K22: Wunambal

AIATSIS Reference name: 

tab group

ABN Name
ABS Name
Horton Name
Ethnologue name
ISO 639-3 code
Tindale name
Thesaurus heading
Wunambal language (K22) (WA SD51-12)
Tindale (1974)
Wunambulu, Wunambullu, Wanambal, Laiau (small tribe or horde name), Wardana (extinct small tribe or horde name), Winjai (term for an eastern horde), Kanaria (northeastern horde near Port Warrender), Peremanggurei (horde name), Jamindjal, Jarmindjal ('northeasterners,' a term applied by Worora), Unambal, Wonambul, Wumnabal (? typographical error), Wunambulu, Unambalnge (people of tribe).
O'Grady et al (1966)
Unambal, Wumnabal, Wunambullu
Other sources
Kularri/Gularri 'south-westerners' (regional term used to refer to Wunambal, Gamberre and Worrorra - Perez 1977, Perez, Pratt & Millington 1981, Torres, Pratt & Millington 1986), Unambal, Wulanggu (Bardi term for Wunambal and Ungarinyin - Wilfrid Goonak p.c.), Wunambal-ngarri [Carr 2000:12-17] Wunamabullu, Wunumabal, Woonambal [Karadada et al. 2011:15]
Kularri/Gularri south westerners
Wunambal ngarri
Language comment
Wunambal is a non-Pama-Nyungan language of the Worrorran family, specifically Northern Worrorran, along with Miwa K44; Gunin/Kwini K36; Gambera K39; Wilawila K35; Yiiji K32 and (tentitively) Gulunggulu K59 (McGregor & Rumsey, 2009:8). Tindale mentions Wilawila under his entry for Wunambal but this Wilawila does not seem to be the same as Wilawila K35, which Tindale lists as a separate entry. Harvey (ASEDA 802) says Tindale's statements under Wunambal concerning Wilawila are unclear. Harvey (ASEDA 802) further reports that in 2007 nobody recognised Wilawila as attaching to either the Osborne Islands or Carson River. Rather, it was associated with Bigge Island and the Hunter River area on the coast opposite Bigge Island. Wunambal belongs to the Wunambalic group within the Worrorran family. Analysis of the internal relationships within the Wunambalic group can be found in Carr (2000:2-4), Glasgow, Hocking & Steiner (PMS 656) and McGregor (1993:7-8). According to Carr (2000:15), Capell (1941) and Capell & Coate (1984:5) identify two dialects of Wunambal on typological grounds: Southern and Northern. Karadada et al. (2011:15) comment that Wunambal and Gaambera K39 are 'very closely related', with very little difference in pronunciation and lexicon. 'It is possible that there were some differences in the past but in recent times these differences have faded.' The 'Uunguu plants and animals' dictionary basically treats them as a single language, with additional Gaambera K39 forms given where they are different. Jones (2006) equates Wunambal, Gunin K36, Yeiji K32, Arruwarri K28 and 'Bamberre', stating that they are simply different names for the same language, which she calls the Forrest River Language.

Capell, A. 1941. Notes on the Wunambal language. Oceania, vol. 11, no. 3, pp. [295]-308. (RS 57/11)
Capell, Arthur & H.H.J. Coate. 1984. Comparative studies in Northern Kimberley languages: Pacific Linguistics C-69. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
Carr, Thérèse. 2000. Wunambal: a language of the north-west Kimberley region, Western Australia, University of New England: MA (Hons).
Glasgow, David, F.M. Hocking & W.L. Steiner. n.d. Report [to A.I.A.S.] on surveys of languages and dialects of the north - east Kimberleys, typescript. (PMS 656).
Harvey, Mark. 2008. Non-Pama-Nyungan Languages: land-language associations at colonisation. AILEC 0802.
Jones, Barbara. 2006. The Forrest River Language: a book about the indigenous language of the Forrest River region. Halls Creek, WA: Kimberley Language Resource Centre.
Karadada, Jack, Lily Karadada, Wilfred Goonack, Geoffrey Mangolamara, William Bunjuck, Louis Karadada, Basil Djanghara, Sylvester Mangolamara, Janet Oobagooma, Agnes Charles, Dianna Williams, Regina Karadada, Thomas Saunders, and Glenn Wightman. 2011. Uunguu plants and animals: Aboriginal biological knowledge from Wunambal Gaambera Country in the north-west Kimberley, Australia. Wyndham, W.A.: Wunambal Gaambera Aboriginal Corporation.
McGregor, William, & Alan Rumsey. 2009. Worrorran revisited: the case for genetic relations among languages of the Northern Kimberley region of Western Australia: Pacific Linguistics 600. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
McGregor, William. 1993. Gunin/Kwini. München: Lincom Europa.
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.

Location information
York Sound; coast north of Brunswick Bay, northward to Admiralty Gulf and the Osborne Islands; inland about 25 to 30 miles (40 to 50 km.). Cape Wellington peninsula north and east to Port Warrender and the little known area to east; inland to the divide of the King Edward River (Tindale 1974). Wunambal is [...] spoken in the most north-westerly part of the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Country associated with Wunambal extends from north of the Prince Regent River taking in the Mitchell Plateau, Scott's Strait and Cape Voltaire, and some inland gIra 'countries', as shown on Map One. Some 'clans' also exploited the resources of the adjoining small islands, especially Wuyurru (Bigge Island), Prudhoe, Corneille and Cassini islands although, apart from Bigge Island, these islands were not permanently inhabited. (Carr 2000:1). The general association was to the coast from the Coronation Islands to the drainage of Lawley River. Mitchell Plateau, the lower Mitchell, lower Moran and lower Roe Rivers were all associated with Wunambal. It is unclear why Tindale classified the Osborne Islands as associated with Wunambal when his informant described the people from this area as speaking "light Kambure". Sources in 2007 stated that the Coronation Islands were associated with Wunambal. Sources also stated that the Upper Moran and Roe Rivers were associated with Ngarinyin and not Wunambal. It was not possible to obtain definitive information on the affiliation of the Upper Mitchell River area (Harvey ASEDA 802).
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Speaker table
Speaker NILS table
1-19 years20-39 years40-59 years60+
NILS endangerment grade
Document Score: 
Documentation table: 
TypeDocumentation StatusDocumentation Score
Word listMedium (100-200 pages)3
Text CollectionLess than 20 pages1
GrammarSmall grammar (100-200 pages)3
Audio-visualMore than 103
Manuscript Note: 
tape transcription/field note available
Carr, Thérèse. 2000. Wunambal: a language of the north-west Kimberley region, Western Australia, University of New England: MA (Hons).
Coate, H. H. J. 1948. English - Wunambal dictionary, ms. Karadada, J. et al. 2011. Uunguu plants and animals: Aboriginal biological knowledge from Wunambal Gaambera Country in the north-west Kimberley, Australia. Wyndham, WA: Wunambal Gaambera Aboriginal Corporation.
Mona Williams taught a language variety regarded as Wunambal at the school in Wyndham in 1996. (Carr 2000:12) Community adult literacy programmes have been run in Mowanjum in the past for Worrorra, Wunambal and Ngarinyin. (Carr 2000:22) Daisy Utemorrah (dec.) worked with KLRC on Wunambal. (Carr 2000:22) A language and story recording project was initiated by KLRC in 1996 (in Kalumburu). (Carr 2000:25) KLRC and linguist Margaret Howard are working with language speakers at Kalumburu. (Carr 2000:7)
Thérèse Carr, Eric Vasse (formerly Vászolyi), Arthur Capell, Mirima Dawang Woorlabgerring Language Centre, J.R.B. Love, Howard Coate, Daisy Utemorrah (dec.), Summer Institute of Linguistics, Kimberley Language Resource Centre, Andreas Lommel, Margaret Howard (nee Sefton), William McGregor
Indigenous organisations: 
Classification table: 
Ethnologue (2005)WororanWunambalWunambal [dialects: Wunambal, Gambera, Miwa]
Dixon (2002)NORTH KIMBERLEY AREAL GROUPWunambalWunambal McGregor (1993) further dialects: Wilawila, Gamberre, Kwini (=Gunin), Ginan, Miwa (=Bagu), Yiidji (=Forrest River)
Wurm (1994)WororanWunambalicWunambal
Walsh (1981)WororanWunambalicWunambal
Oates (1975)WororanWunambalicWunambal
Wurm (1972)WororanWunambalicWunambal
O'Grady, Voegelin & Voegelin (1966)WororanWunambalicWunambal