K13: Nyulnyul

AIATSIS code: 
AIATSIS reference name: 


Thesaurus heading language
Thesaurus heading people
ABN name
ABS name
Kimberley Area Languages, nec (Nyul Nyul)
Horton name
Nyul Nyul
Ethnologue name
ISO 639-3 code
Tindale name
Tindale (1974)
Njolnjol (variant), Nyolnyol, Nyulnyul, Nyul-nyul.
O'Grady et al (1966)
Njul-Njul, Nyul-Nyul, Niol-Niol, Nyolnyol
Other sources
Nyool Nyool [Bowern 2006 p.c.] Ngol-ngool, Niol niol, Njol-Njol, Nyol-Nyol, Nyool-Nyool, Nyoolnyool, NyulNyul, Nyul Nyul [<ozbib>McGregor 2011:1$7586</ozbib>]
Njul Njul, Kimberley Area Languages, Nyulnyul, Njulnjul, Ngulnyul, Niol Niol, Njolnjol, Nyolnyol, Nyool Nyool, NyulNyul, Nyul nyul, Yowera

Nyulnyul is a non-Pama Nyungan language from north western Western Australia.

McGregor discusses the differing boundaries of Nyulnyul (K13) country reported in various sources and presents them together in a map of the area (2011:6-7). McGregor categorises Nyulnyul (K13) as one of the Western Nyulnyulan languages, along with Bardi K15, Jawi K16, Jabirrjabirr K8, Nimanburru K9 and Ngumbarl K4. He contrasts these with the Eastern Nyulnyulan languages, Nyikina K3, Warrwa K10, Yawuru K1 and Jukun K2 (2010:209).


  • Harvey, Mark. 2008. Non-Pama-Nyungan Languages: land-language associations at colonisation. AILEC 0802.
  • McGregor, William B. 2010. The semantics, pragmatics and evolution of two verbless negative constructions in Nyulnyul. Oceanic Linguistics 49(1):205-232.
  • McGregor, William B. 2011. The Nyulnyul language of Dampier Land, Western Australia. Pacific Linguistics 632. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
  • Stokes, Bronwyn. 1982. A description of Nyigina, a language of the West Kimberley, Western Australia (MFE/B52), Australian National University: PhD. (MFE/B52).
State / Territory: 
Location information: 

... around Beagle Bay (Stokes 1982:9).

The general associations were to Beagle Bay. The northern side of Pender Bay is associated with Bardi Placenames on the southern side of Pender Bay indicate that this too was associated with Bardi - thus "Embalgun" (Imbalgoon) is a Bardi name, not Nyulnyul (C. Bowern p.c. to Harvey AILEC 0802). With respect to Goodenough Bay, the available evidence concurs in associating this with Nimanburru and not with Nyulnyul. Inland limits were inferred in accordance with drainage basins. (Harvey AILEC 0802).

... in the vicinity of Beagle Bay, towards the tip of the Dampier Land peninsula in the far north-west of Western Australia (McGregor 2011:1).


  • Stokes, Bronwyn. 1982. A description of Nyigina, a language of the West Kimberley, Western Australia, Australian National University: PhD.
  • McGregor, William. 1988. Handbook of Kimberley languages, vol. 1: general information. Pacific Linguistics C-105. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
  • Harvey, Mark. 2008. Non-Pama-Nyungan Languages: land-language associations at colonisation (ASEDA 802).
Handbook of Kimberley Languages (1988): 

Wilyara (A20 ) in Handbook of Kimberley Languages (1988).

4.4 Nyulnyul / NjulNjul / NyolNyol

Names of the language and different spellings that have been used:
Niol-Niol (Bischofs), Niol/Niol, Niol niol (Bischofs), Niol Niol (Bischofs), Njol-Njol (Nekes & Worms), Njol Njol (Worms), Njulnjul (Capell, Metcalfe, Robinson, Tindale), Njul-njul, Njul-Njul (Oates, Capell, AIAS), Nyolnyol, Nyol-Nyol (Nekes, Worms), Nyool-Nyool (Hudson & McConvell), Nyool Nyool (Campbell & Bird), Nyoolyool (Bates), Nyulnyul (Black, Black & Walsh, O'Grady), NyulNyul (Oates & Oates), Nyul-Nyul (Kerr), Nyul Nyul (Stokes), Yowera
Classification of the language:
Nyulnyulan family
Identification codes:
Oates 1973: 49.1a
Capell: K17
Present number and distribution of speakers:
Probably only one remaining full speaker, and a few semi-speakers, who live in Broome and Derby.
Stokes - less than 10
People who have worked intensively on the language:
Fr. P. Bischofs, early 1900s, Beagle Bay
Frs. Herman Nekes and Ernest Worms 1930s to 1950s, Beagle Bay and Broome
William McGregor, 1985 onwards, Broome
Practical orthography:
None in general use. However, Torres & Williams (1987) uses the Dampier Land variant of the North Kimberley orthography.
Word lists:
Bates (nd), Bischofs (1905-1914b, nd), Capell (1940, 1966), Douglas (nd), Kerr (nd), Lands et al. (1987), Moyle (nd), Nekes (1939), Torres & Williams (1987), Worms (1938a, 1938b, 1942, 1944, 1949, 1957)
Textual material:
Capell (1949), Huegel (1938-1971), Nekes & Worms (1953), Worms (1957, 1959)
Stokes recorded two texts in the language in the late 1970s, and McGregor recorded a dozen or so short texts in 1988. None of these are as yet published.
Grammar or sketch grammar:
B (nd), Bischofs (1905-1914a), Douglas (1950), Nekes (1939), Tachon (1900)
Material available on the language:
B. nd. Premiers elements de la langue Niol/Niol. 19pp. typescript. (Only identification given on original is: Fr.B - A.S.G.S. "avec l'aide des Mss. de premiers Missionaires".) AIAS.
Bates, D.M. nd. Native vocabularies - Broome Magisterial District. typescript. Section 12, 2E:1b. ANL-MS365-52/61-104.Beagle Bay Mission. 1890-1930. [Nyol-Nyol language material.] manuscript. AIAS Ms 1.
Beagle Bay Mission. 1890-1930. [Nyol-Nyol language material.] manuscript. AIAS Ms 1. (Includes some Jawi vocabulary.)
Bischofs, P.J. 1908. Die Niol-Niol, ein eingeborenenstamm in Nordwest-Australien. Anthropos 3. 32-40.
_____ .1905-1914a. Premiers elements de la langue Niol niol. 2 pts. typescript. AIAS pMs 1418. (A1;B2).
_____ .1905-1914b. Vocabulary of the Niol niol language. 2 pts. typescript. AIAS Ms 99.
_____ .nd. Vocabulary of the Niol Niol language. 55pp. typescript. AIAS Ms 99.
Capell, A. 1940. The classification of languages in north and north-west Australia. Oceania 10. 241-272, 404-433.
_____ .1949. Some myths of the Garadjeri tribe, Western Australia. Mankind 4. 46-61, 108-125, 148-162.
_____ .1966. A new approach to Australian linguistics. (Oceania Linguistic Monographs, 1) Sydney: University of Sydney.
Douglas, W.H. 1950. Nul-nul: an Australian Aboriginal language spoken in the southern portion of the Dampier Peninsula, north-west of Western Australia. 10pp. manuscript. AIAS pMs 2168.
_____ . nd. Nul-nul and Ba:d vocabulary, extracted from notes by A. Capell. manuscript. AIAS pMs 2169.
Huegel, F. 1938-1971. Prayer and hymnbook in Njol-Njol. 80pp. typescript. AIAS Ms 1041. (A1;B4).
Kerr, N.F. nd. A comparative word-list: Nyigina and neighbouring languages. manuscript. AIAS Ms.
Lands, M. et al. 1987. Mayi: some bush fruits of Dampierland. Broome: Magabala Books.
Moyle, A.M. nd. Index of Australian Aboriginal song words. 19pp. manuscript. AIAS
Nekes, H. 1931-1947. Kimberleys language material: D'aro, N'ol N'ol, etc. 7pts. manuscript. AIAS Ms 35. (A1;B2).
_____ .1939. The pronoun in Nyol-Nyol (Nyul-Nyul) and related dialects. In Elkin, A.P. (ed). Studies in Australian linguistics. (Oceania Monograph, 3) Sydney: University of Sydney. 139-163.
Nekes, H. & Worms, E.A. 1953. Australian languages. (Micro-Bibliotheca Anthropos, 10) Fribourg: Anthropos-Institut. 1058pp. AIAS MF 4.
Stokes, B. 1985. The verb from Noonkanbah to Broome: "alternative-prefixing" verbal systems of the West Kimberley. manuscript.
Tachon, A. 1890-1900. Niol Niol language material. 5 pts. microfilm. AIAS Ms 1. MF 64. (A1;B2).
Torres, P. & Williams, M. 1987. The story of crow: a Nyul Nyul story. Broome: Magabala Books.
Worms, E.A. 1938a. Foreign words in some Kimberley tribes in North-Western Australia. Oceania 8. 458-462.
_____ .1938b. Onomatopoeia in some Kimberley tribes of North-West Australia. Oceania 8. 453-457.
_____ .1942. Sense of smell of the Australian Aborigines: a psychological and linguistic study of the natives of the Kimberley division. Oceania 13. 107-130.
_____ .1944. Aboriginal place names in Kimberley, Western Australia. Oceania 14. 284-310.
_____ .1946. The aboriginal mind at work: semantic notes on Australian languages. Mankind 3. 231-232.
_____ .1949. An Australian migratory myth. Primitive man 22. 33-38.
_____ .1957. Australian mythical terms: their etymology and dispersion. Anthropos 52. 732-768.
_____ .1959. Verbannungslied eines australischen Wildbeuters: ein Beitrag zur Lyrik der Bad. Anthropos 54. 154-168.
_____ .nd. Ave Maria; linguae Njol Njol; tribus primitivae nomadicae Australiensis. 1p. typescript. AIAS.
Language programme:
Language learning material:
Literacy material:

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

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

P Bischofs, William McGregor, Kimberley Language Resource Centre, Loongabid Aboriginal Inc
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 Small (20-100 pages) 2
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

McGregor, William. 1996. Nyulnyul. München: Lincom Europa.

McGregor, William B. 2011. The Nyulnyul language of Dampier land, Western Australia. Volume 1: Grammar. Canberra: Pacific Linguistcs.


Bischofs, P. Josef. 1978. Vocabulary of the Niol niol language, ms.

Source Family Group Sub-group Name Relationship
Ethnologue (2005) Nyulnyulan     Nyulnyul  
Dixon (2002)   FITZROY RIVER SUBGROUP*   Njul-Njul Baardi (or Baard) McGregor (1996), Aklif (1999) further dialects: Djawi, Njul-Njul, Djabirr-Djabirr, Ngumbarl, Nimanburru
Wurm (1994) Nyulnyulan     Nyulnyul  
Walsh (1981) Nyulnyulan     Nyulnyul  
Oates (1975) Njulnjulan     Njul-Njul  
Wurm (1972) Nyulnyulan     Nyulnyul  
O'Grady, Voegelin and Voegelin (1966) Nyulnyulan     Nyulnyul