N138: Binbinka

AIATSIS code: 
AIATSIS reference name: 


Thesaurus heading language
Thesaurus heading people
ABN name
ABS name
Horton name
Ethnologue name
Gudanji [Binbinka], Wambayra [Binbinga]
ISO 639-3 code
Tindale name
Tindale (1974)
Binbingha, Binbinka, Pinbinga (Iliaura pronunciation from hearsay of northern neighbors), Leepitbinga, Bing Binga.
O'Grady et al (1966)
Other sources
Binbinga (Spencer and Gillen 1904, Basedow 1907, Capell 1963, Tindale 1974, Chadwick 1978), Bing Binga (Lindsay 1887), and Binbingha (Mathews 1900, 1908) [Nordlinger 1998:6]
Gudanji, Binbinga, Binbingha, Pinbinga, Leepitbinga, Bing Binga

Binbinka (N138) is one of three dialects including Gudanji C26 and Wambaya C19 of the Wambayan language group, which belongs to the Ngurlun sub-group in the Mirndi language family of non-Pama Nyungan languages (Harvey, 2008:1-3).

The Mirndi language family consists of two geographically non-contiguous groups on the Barkly Tableland in the Northern Territory: Western Mirndi, with two languages 'Jaminjungan' (see Jaminjung N18 and Ngaliwurru N19) and Nungali N28; and Eastern Mirndi, with three languages, Jingulu C22, Ngarnka N121 and the Wambayan language group.

The Wambayan language group (Bibinka (N138), Gudanji C26 Wambaya C19) and Ngarnka N121 are in turn two languages which form a genetic group that Harvey calls 'Ngurlun' (Harvey, 2008:1-3).

Earlier writers call Wambayan the 'McArthur language', after the river which forms part of the territories affiliated with Gudanji, Binbinka and Wambaya (Nordlinger 1998:5 and Chadwick 1989:1-2).

Nordlinger's description of these two non-contiguous but related language groups is similar: the first consisting of Jaminjung N18, Naliwuru N19 and Nungali N28 located in the geographic west and the second in the geographic east the 'West Barkly' set consisting of Jingili C22 along with the 'Eastern Group' of Ngarnga N121 and the McArthur language (see above) (1998:4).


  • Basedow, Herbert. 1907. Anthropological notes on the western coastal tribes of the Northern Territory of South Australia. Royal Society of South Australia -- Transactions 31:1-62.
  • Chadwick, Neil. 1989. The relationship of Jingulu and Jaminjungan. MS 2833.
  • Harvey, Mark. 2008. Proto Mirndi: a discontinuous language family in northern Australia. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
  • Nordlinger, Rachel. 1998. A grammar of Wambaya, Northern Territory (Australia): Pacific Linguistics C-140. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
  • Harvey, Mark. 2008. Non-Pama-Nyungan Languages: land-language associations at colonisation. AILEC 0802.
  • 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: 

... the McArthur River district for forty miles south of Borrollola (Basedow 1907:3)

Southeast from Old Bauhinia Downs; on McArthur River Station; around Campbell Camp; on upper reaches of McArthur and Glyde Rivers (Tindale 1974).

There was no precise information on the limits of Binbinka affiliations in 2007. The following places were associated with Binbinka: Borroloola, Goose Lagoon, Billengarrah homestead, Bauhinia Downs homestead (Harvey AILEC 0802).


Sourcebook for Central Australian Languages (1981): 

Mulyara (A18 ) in Sourcebook for Central Australian Languages (1981).


Names of the language and different spellings that have been used:
Binbinga (T,AC,Elkin,SAW,Frazer,Spencer,RLS,AIAS), BingaBinga (RLS), Bibbinga (Roheim), Leepitbinga (RLS)
Classification of the language:
Djingiluan (Jinguluan) Family, Wambayan group
Identification codes:
Oates '73: 30.1b
AIAS: N.138
Capell: N5
Present number and distribution of speakers:
Macarthur River area, Darwin
Milliken, 1972 -- 12
Black, 1979 --
People who have worked intensively on the language:
Chadwick continues study of Barkly languages.
Practical orthography:
None established. Wampaya, Jingilu probably suitable.
Word lists:
Chadwick ms.
Grammar or sketch grammar:
Material available on the language:
Chadwick, Neil. 1974. Historical considerations in some Australian languages. Linguistic Communications 14:69-82.
---------- 1975. (Basic data (morpho-syntactic) analysis:Djingili, Wambaya, Gudandji, Binbinga and Ngarnga). 48p. ms. Canberra.
---------- 1979. The West Barkly languages: an outline sketch, pp.653-711 in Australian Linguistic Studies, ed. by S.A. Wurm Pacific Linguistics C.54.
Spencer, Baldwin & F.J. Gillen. 1904. The Northern Tribes of Central Australia. London: Macmillan & Co. Ltd. Reprinted 1969, Oosterhout, N.B., The Netherlands: Anthropological
Publications. (includes glossary of Binbinga terms and totem names)
Literacy material:

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

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

Neil Chadwick, Katherine Regional Aboriginal Language Centre, Papulu Apparr-Kari Language 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 None 0
Text Collection None 0
Grammar Sketch grammar (less than 100 pages) 2
Audio-visual Less than 1 1
Manuscript note: 
tape transcription/field note available

Chadwick, Neil. 1979. The West Barkly languages : an outline sketch in Australian linguistic studies: Pacific Linguistics C54, ed. S Wurm, 653-711. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.

Source Family Group Sub-group Name Relationship
Ethnologue (2005) West Barkly     Gudanji [Binbinka], Wambayra [Binbinga] Gudanji [dialects: Binbinka, Ngarnga], Wambaya [dialects: Wambaya, Binbinga (Binbinka), Gudandji. Black (1983) says the dialects are inherently intelligible.]
Dixon (2002)   MINDI SUBGROUP East Mindi subgroup* Binbinka Wambaya Nordlinger (1998) further dialects: Gudandji, Binbinka
Wurm (1994) Djingili-Wambayan Wambayan   Binbinga  
Walsh (1981) Djingili-Wambayan djingilic   Binbinga  
Oates (1975) Djingili-Wambayan Wambayan   Binbinga  
Wurm (1972) Djingili-Wambayan Wambayic   Binbinga  
O'Grady, Voegelin and Voegelin (1966)