener’s better because Greg and I go to the same café, he reads here, and, if busted, I just know I’ll forget how to say “Omigod! Is my face RED or what?!?” properly in whatever language his friends and relatives speak when they find out is I, form the defensive bison ring, horns out, and I’ll choke when it counts most. That kind of thing could be embarrassing. I mean really: my considering using such a long name could lead to considerable ridicule, and I’d prefer to earn it by supplying unsolicited promotional hype about La Horde every twenty posts or so because they are internationally oriented and pretty good. Some of what I’ll say is true. Some is buzz-building detritus. Their wicked cover of Brahms danse Hongroise 5 is on YouTube. That one is true. “Plus, I believe they wrote an entire opera about squirrel urine” isn’t true at all, but O the mirth. Everyone who knows me knows that I tell ‘um one big lie every five years and one little one each year, except Greg. So twenty five comments o’mine I’ll usually work in something accurate about that band alongside some fake lyrics about an antique glass boomerang or something for extra fun. You KNOW you NEED IT. Woo…..

  10. I’m not the pheasant plucker I’m the pheasant plucker’s son, I’m only plucking pheasants till the pheasant plucker comes

  11. Chrt zdrhl z Brd. Vtrhl skrz strž v tvrz srn, v čtvrť Krč. Blb! Prskl, zvrhl smrk, strhl drn, mrskl drn v trs chrp. Zhltl čtvrthrst zrn skrz krk, pln zrn vsrkl hlt z vln. Chrt brkl, mrkl, zmlkl. Zvlhls?

  12. David Marjanović says

    I sit in awe.

  13. @SFReader: Trnsltn, plz?

    I’ve recently learned of the spectacular consonant clusters of the Southern Ryukyuan languages, e.g. Miyako:

    /mmtɑ/ (sp. small fruit)
    /nnɑmɑ/ ‘now’
    /ʋʋɑ/ ‘you’
    /fɑɑ/ ‘baby’
    /ffɑ/ ‘grass’
    /fffɑ/ ‘’ (from ff ‘comb’)[4]
    /suu/ ‘vegetable’
    /ss/ ‘dust’
    /ssu/ ‘white’
    /sssu/ ‘dust.acc’
    /mm/ ‘potato’
    /mmɑ/ ‘mother’
    /mmmɑ/ ‘potato.TOP’
    /pssma/ ‘day’
    /ss/ ‘dust, a nest, to rub’
    /kss/ ‘breast/milk, hook / to fish, to come’
    /pss/ ‘day, vulva’
    /ff/ ‘a comb, to bite, to rain, to close’
    /kff/ ‘to make’
    /fks/ ‘to build’
    /ksks/ ‘month, to listen, to arrive’, etc.
    /sks/ ‘to cut’
    /psks/ ‘to pull’
    /kff ff/ ‘the comb that I make’
    /kff ss/ ‘the nest that I make’
    /kff kss/ ‘the hook that I make’

  14. A hound shot off away from Brd. He shot through a chasm in a fortress of roe deer in the neighbourhood of Krč. Idiot! He spluttered, knocked over a spruce tree, tore off a piece of turf, hurled the turf in a cluster of cornflowers. He swallowed a quarter-handful of grains through his throat, full of grain having swallowed from waves. The hound puffed, winked, and was silent. Did it get wet?

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