Miwa is a non-Pama-Nyungan language of the Worrorran family, specifically Northern Worrorran, along with Gunin/Kwini K36; Gambera K39; Wilawila K35; Yiiji K32; Wunambal K22; and (tentitively) Gulunggulu K59 (McGregor and Rumsey, 2009:8).
Tindale treats Miwa and Gonin K36 as referring to the same group/language, but McGregor (1993) treats them as separate languages or dialects. Tindale (1974:153) also reports that 'the Jeidji K32 people living near the Forrest River Mission, sometimes called Gwini K36, have also been termed Miwa K44'.
The languages of the northern Kimberley area appear to be very closely related. Jones (2006) equates Gunin K36, Yeiji K32, Wunambal K22, Arruwarri K28 and Bamberr K39?, claiming that they are simply different names for the same language, which she calls the Forrest River Language.
The term Pela has also been used by some in reference to a language which could be Miwa or Gunin K36. McGregor and Rumsey (2009:1) treat Pela as an alternative name of Miwa. 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.
East side of Napier Broome Bay and lower reaches of King Edward River; inland to about Mount Connelly; eastward to near Cape Bernier; inland on Drysdale River to the Barton Plain; eastward to the King George River and headwaters of the Berkeley River where the range is called Manungu by aborigines (Tindale 1974).
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McGregor, William. 1988 Handbook of Kimberley Languages. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. © Author.
AIATSIS gratefully acknowledge William McGregor for permission to use his material in AUSTLANG.
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).
Gil, Thomas. 1934. A dictionary of the Pela language used by the natives of the coastal regions of east Kimberley in W.A, microfish.