A73: Walyirli

AIATSIS code: 
AIATSIS reference name: 


ABN name
ABS name
Horton name
Nyangumarda (Walyirli/Wanyarli)
Ethnologue name
ISO 639-3 code
Tindale name
Thesaurus heading language
Thesaurus heading (old)
Tindale (1974)
O'Grady et al (1966)
Other sources
Walyurli (northern dialect of Nyangumarta) [<ozbib>McKelson 1989:3$4004</ozbib>] Wanyarli [<ozbib>O'Grady 1964$4428</ozbib>]
Nyangumarta, Nyangumarda, Walyirli/Wanyarli, Iparuka, Kundal, Ngolibardu, Ngurlipartu, Wanyarli, Walyurli

See and use Nyangumarta A61.

'Most Nyangumarta speakers and others who study this language recognise two main dialects: inland or southern Nyangumarta (sometimes called Ngurlipartu) and coastal or northern Nyangumartu (sometimes called Walyirli). Though certain words are different between these two dialects, it's important to remember that they are very much alike and that Nyangumarta speakers still think of them as being part of the same language' (Geytenbeek et. al. 2015: viii).

Sharp's (2004:4) informants identify Walyirli (A73), spoken at Yandeyarra and the Twelve Mile Reserve on the outskirts of Port Hedland, as one of four Nyangumarta A61 dialects, the others being Ngurlipartu A72 to the south, Pijikala A104 to the north near Lake Waukarlykarly, and Kuntal A98. From a linguistic perspective Sharp recognises two distinct varieties, Ngurlipartu A72 and Walyirli (A73), which she refers to as northern coastal Nyangumarta and southern inland Nyangumarta respectively. 


  • Geytenbeek, Brian. 2015. Nyangumarta Learner's Dictionary.  South Hedland: Wangka Maya PALC.

  • Sharp, Janet. 2004. Nyangumarta: a language of the Pilbara region of Western Australia: Pacific Linguistics 556. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. 429 pp.
  • Tindale, Norman B. 1974. Aboriginal tribes of Australia: their terrain, environmental controls, distribution, limits, and proper names. Berkeley: University of California Press/Canberra: Australian National University Press.
State / Territory: 
Location information: 

Nyangumarta: Traditional: an area that stretched from south and east of lake Waukarlykarly (towards Telfer) northwards to a long string of claypans that lie east of Sandfire, and which reach over 120 km into the Great Sandy Desert. Many of the northern Nyangumarta people occupied the Eighty Mile Beach area (Sharp 2004:4) Present:northern Pilbara and southern Kimberley areas. The area extends to La Grange (Bidyadanga) and Broome and south-west to Port Hedland Also Marble Bar (Sharp 2004:12) In early historical time the Iparuka Njangamarda usurped the territory of the Ngolibardu tribe around Thros-sell Range. Including this, their territory extends from Rudall River northeast to ['Karbardi] near Swindell Field east of ['Tjandalkuru], (Tindalgoo on maps), thence west to near the eastern border of Warrawagine Station. The Kundal Njangamarda go from this line northwest to ['Man-da] (Munda Well on Munro Station) and west to Anna Plains Station, just south of Cape Missiessy, where ['Jawinja], situated beside the present Station homestead, was their northernmost water. Their southwestern boundary lay along the edge of the tableland north of de Grey and Oakover rivers to ['Jalalo] (Ulalling Hills on maps) (Tindale 1974)

  • Sharp, Janet. 2004. Nyangumarta: a language of the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
Handbook of Kimberley Languages (1988): 

Walmajarri (A66 ) in Handbook of Kimberley Languages (1988).

8.3 Nyangumarta / Njangumarda

Names of the language and different spellings that have been used:
Nandamurda, Nangamada, Nangamurda (Bates), Nungoo'murdoo, Na?amada (O'Grady), Na?umada (O'Grady), Njangamada, Njangamarda (Tindale), Njangumada (Capell), Njangumarda (AIAS, Capell), Njangumarta (Brown), Nja?omada (Odermann), Nyangamada, Nyangumarda (O'Grady), Nyangumarta (KLS, Black & Walsh), Nyangumata (O'Grady), Nya?umada (McKelson)
The dialect situation is not perfectly clear, although all authorities agree that there are two dialects. Hoard & O'Grady (1976:51) say that the northern Nyangumarta are called Wanyarli by the southern ones, and that the southern Nyangumarta are called Ngulibardu (Ngurlipartu in the South Kimberley orthography) by the northern ones. However, Brian Geytenbeek (pers.comm.) suggests that there are two dialects, a Coastal Nyangumarta, and an Inland Nyangumarta, and that the Hoard and O'Grady terms may be inaccurate. He suggests that Wanyarli may be a mishearing, and should perhaps be Walyirli, which refers to a family grouping around Wallal, and is not strictly a dialect name; he goes on to say that although the term Wanyarli is well known to whites in the area, most Aborigines do not know of it. Geytenbeek also remarks that there is a difficulty with the term Ngurlipartu: some old men who identify themselves by this term speak a variety distinct from the Inland dialect, one which shows more Western Desert influence., Another opinion is expressed by Tindale, who refers to the northern dialect as Kundal, and to the southern one as Iparuka. Tindale also lists Ngolibardu (i.e. Ngulipartu), but as a separate language, which was taken over by the Iparuka.
Classification of the language:
Pama-Nyungan family; Marrngu subgroup
Identification codes:
Oates 1973: 57.1a
Capell: A30
Present number and distribution of speakers:
In communities between Port Hedland and Broome
Black & Walsh - 700-800 speakers
Oates (1973) - about 700 speakers (early 1970s)
People who have worked intensively on the language:
M. Brown, late 1970s, in Strelley
Gwen Bucknall, since 1970s in Strelley
Brian and Helen Geytenbeek, since mid 1970s, in Port Hedland
Fr. Kevin McKelson, since 1950s, in La Grange
Geoffrey O'Grady, 1950s, in Wallal, and Anna Plains
Janet Sharp, 1980s, in Strelley
Practical orthography:
Brian and Helen Geytenbeek have developed a practical orthography, identical with the South Kimberley orthography, and the same system is in use at Strelley, developed by Gwen Bucknall.
Word lists:
Bates (nd a,b), Capell (1940), Davidson (1928-1932), Geytenbeek & Geytenbeek (1973), McKelson (1968b, nd), Odermann (1958), O'Grady (1959, 1968)
Textual material:
Brandenstein & Thomas (1974), Catholic Church (1974, nd), Geytenbeek & Geytenbeek (1972-1978), McKelson (nd), O'Grady & O'Grady (1965b) Woodman (1980)
Grammar or sketch grammar:
McKelson (nd), O'Grady (1964), Sharp (1985); O'Grady (1959) contains some grammatical information.
Material available on the language:
Anon. 1956. The Abos have a word for it: a white man set out to learn exactly what they were saying. [G.N. O'Grady learning Nyangumarta.] People 30th May 1956:23-26.
Anon. 1982. Road to health. Mikurrunya. 4. 10-12.
Bates, D.M. nd a. Native vocabularies - Miscellaneous. typescript copy of manuscript. Section 12, 2F: 21. ANL-MS365-57/2-16.
_____ .nd b. Native vocabularies - Pilbara Magisterial District. typescript copy of manuscript. Section 12, 2D: 2a, 2b. ANL-MS365-48/25-46.
Brandenstein, C-G von. 1964-1969. The diaries of C-G von Brandenstein, 1964-1969. manuscript. 1616pp. AIAS A3 34.
_____ .1965a. Ein Abessive im Gemein-Australischen. Anthropos 60. 646-662.
_____ .1965b. [Letter to A.I.A.S., dated 15.10.65] 4pp. manuscript. AIAS Doc. 66/344.
_____ .1966. Interim report (4) [to A.I.A.S.] on field work NW-WA 15.9.65
_____ .1967. The language situation in the Pilbara - past and present. In Papers in Australian linguistics, 2. Canberra: PL, A-11. 1-20.
_____ .1968. Field tapes nos. 3-13: contents. 21pp. manuscript. AIAS
_____ .1970. Portugese loan words in Aboriginal languages of north-western Australia (a problem of Indo-European and Finno-Ugrian comparative linguistics). In Wurm, S.A. & Laycock, D.C. (eds), Pacific linguistics studies in honour of Arthur Capell. Canberra: PL, C-13. 617-650.
_____ .nd. Report on field work 1969. 9pp. typescript. AIAS Doc no. 69/865. (A2;B2).
Brandenstein, C-G von. & Thomas, A.P. 1974. Taruru: Aboriginal song poetry from the Pilbara. Adelaide: Rigby.
Brown, M. 1976. A phonological and grammatical write-up of the language Njangumarta as spoken by the Aboriginal people of Strelley Station, W.A. typescript.
_____ .1982. Nyangumarta vernacular literacy programme. Aboriginal Languages Association Newsletter 4. 16-18.
Capell, A. 1940. The classification of languages in north and north-west Australia. Oceania 10. 241-272, 404-433.
_____ .1962a. Some linguistic types in Australia. (Oceania Linguistic Monographs, 7) Sydney: University of Sydney.
_____ .1962b. Language and social distinction in Aboriginal Australia. Mankind 5. 514-522.
_____ .1966. Beginning linguistics. Sydney: University Cooperative Bookshop.
_____ .1970. Linguistic change in Australia. In Pilling, A.R. & Waterman, R.A. (eds), Diprotodon to detribalization. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press. 240-255.
Catholic Church. 1974. Liturgy and ritual. Our father, Hail Mary (adapted). [In Nyangumarta; translated by McKelson, K.]. 7pp. typescript. AIAS
_____ .nd. Liturgy and ritual. Our Father, Hail Mary (adapted). 8pp. typescript. AIAS
Davidson, D.S. 1928-1932. Comparative vocabularies of nineteen Western Australian languages. 77pp. typescript. AIAS Ms 1097. (A2;B5).
Day, A. 1957. Nyangumarda, Wanman, Kardutjara, Pawututjara and Mandjildjara lexical test lists. manuscript.
Epeling, P.J. 1961. A note on Njamal kin-term usage. Man 61. 152-159.
Geytenbeek, B.B. nd. Tayapiti. manuscript.
_____ .1973. Nyangumarda, Nyamal and Nyiyapali word lists. 4 parts. manuscript.
_____ .1977. Looking at English through Nyangumarda-coloured spectacles. In Brumby, E. & Vaszolyi, E.G. (eds), Language problems and Aboriginal education. Mt Lawley: Mt Lawley College of Advanced Education. 34-44.
Geytenbeek, B.B. & Geytenbeek, H. 1972-1973. Nyangumarda field notes, 1972-1973. 101, 262pp. manuscript. AIAS A3 64. (A3a;B1).
_____ .1972-1978. Nyangumarda texts. 127pp. typescript. AIAS A3 65. (A3a;B1).
_____ .1973. [Nyangumarda, Nyamal and Nyiyapali word lists.] 4 pts. manuscript. AIAS Ms 1173. (A1;B5).
_____ .1980. Nyangumarda field notes, 1976-1979. 352pp. manuscript. AIAS Ms 1482. (A1;B5).
Geytenbeek, H. 1980. Continuous and discontinuous noun phrases in Nyangumarda. Papers in Australian linguistics, 12. Canberra: PL, A-59. 23-35.
_____ .1982. Nyangumarta kinship: a woman's viewpoint. In Hargrave, S. (ed.), Language and culture. (Work Papers of SIL-AAB, B-8) Darwin: SIL. 19-31.
Hoard, J.E. & O'Grady, G.N. 1976. Nyangumarda phonology: a preliminary report. In Dixon, R.M.W. (ed.), Grammatical categories in Australian languages. Canberra: AIAS. 51-77.
McConvell, P. 1982. Supporting the two way school. In Bell, J. (ed.), Language planning for Australian Aboriginal languages. Alice Springs: IAD. 60-76.
_____ .1985. The origin of subsections in northern Australia. Oceania 56. 1-33.
McKelson, K. nd. Studies in Nja?umada. 239pp. manuscript. AIAS Ms 293. (A ;B ).
_____ .1968a. [Letter to A.I.A.S.] 1p. manuscript. AIAS File T66/70.
_____ .1968b. Teach yourself Nyangumada. typescript.
_____ .1977. Basic Nya?umada. 16pp. typescript. AIAS pMs 535. (A1;B4).
_____ .1979. Nadya Nadya country. In Berndt, R.M. & Berndt, C.H. (eds), Aborigines of the west: their past and their present. Perth: University of Western Australia Press. 214-223.
_____ .1981. Notes for staff on La Grange Mission: kinship. Nelen Yubu 7. 3-17.
McLoughlin, P. 1977. A grammatical sketch of Nyangumarda. typescript.
Odermann, G. 1957. Des Eigentum in Nordwest-Australien. [Property in north-west Australia.] Annali Lateranensi 21. 30-97.
_____ .1958. Heilkunde der Nja?omada, Nordwest Australien. Paideuma 6. 411-428.
O'Grady, G.N. 1956. A secret language of Western Australia - a note. Oceania 27. 158-159.
_____ .1957. Statistical investigation into an Australian language. Oceania 27. 283-312.
_____ .1957-1958. Material on suffixing languages of Western Australia. 237pp. typescript. AIAS Ms 320. (A1;B2).
_____ .1959. Significance of the circumcision boundary in Western Australia. BA thesis, University of Sydney.
_____ .1960. New concepts in Nya?umada: some data on linguistic acculturation. Anthropological linguistics 2. 1-6.
_____ .1961. Transcript of tapes in Ngulipartu. typescript.
_____ .1964. Nyangumata grammar. (Oceania Linguistic Monographs, 9) Sydney: University of Sydney.
_____ .1967a. Ngulipatu. [Nyamal, Nyangumata. Transcriptions of tapes.] 38pp. manuscript. AIAS pMs 1352.
_____ .1967b. Nyangumarda, Bayunga, Wariyangka, Targari. [Transcriptions of tapes.] 88pp. manuscript. AIAS pMs 1394.
_____ .1967c. Nyangumarda, Ngarla, Nyamal, Warnman. [Transcriptions of tapes.] 36pp. manuscript. AIAS pMs 1350.
_____ .1967d. [Transcriptions from A.I.A.S. tapes A687a, 793a and b, 794a and 686a in Talandju, Yinggarda, Warrienga, Purduna, Warnman and Nyangumarda. 14[25]pp. manuscript. AIAS
_____ .1968. [Language material from Western Australia.] 264pp. manuscript. AIAS Ms 321. (A1;B2).
_____ .1970. Nyangumarda conjugations. In Wurm, S.A. & Laycock, D.C. (eds), Pacific linguistic studies in honour of Arthur Capell. Canberra: PL, C-13. 845-864.
O'Grady, G.N. & Mooney, K.A. 1973. Nyangumarda kinship terminology. Anthropological linguistics 15. 1-23.
O'Grady, G.N. & O'Grady, A. 1965a. Songs of Aboriginal Australia and Torres Strait. [Gramophone record.] (Ethnic Folkways Library FE4102) (Indiana University: Archives of Folk & Primitive Music. Ethnomusicological Series) Bloomington: Indiana University.
_____ .1965b. Songs of Aboriginal Australia and Torres Strait. Musicological notes by Alice Moyle. (Indiana University - Archives of Folk & Primitive Music. Ethnomusicological Series.) Bloomington: Indiana University.
O'Grady, G.N., Voegelin, C.F. & Voegelin, F.M. 1966. Languages of the world: Indo-Pacific fascicle 6. Anthropological Linguistics 8. 1-197.
Petri, H. 1966. Dynamik im Stammesleben Nordwest-Australiens. Paideuma 6. 152-168.
_____ .1967. Wandji-Kuranggara, ein mythischer Traditionskomplex aus der westichen Wuste Australiens [Wandji-Kuranggara, a complex of mythical traditions from the Western Desert of Australia.] Baessler-Archiv 15. 1-34.
Rurla. 1977. Nyungu warrarn ngalypa. (In Nyangumarta, with a Gupapuyngu translation by Matjarra) Milingimbi: Milingimbi Literature Production Centre.
Schebeck, B. 1972. Les systemes phonologiques des langues australiennes. PhD thesis, L'Universite Rene Descartes. AIAS MF 91. (A1;B2).
Sharp, J. nd. Spreading in Nyangumarta - a non-linear account. typescript.
_____ .1976. [Primers in Njangumarta.] Strelley: Strelley Community School. 11 volumes.
_____ .1979. CARE Newsletter. 15. 10.
_____ .1985. Draft Nyangumarta grammar. typescript. Strelley Aboriginal Com-munity School. 1976a. [A description of the school.] 15pp. typescript. AIAS pMs 1587. (A1;B2).
Stuart, D. 1959. Yandy. Melbourne: Georgian House.
Thieberger, N. 1987. Handbook of WA Aboriginal languages (south of the Kimberley region). first draft. typescript. Mt. Lawley: Institute of Applied Aboriginal Studies.
Tsunoda, T. nd. Comments on K. McKelson's 'A comparative study of pronouns'. 8pp. manuscript and typescript. AIAS pMs 1882.
Woodman, D. (tr.). 1980. Genesis I-II. Nyangumarta. Purlpi marlu nyungu wirrirni jungka God-ju. (Long ago God made this earth.) Darwin: Wycliffe Bible Translators.
Language programme:
Strelley Community School has been running a bilingual programme in Nyangumarta and Manyjilyjarra since the 1970s. Since 1985 the La Grange State School has run a language programme which includes Nyangumarta as one of the languages.
Language learning material:
McKelson (1977)
Literacy material:
Rurla (1977), Sharp (1976)

McGregor, William. 1988 Handbook of Kimberley Languages. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. © Author.

AIATSIS gratefully acknowledge William McGregor for permission to use his material in AUSTLANG.

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 Medium (100-200 pages) 3
Text Collection None 0
Grammar None 0
Audio-visual None 0
Manuscript note: 

Wangka Maya Pilbara Aboriginal Language Centre. 2008. Nyangumarta dictionary 2008. South Hedland: Wangka Maya Pilbara Aboriginal Language Centre.

Source Family Group Sub-group Name Relationship
Ethnologue (2005)          
Dixon (2002)          
Wurm (1994)          
Walsh (1981)          
Oates (1975)          
Wurm (1972)          
O'Grady, Voegelin and Voegelin (1966)