K44: Miwa

AIATSIS code: 
AIATSIS reference name: 


Thesaurus heading language
Thesaurus heading people
ABN name
ABS name
Arnhem Land and Daly River Region Languages, nec (Miwa)
Horton name
Ethnologue name
ISO 639-3 code
Tindale name
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)
Other sources
Oombulgurri [Glasgow, Hocking & Steiner PMS 656]
Bagu, Arnhem Land, Daly River Region Languages, Pela, Boola, Caloombooroo, Galumburu, Gonin, Gunan, Kaianu, Kalumbura, Kianu, Konan, Konin, Konun, Koonange, Kuna, Kunange, Kyanoo, Manda, Mande, Manunggu, Manungu, Murgura, Pago, Pelange, Ulangu, Umari, Walar, Wulanggur, Wulangu, Miwi, Oombulgurri, Ulagu Wulau, Worrorran

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.


  • Capell, Arthur & H.H.J. Coate. 1984. Comparative studies in Northern Kimberley languages: Pacific Linguistics C-69. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
  • 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, and 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.
  • 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: 

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).

Handbook of Kimberley Languages (1988): 

Tjupany (A31 ) in Handbook of Kimberley Languages (1988).

5.21 Miwa / Bagu

Names of the language and different spellings that have been used:
Miwa (Capell, Black, Oates & Oates, Hudson & McConvell, Love, Lucich, Hernandez, Vaszolyi), Miwi (Oates), Bagu (Oates & Oates, Black, Oates), Ba:gu (Capell), Pela (Oates, Oates & Oates)
According to Vaszolyi, (quoted in Oates) Bagu is a geographical name, denoting the location of the old Roman Catholic Mission, called Pago on the maps.
Classification of the language:
Worrorran family, Wunambalic group
Identification codes:
Oates 1973: 48.1c, 48.3a (Oates & Oates 1970: 48.3a)
Capell: K7
Present number and distribution of speakers:
Oates (1973) - 4 speakers remaining
People who have worked intensively on the language:
No one
Practical orthography:
Word lists:
Capell (1940). According to Oates & Oates (1970), Coate has collected a 2,500 word dictionary, and Lucich has 400-600 words and phrases.
Textual material:
Grammar or sketch grammar:
Material available on the language:
Capell, A. 1940. The classification of languages in north and north-west Australia. Oceania 10. 241-272, 404-433.
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. AIAS.
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.

Thomas Gil
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 Large (more than 200 pages) 4
Text Collection None 0
Grammar None 0
Audio-visual None 0
Manuscript note: 
not available

Gil, Thomas. 1934. A dictionary of the Pela language used by the natives of the coastal regions of east Kimberley in W.A, microfish.

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