N25: Warray

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)
Warai, Warei, Warrai, Awarrai, Awarra.
O'Grady et al (1966)
Other sources
Warray, Awarra, Awarrai, Waray, Warrai, Wulwongga (place name in Warray country), Woolwonga, Wolwonga [Top End Handbook] Awarra, Nawarray [Harvey PMS 5822] Awarrai, Awarra (Parkhouse 1895) [Basedow 1907:2]
Waray, Awara, Parlamarnyin, Warai, Wolwonga, Arwur, Awarai, Awarra, Awarrai, Warei, Warrai, Wulwongga, Woolwonga, Gunwinyguan

Warray is a non-Pama Nyungan language in the Gunwinyguan language family from the Northern Territory. Harvey describes the relationship between Warray (N25) and Jawoyn N57 as closer to each other than either is to any other Gunwinyguan language, despite the fact they are not geographically contiguous. Two languages no longer spoken, Unwinymil N37.1 and Wulwulam N32 intervene; they indicate more in common with Warray than with Jawoyn, but the data are scarce, so their status cannot be established (2003:185, 299).

Harvey concludes that Ngorrkgowo N178 and Wulwulam N32 are alternative names for the same or similar language varieties, or that they refer to distinct language varieties which share considerable overlap in countries associated with them (2003:299). However, Harvey (2007 p.c.) now suspects that Ngorrkgowo is a dialect of Warray.


  • Baker, Brett. New Top End Handbook (FileMaker database). AILEC 0626.
  • 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.
  • Harvey, Mark.1986. Ngoni Waray amungal-yang : the Waray language from Adelaide River. MFE 142
  • Harvey, Mark. ca. 1992. Darwin area languages. PMS 5822
  • Harvey, Mark. 1988. Warray grammar, Warray dictionary. AILEC 0054.
  • Harvey, Mark. 2003. Western Gunwinyguan. In The non-Pama-Nyungan languages of northern Australia: comparative studies of the continent's most linguistically complex region, ed. Nicholas Evans, 285-303. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
  • Harvey, Mark. 2008. Non-Pama-Nyungan Languages: land-language associations at colonisation.
  • Sutton, Peter. 1995. Country: Aboriginal boundaries and land ownership in Australia. Canberra: Aboriginal History Inc.
  • Doris Lidawi White, Dolly Mabul Fejo, Ada Ajibak Goodman, Mark Harvey, Doris Ladawi White, Glenn M Wightman, Roger Wurdidi Yates, Elsie Ajibak O'Brien. 2009. Warray plants and animals : Aboriginal flora and fauna knowledge from the upper Adelaide and upper Finniss Rivers, northern Australia. Darwin : Dept. of Natural Resources, Environment and the Arts and Sport : Diwurruwurru-Jaru Aboriginal Corporation.
State / Territory: 
Location information: 

Originally in an area around the town of Adelaide River which is halfway between Darwin and Pine Creek (Harvey 1986:4). ... in the Margaret and upper Adelaide River valleys, including Adelaide River and Batchelor towns (Harvey PMS 5822).

Upper Adelaide river south of its junction with the Margaret (Top End Handbook). Their country extends west to include the area around Batchelor, then runs south-east along the watershed between the Douglas/Daly and the Adelaide/Margaret Rivers, and includes the headwaters of McKinlay River which runs back almost to Pine Creek (Ritchie in Sutton 1995:114).

South of Larrekiya, extending from Mounts Charles and Gun south to about the latitude of Mount Wells (Basedow 1907:2).

The general associations were to the Adelaide River drainage upstream from and including its junction with the Margaret River, to the Margaret River drainage between its junction with the Adelaide and its junction with McCallum Creek, and to the upper Finnis River drainage. There was little precise information on the limits of Warray associations in 2007. In the east, Howley siding on the North Australian railway was associated with Warray. Brock's Creek was associated with Wulwulam. Mt Ringwood homestead appears to have been associated with Warray, but this appears to have been close to the eastern limits of Warray associations. The Margaret River drainage upstream from and including its junction with McCallum Creek was associated with Wulwulam. In the north, the junction of the Margaret and the Adelaide marked the northern limit of Warray affiliations. The Marrakai Creek drainage was associated with Wuna. The Manton and Darwin River drainages were associated with Gulumoerrgin. In the west, boundaries are extrapolated from ecological zone changes - the shift from savannah forest towards grassland on the Finniss, and drainage basin boundaries - in the Tabletop Range area. In the south, boundaries are extrapolated principally from drainage basin boundaries. In the plateau country area, Warray associations extended to approximately the level of Mt Shoebridge. Plateau Point and Hayes Creek were associated with Wagiman (Harvey AILEC 0802).


Mark Harvey
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 Small (20-100 pages) 2
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

Harvey, Mark. 1986. Ngoni Waray Amungal-yang: the Waray language from Adelaide River, Australian National University: MA.


Harvey, Mark. 1986. Ngoni Waray Amungal-yang: the Waray language from Adelaide River, Australian National University: MA.

Source Family Group Sub-group Name Relationship
Ethnologue (2005) Gunwingguan Warayan   Waray  
Dixon (2002)   ARNHEM LAND GROUP Jawoyn-Warray group Warray Warray Harvey (1986) possible further dialect: Wulwulam (or may be a distinct language)
Wurm (1994) Waray     Waray  
Walsh (1981) Warayan     Waray  
Oates (1975) Warraian     Warrai  
Wurm (1972) Warraian     Warrai  
O'Grady, Voegelin and Voegelin (1966)