N22: Malak Malak

AIATSIS code: 
AIATSIS reference name: 
Malak Malak


Thesaurus heading language
Thesaurus heading people
ABN name
Malak Malak language
ABS name
Malak Malak
Horton name
Malak Malak
Ethnologue name
ISO 639-3 code
Tindale name
Ngolokwangga (Malak Malak)
Tindale (1974)
Ngulukwongga, Ngulugwongga, Mulukmuluk, Malak Malak, Mullukmulluk, Mallak-mallak, Malag-Malag, Mullik-mullik, Mollak-mollak, Malack-malack, Djiramo (a horde name), Valli-valli (a name for lower Daly River).
O'Grady et al (1966)
Mullikmullik, Mollakmollak, Mallackmallack
Other sources
Mullu-Mulluc, Ngolok-Wangar, Ngululwanga, Ngulugwanga [Tryon 1974] Malak-malak, Malak Malak, MalakMalak, Malak-Malak, Mollok Mollok, Mulluk-Mulluk, Mulluck Mulluck, Mulluk Mulluk, Akana (this is the word for 'no' in Malak-malak) , Nguluk Wangkar ('language of the open country': Nguluk 'language', Wangkar 'clear, open') Ngolak-Wanggar, Ngulugwongga [Top End Handbook] Mulluk-Mulluk, Mollak Mollak (Dhal 1895), Djiramö [Basedow 1907:2]
Mullukmulluk, Gamu, Junggor, Kamor, Madngela, Matngela, Mulluk Mulluk, Ngulul Wanggar, Wooliana, Yunggor, Djiramo, Malack malack, Malag Malag, Malagmalag, Mallackmallack, Mallak mallak, Mollak mollak, Mullik mullik, Mullikmullik, Mulukmuluk, Ngolak wonga, Ngolokwangga, Ngoluk wanggar, Ngulugwongga, Ngulukwongga, Nguluwongga, Valli valli, Mollakmollak, Mullu Mulluc, Ngolok Wangar, Ngululwanga, Ngulugwanga, Northern Daly language

MalakMalak (N22) is a non-Pama Nyungan language which is closely related to Kuwema N10 and located in the Daly River region of the Northern Territory. Together they are classified as Northern Daly languages (Harvey, 2003:159). See also Glottolog.

The term MalakMalak can be used to refer to land, the language and the people (Yingguy et al, 2001:7). The neighbouring languages of MalakMalak are Kuwema, Matngele N12 and Kamu N32 (according to sparse information from collaborators). A relationship between MalakMalak and Kuwema is generally accepted (Dorothea Hoffmann, July 2016, p.c.).

Tryon classified two Daly language families as subgroups of a main Mulluk group: the Mulluk subgroup consisting of Mullukmulluk (N22) and Tyeraity N10 and the Daly subgroup: Matngala N12, Kamor N33 and Yunggor N26. However he also says that this Daly subgroup is more closely aligned with a Wogaity subgroup, which he classifies under a main Brinken-Wogaity group (1974, 289-290). Harvey presents the case there is not sufficient evidence to support a genetic link between the Northern Daly languages, MalakMalak (N22) and Guwema N10, and the Eastern Daly languages Matngele N12 and Kamu N33 (Eastern Daly group) (2003:159, 172-3). Nguluk ngawe in MalakMalak means 'my language'; MalakMalak was also being referred to as nguluk wanggar 'your language' (Hoffmann, July 2016, p.c.).

Green and Nordlinger include alternate names names Akana, Djiramo, Nguluk Wanggar, Valli-valli. They classify Malak Malak as a non Pama-Nyungan Northern Daly language, along with Tyerraty N10 (viewed November 2020).


  • Green, Ian & Nordlinger, Rachel. The Daly Languages web resource. http://dalylanguages.org
  • Harvey, Mark. 2003. The evolution of verb systems in the eastern Daly language family. In The Non-Pama-Nyungan Languages of Northern Australia : comparative studies of the continent's most linguistically complex region (ed) Nicholas Evans, Canberra : Pacific Linguistics 552, p. 159-184.
  • Harvey, Mark. 2008. Non-Pama-Nyungan Languages: land-language associations at colonisation. AILEC 0802.
  • Tryon, Darrell, T. 1974. Daly family languages, Australia. Canberra: Research School of Pacific Studies.
  • Yingguny, Biddy et al. 2001. MalakMalak and Matngala plants and animals : Aboriginal flora and fauna knowledge from the Daly River area, northern Australia. Darwin, NT: Parks and Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory.
State / Territory: 
Location information: 

The general association was to the Daly and adjacent plains from about 10kms upstream of the mouth to Browns Creek. The following places were associated with Malak-Malak: Litchfield outstation, Mt Litchfield, Elizabeth Downs homestead, Billawock Hill, Woolbannah Hill. In the east, affiliations changed to Kamu at Marion Hill, and upstream of Browns Creek (Harvey AILEC 0802).

MalakMalak ... the area of land centred around the middle parts of the Daly River. In the southeast portion it includes the Nauiyu community, Wooliana, Din'girriyet (Browns Creek), the main Daly River Crossing and areas south to about the junction of Daly River and Hayward Creek. In the northwest MalakMalak country extends to Mount Litchfield north of the Daly and Mount Searcy south of the Daly. An arm of MalakMalak country extends to the west, skirting around Matngala country, to include the Dilke Range (Yingguy et al, 2001:7).

MalakMalak country straddles the Daly River, running westward for some 50km or so from just below the Daly River crossing. MalakMalak is one of the two recognised ‘Northern Daly’ dialects, with its sister dialect Tyerraty (also known as ‘Kuwema’, ‘Dek Tyerraty’ and ‘PunguPungu’) on the river to its immediate west and extending up through the hinterland on the north-west. Gungarakany is to the north, and Wagiman to the east. On its southern boundaries are Southern Daly, Eastern Daly & Western Daly languages (Green & Nordlinger, viewed November 2020).





David Birk, Arthur Capell
Indigenous organisations: 

Merrepen Arts, Culture and Language Centre https://merrepenarts.com.au/contact/

Batchelor Institute https://www.batchelor.edu.au/

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 Less than 20 pages 1
Text Collection Small (20-100 pages) 2
Grammar Small grammar (100-200 pages) 3
Audio-visual 1-10 2
Manuscript note: 
tape transcription/field note available

Birk, David. 1976. The MalakMalak language, Daly River (western Arnhem Land); Pacific Linguistics B45, Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.

Source Family Group Sub-group Name Relationship
Ethnologue (2005) Daly Malagmalag Malagmalag Proper Mullukmulluk  
Dixon (2002)   DALY RIVER AREAL GROUP Western Daly subgroup Malak-Malak Malak-Malak Birk (1976)
Wurm (1994) Daly Malagmalag   Malagmalag  
Walsh (1981) Daly Malagmalag Malagmalag Malagmalag  
Oates (1975) Daly Mullug Mullugmullug Malag-Malag  
Wurm (1972) Daly Mulluk Mullukmulluk Mullukmulluk  
O'Grady, Voegelin and Voegelin (1966) Mullukmullukan     Mullukmulluk