G23: Waanyi

AIATSIS code: 
AIATSIS reference name: 


Thesaurus heading language
Thesaurus heading people
ABN name
ABS name
Horton name
Ethnologue name
Garawa [Wanji]
ISO 639-3 code
Tindale name
Tindale (1974)
Wanyi, Wanyee, Wanee, Waangyee, Wonyee.
O'Grady et al (1966)
Wanyi, Wanyee, Wanee
Other sources
Waanyi, Wanji [Top End Handbook] Wanee [Basedow 1906:3]
Waanji, Garawa, Wanyi, Wanyee, Wanee, Waangyee, Wonyee

Breen's examination of grammatical structures in Wanyi (G23) and Garrwa N155 leads to the conclusion they are closely related but separate languages. Breen indicates that relationships with other languages are not clear, but 'correspondences with the West Barkly languages especially are worth further study' (2003:456).

Waanyi (G23) and and neighbouring Garrwa N155 belong to the Garrwan language family (Mushin, 2012:5) which is located in the Gulf of Carpentaria and is the 'only family which has explicitly been analysed as having an indeterminate or intermediate status' regarding its classification as non-Pama Nyungan or Pama Nyungan (Harvey, 2009:197-198).

Harvey argues 'the evaluation of the overall evidence shows Garrwan to be a PN family, within the terms of the criteria for the hypothesised opposition' (2009:198). In contrast, earlier analyses by Blake, (1990) and Evans (2005) classify Garrwan as non-Pama Nyungan (in Mushin, 2012:6).


  • Basedow, Herbert. 1907. Anthropological notes on the western coastal tribes of the Northern Territory of South Australia. Royal Society of South Australia -- Transactions 31:1-62.
  • Breen, Gavan. 2003. Wanyi and Garrwa comparative data. In The Non-Pama-Nyungan languages of Northern Australia. Comparative studies of the continent's most linguistically complex region. Nicholas Evans (ED). Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
  • Harvey, Mark. 2008. Non-Pama-Nyungan Languages: land-language associations at colonisation. AILEC 0802.
  • Harvey, Mark. 2009. The Genetic Status of Garrwa. In Australian Journal of Linguistics, Vol 29, no 2. pp 195-244.
  • Mushin, Ilana. 2012. A grammar of (Western) Garrwa. Boston, Mass.: De Gruyter Mouton. (L K284.004/1)
  • Osborne, Charles Roland. 1966. A tentative description of the Wanji language. (PMS 1360)
  • Stokes, Bronwyn. 1975. The Wanyi language: a late glimpse. (PMS 5947)
  • 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: 

The Wanji people formerly lived on the western parts of Lawn Hill Creek and Nicholson River, from about the boundary between the Northern Territory and Queensland, westwards towards Alexandria station. This is the territory which the people still regard as their home country (Osborne 1966:1).

... borders the Goonanderry, on the south, and extends to the head of the Nicholson River (Basedow 1907:3).

At Fish River; on Nicholson River west of Corinda; on Spring and Lawn Hill creeks; east to Barkly (Barclay) River; at Lawn Hill and Bannockburn; west to Old Ben-mara; southwest to Mount Morgan (Tindale 1974).

The general associations were to: A. The Nicholson drainage from Corinda upstream. B. Musselbrook Creek drainage. Eastward limits: Downstream from Corinda was associated with Nguburindi. Lawn Hill homestead was associated with Wanyi. Lawn Hill Creek upstream from Constance Range was associated with Yinjilanji. Century Mine was associated with Nguburindi. Northward limits: China Wall - south of China Wall was associated with Wanyi. North of China Wall was associated with Gunindirri. Westward limits: These are unclear. The associations of the Cresswell Downs area are not certain. It was associated with either Wanyi or Gunindirri, but there is no definitive information as to which of these it was associated with (Harvey AILEC 0802).


Sourcebook for Central Australian Languages (1981): 

Putijarra (A54 ) in Sourcebook for Central Australian Languages (1981).


Names of the language and different spellings that have been used:
Waanyi (Chadwick), Wanee (AL), Wanjee (AL), Wanji (AIAS, Osborne, Breen), Wa:nji (T, Osborne, Flint), Wanyi (SAW,Flint, Blake), Wanyee (AL)
Classification of the language:
Garawan (Karawan) Family, Wanyic group.
Identification codes:
Oates '73: 32
AIAS: G.023
Capell: G36
Present number and distribution of speakers:
Boulia, Cresswell Downs, Barkly Tablelands area.
Milliken, 1972 -- 21
Black, 1979 --
Osborne, 1966 -- 3 who can "communicate effectively"
Chadwick, 1973(?) -- "10 good informants"
People who have worked intensively on the language:
Osborne, Breen may continue analysis.
Practical orthography:
None established.
Word lists:
Grammar or sketch grammar:
Material available on the language:
Aguas, E.F. Waanyi field notes. 9p. (pMs 223, AIAS)
Black, Paul. 1974-7. Field notes. (Ms 465, AIAS)
Blake, Barry J. 1966. Report (to AIAS) on field trip Jul-Aug 1966. 2p. (Doc 66/430) (data on languages and informants of Pitta-Pitta, Ringa Ringa, Wangamana, Jalanga, Wagaja, Wanji,
---------- Waanyi field notes. 3p. (pMs 224, AIAS)
Breen, J.G. 1967. Waanyi wordlist, Camooweal. 3p. xeroxed ms.
---------- Garawa and Waanyi language material. (about 100p. ms.) (Ms 1138, AIAS) (includes 18 hours of tape)
Carlton, Maurice. 1966. Waanyi wordlists, Palm Island. 9p. xeroxed ms. (transcripts of short wordlist and some sentences)
Flint, E.H. 1966. Wanyi elicitation material and text. 29p. ts. Brisbane. (AIAS) (material recorded at Doomadgee, text of conversation and translation, vocabulary of 570 words)
Keen, Sandra (Newland). 1968. Phonetic script (of tapes). Normanton and Burketown. various pagings. (f 6046, pMs 228, AIAS). (wordlists and sentences of Gurdjar or Gunggara,
Wikmunkan, Gugadji, Wangji, Lardil, Janjula, Garawa; names of informants)
---------- 1968. Report of a linguistic survey of the Normanton-Burketown area of north-west Queensland. 11p. ts. (AIAS)
Osborne, C. 1966. Wanji elicitation material. 48p. ms. (material from Doomadgee, 548 phrases and sentences)
---------- 1966. Wanji elicited material. 23p. ms. (material from Doomadgee; 200 phrases and sentences) (AIAS)
---------- 1966. Wanji text 2. 13p. ms. (AIAS) (conversation between 2 speakers at Doomadgee, with interjections by other speakers in Garawa)
---------- 1966. A tentative description of the Wanji language. 58p. ms. map. (comparison between Wanji and Indjilandji, Garawa, Jugula) (material from Doomadgee. Phonology, grammar, 1000 short sentences, 800 words vocabulary, 3 short texts) (AIAS)
---------- 1976. Tape transcripts. (pMs 232, AIAS)
Sutton, Peter J. Waanyi tape transcription. (pMs 229, AIAS)
Tsunoda, Tasaku. Field work report (includes vocabularies). (Ms 709, AIAS)
---------- Tape transcript in Waanyi. (pMs 230, AIAS)
Literacy material:

Kathy Menning (comp.) and David Nash (ed.) 1981. © IAD Press

AIATSIS gratefully acknowledges IAD Press for permission to use this material in AUSTLANG.

Barry Blake, Gavan Breen, Luise Hercus, Sandra Keen, Charles Osborne, Bronwyn Stokes, Peter Sutton, Papulu Apparr-Kari Language Centre
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   3?
Text Collection Small (20-100 pages) 2
Grammar Sketch grammar (less than 100 pages) 2
Audio-visual More than 10 3
Manuscript note: 
tape transcription/field note available

Osborne, Charles. 1966. A tentative description of the Wanji language, ms.


Furby, C.E, et al. Garawa/Wanyi wordlist, ASEDA 0244. Breen, Gavan Garawa/Wanyi machine-readable data files, ASEDA 0245.

Source Family Group Sub-group Name Relationship
Ethnologue (2005) Garawan     Garawa [Wanji] Garawa [dialects: Wanji (Wainyi, Waanyi)]
Dixon (2002)   WAANJI/GARRWA SUBGROUP*   Waanji Waanji
Wurm (1994) Garawan Waanyi   Waanyi  
Walsh (1981) Garawan Waanyi   Waanyi  
Oates (1975) Garawan Wanjic   Wanji  
Wurm (1972) Karawan Wanyic   Wanyi  
O'Grady, Voegelin and Voegelin (1966) Karwan Wanyic   Wanji