N153: Yanyuwa

AIATSIS code: 
AIATSIS reference name: 


Thesaurus heading language
Thesaurus heading people
ABN name
Yanyuwa language
ABS name
Horton name
Ethnologue name
ISO 639-3 code
Tindale name
Janjula, Wadere
Tindale (1974)
Yanula, Yanular, Anjula, Anyula, Anyoola, Anyuwa, Yanyuwa, Aniula, Anula, Anuwa, Leanawa, Leeanuwa, Unalla, Djirukurumbant (directional name given them by tribes to the east), Njangga (eastern name for Janjula), Njangkala, Yangala, Iangkala, Yuckamurri, Yuggamurra for Janjula. Wadiri, Waderi for Wadere.
O'Grady et al (1966)
Yanyula, Yanula, Anyoola, Aniula, Anula, Leeanuwa
Other sources
Yanyula, Janjula, Anyoola, Anjula, Anyula, Anula [Top End Handbook] Anyoola (Power), Anula (Spencer and Gillen 1904) [Basedow 1907:3]
Yanyula, Wadirri, Yanuwa, Janjula, Wadere, Walu, Wardiri, Yanyula, anjula; Aniula, Anjula, Anula, Anuwa, Anyoola, Anyula, Anyuwa, Djirukurumbant, Iangkala, Leanawa, Leeanuwa, Njangga, Njangkala, Unalla, Yangala, Yanula, Yanular, Yuckamurri, Yuggamurra, Janjula; Aniula, Janyula, Leealowa, Leeanwa, Wadidi, Wadiri, Yanngula, Wadeira, Yanyuwa; Aniula, Yanyuwa; Anyula, Aniula, Waderi, Yanguwa, Yuggamurra for Janjula, Waderi for Wadere

Yanyuwa is a Pama Nyungan language from the Northern Territory and belongs to the Warluwarric language subgroup (Evans, 2003:14).

The Yanyuwa or Anyuwa (N153) people ... are also known as Yanyula or Anyula (Gara N155 name) and Wadiri (Mara N112 name) (Kirton and Charlie, 1996:3). Historically, Yanyuwa was classified as non-Pama Nyungan due to its bound pronouns prefixed to the verb to mark subject, object or indirect object and the noun class prefixes on nouns. Blake says that these features are borrowed from neighbouring languages Mara N112, Alawa N92 and Warndarang N120 and that Yanuwa is in fact a Pama Nyungan language (1988, in Kirton and Charlie, 1969:3). Blake bases this on the form of the free pronouns which distinguish dual and plural number, and the forms of case suffixes. Dixon adds to these criteria the three vowel system and an open class of inflecting verb roots (1980, in Kirton and Charlie, 1996:3).

Blake observes similarities with Wagaya C16, Bularnu G12.1 and Warluwara G10' with which Yanyuwa is not contiguous (1988, in Kirton and Charlie, 1996:3). Yanyuwa has two dialects based on the gender of the speaker, which are reflected in 'two of the seven classes of common nouns, the male class (primarily comprising male people) and the masculine class (the most numerous class ...). These two classes contrast in the women's dialect and virtually unite in the men's ...(Kirton and Charlie, 1996:2-3).


  • Bradley, John & Jean Kirton & the Yanyuwa Community 1992. Yanyuwa wuka : language from Yanyuwa country [Yanyuwa/English]. MS 3159.
  • Basedow, Herbert. 1907. Anthropological notes on the western coastal tribes of the Northern Territory of South Australia. Royal Society of South Australia. Vol. 31. pp 1-62.
  • Harvey, Mark. 2008. Non-Pama-Nyungan Languages: land-language associations at colonisation. AILEC 0802.
  • Kirton, Jean and Bella Charlie. 1996. Further aspects of the grammar of Yanuwa, Northern Australia. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics C-131.
State / Territory: 
Location information: 

McArthur River up to the point where it is still influenced by the tides, the delta system of this river, and the lower reaches of the Wearyan River and Sir Edward Pellew Islands (Bradley 1992:19).

... unlike the maps that exist presently, that Yanyuwa does not and never did extend to the Queensland border, it furtherest extension east would be just to the other side of the Robinson River mouth (Bradley 2007 p.c.).

McArthur River district, from about Borroloola to the coast, as well as the Pellew Islands at the river mouth (Basedow 1907:3).

The Vanderlin islands. The coast for approximately 10kms inland from Bing Bong homestead to Lamalooma Yard/Murrenginya Island which was the changeover zone to Garrwa (Harvey AILEC 0802). Their traditional territory was the coastal strip from the Limmen River to an area opposite the Sir Edward Pellew Islands and including the islands (Kirton & Charlie, 1996:1).


Sourcebook for Central Australian Languages (1981): 

Mangala (A65 ) in Sourcebook for Central Australian Languages (1981).


Names of the language and different spellings that have been used:
Aniula, Anjula, Anula (APE, Frazer, Roheim), Anyoola, Anyula (Kirton), Anyuwa (Kirton), Janjula (T, Keen, Osborne,AC,O'G,RLS, orig. AIAS), Janyula, Leealowa), Leeanuwa (Stretton) )(noun-classifier prefix), Leeanwa), Wadeira (Holmes) ), Wadidi) (Mara name), Wadere), Wadiri), Yanyula (Kirton, SAW, AIAS) (Karawa name), Yanyuwa (Kirton)
Classification of the language:
Yanyulan Family
Identification codes:
Oates '73: 28
AIAS: N.153
Capell: N43
Present number and distribution of speakers:
Borroloola, Brunette Downs, Cresswell Downs, Tennant Creek
Milliken, 1972 -- 188
Black, 1979 -- up to 150
Kirton, 1981 -- about 150
People who have worked intensively on the language:
Jean Kirton, SIL (Borroloola and N.Z.)
Yasuko Nagai, SIL (Borroloola) (literacy worker)
Practical orthography:
Kirton's experimental orthography, still being tested by Nagai.
Word lists:
Kirton ms., Hale ms.
Grammar or sketch grammar:
Kirton -- various aspects in different publications
Material available on the language:
Bradley, David. 1980. Acoustic correlates of seven consonant positions in Yanyuwa. Working Papers in Linguistics 6:21-48. (Linguistics Section, Faculty of Arts, University of Melbourne.)
Breen, J.G. Yanyula field notes. (very little).
Busby, P.A. 1979. A Classificatory Study of Phonemic Systems in Australian Aboriginal Languages. xii+239p. bibl. diags. maps. tbls. M.A. thesis, A.N.U. (Part I to appear in Pacific
Linguistics.) (uses Ken Hale's Yanyuwa recordings)
Capell, A. 1951. Bantu and north Australian, a study in agglutination. African Studies 10.2:53-57. (Description and examples of classifying languages, incl. Yanyuwa.)
Hale, Kenneth L. 1959. Yanjula field notes. Borroloola. 146p. ts.
Huttar, G.L. & J.F. Kirton. 1978. Contrasts in Yanyuwa consonants. Unpublished paper presented in May 1978 at the meeting of the Australian Linguistic Society, ANU.
Keen, Sandra Newland. 1968. Transcript of tapes. AIAS (f 6046) (includes word lists)
---------- Janjula and Garawa wordlists. 16p. ts.
Kerr, H.B. 1964. Comparison of Anyula base pronouns with Burera, Maung and Wik-Munkan, pp.149-150 in Papers of the languages of the Australian Aborigines. Occasional Papers in Aboriginal Studies, No.3. AIAS.
Kirton, Jean F. 1964. Anyula personal pronouns, pp.139-48 in Papers on the languages of the Australian Aborigines. Occasional Papers in Aboriginal Studies, 3. AIAS.
---------- 1967. Anyula phonology. Pacific Linguistics A.10:15-28. (Papers in Australian Linguistics, 1)
---------- 1970. Twelve pronominal sets in Yanyula. Pacific Linguistics C.13:825-844.
---------- 1971. Yanyula noun modifiers. Pacific Linguistics A.27:1-14. (Papers in Australian Linguistics, 5)
---------- 1971. Complexities of Yanyula nouns: inter-relationship of linguistics and anthropology. Pacific Linguistics A.27:15-70. (Papers in Australian Linguistics, 5) (SIL ms., 1970)
---------- 1973. Yanyula wordlist for two month surveys. Borroloola. 22p. appendix 2p. SIL.
---------- 1976. Yanyuwa nominative and ergative-allative cases. Pacific Linguistics A.47:1-12. (Papers in Australian Linguistics, 10)
---------- 1978. Yanyuwa verbs. Pacific Linguistics A.51:1-52. (Papers in Australian Linguistics, 11)
---------- 1979. A preliminary statement on Yanyuwa sentences. May. SIL.
---------- Yanyula dictionary.
---------- & Bella Charlie. 1978. Seven articulatory positions in Yanyuwa consonants. Pacific Linguistics A.51:179-198[9?].
---------- & E. MacDonald. 1963-64. Yanyuwa texts. SIL. Ladefoged, Peter. 1976. Tape of Yanyuwa words.
Leeding, Velma J. 1964. Notes on Garawa. 20p. (wordlist may be mixture of Janjula and Garawa)
MacDonald, Elfreda. 1964. Notes on the noun classes of Anyula, pp.151-156 in Papers on the languages of the Australian Aborigines. Occasional Papers in Aboriginal Studies, 3. AIAS.
Osborne, Charles. 1966. Janjula field notes. Doomadgee. 4p. ms. (150 words, some sentences)
Stretton, W.G. 1893. Customs, rites and superstitions of the Aboriginal tribes of the Gulf of Carpentaria, with a vocabulary. Royal Society of South Australia. Transactions. 17:227-253.
(Vocabulary of Leeanuwa.)
Waters, Bruce. 1979. A proposed distinctive feature 'narrow': evidence from Djinang and Iwaidja. In: A distinctive features approach to Djinang phonology and verb morphology. Work Papers of SIL-AAB A.4:133-161. (p.154 refers to Yanyuwa palato-velars)
Literacy material:
Kirton ms. (in testing stage)

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

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


Summer Institute of Linguistics produced some primer materials early 80's. Bible translation work has been carried out by Wycliffe Bible Translators.

John Bradle, Sandra Keen, Jean Kirton, Papulu Apparr-Kari Language Centre
Indigenous organisations: 
Year Source Speaker numbers
1990Schmidt70 - 100

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 Large grammar (more than 200 pages) 4
Audio-visual More than 10 3
Manuscript note: 
tape transcription/field note available

Kirton, Jean. 1996. Further aspects of the grammar of Yanyuwa, Northern Australia: Pacific Linguistics C131. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.

John Bradley. 1992, Yanyuwa Wuka: language from Yanyuwa country, http://eprint.uq.edu.au/archive/00000072/01/yanyuwatotal.pdf.


John Bradley. 1992, Yanyuwa Wuka: language from Yanyuwa country (http://eprint.uq.edu.au/archive/00000072/01/yanyuwatotal.pdf).

Source Family Group Sub-group Name Relationship
Ethnologue (2005) Pama-Nyungan Yanyuwan   Yanyuwa  
Dixon (2002)   NGARNA SUBGROUP*   Yanyuwa (or Yanyula or Wadirri) Yanyuwa (or Yanyula or Wadirri) Kirton (1967, 1970, 1971, 1978), Kirton and Charlie (1996) possible further dialect: Walu
Wurm (1994) Yanyuwa     Yanyuwa  
Walsh (1981) Yanyuwan     Yanyuwa  
Oates (1975) Yanyulan     Yanyula  
Wurm (1972) Yanyulan     Yanyula (Anyula)  
O'Grady, Voegelin and Voegelin (1966) Yanyulan     Janjula