N57: Jawoyn

AIATSIS code: 
AIATSIS reference name: 


Thesaurus heading language
Thesaurus heading people
ABN name
Jawoyn language
ABS name
Horton name
Ethnologue name
ISO 639-3 code
Tindale name
Tindale (1974)
Tjauen, Djouan, Djauun, Jawin, Chau-an, Tweinbol, Adowen, Djawin, Djawun, Djauwung, Charmong.
O'Grady et al (1966)
Tjawen, Djauun, Jawin, Chauan, Adowen, Charmong
Other sources
Jawoyn, Djauan, Djawan, Djawanj, Djawun, Adowen (Warray version of the above), Gundjawan (Gunwinjgu-ised version of the above) [Top End Handbook]
Jawonj, Adowen, Gundjawan, Djauan, Djauwuny, Djawin, Charmong, Chau an, Chauan, Djauun, Djauwung, Djawan, Djawanj, Djawun, Djouan, Djowan, Djowei, Jauan, Jawin, Juauan, Kumertuo, Lebryryd, Nggandindmi, Tjauen, Tjawen, Tjouen, Tweinbol, Wonborngu, Jawony

Merlan and Jacq say that  there were probably several different dialects of Jawoyn, among them Kerniyn'mi (Gerniny'mi) N169 and Letpurrirt (Letburrirt) N176 (2005:2).

Dixon (2002) treats what Merlan and Jacq call 'strong' ('ngan-wirlang') N167 as a separate dialect of Jawoyn but not 'light' or 'quick' ('ngan-parlok').

Harvey (2003 Western Gunwinyguan), as well as Dixon (2002), lists Ngarlahmi N177 as a Jawoyn dialect on the basis of information he received from Merlan.


  • Merlan, Francesca, Pascale Jacq, and Jowoyn elders eds. 2005. Jawoyn-English dictionary and English finder-list. Katherine, NT: Diwurruwurru-jaru Aboriginal Corporation.
  • 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. 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.
  • Dixon, R. M. W. 2002. Australian languages: their nature and development: Cambridge Language Surveys. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
State / Territory: 
Location information: 

Jawoyn-language clans such as Pertpert, Polmo and others appear to have ranged and perhaps been affiliated to country high up on the Katherine River in present-day Arnhem Land. However, research has shown the far northern Jawoyn area to be less well known to Pine Creek and Katherine-resident Jawoyn people than are lower parts of the Katherine catchment (Merlan & Jacq 2005:3).

... while the area around the upper Ferguson river was apparently associated with the Ngarlahmi dialect of Jawoyn, the area immediately to the south of Pine Creek on the Cullen and mid-Ferguson was associated with the Dagoman-speaking Gayn-jiwortbort clan. Wulwulam appears to have bordered diecretly onto Jawoyn in the west. The upper Mary River above Moine appears to be associated with the Jawoyn language (Harvey 2003:297 - information provided by Merlan).

The general associations were to the southern half of the Arnhemland plateau and adjacent, with the exception that in the south-west, the edge of the plateau and adjacent areas were associated with Dagoman. There was little precise information on the limits of Jawoyn affiliations in 2007. In the east, Mainoru homestead and the Mainoru River upstream of the homestead were associated with Jawoyn. It is not certain how far downstream of the homestead Jawoyn affiliations extended. In the north-east, boundaries are extrapolated from drainage basin boundaries. The Wilton and Mann River drainages in the plateau were generally associated with Dalabon. The East Alligator and Deaf Adder Creek drainages were generally associated with Bininj Gunwok. However, it is possible that the headwaters of some or all of these drainages were associated with Jawoyn. In the north-west, Jawoyn associations appear to have extended to approximately the level of Mt Partridge. Goodparla homestead was associated with Jawoyn. In the west there is no definite information. The upper Mary River was affiliated with Jawoyn. Mary River homestead may have been associated with Jawoyn. In the south-west, the first Katherine Gorge was associated with Dagoman, but most of Seventeen Mile Creek appears to have been associated with Jawoyn. The headwaters of King River, including King River homestead, appear to have been associated with Jawoyn. Leech Lagoon was associated with Dagoman, and the King River from at least level with Leech Lagoon was associated with Dagoman. In the south, Maranboy, Barunga, and Beswick all appear to have been associated with Jawoyn. The name of Easter Billabong at the junction of the Roper River and Maranboy Creek is Biruhmi (h = glottal stop). The glottal stop is found only in Jawoyn, and as such this is a Jawoyn name. It appears to be the southern limit of Jawoyn associations (Harvey AILEC 802).

Katherine River and headwaters; south to Maran-boy; west to about Katherine (Tindale 1974).


Pascale Jacq, Harri Joy, Francesca Merlan, Lamont West, Katherine Regional Aboriginal Language Centre
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 Small (20-100 pages) 2
Grammar Sketch grammar (less than 100 pages) 2
Audio-visual More than 10 3
Manuscript note: 
not available

Merlan, Francesca and Jacq, Pascale. 2005. Jawoyn-English dictionary & English finder-list. Katherine, NT: Diwurruwurru-jaru Aboriginal Corporation.


Merlan, Francesca and Jacq, Pascale. 2005. Jawoyn-English dictionary & English finder-list. Katherine, NT: Diwurruwurru-jaru Aboriginal Corporation.

Source Family Group Sub-group Name Relationship
Ethnologue (2005) Gunwingguan Djauanic   Djauan  
Dixon (2002)   ARNHEM LAND GROUP JawoynWarray group Jawoyn (or Jawonj or Adowen or Gundjawan) Jawoyn (or Jawonj or Adowen or Gun-djawan) further dialects: Genhinj'mi, Ngarla'mi, Lhetburrirt, Ngan-wirlang
Wurm (1994) Gunwingyuan Jawony   Jawony  
Walsh (1981) Gunwingyuan Jawonyic   Jawony (Djawan)  
Oates (1975) Gunwingguan Djawanic   Djawan  
Wurm (1972) Gunwingguan Djawanic   Djawan (Djawanj, Djauan)  
O'Grady, Voegelin and Voegelin (1966) Gunwingguan Djauanic   Djauan