K29: Miriwoong / Miriuwung

AIATSIS code: 
AIATSIS reference name: 
Miriwoong / Miriuwung


Thesaurus heading language
Thesaurus heading people
ABN name
Miriwoong (Australian people)
ABS name
Horton name
Ethnologue name
ISO 639-3 code
Tindale name
Tindale (1974)
Miriwun, Miriwong, Mirriwong, Miriwu (of Kitja), Moreng, Mirong, Mirung.
O'Grady et al (1966)
Other sources
Mireau (Worms:1953, 1957) [Kofod 1978:2]
Miriwung, Mariu, Miriung, Mariyung, Miriwong, Miriwu, Miriwun, Mirong, Mirriwong, Mirung, Moreng, Mireau

Miriwoong is a non-Pama Nyungan language from the east Kimberley of Western Australia, and is a member of the  Jarrgan language family, along with Gajirrabeng K37.1 and Gija K20.

Mariung K38 is probably an alternative name of Miriwoong, (see Capell 1963).


  • Harvey, Mark. 2008. Non-Pama-Nyungan Languages: land-language associations at colonisation. AILEC 0802.
  • Kofod, Frances M. 1978. The Miriwung language (East Kimberley): a phonological and morphological study, University of New England: MA. (MS 107).
  • Summer Institute of Linguistics. 1971. Linguistic survey of N.E. Kimberleys survey, October 1970: transcription of conversations on languages and tribes [tape nos. 2175, 2178, 2179, 2180, 21825, 2187- 90]. (PMS 1766)
  • 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: 

Carlton Hill homestead to the north, Newry station to the east, Rosewood to the south-east, Lissadell to the south and a line approximately that of the Hall's Creek road to the west. Where the Ord River becomes salty at Carlton Crossing is said to be the end of the Miriwung country and the beginning of the Wuladja country. The country takes in a large part of the Ord and the Dunham rivers and the Carr Boyd ranges (Kofod 1978:1).

Valley of Ord River north to Carlton; upstream to Ivanhoe Station and east to Newry Station. On the Keep River to near the coastal swamps (Tindale 1974).

Eastward limit: Rosewood and Newry homesteads were associated with Miriwoong. Northward limit: Drainages flowing into the Ord River associated with Miriwoong. Drainages flowing into the Victoria or directly into the sea associated with Gajirrabeng. Westward limit: Carlton Hill homestead was associated with Miriwoong. House Roof Hill was a western limit of Miriwoong associations. Molly Spring Creek Yard also a western limit of Miriwoong associations. The drainage of the Ord River downstream from Lissadell homestead. Southward limit: There was no precise information on the southward limit in 2007. It was somewhere not far to the south of Lissadell homestead (Harvey AILEC 0802).

Handbook of Kimberley Languages (1988): 

Waljen (A11 ) in Handbook of Kimberley Languages (1988).

3.5 Miriwoong / Miriwung

Names of the language and different spellings that have been used:

Mariu (Tindale), Mariung (Capell), Mireau (Nekes & Worms), Miriau (Worms), Miringg (SIL), Miriung (Peile, SIL), Miriwing (SIL), Miriwoong (KLS), Miriwun (Capell, O'Grady, Oates & Oates, AIAS), Miriwung (Black, Kofod, Oates, Cooling), Miriwu? (Tindale), Mirung (Harrison)

The spelling Miriwoong has been adopted in Kununurra for the proposed Miriwoong Language Resource Centre.

Classification of the language:

Jarrakan family, Miriwoongic (Miriwunic) group

Identification codes:


Oates 1973: 43.1

Capell: K14

Present number and distribution of speakers:

Kununurra and nearby communities

Kofod (1978) - 20 full speakers (many more part speakers - Kofod, pers.comm)

Irvine - 80 to 100 speakers

Milliken - 56 speakers

Sutton - 350 speakers

It would seem that the most likely figure is in the vicinity of 100 speakers (Kofod and Irvine, pers.comm.); Sutton's estimate cannot be regarded as particularly reliable since it is not based on field investigation.

People who have worked intensively on the language:

Frances Kofod, 1971-1974, Kununurra

Practical orthography:

In 1987 the Catholic Education Language Team decided on a variant of the North Kimberley orthography, to be used in Miriwoong materials being produced for the language awareness programme in Nulungu College.

Word lists:

Capell (1940), Cooling (nd a, nd b, nd c), Kofod (nd, 1976a, 1978), Hudson & McConvell (1984), Summer Institute of Linguistics (1971).

Textual material:

Cooling (nd a, nd b, nd c), Kofod (1978)

Grammar or sketch grammar:

Kofod (nd, 1978)

Material available on the language:

Capell, A. 1940. The classification of languages in north and north-west Australia. Oceania 10. 241-272, 404-433.

Cooling, G. nd a. [Transcript of tape A1730, field tape 2: material collected at Kununurra, W.A., from the Miriwung people.] 2,4,4pp. typescript. AIAS pMs 374. (A2;B2).

_____ .nd b. [Transcript of tape A1730 and A1807, field tape 2: material collected at Kununurra, W.A., from the Miriwung people.] ii + 13pp. typescript. AIAS pMs 374. (A2;B2).

_____ .nd c. [Transcript of tape A1807, field tapes 1, 1a, 1b: material collected at Kununurra, W.A., from the Miriwung people.] 17pp. typescript. AIAS pMs 376. (A2;B2).

Kaberry, P. 1937. Notes on the languages of the East Kimberley, north-west Australia. Oceania 8/1. 90-103.

Kofod, F.M. 1976a. Miriwung-English [wordlist]. 122pp. typescript and manuscript. AIAS Ms 1896 (A1;B5)

_____ .1976b. Are Australian languages syntactically nominative-ergative or nominative-accusative?: Miriwung. In Dixon, R.M.W. (ed.), Grammatical categories in Australian languages. Canberra: AIAS. 584-586.

_____ .1976c. Simple and compound verbs: conjugation by auxiliaries in Australian verbal systems; Miriwung. In Dixon, R.M.W. (ed.), Grammatical categories in Australian languages. Canberra: AIAS. 646-653.

_____ .1978. The Miriwung language (East Kimberley): a phonological and morphological study. MA thesis, University of New England. vii + 373pp. typescript. AIAS Ms 107. (A1;B5).

_____ .nd. [Outline of Miriwung grammar]. typescript and manuscript. In possession of Alan Dench, copy given to KLRC.

Summer Institute of Linguistics. 1971. AIAS word list for N.E. Kimberleys survey: Miriwing/Miringg. 18pp. manuscript. AIAS tape A2175.

Worms, A.E. 1957b. Australian mythical terms: their etymology and dispersion. Anthropos 52. 732-768.

Language programme:

Saint Joseph's Catholic School in Kununurra held Miriwoong classes in early to mid 1980s. There are plans to begin SAL type literacy classes in Miriwoong for adults literate in English in 1987.

A Miriwoong language awareness course is planned for Nulungu College, and materials are produced using the orthography described above.

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.

Frances Kofod, Mirima Dawang Woorlabgerring Language and Centre
Indigenous organisations: 

Mirima Dawang Woorlab-Gerring Language and Culture Centre: http://mirima.org.au/


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 Medium (100-200 pages) 3
Text Collection Less than 20 pages 1
Grammar Large grammar (more than 200 pages) 4
Audio-visual 1-10 2
Manuscript note: 
tape transcription/field note available

Kofod, Frances. 1978. The Miriwung language (East Kimberly): a phonological and morphological study, University of New England: MA.


Kofod, Frances. 1978. The Miriwung language (East Kimberly): a phonological and morphological study, University of New England: MA.

Source Family Group Sub-group Name Relationship
Ethnologue (2005) Djeragan     Miriwung  
Dixon (2002)   KITJA/MIRIWUNG SUBGROUP*   Miriwung Miriwung Kofod (1978) further dialect: Gajirrawung
Wurm (1994) Djeragan Miriwungic   Miriwung  
Walsh (1981) Djeragan Miriwungic   Miriwung  
Oates (1975) Djeragan Miriwunic   Miriwung  
Wurm (1972) Djeragan Miriwunic   Miriwun  
O'Grady, Voegelin and Voegelin (1966) Djeragan Miriwunic   Miriwun