N60: Dalabon

AIATSIS code: 
AIATSIS reference name: 


Thesaurus heading language
Thesaurus heading people
ABN name
ABS name
Horton name
Ethnologue name
Ngalkbun (Dalabon)
ISO 639-3 code
Tindale name
Tindale (1974)
Buan, Bu:wan, Boun, Ngalkbon,
O'Grady et al (1966)
Other sources
Dalabon, Gundalabon (Gunwinjgu version of the above), Dangbon (the name normally used by Gunwinjgu speakers), Dangbun , Ngalkbon (the name used by Jawoyn speakers), Ngalgbon, Ngalgbun , Dalabon, Dangbon and Ngalkbon consist of the word for 'mouth' in the relevant language plus an element bon. Buan [Top End Handbook]
Ngalkbun, Dangbon, Dalabon ?Gundangbon, Dangbon/Dalabon, Gundalabon, Dangbun, Ngalkbon, Ngalgbon, Ngalgbun, Ngalkbon consist of the word for 'mouth? in the relevant language plus an element bon, Buan, Bu:wan, Boun

Dalabon is a non Pama-Nyungan language belonging to the Gunwinyguan group, located in the Northern Territory (Ross et al, 2016:56).

Early records report that Gundangbon, Ngalakan, Dalabon and Ngalabon are all the one language (Harris in Oates and Oates 1970:12).

Mackay and Woods report that Dangbon is the Gunwinjgu N65 word for Dalabon, adding that Dalabon 'is the same as Dangbon but rough' (in Oates, 1975:12) implying some difference. In explaining the etymology of the term Dalabon (dalû- 'mouth' + bon 'go').

Evans and Merlan mention that Dangbon (N60) and Ngalkbon N76 are 'parallel formations based on the root for "mouth" in Bininj Gun-wok' N186 'and Jawoyn' N57, 'used by speakers of each of those languages respectively, though Dalabon speakers will themselves sometimes use these forms, depending on who they are in frequent contact with. They also report that Buwan N89 tends to be used by Rembarrnga speakers and that it may reflect a regular sound correspondence of 'o' to 'uwa' (i.e. bon > buwan) ((2003:269).

Cutfield expands on this, indicating that 'Dalabon is also known as Dangbon, Ngalkbon, or Buwan. These latter three names are terms used by the Kune N70 and Mayali N44, Jawoyn N57 and Rembarrnga N73 respectively, to refer to Dalabon' (2011).

Evans et al. acknowledge some dialectal differences between Dangbon and Dalabon: 'There are a few differences between 'Top End' or northern Dalabon and 'bottom end' or southern Dalabon, which are sometimes characterized in terms of the difference between Dangbon and Ngalkbon' (in Bordulk 2012:12).


  • Berndt, R.M. 1951. Ceremonial exchange in Western Arnhem Land. Southwestern Journal of Anthropology, vol.7, pp.156 - 176.
  • Bordulk, Daisy et al. 2012. Dalabon plants and animals: Aboriginal biocultural knowledge from southern Anrhem Land, north Australia. Northern Territory Botanical Bulletin no.41. Darwin: Dept. of Land Resource Management.
  • Dalabon (Ngalkbon/Dangbon) plants and animals : Aboriginal biocultural knowledge from southern Arnhem Land, north Australia
  • Capell, Arthur. 1942a. Languages of Arnhem Land, Northern Australia. Oceania 12(4):364 - 192.
  • Capell, Arthur. 1942b. Languages of Arnhem Land, Northern Australia. Oceania 13(1):24 - 50Capell, Arthur. 1963. Linguistic survey of Australia. Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies.
  • Cutfield, Sarah. 2011. Demonstratives in Dalabon : a language of southwestern Arnhem Land. Phd thesis, Melbourne University. (MS 4877)
  • Evans, N. & F. Merlan. 2003. 'Dalabon verb conjugations', in Nicholas Evans (ed.), The non-Pama-Nyungan languages of northern Australia: comparative studies of the continent's most linguistically complex region, Pacific Linguistics, Canberra, pp. 269-283.
  • Harvey, Mark. 2008. Non-Pama-Nyungan Languages: land-language associations at colonisation. AILEC 0802.
  • Oates, William J., and Lynette F. Oates. 1970. A revised linguistic survey of Australia: Australian Aboriginal Studies 33, Linguistic Series 12. Canberra: AIAS.
  • Oates, Lynette F. 1975. The 1973 supplement to a revised linguistic survey of Australia. Armidale: Armidale Christian Book Centre.
  • Ross, Bella, janet Fletcher, Rachel Nordlinger. 2016. The Alignment of Prosody and Clausal Structure in Dalabon in Australian Journal of Linguistics, 36:1. pp 52-78. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07268602.2016.1109434.
  • Tindale, Norman B. 1974. Tribal boundaries in Aboriginal Australia. University of California Press/ANU Press.
State / Territory: 
Location information: 

Dalabon basically occupies the north-eastern third of the Arnhem land sandstone plateau (Harvey 2007 p.c.). The general associations were to the Wilton River drainage above and including Bulman, and the Mann River drainage upstream approximately from the escarpment (Harvey AILEC 0802).


Diwurruwurru-jaru Aboriginal Corporation made a teacher's guide late 90's and also several video materials early 2000's. Barunga Press published several items mid 90's. Sarah Cutfield is running the Dalabon Oral Histories Project in order to train them in video-recording the oral histories of their elders in Dalabon (2006-2008).

Sarah Cutfield, Joy Harris, Kenneth Maddock, Adam Saulwick, Lamont West, Francesca Merlan, Nick Evnas, 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   2?
Text Collection   2 (primers)
Grammar   2?
Audio-visual More than 10 3
Manuscript note: 
tape transcription/field note available

Ross, Belinda. 2003. The phonological/grammatical mismatch in the Dalabon word: a phonetic study, University of Melbourne: BA (Hons).


West, Lamont. 1964. Sketch dictionary of Dalabon and related languages of Central Arnhem Land, ms. Evans, Nicholas, Merlan, Francesca and Tukumba, Maggie. 2004. A first dictionary of Dalabon (Ngalkbon). Maningrida: Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation

Source Family Group Sub-group Name Relationship
Ethnologue (2005) Gunwingguan Ngalkbun   Ngalkbun (Dalabon)  
Dixon (2002)   ARNHEM LAND GROUP   Dalabon Dalabon (or Dangbon or Ngalkbon or Buwan)
Wurm (1994) Gunwinyguan Gunwinygic   Dalabon  
Walsh (1981) Gunwinyguan Gunwinygic   Dalabon  
Oates (1975) Gunwingguan Gunwinjgic Bininj Dangbon/Dalabon  
Wurm (1972) Gunwingguan Gunwinggic   Dangbon, Dalabon  
O'Grady, Voegelin and Voegelin (1966) Gunwingguan Buanic ? Gunwinggic Bi ? Binin Dalabon ?Gundangbon