K6: Gooniyandi

AIATSIS code: 
AIATSIS reference name: 


Thesaurus heading language
Thesaurus heading people
ABN name
ABS name
Horton name
Ethnologue name
ISO 639-3 code
Tindale name
Tindale (1974)
Konean, Konajan, Konejanu (Mangala term), Gun-ian, Gunan, Kuniandu, Kunian, Kunan, Goonien, Wadea-wulu (Kitja term for them).
O'Grady et al (1966)
Koneyandi, Konejandi, Kunian, Kunan
Other sources
Guniyandi, Guniyan, Gunian, Gunijan, Konejandi, Kunian, Cowrana, Goonien, Gunan, Guniandi, Gunin, Gunyari, Konajan, Konean, Konejanu, Koneyandi, Kunan, Kuniandu, Wadeawulu, Guniyan, Gun ian, Wadea wulu, Bunuban family
Gooniyandi is a non-classifying non Pama-Nyungan language. McGregor says that Bunuba K5 is closely related to Gooniyandi (K6) and that they are not mutually intelligible, though many speakers are bilingual in both languages. Both language have been described as belonging to the Bunuban family (McGregor 2004:39).
  • Harvey, Mark. 2008. Non-Pama-Nyungan Languages: land-language associations at colonisation. AILEC 0802.
  • McGregor, William. 1994. The grammar of reported speech and thought in Gooniyandi. Australian Journal of Linguistics, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 63-92.
  • McGregor, William. 2004. The languages of the Kimberley, Western Australia. New York: RoutledgeCurzon.
  • 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: 
... from Fitzroy Crossing in the west to the vicinity of Margaret River Station in the east, a distance of some one hundred and fifty kilometeres, west to east. This territory abuts on the Great Sandy Desert in the south, and extends into the King Leopold Ranges in the north. (McGregor 1994:4). West to Fitzroy Crossing; at Bohemia Downs and Margaret River Stations. Formerly south to Christmas Creek, but they lost the open plains on the north side of the river to Walmadjari just before the time of the first appearance of whites. East to junction of Mary and Margaret rivers and the Ramsay Range, north to Stony River, Sandstone, Mueller, Burramundy, and Geikie Ranges; their headquarters were in the eastern limestone areas of the King Leopold Ranges (Tindale 1974). The general associations were from Gogo homestead in the west to Margaret River homestead in the east, from the drainage of Christmas Creek in the south to the southernmost King Leopold Ranges in the north. Sources in 2007 stated that Margaret River homestead was not associated with Gija, nor does it appear to have been associated with Djaru. Aboriginal people in the 1960s associated the homestead with Gooniyandi (Harvey ASEDA 802).
Handbook of Kimberley Languages (1988): 

Nyaki Nyaki (A1 ) in Handbook of Kimberley Languages (1988).

2.3 Gooniyandi / Gunian / Kuniyanti

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

Ginijan (Capell), Goonien, Gooniyandi (Street & Chestnut, Hudson, KLS), Gunan, Gunian (Capell, Oates & Oates, AIAS, Tsunoda), Guniandi, Gunijan, Guniyan (Black & Walsh, Oates 1973), Guniyandi (McGregor), Gun-yan (Bates), Konean (Birdsell), Konejandi (Tindale), Kunan, Kunian (Kaberry), Kuniyan (Taylor), Kuniyanti (McGregor)

Speakers generally feel the form ending in -n to be a shortening, and prefer that the long form (ending in -ndi or -nti, depending on the spelling) be used in written reference to the language. See Street & Chestnut (1984) and McGregor (1984b:1, 58).

Classification of the language:

Bunuban family, Gooniyanic group

Identification codes:


Oates 1973: 45

Capell: K11

Present number and distribution of speakers:

Junjuwa and Kurnangki (Fitzroy Crossing), Bayulu, Mulurrja, Looma, Yiyili, Fossil Downs Station, Halls Creek; there are also a few speakers living in Kununurra.

McGregor (1984) - 100

Hudson (1984) - 150

Oates 1973 - 50

Birdsell (1970) - virtually extinct (p.118)

Birdsell's estimate is based on information provided to him by Walmajarri people, and this presumably explains the low figure (see page 19 above).

People who have worked intensively on the language:

Howard Coate, mid-1960s, Fossil Downs station

Carrol Morris, 1979, Fitzroy Crossing

William McGregor, 1980 onwards, Fitzroy Crossing, Bayulu, Yiyili, Mulurrja

Practical orthography:

In 1983, with assistance from David Street and Topsy Chestnut, Joyce Hudson developed a practical orthography for use in Yiyili Community School (see Hudson 1984a and b, Street & Chestnut 1984). This orthography was designed for maximum ease of transfer from English to Gooniyandi literacy. Earlier, in 1982, McGregor had developed a phonemic orthography for use in the Yiyili Community School, using the same symbols as Walmajarri, plus th and nh. This system is used in his early publications; more recently he has recommended a compromise phonemic orthography for use in linguistic publications (McGregor 1986d).

Word lists:

Capell (1940), Coate (1967), McGregor (1984b), Morris & Street (nd)

Textual material:

Coate (nd), McGregor (1984b, 1988b)

Grammar or sketch grammar:

Coate (nd), McGregor (1980c, 1984b)

Material available on the language:

For a fuller listing see:

McGregor, W.B. 1984. Bibliography of works touching on Kuniyanti, anthropological and linguistic. 7pp. typescript.

Bates, D. nd. Native vocabularies - Halls Creek. manuscript.

Byrne, S. 1984. Restrictive and non-restrictive adjectives: a cross-language study. MA thesis, ANU. (Discusses the Gooniyandi noun phrase.)

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

Coate, H. 1967. Notes on three dead languages. various paging. typescript. AIAS (Includes vocabulary of Gooniyandi.)

_____ .nd. [Guniandi texts and grammatical notes.] manuscript.

Hudson, J. 1984a. An orthography chosen by those who speak Gooniyandi: explanatory notes. Australian Review of Applied Linguistics S-1. 71-73.

_____ .1984b. An orthography chosen by those who speak Gooniyandi. In McKay, G.R. & Sommer, B.A. (eds) Further applications of linguistics to Australian Aboriginal contexts. (ALAA Occasional Papers, 8) 19-23.

McGregor, W. 1980a. Gunian field notebooks. manuscript. AIAS Ms 1493.

_____ .1980b. Report on fieldwork on Gunian, conducted at Fitzroy Crossing [W.A.], June-October 1980. 50pp. manuscript. AIAS pMs 3306.

_____ .1980c. Second report on fieldwork conducted at Fitzroy Crossing, May to October 1980 on Guniyandi.

_____ .1981a. Kuniyanti pronominal categories. Paper given to ALS Conference Canberra, 1981.

_____ .1981b. Ergativity in Kuniyanti. unpublished manuscript.

_____ .1982a. Kuniyanti field notebooks. manuscript. AIAS Ms 1698.

_____ .1982b. Kuniyanti writing. 66pp. manuscript. AIAS Ms 1702.

_____ .1982c. Kuniyanti language programme at Yiyili School. 14pp. manuscript. AIAS pMs 3605.

_____ .1984a. Sound symbolism in Kuniyanti (Gooniyandi). Paper delivered to ALS Conference, Alice Springs, 1984. (To appear in Forum Linguisticum.)

_____ .1984b. A grammar of Kuniyanti: an Australian Aboriginal language of the southern Kimberley, Western Australia. PhD thesis, University of Sydney.

_____ .1985a. Existential clauses in Kuniyanti. Paper read to ALS Conference, Brisbane 1985. (To be published in Papers in Australian linguistics, 17. Canberra: PL.)

_____ .1985b. Information structure of Kuniyanti discourse. Paper read to ALAA Congress, Brisbane 1985.

_____ .1985c. Body parts in Kuniyanti clause grammar. Australian Journal of Linguistics 5. 209-232.

_____ .1986a. Discourse function of intonation in Kuniyanti. Australian Review of Applied Linguistics 9/1. 136-149.

_____ .1986b. Phrasal discontinuity and related matters in Gooniyandi. Unpublished manuscript.

_____ .1986c. Structural analysis of "Police Tracker" genre in Gooniyandi. Paper given to Discourse Symposium of A.I.A.S. Biennial Conference, Canberra, May 1986. (To appear in Oceania.)

_____ .1986d. Another orthography for Gooniyandi. Australian Aboriginal Studies 1986/2. 62-65.

_____ .1987. The structure of Gooniyandi narratives. Australian Aboriginal Studies. 1987/2. 20-28.

_____ .1988a. Mood and subordination in Kuniyanti. In Austin, P. (ed.), Complex sentence constructions in Australian languages. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 37-67.

_____ .1988b. Jack Bohemia and the Banjo affair. Meridian. 7/1. 34-58.

_____ .forthcoming a. Phrase fracturing in Gooniyandi. (To appear in a volume on configurationality edited by Maracz, L. & Muysken, P.)

_____ .forthcoming b. A functional grammar of Gooniyandi. (To be published by John Benjamins.)

_____ .forthcoming c. Systemic phonology of Gooniyandi. (To appear in a volume on systemic phonology edited by Davies, M. & Mock, C.)

Morris, C. & Street, D. nd. Gunian dictionary. typescript.

Nekes, H. & Worms, E.A. 1953. Australian languages. (Micro-Bibliotheca Anthropos, 10) Fribourg: Anthropos-Institut. 1058pp. AIAS MF 4.

Street, D. & Chestnut, T. 1984. We spell it Gooniyandi: notes on the new Gunian orthography. ALA Newsletter 6. 4.

Tindale, N. 1952-1954. Field journal of Norman B. Tindale: 18th expedition under the auspices of Board for Anthropological Research, University of Adelaide and University of California at Los Angeles, 1952-1954. 1233, 340pp. typescript & manuscript.

Tsunoda, T. 1975-9. [Djaru field notes. Halls Creek, etc., WA, 1975-9]. manuscript. AIAS Ms 1381. (A1;B4).

Language programme:

A small language and culture programme was initiated in Fitzroy Crossing School in 1982, but this ceased operation in the same year. The Yiyili Community School started a language and literacy programme in 1983, but this foundered in late 1984 with the loss of the teacher-linguist. In 1985 the Fitzroy Crossing School again started an oral language programme, Gooniyandi being one of the languages taught. The programme ceased operation during 1985, but the school is keen to reintroduce it. A language programme was introduced into the Gogo primary school in 1987, and ran successfully throughout the year. It has continued through 1988.

Language learning material:


Literacy material:

McGregor, W. 1982b. Kuniyanti writing. 66pp. manuscript. AIAS Ms 1702.

_____ .1988. Read Gooniyandi. Halls Creek: KLRC.

_____ .in preparation. Gooniyandi sourcebook. Halls Creek: KLRC.

Yiyili Aboriginal Community School. 1983. Gooniyandi word book. Illustrated by Gardner, F. & Street, M. 19pp. manuscript.

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

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

William McGregor, Tamsin Wagner, Kimberley Language Resource Centre
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 Medium (100-200 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

McGregor, William. 1990. A functional grammar of Gooniyandi. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Kimberley Language Resource Centre. Gooniyandi dictionary, ASEDA 0741.
Source Family Group Sub-group Name Relationship
Ethnologue (2005) Bunaban Gooniyandi
Dixon (2002) SOUTH KIMBERLEY SUBGROUP* Guniyandi (or Guniyan, Gooniyandi) Guniyandi (or Guniyan, Gooniyandi) MeGregor (1990)
Wurm (1994) Bunaban Bunaba Guniyan
Walsh (1981) Bunaban Bunabic Guniyan
Oates (1975) Bunaban Bunabic Guniyan
Wurm (1972) Bunaban Gunianic Gunian
O'Grady, Voegelin and Voegelin (1966) Bunaban Gunianic Gunian