K15: Bardi

AIATSIS code: 
AIATSIS reference name: 


Thesaurus heading language
Thesaurus heading people
ABN name
Bardi language
ABS name
Horton name
Ethnologue name
ISO 639-3 code
Tindale name
Tindale (1974)
Bad, Ba:d, Bard, Barda, Bardi, Bad (Capell [1956] writes it as Bad).
O'Grady et al (1966)
Barda, Bardi
Other sources
Baardi, Baard, Baada, Ba:d, Ba:di, Baad, Bad, Bard, Barda, Board

Bardi is a non-Pama Nyungan language from north west Western Australia. McGregor (2010:209) categorises Bardi as one of the Western Nyulnyulan languages, along with Jawi K16, Jabirrjabirr K8, Nimanburru K9, Ngumbarl K4 and Nyulnyul K13. He contrasts these with the Eastern Nyulnyulan languages, Nyikina K3, Warrwa K10, Yawuru K1 and Jukun K2.

Bowern says that Bardi and Jawi K16 are mutually intelligible dialects and show few differences (2008:59-60). They have merged over the last thirty years, but the earliest sources of Jawi indicate that the differences used to be more substantial. Bowern also recognises another closely related, but slightly different, dialect named Baard K69. This is the dialect from the northern and western side of the Dampier Peninsula, which now centres on the Lombadina community.

Bowern mentions two potential further dialects of Bardi, Mayala and Nyindinyindi (2012:8). Mayala is generally used to refer to a location - the islands off the coast of the Dampier Peninsula mainland - but Bowern says there is some evidence that it may also be a language (dialect) name. Nyindinyindi was reported in a recording by Peile, though the name is not known these days and Bowern says the language sounds very similar to other Bardi varieties. Neither of these are separately listed in this database.




  • Bowern, Claire. 2008. History of research on Bardi and Jawi. In Encountering Aboriginal languages: studies in the history of Australian linguistics, ed. William McGregor, 59-84. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
  • Bowern, Claire. 2012. A grammar of Bardi. Berlin/Boston: Walter de Gruyter.
  • 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.
  • Stokes, Bronwyn. 1982. A description of Nyigina, a language of the West Kimberley, Western Australia (MFE/B52), Australian National University: PhD. (MFE/B52).
  • 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: 

Cape Leveque peninsula from Cape Borda in west to Cygnet Bay and Cunningham Point on east coast (Tindale 1974). One Arm Point and Lombadina (Stokes 1984:9).

Bardi traditional country is the area at the tip of the Dampier Peninsula, a two hundrend and fifty kilometre long peninsula north of Broome. The peninsula is roughly triangular and narrows from its base to a flat point at Cape Leveque, and a further arm just off the peninsula to the east of Cape Leveque for about twenty kilometeres. From the point begins a chain of islands (including Sunday Island), which crosses the entrance of King Sound. Bardi people inhabited the mainland area north of a line drawn between Pender Bay and Cunningham Point, and the islands closest to the tip of the Dampier Peninsula (the two largest being Jayirri and Jalan), while Jawi was spoken on Sunday Island and the islands further east and north (Bowern 2008:60).

The general territorial association was to the tip of Dampier Land Peninsula. South-eastward limit: The peninsula going out to Cunningham Point. South-westward limit: The southern shore of Pender Bay appears to have been associated with Bardi rather than Nyulnyul. "Embalgun" (Imbalgoon) is a Bardi name, not Nyulnyul (Harvey AILEC 802).

Handbook of Kimberley Languages (1988): 

Mangala (A65 ) in Handbook of Kimberley Languages (1988).

4.2 Bardi / Baad

Names of the language and different spellings that have been used:
Baad (Porteus), Bad (Worms), Bad (Nekes & Worms), Ba:d (Capell, Douglas, Porteus), Ba:d (Capell), Ba:di, Ba:di (Stokes), Bard (Capell, O'Grady, Peile), Barda (Bates, Campbell & Bird), Bardi (AIAS, Black, Kerr, Metcalfe, Oates, Robinson), Bardi (Metcalfe), Bardi (Metcalfe)
There is considerable disagreement among Dampier Land people as to whether Baad ([ba:d]) or Bardi ([ba:di]) is the correct name for the language. According to Metcalfe (pers.comm.), the language name is often pronounced with a final voiceless (or silent) vowel as a dialectal variant among the 'Mainlanders'; this devoicing of final vowels is less common among the former 'Islanders', most whom now live at One Arm Point (cf. Metcalfe 1975:2).
Classification of the language:
Nyulnyulan family
Identification codes:
Oates 1973: 49.1b
Capell: K1
Present number and distribution of speakers:
One Arm Point, Lombardina, Broome, Derby (formerly Sunday Island)
Metcalfe - 360 (including children and other semispeakers)
Stokes - approximately 100 full speakers
People who have worked intensively on the language:
Frs. Herman Nekes and Ernest Worms, from 1930s to 1950s, mainly at Beagle Bay
Howard Coate, mid 1960s, Sunday Island
Wilfred Douglas, 1950s, Sunday Island
Geoffrey O'Grady, late 1950s
Toby Metcalfe, 1969-1971, Derby and Sunday Island
Practical orthography:
A practical orthography for Bardi has been developed at the Lombardina Catholic School, under the guidance of Joyce Hudson. This is the Dampier Land variety of the North Kimberley orthography, described above (page 7). Earlier, in 1979 Metcalfe suggested a practical orthography which differs only in that it uses u and uu, instead of oo and oo, for the short and long high back vowels, respectively.
Word lists:
Campbell & Bird (1914/15), Capell (1940, 1966), Douglas (nd), Hudson & McConvell (1984), Kerr (nd), Lands et al (1987), Metcalfe (nd i), Moyle (nd), Nekes (1939), Peile (nd), Smith & Kalotas (1985), Street (1972).
Textual material:
Boxer & Metcalfe (1986), Ejai & Metcalfe (1986 a-c), Metcalfe (1970 c-h, 1975, nd a-h), Nekes & Worms (1953), Trask (1966), Worms (1950, 1957a)
Grammar or sketch grammar:
Metcalfe (1972, 1975, 1979)
Material available on the language:
Boxer, J. & Metcalfe, C.D. 1986. The drowning of Constable McLeay. In Hercus, L. & Sutton, P. (eds), This is what happened: historical narratives by Aborigines. Canberra: AIAS. 233-239.
Campbell, W.D. & Bird, W.H. 1914/15. An account of the Aboriginals of Sunday Island, King Sound, Kimberley, Western Australia. Journal of Royal Society of Western Australia 1. 55-82.
Capell, A. 1940. The classification of languages in north and north-west Australia. Oceania 10. 241-272, 404-433.
_____ .1966. A new approach to Australian linguistics. (Oceania Linguistic Monographs, 1) Sydney: University of Sydney.
Douglas, W.H. nd. Nul-nul and Ba:d vocabulary, extracted from notes by A. Capell. manuscript. AIAS pMs 2169.
Ejai, T. & Metcalfe, C.D. 1986a. The killing of the 'Bilikin' brothers. In Hercus, L. & Sutton, P. (eds), This is what happened: historical narratives by Aborigines. Canberra: AIAS. 140-149.
_____ .1986b. Punitive expedition against the Bardi. In Hercus, L. & Sutton, P. (eds), This is what happened: historical narratives by Aborigines. Canberra: AIAS. 151-164.
_____ .1896c. That game of guns. In Hercus, L. & Sutton, P. (eds), This is what happened: historical narratives by Aborigines. Canberra: AIAS. 271-279.
Holmer, N. 1963. On the history and structure of the Australian languages. (Australian Essays and Studies, 3) Upsala: Lundequist.
Kerr, N.F. nd. A comparative word-list: Nyigina and neighbouring languages. typescript. AIAS Ms.
Lands, M. et al. 1987. Mayi: some bush fruits of Dampierland. Broome: Magabala Books.
Metcalfe, C.D. 1969. [Transcript of tape A1839b], field tape no.2(2): the story of Galalung and his disobedient sons. 2pp. typescript. AIAS pMs 1228.
_____ .1970a. Report [to AIAS] on field work carried out ... during 1969/1970. 4pp. typescript. AIAS.
_____ .1970b. Report [to AIAS] on field work carried out ... during 1969/1970. 2pp. AIAS pMs 2297.
_____ .1970c. The story of the first Anguwi and Irgandu ceremonies. 13pp. typescript. AIAS p6624 pA3 97. (A3;B1).
_____ .1970d. The story of the first Ululung ceremonies. 13pp. typescript. AIAS p6625 pA3 98 (A3;B1).
_____ .1970e. [Transcript of tape A1839], field tape no.2(2): "The great race" (children's story). 11pp. typescript. AIAS pMs 1227. (A1;B1).
_____ .1970f. [Transcript of tape A1839a], field tape no.2(1): death, burial and existence after death. 21pp. typescript. AIAS pMs 1226.
_____ .1970g. [Transcript of tape A1839a], field tape no.2(1): the "magic" drunkard. 6pp. typescript. AIAS pMs 1229.
_____ .1970h. [Transcript of tape A1839b], field tape no.2(2): "that game of guns". 4,6pp. typescript. AIAS pMs 1230.
_____ .1971. A tentative phonetic statement of the Bardi Aboriginal language. In Blake, B. et al, Papers on the languages of Australian Aboriginals. Canberra: AIAS. 81-92.
_____ .1972. Bardi verb morphology: a transformational analysis. PhD thesis, ANU.
_____ .1973. New light on Aboriginal languages. In Douglas, D. (ed.), Linguistics and the mind: modern approaches to the study of language. Sydney: Sydney University Extension Board. 53-61.
_____ .1975. Bardi verb morphology (northwestern Australia). Canberra: PL, B-30.
_____ .1979. Some aspects of the Bardi language: a non-technical description. In Berndt, R.M. & Berndt, C.H. (eds), Aborigines of the West: their past and their present. Perth: University of Western Australia Press. 197-213.
_____ .nd a. [Transcript of tape A1681, filed tape No.4]: a series of thirteen traditional myths and stories (Bardi). 49pp. typescript. AIAS pMs 1225. (A1;B1).
_____ .nd b. [Transcript of tape A1910, field tape no.3]: "an account of a return journey by car between Derby and Lombardina". 6pp. typescript. AIAS pMs 1232.
_____ . nd c. [Transcript of tape A1910, field tape no.3.]: "the drowning of Constable McLeay". 9pp. typescript. AIAS pMs 1231.
_____ .nd d. [Transcript of tape A1910, field tape no.3]: "drunken man dancing with his dog". 7pp. typescript. AIAS pMs 1233.
_____ .nd e. [Transcript of tape A1910, field tape no.3]: "the heartless murderer and punitive action taken against him". 8pp. typescript. AIAS pMs 1235.
_____ .nd f. [Transcript of tape A1910, field tape no.3]: "the joking murderer and punitive action taken against him". 6pp. typescript. AIAS pMs 1234.
_____ .nd g. [Transcript of tape A1910, field tape no.3]: "the killing of the 'Bilikin' brothers". 8pp. typescript. AIAS pMs 1236.
_____ .nd h. [Transcript of tape A1910, field tape no.3]: "punitive expeditions against the Bardi". 17pp. typescript. AIAS pMs 1237.
_____ .nd i. Dictionary of Bardi words. manuscript.
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.
Peile, A.R. nd. Field notes Warayngari. 182pp. manuscript. AIAS Ms 322.
Robinson, M.V. 1973. Change and adjustment among the Bardi of Sunday Island, north-western Australia. MA thesis, University of Western Australia.
_____ .1979. Local organisation and kinship in Northern Dampier Land. In Berndt, R.M & Berndt, C.H. (eds), Aborigines of the west: their past and their present. Nedlands: University of Western Australia Press. 186-196.
Smith, M. & Kalotas, A. 1985. Bardi plants: an annotated list of plants and their use by the Bardi Aborigines of Dampierland, in North-western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum 12. 317-359. (Gives annotated list of plant names, alphabetically by Bardi name and scientific name.)
Stokes, B. 1978. Field notes: Nyigina. manuscript. AIAS A3 35. (A3a;B1).
_____ .1985. The verb from Noonkanbah to Broome: "alternative-prefixing" verbal systems of the West Kimberley. manuscript.
_____ .nd. [Basic materials in Yawuru.] 41pp. manuscript. KLRC.
Street, C.S. 1972. Bardi word list. 11pp. manuscript. AIAS pMs 2374. (A2;B1).
_____ .1972. [Bardi word list.] 11pp. manuscript. AIAS pMs 2375. (A2;B1).
Street, C.S. & Street, L. 1972. Report on the survey of languages in the West Kimberleys, W.A. 9pp. typescript. AIAS p10913 (A2;B1).
Trask, W.R. 1966. The unwritten song: poetry of the primitive and traditional peoples of the world. Volume 1: The far north / Africa / Indonesia / Melanesia / Australia. New York: Macmillan.
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.
_____ .1949. An Australian migratory myth. Primitive man 22. 33-38.
_____ .1950. Feuer und feuerzeuge in sage und brauch der Nordwest-Australier. Anthropos 45. 145-164.
_____ .1957a. The poetry of the Yaoro and Bad, North-Western Australia. Annali Lateranensi 21. 213-229.
_____ .1957b. Australian mythical terms: their etymology and dispersion. Anthropos 52. 732-768.
Language programme:
A limited programme is in operation in Lombardina Catholic School, under the guidance of Joyce Hudson. The community at One Arm Point is keen for the Education Department to introduce a language programme in the local state school. Earlier, from 1977 to 1982 Bardi classes were conducted in Derby High School, but this ceased due to lack of finance.
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.


One Arm Point School gives Bardi lessons half an hour per week in the lower grades (cf. Bowern 2008).

Gerhardt Laves, Nekes & Worms, Howard Coate, Fr Duncan McNab, Arthur Capell, Norman Tindale, Wilfrid Douglas, Edith Nichols, Gedda Aklif, Claire Bowern, Christopher Metcalfe, Kimberley Language Resource Centre
Indigenous organisations: 
Year Source Speaker numbers
1990Schmidt100 - 200

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 Large (more than 200 pages) 4
Text Collection Large (more than 200 pages) 4
Grammar Large grammar (more than 200 pages) 4
Audio-visual More than 10 3
Manuscript note: 
tape transcription/field note available

Metcalfe, Christopher Douglas 1975 Bardi verb morphology (northwestern Australia). Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.

Bowern, Claire. 2004. Bardi verb morphology in historical perspective, Harvard: PhD.

Bowern, Claire. A Learner's Guide to the Bardi Language (draft)


Aklif, Gedda. 1999. Ardiyooloon Bardi ngaanka: One Arm Point Bardi dictionary. Halls Creek, WA: Kimberley Language Resource Centre. Metcalfe, Christopher Douglas. Bardi dictionary, draft.

Source Family Group Sub-group Name Relationship
Ethnologue (2005) Nyulnyulan     Bardi Bardi [dialects: Bardi, Jawi. Intelligibility is adequate between Bardi and Jawi dialects. Related to Nyikina, Warwa, Djawi, Nimanbur, Nyulnyul, Dyaberdyaber, Dyugun, Yawuru.]
Dixon (2002)   FITZROY RIVER SUBGROUP*   Baardi (or Baard) Baardi (or Baard) McGregor (1996), Aklif (1999) further dialects: Djawi, Njul-Njul, Djabirr-Djabirr, Ngumbarl, Nimanburru
Wurm (1994) Nyulnyulan     Bardi  
Walsh (1981) Nyulnyulan     Bardi  
Oates (1975) Njulnjulan     Bardi  
Wurm (1972) Nyulnyulan     Bard  
O'Grady, Voegelin and Voegelin (1966) Nyulnyulan     Bard