K20: Gija / Kija

AIATSIS code: 
AIATSIS reference name: 
Gija / Kija


Thesaurus heading language
Thesaurus heading people
ABN name
ABS name
Horton name
Ethnologue name
ISO 639-3 code
Tindale name
Tindale (1974)
Kidja, Gidja, Ku:tji, Kuitji, Kuitj (of Ngarinjin), Gi:dj, Kwitj, Gwidji, Guidj, Guwidji, Kisah, Keha, Kisha, Kityu, Liej (? faulty hearing), ['Lu?gar] (of Walmadjari, their name means 'rock wallabies'), Lungga (of southern tribes), Longga, Loonga, Langgu, Lunga, Lungu, Paljarri (a variant of one of the class terms in their social organization), Djarak (modern northern term for Kitja based on a white settler's family name, Djerag, Durackra (lapsus calami for Durack Range, based on early white settler family of that name), Tjarak (modern postcontact Ngarinjin name), War-ingari (Ngarinjin term, means 'cannibals'; a general term also applied to Ola), Warrangari, Kutnalawaru (of western neighbors, has a rude meaning-['kudna] = dung), Miwa (language name ascribed to Kitja by Ngarinjin-means 'salt water'), Walki.
O'Grady et al (1966)
Lunga, Loonga
Other sources
Lunga (may be the Jaru name for Kija, mening 'naked'. Berndt 1975:123) [McGregor 2004:40]
Kitja, Lunga, Lungga, Gidja, Kuluwarrang, Walgi, Djarak, Djerag, Gidj, Gidya, Guidj, Guwidji, Gwidji, Keha, Kidja, Kiej, Kisah, Kisha, Kityu, Kutji, Kuitj, Kuitji, Kutnalawaru, Kwitj, Langgu, Longga, Loonga, Lungar, Lungu, Miwa, Paljarri, Tjarak, Walki, Waringari, WarrangariGidya, War ingari, Warrangari

"Gija is a non-Pama-Nyungan language from the Jarragan language family, which also includes Miriwoong [K29] and Gajirrabeng [K37.1] (Kofod 1996; McConvell 2003). It is a head-marking language with three number/gender noun classes (masculine singular, feminine singular, and neuter/non-singular) that show considerable agreement patterns across most word classes. Gija also features complex predicates, which are typical of many northern Australian Aboriginal languages (Schultze-Berndt 2000: 118). These consist of an uninflected coverb and an inflected verb, which function as a single predicate (Bowern 2006: 17)" (in de Dear, Possematto & Blythe, 2020).

“Gija is a member of the Jarragan language family, a non-Pama Nyungan family from the east Kimberley in north-western Australia. Speakers generally refer to two or more different dialects of Gija, that spoken in and around Warnmun (Warrnmarn – Turkey Creek) and that spoken at Hall’s Creek (Kofod et al. 2016: 3).

McGregor says that many speakers of Kija (K20) living around Halls Creek say that Lungka is the name of a Kija dialect (2004:324). Berndt reports Lungga (an alternative spelling of Lungka) is the Jaru K12 name for Kija (1975).


  • Berndt, Ronald. 1975. Life in death: a Lungga (Gidja) mythic corollary. In Explorations in the anthropology of religion; essays in honour of Jan van Baal, ed. W. E. A. van Beek, 121-146. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.
  • de Dear, Caroline, Francesco Possemato & Joe Blythe. 2020. Gija (East Kimberley, Western Australia) – Language Snapshot. In Peter K. Austin (ed.) Language Documentation and Description 17, 134-141. London: EL Publishing. <http://www.elpublishing.org/docs/1/17/ldd17_11.pdf> sighted 21/07/21.
  • Harvey, Mark. 2008. Non-Pama-Nyungan Languages: land-language associations at colonisation. AILEC 0802.
  • Kofod, Frances, Sonia Leonard et. al. 2013. Jadagen, warnkan, barnden= Wet time, cold time, hot time : changing climate in Gija Country. Kununarra: Warmun Art Centre.
  • Kofod, Frances. 2016. Gija - Kija - Englsih Dictionary. Edition 1. MS 5131.
  • McGregor, William. 2004. The languages of the Kimberley, Western Australia. New York: RoutledgeCurzon.
  • Sutton, Peter. 1995. Country: Aboriginal boundaries and land ownership in Australia. Canberra: Aboriginal History Inc.
  • 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: 

On Salmond, Chamberlain, and Wilson rivers; Macphee Creek north to Sugarloaf Hill, always on top of the plateau; west to the edge of the Bluff Face Range; east over the Durack Range to Lissadell and Turkey Creek Stations, south to High Range and headwaters of Stony River about Fig Tree Pool; on upper Margaret River above gorge in Ramsay Range; east to Hall Creek and Alice Downs (Tindale 1974).

Gija goes east to the southern parts of the Ord River (Kofod in Sutton 1995:113).

Eastward limit: There was no precise information available on the eastward limits of Gija in 2007. The Bungle Bungle Ranges were associated with Gija. Both New and Old Ord River homesteads were associated with Malngin, as was Spring Creek homestead. Northward limit: There is more detailed information on the the western part of the northward limit. Pompey's Pillar and the Wilson River drainage were the northern limits of Gija associations. The eastern part of the northward limit is less certain. Lissadell homestead was associated with Miriwoong. North-western limit: Upper Chamberlain River, Top Chamberlain Yard, Tableland Station, Red Lake Yard were all associated with Gija. The middle Chamberlain and Wood Yard were associated with Wurla. Western limit: Red Lake Yard. Lansdowne homestead. There is no precise information on the southern part of the western limit. However, Andajin affiliations did not extend east of the King Leopold Range. South-western limit: There is no precise information on the south-western limit. It is defined negatively in terms of information on the extent of Gooniyandi affiliations. Gija was not affiliated with Margaret River homestead - this was affiliated with Gooniyandi. South-eastern limit: The hills immediately to the east of Halls Creek mark the south-eastern limit of Giija. Old Halls Creek was affiliated with Djaru. Information on the south-eastern limit is generally inferred negatively from Tsunoda's description of the north-western limit of Djaru (Harvey AILEC 0802).

The traditional country … extends from an area north of Turkey Creek in the upper reaches of the Ord and Dunham Rivers, south to Halls Creek and west to Lansdowne and Tableland Stations. The Purnululu (Bungle-Bungle – Boornoolooloo) National Park is mainly in Gija country (Kofod et al 2016: 3).


Handbook of Kimberley Languages (1988): 

Badimaya (A14 ) in Handbook of Kimberley Languages (1988).

3.2 Kija / Gidja

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

Gidja (Berndt, Tsunoda, Tindale, Peile, Capell, Oates), Gidya (Worms), Giidja (Berndt), Gija (Hudson & McConvell), Kija (McConvell, McGregor), Kidja (Kaberry), Kitja (Black, Black & Walsh, Taylor), Kisha (Mathews, Bates), Loonga, Lunga (Kaberry), Lungga (Black, Oates, Capell, Tindale), Lungar (Bates), Lungka, Dialect names:, Baiambal (Kaberry), Burnana (Kaberry)

There is considerable disagreement among both Aborigines and white researchers as to the exact meaning of the term "Lungka". Some have suggested that it refers to the old people's variety of the language; Kija to the younger people's variety. Others (e.g. Taylor & Taylor (1971:100)) suggest that Kija and Lungka are different dialects. Other information is that they are exactly the same language. The most likely possibility would seem to be that, as a number of older speakers claim, Lungka is the Jaru name for Kija, and probably means 'naked' (cf. Berndt 1975:123). , Kaberry (1937:92) mentions that the terms Baiambal and Burnana are sometimes used by Bunuba and Jaru people in reference to Kija. However, Kaberry seems to be mistaken here, at least as regards the first term, which must refer to the Bayambarr dialect of Ungarinyin.

Classification of the language:

Jarrakan family, Kijic group

Identification codes:


Oates 1973: 42.1

Capell: K10

Present number and distribution of speakers:

Halls Creek to Kununurra

Taylor & Taylor (1971) - 300

People who have worked intensively on the language:

Peter Taylor & Joy Taylor, 1960s and 1970s, mainly at Halls Creek

Ian Kirkby, from 1982, mainly at Turkey Creek

Patrick McConvell, from 1984, mainly at Turkey Creek

Practical orthography:

The Kija variant of the South Kimberley orthography was developed by Patrick McConvell, and has been used in the Kija language programme in the Ngalangangpum School (Turkey Creek). Earlier, Taylor had developed a practical orthography which differs only slightly from this.

Word lists:

Kaberry (1937), Capell (1940), Bates (nd), Hudson & McConvell (1984), Mathews (1901), Peile (nd), Tsunoda (1975-1979), Taylor (nd f)

Textual material:

Berndt (1975), Capell (nd), Taylor (nd c)

Grammar or sketch grammar:

Capell (1940), McConvell (1981, 1986b), Taylor (1969a, nd a,b,d,e,), Taylor & Hudson (1976)

Material available on the language:

Bates, D. nd. Native vocabularies - Halls Creek. typescript copy of manuscript. Section 12, 2E: 8. ANL-MS 365 - 53/87-92.

Berndt, R.M. 1975. Life in death: a Lungga (Gidja) mythic corollary. In Van Beek, W.E.A. & Scherer, J.H. (eds), Explorations in the anthropology of religion: essays in honour of Jan van Baal. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff. 121-146.

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

_____ .nd. Gidja phrasebook. Transcribed by P. Taylor. various pagination. manuscript.

Douglas, W.H. 1976. Comment on the paper "Metamorphosis and process in Kitja". Talanya 3. 37-43.

_____ .1961. Gidja: tentative alphabet. 5pp. typescript. AIAS pMs 2167. (A2; B2).

Hudson, J. & McConvell, P. 1984. Keeping language strong: report of the pilot study for the Kimberley Language Resource Centre. Broome: KLRC.

Kaberry, P. 1937. Notes on the languages of the east Kimberley, north-west Australia. Oceania 8/1. 90-103.

Mathews, R.H. 1901. Some Aboriginal tribes of Western Australia. In Royal Society of New South Wales. Journal and Proceedings 35. 217-222.

McConvell, P. 1981. Kija preverbs. typescript.

_____ .1986a. Kija sounds and spelling. Derby: Kimberley Educational Printing Service.

_____ .1986b. Kija language lessons. typescript.

McGregor, W. 1980. Gunian field notebooks. manuscript. AIAS Ms 1493. (Includes some Kija pronominal forms.)

Peile, A.R. nd. Field notes Warayngari. 182pp. manuscript. AIAS Ms 322.

Taylor, P. 1968. A survey of the language situation in the Kimberleys. (WA. Mission Survey Series, 1) Kalgoorlie: UAM Language Department. (Restricted access).

_____ .1969a. Personal pronouns in Kitja. 4pp. typescript.

_____ .1969b. Finger talk. 5pp. manuscript.

_____ .nd a. Clause types in Kitja. 39pp. typescript.

_____ .nd b. [Kitja sentence types.] np. manuscript.

_____ .nd c. [Kitja narratives.] various pagination. typescript and manuscript.

_____ .nd d. [Some Kitja verb paradigms.] 3pp. manuscript.

_____ .nd e. [Kitja preverbs.] np. manuscript.

_____ .nd f. [Kitja dictionary.] np. manuscript.

_____ .nd g. [Kitja phonology.] np. manuscript.

_____ .nd h. Kitja phonemes and allophones. 3pp. typescript.

_____ .nd i. Kitja genealogies. np. manuscript.

_____ .nd j. Language survey material. np. manuscript.

Taylor, P. & Hudson, J. 1976. Metamorphosis and process in Kitja. Talanya 3. 25-36.

Taylor, P. & Taylor, J. 1971. A tentative statement of Kitja phonology. In Blake, B. et al. Papers on the languages of Australian Aboriginals. Canberra: AIAS. 100-109.

Tsunoda, T. 1975-1979. [Djaru field notes. Halls Creek, etc.] manuscript. AIAS Ms 1381.

Language programme:

A language maintenance programme was initiated in Ngalangangpum School, Turkey Creek, in 1984, employing Patrick McConvell as the linguist; Frances Kofod is currently employed in this position. Small scale programmes in adult literacy were run in previous years, with the assistance of SAL.

A language awareness programme is also being conducted in Nulungu College (Broome), for Kija children.

Language learning material:

McConvell, P. 1986. Kija language lessons. typescript.

Taylor, P. nd. [Conversation drills and sentences.] np. typescript and manuscript.

Literacy material:

In addition to the following titles, most of which were produced at the Ngalangangpum School in Turkey creek, for use in the Kija language programme, Joyce Hudson is preparing a set of materials for use in the language awareness programme being conducted in Nulungu College.

Bray, E. 1985. Warmarn kurnturntukam. Derby: Kimberley Educational Printing Service.

Bray, S & E. 1985. Werrerralyurrung. Derby: Kimberley Educational Printing Service.

_____ .1986. Mayim wawuwawuk nyawurrul. Derby: Kimberley Educational Printing Service.

Bray, E. & Martin, S. 1986. Yarte merewany. Derby: Kimberley Educational Printing Service.

Bray, E. & Peters, R. 1985a. Kapuwa purrurn? Derby: Kimberley Educational Printing Service.

_____ .1985b. Wat nginji. Derby: Kimberley Educational Printing Service.

_____ .1985c. Mawuntum. Derby: Kimberley Educational Printing Service.

_____ .(trs) 1986. Translations of Oenpelli readers, numbers: 2 Kurntukany ngitji; 3 Warukuny nginiyin pip; 7 Warukuny ketpa penayit; 8 Kangkal kernek; 9 Rarriny ngumulunji; 11 Kurntuka warriny ketpa; 12 Kurnturntukam perrayin kili; 13 Melakawum kurnturntukam; 14 Kurntukawarriny tek; 15 Kurnturntukam tek ngurramunpekili. (Arranged by Bray, E & Martin, S.) Derby: Kimberley Educational Printing Service.

_____ .1987. Yarrangka, wirrintuny tu yankanji. Broome: Jawa Print.

Joogood, M., Bray, E., Williams, P. & Martin, S. (translators) 1986a. Raymond's bike. (Translations of books in the series "Kimberley kids" (originals in Kukatja).) Derby: Kimberley Educational Printing Service.

_____ .1986b. The old man and woman. (Translations of books in the series "Kimberley kids" (originals in Kukatja).) Derby: Kimberley Educational Printing Service.

_____ .1986c. The salt lake. (Translations of books in the series "Kimberley kids" (originals in Kukatja).) Derby: Kimberley Educational Printing Service.

_____ .1986d. Lazy Adam. (Translations of books in the series "Kimberley kids" (originals in Kukatja).) Derby: Kimberley Educational Printing Service.

_____ .1986e. Sad Willie. (Translations of books in the series "Kimberley kids" (originals in Kukatja).) Derby: Kimberley Educational Printing Service.

Juli, M. 1985. Yulu pirriyan Purijkirrem purru. Derby: Kimberley Educational Printing Service.

Juli, M. & Daylight, B. 1987. Kangkal kernek punurnulinyayu. Broome: Jawa Print.

Macale, D. 1987. Makany's stockcamp story. (Texas Downs Station 1979.) Translated into Kija by Sandaloo, H. Broome: Jawa Print.

Martin, S. 1986. Ngirrngiliny. Derby: Kimberley Educational Printing Service.

Martin, S. & Clifton, J. 1986. Feelings books, 1 - 5. Derby: Kimberley Educational Printing Service.

Martin, S. & Daylight, B. 1987a. Kurntukal tek. Broome: Jawa Print.

_____ .1987b.Kurntukany tek. Broome: Jawa Print.

_____ .1987c. Jarrij. Broome: Jawa Print.

McConvell, P. 1986. Kija sounds and spelling. Derby: Kimberley Educational Printing Service.

McKenzie, Q. 1987. Jang yarra. Broome: Jawa Print.

Mung, G. 1986. Kulwul perrayilinpe - spear training. Derby: Kimberley Educational Printing Service.

Nyalgas, B. 1980. Bush life. (Transcribed during literacy course course at Ngalangangpum School Turkey Creek, April-May 1980.) Ngali 1980. 6-7.

_____ .1986. Warrkam yirramante mayarunka. Derby: Kimberley Educational Printing Service.

Sandaloo, H. 1986a. Kernanyjel. Derby: Kimberley Educational Printing Service.

_____ .1986b. Warranany tu Jalariny. Derby: Kimberley Educational Printing Service.

Tarrngarri, J.T. 1986. Jarakpu nguyu tarntal. Derby: Kimberley Educational Printing Service.

Taylor, P. et al. (trs) 1978. Bible. O.T. - Jonah i-iv. Kitja. Canberra: Bible Society in Australia. 20pp.

_____ .nd a. Literacy materials. [Dictionary.] np. manuscript.

_____ .nd b. [Literacy materials. Dictionary.] np. manuscript.

Widaljil, R. 1986. Paljarrangkum tu karlumpum ngarakkirrem. Derby: Kimberley Educational Printing Service.

Williams, P. 1986. Warnu and pinwa. Translated into Kija by Sandaloo, H. & Dingmarie, G. Derby: Kimberley Educational Printing Service.

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

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

Peter Taylor, Anthony Peile, 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 Small (20-100 pages) 2
Text Collection None 0
Grammar Sketch grammar (less than 100 pages) 2
Audio-visual More than 10 3
Manuscript note: 
tape transcription/field note available

Kimberley Language Resource Centre. 1996. Introduction to the Kija language. Halls Creek: Kimberley Language Resource Centre.

Blythe, Joe, Kimberley Language Resource Centre. 2001. Yuwurriyangem Kijam= Our language Kija: a phrasebook of the Kija language. Halls Creek: WA: Kimberley Language Resource Centre.


McConvell, Patrick. Kija Dictionary, ASEDA 0483.

Source Family Group Sub-group Name Relationship
Ethnologue (2005) Djeragan     Kitja Kitja [dialects: Closest to Miriwung. Related to Kuluwarrang (Guluwarin, Guluwarung)]
Dixon (2002)   KITJA/MIRIWUNG SUBGROUP*   Kitja (=Lunga, Lungga) Kitja (=Lunga, Lungga) possible further dialects: Kuluwarrang, Walgi
Wurm (1994) Djeragan Kitjic   Kitja  
Walsh (1981) Djeragan Kitjic   Kitja (Gidya)  
Oates (1975) Djeragan Gidjic   Gidja  
Wurm (1972) Djeragan Gidjic   Gidja, Lungga  
O'Grady, Voegelin and Voegelin (1966) Djeragan Gidjic   Gidja, Lungga