S7: Ngayawang

AIATSIS code: 
AIATSIS reference name: 


Thesaurus heading language
Thesaurus heading people
ABN name
Ngayawung language (Previously Murundi language)
ABS name
Horton name
Meru (Ngaiawung)
Ethnologue name
Narrinyeri [Ngayawung]
ISO 639-3 code
Tindale name
Tindale (1974)
Ngaijawa (valid alternative), Ngaiyawa, Ngaiawung, Ngaiyau, Naiawu (language name), Niawoo, Aiawung, Aiawong (said to be language name, Eyre was tone deaf to initial ng sound).Iawung, Nggauaiyo-wangko, Wakanuwan (name applied by the Jarildekald to this, the Nganguruku, and other tribes; they called the language Walkalde), Karn-brikolenbola (horde at Moorunde), Birta (Kaurna and Ngadjuri term), Pijita, Pitta, Pieta, Peeita, Meru (term for man), Murundi (term used for the Murray River, upriver from Lake Alexandrina in the Jarildekald language, also a given place name south of Blanchetown), Moorunde, Moo-rundee, Moorundie, Paruru (a derisive term meaning 'uncir-cumcised' also 'animal,' used by the Kaurna tribe for these and other Murray River tribespeople who do not circumcise).
O'Grady et al (1966)
Ngaiwung, Ngaiyau, Aiawung, Aiawong, Iawung, Nggauaiyowangko, Birta, Pitta, Pieta, Peeita, Meru
Other sources
Narrinyeri, Meru, Ngaiawung, Ngawait, Erawirungand, Rankbirit, Ngintait, Ngaralta, Nganguruku, Aiawong, Aiawung, Ajawung, Birta, Iawung, Karn brikolenbola, Moorunde, Moorundee, Moorundie, Murundi, Naiawu, Ngaiawang, Ngaijawa, Ngaiwung, Ngaiyau, Ngaiyawa, Nganjan, Nggauaiyo wangko, Nggauaiyowangke, Niawoo, Paruru, Peeita, Pieta, Pijita, Pitta, Wakanuwan, Ngayawung, Nggauaiyowangko, Moo rundee

There is some uncertainty around the nature of the relationship between languages around the lower Murray River.

According to Tindale (1974), Ngaiawang (S7) was sometimes grouped with Nganguruku S6 but the vocabularies show differences.

McDonald (2002:15) comments that Ngaiawang, Ngaralti S4, Nganguruku and Ngawait S10 seem to be closely related each other, and Wafer and Lissarrague (2008) group them together under the 'Lower Riverland language'. Wafer and Lissarrague (2008:31) also note that these names are likely to be dialects rather than 'alternative designations', citing the distinct locations and differences in kinship terms described in Radcliffe-Brown (1918:243).

The Mobile Language Team treats Ngayawang, Ngangaruku and Ngawadj S10 as distinct languages.

The term Meru is sometimes applied to Ngayawang and several other languages in the area, being the word for 'man' in those languages. Radcliffe-Brown (1918:246) notes that this includes the 'Nganguruku and Ngaiyan (S7)? languages, and probably those of the Nanait S10?, Yiran S12, Yuyu S19 and Ngintait S18 also'. Dowling (1990:25) remarks that 'the Jirawirung S12 and Ngawait were part of a major linguistic group, the Meru, which extended west along the Murray River from the Pyap Bend and south towards Lake Alexandrina (Tindale 1974) and included the Ngaiawang, Nganguruku and Ngintait speakers.'


  • Dowling, Peter J. 1990. Violent epidemics: disease, conflict and Aboriginal population collapse as a result of European contact in the Riverland of South Australia, Australian National University, MA. (MS 2837)
  • Horgen, Michael. 2004. The languages of the Lower-Murray, Department of Linguistics, Latrobe University: MA. (MS 4456 CD).
  • McDonald, Maryalyce. 2002. A study of the phonetics and phonology of Yaraldi and associated dialects. München: Lincom Europa.
  • Radcliffe-Brown, Alfred R. 1918, 1923. Notes on the social organization of Australian tribes. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 48:222-253; 53:424-447.
  • 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.
  • Wafer, Jim, and Amanda Lissarrague. 2008. A handbook of Aboriginal languages of New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. Nambucca Heads: Muurrbay Aboriginal Language and Culture Co-operative.
State / Territory: 
Location information: 

... along Murray River Between Murray Bridge and Blanchetown (According to map in Horgen 2004). Along Murray River from Herman Landing to Penn Reach; west to scarp of Mount Lofty Ranges. Devon Downs Rock-shelter, Ngautngaut, was at their southern boundary (Tindale 1974). ... the banks of the Murray River about the North-West bend (Radcliffe-Brown 1918:246).

Matthew Moorhouse, Edward Scott, John Weatherstone, Michael Horgen
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 A few articles 1
Audio-visual None 0
Manuscript note: 
not available

Moorehouse, Matthew and Simpson, Jane. Ngaiawang vocabulary, ASEDA 0255. Horgen, Michael. 2004. The Languages of the Lower-Murray, La Trobe University: MA.

Source Family Group Sub-group Name Relationship
Ethnologue (2005) Pama-Nyungan Ngarinyeric-Yithayithic   Narrinyeri [Ngayawung] Narrinyeri [dialects: Related to Ngayawung and Yuyu (Ngarrket)]
Dixon (2002)   LOWER MURRAY AREAL GROUP   Ngayawang Ngayawang
Wurm (1994) Pama-Nyungan Ngarinyeric-Yithayithic   Ngayawung  
Walsh (1981) Pama-Nyungan Ngarinyeric-Yithayithic   Ngayawung Ngayawung [dialects; Ngayawung, Ngangurugu]
Oates (1975) Pama-Nyungan Narrinyeric Mirili Ngaiawang  
Wurm (1972) Pama-Nyungan Narrinyeric Mirili Ngaiawang  
O'Grady, Voegelin and Voegelin (1966) Pama-Nyungan Narrinyeric Mirili Ngaiawang