A87: Wangkajunga

AIATSIS code: 
AIATSIS reference name: 


Thesaurus heading language
Thesaurus heading people
ABN name
ABS name
Horton name
Ethnologue name
Martu Wangka [Wangkajunga]
ISO 639-3 code
Tindale name
Tindale (1974)
O'Grady et al (1966)
Other sources
Wangkatjungka, Martu Wangka, Wanggadjunga

Jones (2002:12-20) says it appears that the term Wangkajunga was introduced sometime in the early 1970s by the Western Desert people at Christmas Creek and Fitzroy Crossing as a means to identify themselves as desert people and to distinguish themselves from Walmajarri A66 and Yulparija A67. The term is now used as both the name of a particular dialect of the Western Desert language A80 and as a cover term for several of these dialects.

Wangkajunga has a complex system of pronominal clitics which cross-reference subject, object and dative arguments; also clitics for cross-referencing animate allative and ablative participants. The clitics mark the first word or consituant of the clause. The compulsory nature of this complex feature is shared with other north west varieties of Western Desert Languages A80, including Kukatja A68, Manyjilyjarra A51.1, Yulparija A67, and Pintupi C10, distinguishing them from the southern languages Pitjantjatjara C6 and Yankunytjatjara C4. This type of clitic cluster is not as compex in Ngaanyatjarra, and is not obligatory in Yankunytjatjara (Jones, 2011:9-10).


  • Jones, Barbara. 2002. A grammar of Wangkajunga: a language of the Great Sandy Desert of North Western Australia. University of Sydney. PhD thesis.
  • Oates, Lynette F. 1975. The 1973 supplement to a revised linguistic survey of Australia. Armidale: Armidale Christian Book Centre.
State / Territory: 
Location information: 

... north-eastern section of the Great Sandy Desert and the Canning Stock Route (Jones 2002). South and west of Lake Gregory (Oates 1975:126).

Contemporary location: Fitzroy Crossing, Christmas Creek Station, Bohemia Downs Station Fitzroy Valley (Jones 2002).


Handbook of Kimberley Languages (1988): 

Wirdinya (A49 ) in Handbook of Kimberley Languages (1988).

8.6 Wangkajunga / Wangkatjungka

Names of the language and different spellings that have been used:
Wanggadjunggu (Berndt), Wangkajungka, Wangkatjungka (Hansen)
A number of white people (including people living in Fitzroy Crossing) have misheard the language name as Wangkajungka; this is definitely incorrect. The term 'Wangkajunga' comes from wangka 'talk' and junga 'straight', and means means 'straight/correct speech'. These days at least, it refers to a Western Desert dialect which is quite similar to Yulparija and Kukatja. Some speakers of the latter claim that they speak the former, when in fact it appears that they are responding to the meaning of the term (i.e. they are claiming to speak 'straight', or correctly). This, together with the fact that many earlier surveys (such as Tindale's) do not include this language/dialect/ group name, perhaps suggests that the term is a recent innovation as a dialect name.
Classification of the language:
Pama-Nyungan family; Western Desert group
Identification codes:
AIAS: (Kukaja A68)
Oates 1973: 56.10a
Capell: (Kukaja A16)
Present number and distribution of speakers:
Fitzroy Crossing, Christmas Creek (Wangkatjungka Community), Bayulu, by at least 100 full speakers.
People who have worked intensively on the language:
McGregor, from 1982, at Fitzroy Crossing and Christmas Creek
Practical orthography:
None in regular use. The South Kimberley orthography would be suitable, as would be the Kukatja variant.
Word lists:
Hansen (1984), Angelo (1985)
Textual material:
McGregor has collected and transcribed some, but none is published.
Grammar or sketch grammar:
Material available on the language:
Angelo, M. 1985. Wangkajunga picture dictionary. manuscript. AIAS p11983.
Hansen, K. 1984. Communicability of some Western Desert communalects. In Hudson, J. & Pym, N. (eds), Language survey. (Work Papers of SIL-AAB, B-11) Darwin: SIL. 1-112.
McGregor, W.B. 1982. [Field notes: Wangkajunga] manuscript.
Thieberger, N. 1987. Handbook of WA Aboriginal languages (south of the Kimberley region). first draft. typescript. Mt. Lawley: Institute of Applied Aboriginal Studies.
Language programme:
A language maintenance programme was begun in the Christmas Creek School in 1987.
Language learning material:
Literacy material:
Angelo, M. 1985. Wangkajunga picture dictionary. manuscript. AIAS p11983.

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

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

Barbara Jones
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 Medium (100-200 pages) 3
Text Collection Small (20-100 pages) 2
Grammar Large grammar (more than 200 pages) 4
Audio-visual More than 10 3
Manuscript note: 

Jones, Barbara. 2002. A grammar of Wangkajunga: a language of the Great Sandy Desert of North Western Australia, University of Sydney: PhD.


Jones, Barbara et al.. 2001. Ngaapa wangka Wangkajunga: this language is Wangkajunga language. Halls Creek: Kimberley Language Resource Centre.

Source Family Group Sub-group Name Relationship
Ethnologue (2005) Pama-Nyungan South-West Wati Martu Wangka [Wangkajunga] Martu Wangka [dialects: Manyjilyjara (Mantjiltjara), Kartujarra (Kartutjara, Kardutjara, Kadaddjara, Kardutjarra, Kiadjara, Gardudjara, Gagudjara), Puditara (Budidjara, Putujara), Yulparitja (Yilparitja, Yulbaridja), Wangkajunga (Wangkajungka). Mantjiltjara and Kartutjara are two ethnic groups speaking almost identical dialects. High inherent intelligibility between Yulparitja and Wangkajunga. Speakers of the 4 dialects can use the same written language with possible minor adjustments, including vocabulary change, partly needed because of cultural identity factors.]
Dixon (2002)          
Wurm (1994) Pama-Nyungan South-West   Wangkatjungka  
Walsh (1981)          
Oates (1975) Pama-Nyungan Western Desert Proper Wati Wanggadjunga  
Wurm (1972)          
O'Grady, Voegelin and Voegelin (1966)