A64: Karajarri

AIATSIS code: 
AIATSIS reference name: 


Thesaurus heading language
Thesaurus heading people
ABN name
Karajarri language (Previously Garadyari language)
ABS name
Horton name
Ethnologue name
ISO 639-3 code
Tindale name
Tindale (1974)
Garadjari, Karadjeri, Garadjeri, Karadhari, Garad-'are, Garadjara, Laradjeri (misprint), Naudu (inland section of tribe), Nadja (coastal section), Nadjanadja, Kularupulu (name applied by inland Njangamarda to both coastal Njangamarda and Karadjari), Nawudu (Jawuru and Njik-ena name), Nawurungainj (name given by Njangamarda and Mangala), Minala (['minal] = east; term applied to inland hordes).
O'Grady et al (1966)
Garadjeri, Karadhari
Other sources
Garadyaria, Karatyarri, Karrajarra [<ozbib>Dixon 2011:29$7367</ozbib>]
Karatjarri, Karadjeri, Garadjari, Karadjari, Garadare, Garadjara, Garadjeri, Garadyari, Garadyaria, Gardare, Karadhari, Karrajarra, Murgud, Nawurtu, Ngangu, Karatyarri, Kularupulu, Laradjeri, Minala, Nadja, Nadjanadja, Nangu, Naudu, Naurdu, Nawudu, Nawurungainj, Ngawadu, Garad are, Marrngu

Karajarri is a Pama-Nyungan language in the Marrngu subgroup. The Kimberley Handbook says there are three dialects of Karajarri: Najanaja A106 or Murrkurt (Murgud) A106 from the coast; Nawurtu (Naurdu) A107 from the inland; and Nangu A105 (sometimes mistakenly spelled Ngangu) from the middle, between the inland and the coastal dialects. Oates lists a fourth dialect, Ngawudu, but that this is almost certainly a mishearing of Nawurtu A107 (in McGregor 1988:146). McGregor says that owners of the Nangu A105, Najanaja A106 and Nawurtu A107 language varieties regard them as types of Karajarri and use both the general and more specific terms in reference to their language (2004:9).

Weber investigates the Marrngu sub-group, first described by O'Grady, Voegelin and Voegelin, consisting of Karajarri, Nyangumarta A61 and Mangala A65. Weber’s comparative study of these three language varieties includes evidence that the aberrant phonotactics and phoneme distribution are a result of a high number of loanwords from the surrounding Nyulnyulan languages. The stability of verbal conjugations and inflectional systems in the Marrngu languages provides evidence for relatedness. Weber concludes the similarities between these three varieties result from shared archaisms and a shared absence of innovation (2009:2).

Previously the Thesaurus linked both Karajarri and Kurajarra A85 to the code A64. As they appear to be distinct, AUSTLANG now has a separate heading for Kurajarra A85.



  • 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.
  • Dixon, Sally. 2011. How to read and write Pilbara languages. South Hedland: Wangka Maya Pilbara Aboriginal Language Centre.
  • Oates, Lynette F. 1975. The 1973 supplement to a revised linguistic survey of Australia. Armidale: Armidale Christian Book Centre.
  • McGregor, William. 1988. Handbook of Kimberley languages, vol. 1: General information: Pacific Linguistics C-105. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
  • McGregor, William. 2004. The languages of the Kimberley, Western Australia. New York: RoutledgeCurzon.
  • McKelson, Kevin. 1989. Studies in Karajarri. (MS 2688).
  • McKelson, Kevin. Studies in Garadyari. (PMS 1125).
  • McGregor, William. 2004. The languages of the Kimberley, Western Australia. New York: RoutledgeCurzon.
  • Weber, Natalie. The Marrngu subgroup. Unpublished ms Rice University, Houston Texas. PMS 6481.
State / Territory: 
Location information: 

From Cape Villaret at the south point of Roebuck Bay southwest to Manari, a native meeting place 10 miles (16 km.) north of Anna Plains Station (Jawinja); inland about 70 miles (110 km.). Lendjarkading, a known water on D. Munro's Station block, Redjarth (two days walk farther inland), Undurmadatj, and Mount Phire, n.n. ['Paijara], are at limits of the tribal area (Tindale 1974).

Roughly, Karajarri was traditionally spoken just south of Yawuru along the coast ...(Weber, 2009:2).

Contemporary location: Bidyadanga, Broome (Dixon 2011:29).



  • Tindale, Norman. 1974. Tribal boundaries in Aboriginal Australia. Canberra: Division of National Mapping, Department of National Development.
  • McGregor, William. 1988. Handbook of Kimberley languages, vol. 1: general information. Pacific Linguistics C-105. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
  • Sharp, Janet. 2004. Nyangumarta: a language of the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
Handbook of Kimberley Languages (1988): 

Manjiljarra (A51.1 ) in Handbook of Kimberley Languages (1988).

8.2 Karajarri / Garadjari

Names of the language and different spellings that have been used:
Karadjeri (Capell), Karajarri (KLS, McKelson), Karatyarri (Brandenstein), Karrajarra, Garadjari (AIAS, Capell, Worms), Garadjeri (Capell), Garadyare (Worms), Garadyari (Worms), GaradyaRi (Kerr), Garadyaria (McKelson), Garajara (O'Grady), Gard'are, Guradjara
There are three dialects: Najanaja or Murrkurt (Murgud) from the coast; Nawurtu (Naurdu) from the inland; and Nangu (sometimes mistakenly spelled Ngangu) from the middle, between the inland and the coastal dialects. These dialects are named after their respective words for 'this'. Oates (1973) gives a fourth Ngawadu, which is almost certainly a mishearing of Nawurtu. According to speakers, the three dialects differ somewhat in lexicon and also in rate of speaking.
Classification of the language:
Pama Nyungan family; Marrngu subgroup
Identification codes:
Oates 1973: 57.2
Capell: A13
Present number and distribution of speakers:
Broome and La Grange
McKelson (pers.comm.) - 20 to 30 speakers in La Grange
People who have worked intensively on the language:
Arthur Capell, late 1930s, La Grange
Nora Kerr, 1960s, mainly in Broome
Gerhardt Laves, 1929 to 1931, La Grange
Fr. Kevin McKelson, since 1950s, mainly in La Grange
Fr. Ernest Worms, 1930s, La Grange
Practical orthography:
McKelson has recommended the South Kimberley orthography for use in the language programme in La Grange school.
Word lists:
Capell (1940), Kerr (nd), McKelson (nd, 1968), O'Grady (1968), Worms (1944)
Textual material:
Capell (1949/1950), Catholic Church (nd, 1974), McKelson (1974), Moyle (1968), Nekes & Worms (1953)
Grammar or sketch grammar:
Capell (1962), Laves (1931), McKelson (nd a, nd b, 1975)
Material available on the language:
Brandenstein, C-G von. 1967. The language situation in the Pilbara past and present. In Papers in Australian Linguistics, 2. Canberra: PL, A-11. 1-20.
_____ .1970. Portugese loanwords in Aboriginal languages of north-western Australia (a problem of Indo-European and Finno-Ugrian comparative linguistics). In Wurm, S.A. & Laycock, D.C. (eds), Pacific linguistic studies in honour of Arthur Capell. Canberra: PL, C-13. 617-650.
_____ .1972. The phoenix "Totemism". Anthropos 67. 586-594.
Capell, A. 1940. The classification of languages in north and north-west Australia. Oceania 10. 241-272, 404-433.
_____ .1949/1950. Some myths of the Garadjeri tribe, Western Australia. Mankind 4. 46-61, 108-125, 148-162.
_____ .1962. Some linguistic types in Australia. (Oceania Linguistic Monographs, 7) Sydney: University of Sydney. (Includes a sketch grammar of Karajarri.)
_____ .1970. Linguistic change in Australia. In Pilling, A.R. & Waterman, R.A. (eds), Diprotodon to detribalization. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press. 240-255.
Capell, A. & Elkin, A.P. 1937-1938. The languages of the Kimberley division. Oceania 8. 216-246.
Catholic Church. nd. Liturgy and ritual. Our father, Hail Mary (adapted). 8pp.
_____ .1974. Liturgy and ritual. Our father, Hail Mary (adapted). Translated by K. McKelson. 7pp. AIAS.
Geytenbeek, B.B. & Geytenbeek, H. 1980. Nyangumarda field notes, 1976-79. 352pp. manuscript. AIAS Ms 1482. (A1;B5).
Keogh, R.L. 1981. The two men: an Aboriginal song cycle from the Kimberleys. 204pp. typescript. B.Mus (Hons) thesis, University of Sydney. AIAS Ms 1610.
Kerr, N.F. nd. A comparative word list: Nyigina and neighbouring languages. 99pp. typescript. AIAS.
Laves, G. 1931. Notes on the grammar of Karadjeri of W. Australia. 8pp. typescript. AIAS pMs 2857. (A1;B5).
McKelson, K.R. nd a. Studies in Garadyari. 257pp. typescript. Includes Bronco's diary, 24pp. AIAS Ms 290 (A1;B1).
_____ .nd b. Learn some Aboriginal; learn some Karajarri. 42pp. typescript. KLRC.
_____ .1968. [Letter to A.I.A.S.] 1p. AIAS File T66/70.
_____ .1974. Catechism in Garadyari (Na?u): translated by Broncho. 80pp. typescript. AIAS pMs 1124.
_____ .1975. Learn a language. (82 lessons). 140pp. manuscript. AIAS Ms 289.
_____ .1979. Nadya Nadya country. In Berndt, R.M. & Berndt, C.H. (eds), Aborigines of the West: their past an their present. Perth: University of Western Australia Press. 214-223.
_____ .1981. Notes for staff on La Grange Mission: kinship. Nelen Yubu 7. 3-17.
_____ .1983. [Languages spoken at La Grange, Fitzroy Crossing, Broome, Port Hedland areas of Western Australia.] typescript. AIAS Ms 1837.
Moyle, A.M. 1968. Songs from the Kimberleys. Companion booklet for a 12-inch LP disk, Catalogue number AIAS/13. Canberra: AIAS.
Nekes, H. & Worms, E.A. 1953. Australian languages. (Micro-Bibliotheca Anthropos, 10) Fribourg: Anthropos-Institut. 1058pp. AIAS MF 4.
Nevermann, H., Worms, E.A. & Petri, H. 1968. Die Religionen der Sudsee und Australiens. (The religion of the Pacific and Australia). Stuttgart: Kohlhammer.
Odermann, G. 1963. Das Meer im Leben einer nordwest-australischen Kustenbevolkerung. Paideuma 9. 1-18.
O'Grady, G.N. 1968. [Language material from Western Australia.] 364pp. manuscript. AIAS Ms 321. (A1;B2).
Petri, H. 1966. Dynamik in Stammesleben Nordwest-Australiens. Paideuma 6. 152-168.
_____ .1967. Wandji-Kuranggara ein mythischer Traditionskomplex aus der westichen Wuste Australiens (Wandji-Kuranggara, a complex of mythical tradition from the Western Desert of Australia). Baessler-Archiv 15. 1-34.
Piddington, R. 1932a. Karadjeri initiation. Oceania 3. 46-87.
_____ .1932b. Totemic system of the Karadjeri tribe. Oceania 2. 373-400.
_____ .(ed.). 1960. An introduction to social anthropology. Volume 1. Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd.
Piddington, M. & Piddington, R. 1932. Report on fieldwork in North-west Australia. Oceania 2. 342-358.
Roheim, G. 1945. The eternal ones of the dream: a psychoanalytic interpretation of Australian myth and ritual. New York: International Universities Press.
Scheffler, H.W. 1977. Australian kin classification. In McCormack, W.C. & Wurm, S.A. (eds), Language and thought: anthropological issues. The Hague: Mouton. 201-210.
_____ .1978. Australian kin classification. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Thieberger, N. 1987. Handbook of WA Aboriginal languages (south of the Kimberley region). first draft. typescript. Mt. Lawley: Institute of Applied Aboriginal Studies.
Tindale, N.B. 1952-54. Field journal of Norman B. Tindale: 18th expedition under the auspices of Board for Anthropological Research, University of Adelaide and the University of California at Los Angeles, 1952-1954. 1233, 340pp. typescript & manuscript.
Tsunoda, T. nd. Comments on K. McKelson's 'A comparative study of pronouns'. 8pp. typescript and manuscript. AIAS pMs 1882.
Worms, E.A. 1938a. Foreign words in some Kimberley tribes in North-Western Australia. Oceania 8. 458-462.
_____ .1938b. [Questions and answers of interview with 'Scribe', 3.L.0.] 3,3pp. typescript. AIAS pMs 2056.
_____ .1944. Aboriginal place names in Kimberley, Western Australia. Oceania 14. 284-310.
_____ .1949. An Australian migratory myth. Primitive man 22. 33-38.
_____ .1950. Feure und feuerzeuger in sage und brauch der Nordwest Australier. Anthropos 48. 145-164.
_____ .1957. Australian mythical terms: their etymology and dispersion. Anthropos 52. 732-768.
_____ .1959. Verbannungslied eines australischen Wildbeuters: ein Beitrag zur Lyrik der Bad. Anthropos 54. 154-168.
Language programme:
A language programme has been in operation since 1985 in the La Grange Government School; Karajarri is one of the languages taught in this programme.
Language learning material:
McKelson (nd b, 1975, 1983)
Literacy material:
Catholic Church (nd, 1974), McKelson (1974)

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

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

Gerhardt Laves, Fr Kevin McKelson, Anna Sands, Wangka Maya Pilbara Aboriginal Language 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 Small (20-100 pages) 2
Grammar Small grammar (100-200 pages) 3
Audio-visual More than 10 3
Manuscript note: 
tape transcription/field note available

Sands, Anna Kristina. 1989. A grammar of Garadjari, Western Australia, Australian National University: BA (Hons).

Johnson, Edward. 1992. Karajarri sketch grammar, University of Sydney: BA (Hons).


McKelson, Fr Kevin R. Karajarri Wordlist, ASEDA 0069.

Source Family Group Sub-group Name Relationship
Ethnologue (2005) Pama-Nyungan South-West Marngu Karadjeri  
Dixon (2002)   MANGUNJ AREAL GROUP Marrngu subgroup* Karatjarri Karatjarri
Wurm (1994) Pama-Nyungan South-West   Garadyari  
Walsh (1981) Pama-Nyungan South-West Marngu Garadyari  
Oates (1975) Pama-Nyungan Western Desert Proper Marngu Garadjari  
Wurm (1972) Pama-Nyungan Southwest (or Nyungic) Marngu Karadjeri (Garadjari)  
O'Grady, Voegelin and Voegelin (1966) Pama-Nyungan Southwest Marngu Karadjeri