A86: Martu Wangka

AIATSIS code: 
AIATSIS reference name: 
Martu Wangka


Thesaurus heading language
Thesaurus heading people
ABN name
ABS name
Horton name
Ethnologue name
ISO 639-3 code
Tindale name
Tindale (1974)
O'Grady et al (1966)
Other sources

According to Marsh (1976:1-4, in Wangka Maya PALC 2008:8), Lindgren (1961) noted an emerging communilect which developed from Kartujarra A51 and Manyjilyjarra A51.1 some 15 years prior and that the Aborigines at Jigalong referred it to as martu wangka 'Aboriginal language'. Later, the WA Handbook reports that Marsh says Martu Wangka A86 is the contemporary name of a specific language variety (or communilect) from Jigalong station based on Kartujarra A51, Manjiljarra A51.1 and Putijarra A54 (Marsh 1972, in Thieberger 1993:193, 202). Thieberger says the term Martu Wangka means 'Aboriginal language' and can also 'apply to speakers of a number of languages who call themselves Martu' (Thieberger 1993:194, 202).

Tonkinson (1991:12) uses the term Mardu (meaning 'man, people') to refer to the linguistic groups whose home territories lie in the area surrounding Lake Disappointment on the western side of the Gibson Desert, saying these groups are principally the Gardujarra A51, Budijarra A54, Gurajarra A85, Manyjilyjarra A51.1 and Giyajarra A52.

Davenport (2005), citing Tonkinson's (1989) work, says that the term Martu is now used to describe people who have appropriate connections to eight dialect-named groups: Manyilyjarra A51.1, Kartujarra A51, Putijarra A54, Warnman A62, Pijakarli (Southern Nyangumarta) A61, Ngulipartu A72, Kurajarra A85 and Kiyajarra A52 and their corresponding territories, which cover much of the Gibson, Little Sandy and Great Sandy deserts in Western Australia.

The term Martu Wangka thus refers to several dialects of the Western Desert language A80. Martu Wangka has been confused with Tindale's Maduwongga A6, the location of which is much further south that that described for Martu Wangka. Previously both were assigned to the same code, A6, in the Thesaurus. They now have distinct authorised headings; A6 now relates only to Maduwongga and A86 is used for Martu Wangka.

AUSTLANG previously had these codes reversed but this has been corrected to reflect the original assignment of A6 to Maduwongga. Note that the ABS does not make a distinction between Martu Wangka and Maduwongga so census data may combine information on both of these. See also Western Desert language A80.


  • Davenport, Sue. 2005. Cleared out: first contact in the Western Desert. Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press.
  • Marsh, James L. 1992. Martu Wangka English dictionary. Darwin: Summer Institute of Linguistics/AAB.
  • Dixon, Sally. 2011. How to read and write Pilbara languages. South Hedland: Wangka Maya Pilbara Aboriginal Language Centre.
  • Thieberger, Nicholas. 1993. Handbook of Western Australian Aboriginal languages south of the Kimberley region: Pacific Linguistics C-124. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
  • Tonkinson, Robert. 1991. The Mardu Aborigines: living the dream in Australia's desert. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
  • Wangka Maya Pilbara Aboriginal Language Centre. 2008. Manyjilyjarra sketch grammar. South Hedland, WA: Wangka Maya Pilbara Aboriginal Language Centre.
State / Territory: 
Location information: 

Contemporary location: ... in and around the Gibson and Great Sandy Desert area of Western Australia. The communities where a significant number of Martu Wangka speakers live are Jigalong, Parnngurr, Punmu, Purntawari, Newman and Nullagine. (Marsh 1992:9).

... much of the Gibson, Little Sandy and Great Sandy deserts in Western Australia (Davenport 2005).

Jigalong and all desert communities (Dixon 2011:51).

Indigenous organisations: 
Year Source Speaker numbers
1990Schmidtincl. with Western Desert A80

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).

Manuscript note: 
Source Family Group Sub-group Name Language-dialect relationships
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