K3: Nyikina

AIATSIS code: 
AIATSIS reference name: 


Thesaurus heading language
Thesaurus heading people
ABN name
Nyikina language
ABS name
Horton name
Ethnologue name
ISO 639-3 code
Tindale name
Tindale (1974)
Njigena (valid variant), Nigena, Njigina, Nyigina, Nyi-gini, Njikini (Mangala term), Njigana, Wanji (name for eastern hordes), Tjaba (language name for eastern hordes), Dja:ba, Wanji (Punaba name for eastern Njikena), Yeeda (place name).
O'Grady et al (1966)
Njikena, Njigina, Nyigini
Other sources
Niggene (Yngve Laurell) [Boström 2008:150]
Njigina, Nyigina, Dja:ba, Negena, Nigena, Njigana, Njigena, Njikena, Njikini, Nyegena, Nygina, Nyi gini, Nyigini, Tjaba, Wanji, Yeeda, Niggene

Nyikina is a non-Pama Nyungan language from the north west of Western Australia.

Stokes describes two dialects of Nygina (K3): Big Nyigina spoken around Noonkanbah and described as 'heavy', and Small Nyigina, spoken around Mt Anderson and Liveringa and described as 'light' (1982:1).

McGregor classifies Nyikina as one of the Eastern Nyulnyulan languages, along with Warrwa K10, Yawuru K1 and Jukun K2. He contrasts these with the Western Nyulnyulan languages, Bardi K15, Jawi K16, Jabirrjabirr K8, Nyulnyul K13, Nimanburru K9 and Ngumbarl K4  (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.
  • 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: 

Small Nyigina, spoken around Mount Anderson and Liveringa, and Big Nyigina, which used to be widely spoken at Noonkanbah (Stokes 1984:3).

The general associations were to the drainage of the Fitzroy from just upstream of Noonkanbah. Eastward limit: Nyikina owners in 2007 did not claim territory upstream of Noonkanbah. Nobody had definite information on the affiliation of the area between Noonkanbah and Fitzroy Crossing in 2007. In the 1960s, Walmajarri owners reported Nyardi as the land-language affiliation in this area. Tindale's ascription of Wanji or Tjaba also appears to apply to this area. Northward limit: The Oscar Range and the divide between the Fitzroy and the Meda. Derby is more plausibly associated with Warrwa rather than Nyikina. Westward limit: Nyikina speakers reported Logue River as Nyikina. Nyikina speakers reported Nilli Bubbuca Well and Bulleura OC as the northernmost points of Nyikina country. Nyikina speakers reported Mt Clarkson as Nimanburru. Therefore sources in 2007 and older sources agree that the southern boundary of Nimanburru with Nyikina lay along the drainage divide between the Fraser River drainage - Nimanburru, and the Logue River drainage - Nyikina. This is contrary to Tindale who records the Logue River and Yeeda as Warrwa. Dampier Downs homestead was Nyikina. Southward limit: Geegully Creek and the Edgar Range were associated with Nyikina. Nerrima Creek is also associated with Nyikina (Harvey AILEC 0802).


Handbook of Kimberley Languages (1988): 

Kuwarra (A16 ) in Handbook of Kimberley Languages (1988).

4.9 Nyikina / Nyigina

Names of the language and different spellings that have been used:
Negena (Worms), Nekena, Nigena, Njigina (AIAS, Capell, Oates, Worms, Robinson), Njikena, Nyegena (Worms), Nygina (Kaberry, Elkin), Nyigena (Robinson), Nyigina (Black, Black & Walsh, Kerr, Robinson, O'Grady, Stokes, Worms), Nyigini, Nykena
Stokes (1982) identifies two dialects, Big Nyigina and Small Nyigina.
Classification of the language:
Nyulnyulan family
Identification codes:
Oates 1973: 49.3
Capell: K16
Present number and distribution of speakers:
Mostly in Looma and Derby; a few also live in Broome and Fitzroy Crossing.
Stokes - 68
People who have worked intensively on the language:
Arthur Capell, late 1930s, Broome and Derby
Frs. Herman Nekes & Ernest Worms, 1930s to 1950s, mainly Beagle Bay and Broome
Nora Kerr, mid to late 1960s, Broome
Bronwyn Stokes, mid to late 1970, mainly Looma and Broome
Practical orthography:
Stokes et al. (1980) use a practical orthography which employs the single letter ? instead of the digraph ng, and the voiced stops b, d, and g. More recently, Stokes (1986a,b,c) has used the Dampier Land variant of the Northern Kimberley orthography (see page 7 above).
Word lists:
Brandenstein (1965), Capell (1940, 1966), Hudson (1973), Hudson & Richards et al. (1976), Kerr (nd), King (1979), Moyle (1968), Nekes (1939), Stokes et al. (1980), Worms (1938a, 1938b, 1942, 1944, 1957), Hudson & McConvell (1984)
Textual material:
Capell (1952), Keogh (1981, 1984, 1985), Kerr (1967), Nekes & Worms (1953), Stokes (1982, 1986b), Worms (1957, 1959)
Grammar or sketch grammar:
Capell (1952), Kerr (1968), Stokes (1982); Capell (1940) gives some verb forms.
Material available on the language:
Brandenstein, C.G. von. 1965. Interim report [to A.I.A.S.] on field work in northwest Western Australia 15th July - 15th August, 1965. 4pp. manuscript. AIAS Doc. 65/291.
Capell, A. 1940. The classification of languages in north and north-west Australia. Oceania 10. 241-272, 404-433.
_____ .1952/1953. Notes on the Njigina and Warwa tribes, N.W. Australia. Mankind 4. 351-360, 450-496.
_____ .1966. A new approach to Australian linguistics. (Oceania Linguistic Monographs, 1) Sydney: University of Sydney.
_____ .nd. Njigina and Warwa vocabulary. 41pp. typescript. AIAS pMs 313.
Dalton, P.R. 1965. Report to the Institute of Aboriginal Studies. 36pp. manuscript. AIAS.
Hudson, J. 1973. [Njigina word list.] 12pp. typescript. AIAS pMs 2238.
Hudson, J. & Richards, E. et al. 1976. The Walmatjari: an introduction to the language and culture. (Work Papers of SIL-AAB, B1) Darwin: SIL.
Keogh, R.D. 1981. The two men: an Aboriginal song cycle from the Kimberleys. B.Mus. (Hons) thesis, University of Sydney.
_____ .1984. Marinydyirinydyi: a corroboree for everyone. 19pp. typescript. AIAS pMs 3932.
_____ .1985. Provisionary translation of two Nyigina nurlu song and dance series entitled Gudurrgudurr and Bulu. 44pp. typescript. AIAS Rep.85/28.
Kerr, N.F. 1967. [Transcriptions from tapes - Nyigina, Yawur and Karadjari.] 5 folders. manuscript. AIAS Ms 805.
_____ .1968. Preliminary report of field-work - part I. 59pp. typescript. AIAS Ms 249, 250, 251.
_____ .nd. A comparative word-list: Nyigina and neighbouring languages. manuscript. AIAS Ms 25.
King, T. 1979. Njigina wordlist. 11pp. manuscript. AIAS pMs 633.
Moyle, A.M. 1968. Songs from the Kimberleys. Companion booklet for a 12-inch LP disk, Catalogue number AIAS/13. Canberra: AIAS.
Nekes, H. 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. 1978. Field notes: Nyigina. manuscript. AIAS A3 35 (A3a;B1).
_____ .1982. A description of Nyigina: a language of the West Kimberley, Western Australia. PhD thesis, ANU.
_____ .1985. The verb from Noonkanbah to Broome: "alternative-prefixing" verbal systems of the West Kimberley. typescript.
_____ .1986a. An introduction to modified North Kimberley orthography. Preliminary version. 5pp. typescript.
_____ .1986b. Nyikina stories 2. Preliminary version. typescript. 12pp. (Two texts written in Stokes' modified North Kimberley orthography.)
_____ .1986c. Nyikina stories 3. Preliminary version. typescript. 15pp. (Two texts written in Stokes' modified North Kimberley orthography.)
Stokes, B., Johnson, G. & Marshall, L. 1980. Nyigina-English: a first lexicon. 102pp. typescript. AIAS Ms 1945.
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.
_____ .1957. Australian mythical terms: their etymology and dispersion. Anthropos 52. 732-768.
Language programme:
None to date, but Looma community wishes to start one.
Language learning material:
Literacy material:
Stokes, B. 1986a. An introduction to modified North Kimberley orthography. Preliminary version. typescript. 5pp.
_____ .1986b. Nyikina stories 2. Preliminary version. typescript. 12pp. (Two texts written in Stokes' modified North Kimberley orthography.)
_____ .1986c. Nyikina stories 3. Preliminary version. typescript. 15pp. (Two texts written in Stokes' modified North Kimberley orthography.)

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

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


Kimberley Language Resource Centre had produced Yajarra Nyikina : an interactive program for teaching an Indigenous language (2001). Nyikina Inc/Madjulla Inc. started the Nyikina language and Culture Project in 2006 in order to train people to teach the Nyikina language.

Ray Keogh, Nora Kerr, Bronwyn Stokes, Kimberley Language Resource Centre, Jarlmadangah Burru Aboriginal Corporation, Nyikina Inc/Madjulla Inc
Indigenous organisations: 
Year Source Speaker numbers
1990Schmidt20 - 50

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

Stokes, Bronwyn. 1982. a description of Nyigina: a language of the West Kimberley, Western Australia, Australian National University: PhD.


Stokes, Bronwyn, Gladys Johnston and Lucy Marshall. 1986 Nyikina-English: a first lexicon, ms.

Madjulla Inc, 2014. Birr nganka Nyikina : the source of the Nyikina language with reference to Lower Nyikina. Broome, WA : Madjulla Inc

Source Family Group Sub-group Name Relationship
Ethnologue (2005) Nyulnyulan     Nyigina  
Dixon (2002)   FITZROY RIVER SUBGROUP*   Njigina Njigina Stokes (1982), Hosokawa (1991), McCregor (1994) further dialects: Warrwa, Yawuru (or Yawur), Jukun
Wurm (1994)       Nyigina  
Walsh (1981) Nyulnyulan     Nyigina  
Oates (1975) Njulnjulan     Njigina  
Wurm (1972) Nyulnyulan     Nyigina  
O'Grady, Voegelin and Voegelin (1966) Nyulnyulan     Nyigina