K36: Gunin

AIATSIS code: 
AIATSIS reference name: 


Thesaurus heading language
Thesaurus heading people
ABN name
ABS name
Kimberley Area Languages, nec (Kwini)
Horton name
Ethnologue name
ISO 639-3 code
Tindale name
Miwa (Gonin)
Tindale (1974)
Konun (valid alternative), Konan, Konin, Gonin, Kaianu, Kianu, Kyanoo, Murgura (name of eastern horde), Kuna, Kunange, Gunan, Koonange, Mande, Manda, Pago (not a tribal term but place name of old Drysdale Mission site), Bagu, Ba:gu, Manungu, Manunggu (a place or district name), Galumburu (place name of new Drysdale River Mission site), Kalumbura, Caloombooroo, Wulanggur (place name on Cape Talbot peninsula, also a horde name), Ula?gu Wula?u (Ngarinjin name for Miwa), Ulangu, Umari (place name on King George River), Pela, Boola, Pelange (use as tribal term not substantiated by Lucich), Walar (name of a snake clan).
O'Grady et al (1966)
Gwi:ni, Cuini
Other sources
Kwini, Kimberley Area Languages, Belaa, Kunan, Pela, Wirngir, Galumburu, Guini, Gwini, Pelah, Wadaja, Walar, Winggir, Wola, Wular, Cuini, Miwa, Konun, Konan, Konin, Gonin, Kaianu, Kianu, Kyanoo, Murgura, Kuna, Kunange, Gunan, Koonange, Mande, Manda, Pago, Bagu, Manungu, Manunggu, Kalumbura, Caloombooroo, Wulanggur, Ulagu Wulau, Ulangu, Umari, Boola, Pelange, Worrorran

Gunin/Kwini (K36) is a non-Pama-Nyungan language of the Worrorran family, specifically Northern Worrorran, along with Miwa K44; Gambera K39; Wilawila K35; Yiiji K32; Wunambal K22; and (tentitively) Gulunggulu K59 (McGregor and Rumsey, 2009:8).

McGregor (1993:5) says that Gunin is the name of the language while Kwini is the name of the people who speak Gunin.

Tindale treats Miwa K44 and Gonin K36 as referring to the same group/language, but McGregor (1993) treats them as separate languages or dialects.

Tindale (1974:153) reports that 'the Jeidji K32 people living near the Forrest River Mission, sometimes called Gwini, have also been termed Miwa K44'.

Capell (1972:157) found no 'native term' for the various dialects of the Forrest River area, but noted that Gwini had sometimes been used.

The languages of this area appear to be very closely related. Jones (2006) equates Gunin, Yeiji K32, Wunambal K22, Arruwarri K28 and 'Bamberre', stating that they are simply different names for the same language, which she calls the Forrest River Language.

Today Gunin/Kwini is regarded as a language variety associated with the Kalumburu area and east of there. The term Pela has been used by some in reference to a language which could be Gunin, though Capell and Coate (1984:4) say Pela is neither a tribal nor a language name, but possibly the name of a region.

Hernandez (1941:212) on other hand lists it among the tribal and language names of the Drysdale River area. Due to the variation in use and the resulting ambiguity, items in the AIATSIS catalogue that mention Pela are catalogued with both Miwa and Gunin language headings.


  • Capell, Arthur. 1972. Cave painting myths: Northern Kimberley. Oceania and linguistic monographs no. 18. Sydney: University of Sydney. (B C238.30/C2)
  • Capell, Arthur & H.H.J. Coate. 1984. Comparative studies in Northern Kimberley languages: Pacific Linguistics C-69. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
  • Galdeano, Dom Seraphim Sanz de. 2005. A grammar and dictionary of the Pela language used by the Kuini tribe of Kalumburu: volume 1. [S.l.]: Dom Seraphim Sanz de Galdeano. (PMS 6178)
  • Galdeano, Dom Seraphim Sanz de. 2006. Metamorphosis of a race: Kuíni and Kulári tribes of Kalúmburu Mission. Carlisle, W.A.: Hesperian Press. (B G149.42/M1 )
  • Glasgow, David. Report [to A.I.A.S.] on surveys of languages and dialects of the north - east Kimberleys, typescript. (PMS 656).Hernandez, Theodore. 1941. Social organization of the Drysdale River tribes, North-West Australia. Oceania 11(3):211-232.
  • 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.
  • McGregor, William. 1993. Gunin/Kwini. München: Lincom Europa.
  • McGregor, William. 2006. Australian languages / by Herman Nekes, Ernest A. Worms. Trends in Linguistics: Documentation 24. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
  • 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.
  • McPhee, Anscar. 2011. A hero in the night time of dreaming: the story of Penda Gudje. Fitzroy, Vic: Blue Vapours Publishing. (B M172.29/H1)
  • Pandilo, Mary. 2003. Jilinya: spirit woman from the sea. Halls Creek: Kimberley Language Resource Centre. (L G996.007/3)
  • 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: 

... on the western side of the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf, in the region between the Forrest River and Drysdale River (McGregor 1993:5).


Handbook of Kimberley Languages (1988): 

Mangu (A34 ) in Handbook of Kimberley Languages (1988).

5.19 Kwini / Kunan / Gunin

Names of the language and different spellings that have been used:
Ginan (Capell & Coate), Goonan (Hudson & McConvell), Guna, Gunan (Capell), Gunin (Black, Black & Walsh, Oates, SIL, Lucich, Vaszolyi), Kunan (Taylor), Cuini, Gwini, Kuini (Perez), Kuwiyini (Taylor), Kwini (Love), Kwiini (Taylor), Kwiyini (Taylor), Pela?, Kalumburu, Wirngir.
According to Oates (1975:57), Kunan is the name of the language or dialect, Kwini being the name of the people. This is not to be confused with Gooniyandi (Gunian), spoken in the Fitzroy Crossing region.
Classification of the language:
Worrorran family, Wunambalic group
Identification codes:
AIAS: K36, K41
Oates 1973: 48.1b
Capell: K7
Present number and distribution of speakers:
Kalumburu, Wyndham
Oates (1970) - at least 50 adults at Kalumburu Mission speak Kwini as their first language
People who have worked intensively on the language:
Arthur Capell, during the late 1930s
Practical orthography:
Word lists:
Capell (nd, 1940), Crawford (1982), Gil (1934a,), Peile (nd), SIL (1971)
Textual material:
Gil (1934b, 1934c)
Grammar or sketch grammar:
None; Capell & Coate (1984) contains some grammatical information.
Material available on the language:
Capell, A. 1939. The languages of the Northern Kimberley Division, W.A.. Mankind 2. 169-175.
_____ .1940. The classification of languages in north and north-west Australia. Oceania 10. 241-272, 404-433.
_____ .nd. Gwini-English vocabulary. 32pp. typescript. AIAS.
Capell, A. & Coate, H.H.J. 1984. Comparative studies in northern Kimberley languages. Canberra: PL, C-69.
Crawford, I.M. 1982. Traditional Aboriginal plant resources in the Kalumburu area: aspects in ethno-economics. Perth: Western Australian Museum.
Gil, T. 1934a. A dictionary of the Pela language, used by the natives of the coastal regions of East Kimberley in W.A. typescript. AIAS MF 87. (A1;B5).
_____ .1934b. A concise catechism of Christian doctrine; written in the "Pela" language. 11pp. typescript. AIAS MF 87. (A1;B5).
_____ .1937c. Translation into Pela of "Short life of our lord". manuscript.
Glasgow, D.I., Hocking, F.M. & Steiner, W.L. nd. Report [to AIAS] on surveys of languages and dialects of the north-east Kimberleys. 9pp. typescript.
Peile, A.R. nd. Field notes Warayngari. 182pp. manuscript. AIAS Ms 322.
Summer Institute of Linguistics. 1971. AIAS word list for N.E. Kimberleys survey: Kunin language. AIAS tapes A2177,2189. 18pp. AIAS pMs 1802.
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.


KLRC and linguist Margaret Howard are working with language speakers at Kalumburu. (Carr 2000:7) A Kwini workbook and story collection is in preparation. (Carr 2000:7)

Arthur Capell, William McGregor, Kimberley Language Resource Centre, Margaret Howard (nee Sefton)
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 1-10 2
Manuscript note: 
tape transcription/field note available

McGregor, William. 1993. Gunin/Kwini. Munchen: Lincom Europa.


Capelle, Arthur. Gwini - English vocabulary, ms.

Source Family Group Sub-group Name Relationship
Ethnologue (2005) Wororan     Kwini  
Dixon (2002)   NORTH KIMBERLEY AREAL GROUP   Kwini (=Gunin) Wunambal McGregor (1993) further dialects: Wilawila, Gamberre, Kwini (=Gunin), Ginan, Miwa (=Bagu), Yiidji (=Forrest River)
Wurm (1994)          
Walsh (1981)          
Oates (1975) Wororan Wunambalic   Gunin  
Wurm (1972) Wororan Wunambalic   Gwini  
O'Grady, Voegelin and Voegelin (1966) Wororan Wunambalic   Gwini