L17: Dieri

AIATSIS code: 
AIATSIS reference name: 


Thesaurus heading language
Thesaurus heading people
ABN name
Diyari language
ABS name
Horton name
Ethnologue name
ISO 639-3 code
Tindale name
Tindale (1974)
Diari, Diyeri, Dieyerie, Deerie, Dieyrie, Dayerrie, Dthee-eri, Dickeri (misprint), Kunari (n.n. of Cooper Creek), Koonarie, Wongkadieri (Arabana term), Wonkadieri, Ti:ari (of southern Aranda), Urrominna (southern term for Dieri, Kujani, and Tirari-a general term).
O'Grady et al (1966)
Tirari, Diari, Diyeri, Dieyerie, Deerie, Dieyrie, Dthee-eri
Other sources
Diyari, Tirari, Diari, Diyeri, Dieyerie, Deerie, Dieyrie, Dthee eri, Dayerrie, Dickeri, Kunari, Koonarie, Wongkadieri, Wonkadieri, Ti:ari, Urrominna, Jarawurga, Wanggainara

Capell (1963) says there are two dialects of Dieri, Jarawurga and Wanggainara, but his basis for this is not clear. Austin (1981:4), in his Diyari (L17) grammar, does not mention any dialects of Dieri, noting that 'the only language data recorded for Diyari is from speakers of the kunandi group...so we are unable to say with certainty that there were originally dialects of Diyari'.

According to Breen (1976:745), Dieri forms a dialect chain with Ngamini L22, Midhaga L34, Dhirari L14, Yaluyandi L31 and Garwali L35.

In her description of Arabana, Hercus agrees with Breen's classification of Diyari as a member of the Karnic language group (1994: 10).


  • Austin, Peter. 1981. A grammar of Diyari, South Australia: Cambridge Studies in Linguistics 32. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Breen, Gavan. 1976. Ngamini, and a note on Midhaga. In R.M.W. Dixon (ed.) Grammatical categories in Australian languages, Linguistic Series No. 22, pp. 745-50. Canberra: AIAS. (B D621.81/G1)
  • Capell, Arthur. 1963. Linguistic survey of Australia. Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies.
  • Gason, Samuel. 1874. The Dieyerie Tribe of Australian Aborigines. Adelaide: printed by WC Cox Government Printer, Northern Terrace.
  • Hercus, Luise Anna. 1994. A grammar of the Arabana-Wangkangurru language, Lake Eyre Basin, South Australia: Pacific Linguistics C-128. 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: 

... eastern SA - bounded approximately by a line drawn through the present day township of Marree, Mt. Freeling (in the northern Flinders Ranges) and Lakes Blanche, Gregory, Hope, Perigundi, Howitt, Kitta-kittaooloo and Killalpaninna (Austin 1981:2-3).

Cooper Creek between Killalapaninna and near Coongie; at Cowarie, Mulka, Lake Howitt, and Lake Hope; south to Lake Gregory and Clayton River and low country north of Mount Freeling (Tindale 1974).

Their country is about 600 miles north of Adelaide ... and is bounded at the most southerly point by Mount Freeling, at the most northerly point by Pirigundi Lake (on the Cooper River), at the most easterly point by Lake Hope, and at the most westerly point at a part yest unnamed, but about eighty miles from Lake Hope. This country is traversed by Cooper's Creek ... (Gason, 1874: 11).



Sourcebook for Central Australian Languages (1981): 

Wardal (A19 ) in Sourcebook for Central Australian Languages (1981).


Names of the language and different spellings that have been used:
Diari (Reuther), Dieri (T), Dieyerie (Gason), Diyari (AIAS), Tiyari (IAD)
Other dialect: Dhirari (Austin), Tirari (Reuther)
Closely related languages: Ngamini (Breen, Austin), Ngamani (Breen) Yarluyandi (Austin), Yalyuyandi (Breen)
Classification of the language:
Karnic (originally Dieric) group, Karna subgroup
Identification codes:
Oates '73: 74.1a
AIAS: L.017
Capell: L8
Present number and distribution of speakers:
Less than ten speakers remain; they live in Port Augusta and Marree, S.A. and Birdsville, Qld. (Austin in 1978 found about 20 speakers, all multilingual with English and Arabana or Wangganguru.
People who have worked intensively on the language:
Peter Austin
Practical orthography:
Reuther's orthography has been established, but falls short of being pracatical.
A suitable practical orthography is used in Austin, 1981b.
Word lists:
Reuther mss., Gason (1879), Planert (1908),Fitzherbert ms., Schoknecht (1947), Meier ms., Austin (1981, ms.).
Grammar or sketch grammar:
Reuther mss., Schoknecht (1947), Austin (1978,1981).
See the commentary on previous work in Austin (1978).
Material available on the language:
(See the comprehensive bibliography in Austin 1978:540-45)
Austin, Peter K. 1975. Introductory grammar of the Dhirari language with notes on the Diyari dialect. n.p., 1975. lv (unpaged) bibl.maps.tbls. ms. 48
---------- 1976. Dhirari, pp.757-763 in Grammatical Categories in Australian Languages, ed. by R.M.W. Dixon. AIAS.
---------- 1978. A grammar of the Diyari language of north east South Australia. 553p. Ph.D. thesis, Australian National University.
---------- ms. A dictionary of Diyari, South Australia.
---------- 1981a. A grammar of Diyari, South Australia. Cambridge Studies in Linguistics, 32. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
---------- 1981b. Switch-reference in Australia. Language 57.2. (1980 version in UCLA Papers in Syntax, 8).
---------- 1981c. Transitivity and cognate objects in Australian languages, to appear in Studies in Transitivity, ed. by P. Hopper and S.A. Thompson. New York: Academic Press.
---------- (to appear). The Afghan Snake Charmer. Paradise Crossing. In The Way It Was, ed. by Peter Sutton and Luise Hercus. AIAS.
----------, R. Ellis & Luise A. Hercus. 1976. 'Fruit of the Eyes': semantic diffusion in the Lakes Languages of South Australia. Pacific Linguistics A.47:57-77 (Papers in Australian
Linguistics, 10)
Berndt, R.M. & T. Vogelsang. 1941. Comparative vocabularies of the Ngadjuri and Dieri tribes, South Australia. Royal Society of S.A., Transactions. 65:3-10.
Berndt, R.M. 1953. A day in the life of a Dieri man before alien contact. Anthropos 48:171-201.
Breen, J. Gavan. Dieri field notes. (very brief).
---------- 1976. Yandruwantha, Ngamini, and note on Midhaga, pp.594-7,745-56 in Grammatical Categories in Australian Languages. Linguistic Series 22, ed. by R.M.W. Dixon. AIAS.
(Nothing on Diyari; Ngamini is closely related.)
---------- & L.A. Hercus, ed. [1974?]. Three central Australian grammars: Diari, Jandruwanta, Wongkanguru. Diari, 25+3p. Incorporates L.A. Hercus and T. Schwarzschild's 1972
translation from German of Reuther (1899). Revised June 1980. ts. AIAS.
Capell, A. 1976. Dieri, pp.742-5 in Grammatical Categories in Australian Languages, ed. by R.M.W. Dixon. AIAS.
Donaldson, Tamsin. 1979. Translating oral literature: Aboriginal song texts. Aboriginal History 3.1:62-83. (pp.76-78 quote two short Diyari songs)
Fitzherbert, J.A. [1920's?] Dieri grammar and dictionary.
Handwritten. approx 100p. (Said to have been in S.A. Museum; no longer held there.)
Flierl, J. 1879. Dieri and Wongkanguru grammars. ms. Lutheran Archives, Adelaide.
Fry 1937. Dieri legends. Folkore 48:187-206,269-287.
Gason, Samuel. 1886. Mt. Freeling to Pirigundi Lake, pp.75-107 in Vol. 2, The Australian Race, ed. by E.M. Curr. [Reprint of: 1874. The Dieyerie tribe of Australian Aborigines: their manners and customs. 51p. pamphlet Adelaide; and 1879. The "Dieyerie" tribe, pp.66-83 in The Folklore, Manners, Customs and Languages of S.A. Aborigines, by G. Taplin. (Vocabulary of 1300 items); also reprinted elsewhere.]
Hale, Kenneth L. 1959. Dieri field notes. (Transcription of tape recorded at Alice Springs, 1959). AIAS (MS 872) (See Parrish 1980)
Hercus, Luise A. -- see Breen & Hercus, ed.
---------- 1971. Review of Trefrey (1970). Lingua 29:91-94.
---------- 1972. [See under Arabana]
---------- 1979. In the margins of an Arabana-Wangganguru dictionary: the loss of initial consonants. Pacific Linguistics C.54:621-52 (Australian Linguistic Studies, ed. by S.A. Wurm.)
---------- (to appear) 'Afghan' stories from the north-east of South Australia. Canberra Anthropology.
---------- & Peter Sutton (forthcoming) This is What Happened. AIAS.
Homann, E. 1879. Declension of [Diyari] pronouns, p.86 in The Folklore, Manners, Customs and Languages of S.A. Aborigines, by G. Taplin.
Meier, A. Vocabulary of the Dieri tribe. approx. 1000 cards in the S.A. Museum. (21p. ms. copy made by Peter Austin, 1977: AIAS pMS 217).
Murray, Ben & Peter Austin. 1981. Aborigines and Afghans: Diyari Texts, to appear in Canberra Anthropology.
Parrish, Lucy. 1980. Tiyari word list. (based on field notes by Ken Hale). 10p. ts. IAD.
Planert, W. 1908. Australische forschungen II Dieri-Grammatik. Zeitschrift fur Ethnologie 40:686-97.
Reuther, J.G. The Diari. Translated from the German by Peter A. Scherer, 1974. S.A. Museum.
---------- Vocabulary of the Diari and related dialects. 13 notebooks, 18 bd. vols. (4 vols.; vols. of place names, myths, ethnography, etc.) ms. South Australian Museum.
---------- 1899. Diari Grammar. ms. dated 6 July 1899. Translated by L.A. Hercus and T. Schwarzschild -- see Breen & Hercus.
Schoknecht, Carl. 1947. A dictionary Dieri-English, English-Dieri. Translated from German and prepared by J.C. Schoknecht. v+33p. ts. Melbourne. (AIAS pMS 1540)
---------- 1947. Grammar of the language of the Dieri Aborigines. 15p. ts. Melbourne. (AIAS pMS 1539, 2668)
Schere, P.A. (translator) 197?. A Diari dictionary. ms. AIAS. (translation from German of Reuther's 1901 dictionary)
Trefrey, D. 1968. Linguistic routine report. Depth study of Dieri. Dictionary and tapes. AIAS (Doc 66/397, File 66/91(77)).
---------- 1970. The phonological word in Dieri, pp.65-74 in Linguistic Trends in Australia, ed. by D.C. Laycock. Australian Aboriginal Studies, 23. AIAS. See Hercus (1971).
---------- 1974. The theory of segmental phonology and its application to Dieri. ix+443p. diags. illus. tbls. Ph.D. thesis, Macquarie University.
Literacy material:
Reuther, J.G. & C.G. Strehlow. 1897. Testamenta Marra. [ New Testament.] Jesuni Christuni Ngantjani Jaura ninaia Karitjimalakana wonti Dieri Jaurani. Tanunda: G. Auricht.
Riedel, W. 1914(?) Ngujangujara pepa Diari -- talini. ms.
(Old Testament). Lutheran Archives, Adelaide.

Kathy Menning (comp.) and David Nash (ed.) 1981. © IAD Press

AIATSIS gratefully acknowledges IAD Press for permission to use this material in AUSTLANG.


Peter Austin is preparing a collection of stories and a bilingual dictionary.

Peter Austin, Luise Hercus, Johann Reuther, Bernhard Schebeck, David Trefry, Hale & O'Grady, Heidi Kneebone, C.H.M. Schoknecht
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 Less than 20 pages 1
Text Collection Less than 20 pages 1
Grammar Large grammar (more than 200 pages) 4
Audio-visual More than 10 3
Manuscript note: 
tape transcription/field note available

Austin, Peter. 1981. A grammar of Diyari, South Australia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Source Family Group Sub-group Name Relationship
Ethnologue (2005) Pama-Nyungan Karnic Karna Dieri Dieri [dialects: Related to Garuwali, Marrula, Midhaga, Yarluyandi, all of which may be extinct.]
Dixon (2002)   LAKE EYRE BASIN AREAL GROUP Central Lake Eyre Basin areal group Diyari Diyari* Austin (1981a) further dialects: Dhirari, Pilardapa
Wurm (1994) Pama-Nyungan Karnic   Diyari  
Walsh (1981) Pama-Nyungan Karnic Diyari/Karna Diyari (Dieri)  
Oates (1975) Pama-Nyungan Karnic Karna Diyari  
Wurm (1972) Pama-Nyungan Dieric Karna Dieri  
O'Grady, Voegelin and Voegelin (1966) Pama-Nyungan Dieric Karna Dieri