C6: Pitjantjatjara

AIATSIS code: 
AIATSIS reference name: 


Thesaurus heading language
Thesaurus heading people
ABN name
Pitjantjatjara language
ABS name
Horton name
Ethnologue name
ISO 639-3 code
Tindale name
Tindale (1974)
Bidjandja, Bidjandjadjara, Bidjandjara, Bidjuwongga, Ituarre (probably a faulty hearing of Pituari), Mamoo, Mamu ('evil beings' a name sometimes applied to them by the Jangkundjara), Mulatara (Tomkinson and Blyth Ranges horde), Nangatadjara (of the Warara Ngadadjara of the Rawlinson Range area), Partutu (name applied by the Pintubi), Peechintarra (daily press rendering in 1958), Pidjandja, Pid-jandjara, Pijandarra, Pitdjandjara [sic], Pitjandjadjara (extended form), Pitjanjarra, Pitjantjara (simplified form adopted by Ernabella Mission in 1941), Pitjantjatjara, Pitjanzazara (z = arbitrary and unauthorized editorial substitution in Oceania for dj symbol), Pitjendadjara, Pitjentara, Pitjindjatjara, Pitjinjara, Pitjinjiara, Pitjintara, Pitjintjitjira (? typographical error), Pituari (a rarely used form), Tjitiadjara (name applied by Ngadadjara), Wanudjara (name applied to Jangkundjara also by Ngadadjara), Wirtjapakandja (an eastern horde; name based on verb ['wirtjapakandji] to run hence has the implication of 'refugees' i.e. those who shifted their living area under pressure. The same term has been applied to some Jangkundjara people now living in the south), Wo?ga-pitja (Pitja speakers), Wongapitcha, Wongapitjira
O'Grady et al (1966)
Pitjandjara, Pitjandjadjara, Pitjindjatjara, Pitkindjara, Pitjindjiara, Pitjanzazara, Wongapitjira, Wongapitcha
Other sources
Pitjantjatjarra, Bidjandjadjara, Pitjantjara, Bidjandja, Bidjandjara, Bidjuwongga, Bidyandyadyara, Bindjandjadjara, Gunggawara, Ituarre, Jabu, Kalgonei, Mamoo, Mamu, Mangawara, Mulatara, Nangatadjara, Njangadjadjara, Nyangatjatjara, Partutu, Peechintarra, Pidjandja, Pidjandjara, Pidzandza, Pijandarra, Pintularapi, Pitchentara, Pitdjandjara, Pitindjatjara, Pitjandara, Pitjandjadjara, Pitjandjara, Pitjanjarra, Pitjanzazara, Pitjendadjara, Pitjentara, Pitjindjatjara, Pitjindjiara, Pitjinjara, Pitjinjiara, Pitjintara, Pitjintjitjira, Pitkindjara, Pituari, Tjitiadjara, Tjurti, Wankawinan, Wanudjara, Widanda, Widjandja, Wirtjapakandja, Wongapitcha, Wongapitja, Wongapitjira, Bidjandjadjara/Njangadadjara, Pid jandjara, Woga pitja

Pitjantjatjara is one of the most well described dialects of the Western Desert language A80. Early introduction of vernacular literacy development since the 1940s led to a high proportion of people literate in this language. Programs have been conducted at Indulkana, Mimili, Ernabella, Pipalyatjara in South Australia and Areyonga and Docker River in the Northern Territory; there is a large body of literature (including a Bible) and learning resources for this language.


  • Eckert, Paul and Joyce Hudson. 1988. Wangka wiru : a handbook for the Pitjantjatjara language learner. ASTEC, Aboriginal Studies and Teacher Education Centre, South Australian College of Advanced Education
  • Glass, Amee, Dorothy Hackett, and Bernard Newberry eds. 2003. Ngaanyatjarra-Ngaatjatjarra to English dictionary. Alice Springs: IAD Press.
  • 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.
State / Territory: 
Location information: 

... at Wingellina in the Tomkinson Ranges, and in areas to the east and north-east (Glass, Hackett & Newberry 2003:1). Mann and Tomkinson Ranges northwest to the eastern end of the Rawlinson Range, W. Aust.; west to the east side of Mount Hinckley and Wingelina; southwest to Mount Blyth, Birksgate Range, and near the north side of Lake Wright; east to Mounts Kintore and Caroline, Butler Dome, and Stevenson Peak; north to Lakes Amadeus, Neale, and Hopkins; in the western Musgrave Ranges east only to Oparinna. Kalaiapiti in the Mount Sir Thomas Range was their ultimate refuge prior to the 1914-1916 period of major drought during which they were driven to usurp the eastern Musgrave Ranges from the Jangkundjara, who were in turn by 1917 forced to shift southward, making the Everard Ranges their principal home; some then shifted south toward Ooldea and are now (1971) living at Yalata (Tindale 1974).

Pitjantjatjara is a dialect of the Western Desert language A80, from the far north west corner of South Australia and neighbouring regions in the Northern Territory and Western Australia. Pitjantjatjara are associated with the east – west ranges of Western Musgraves, Mann and Tomkinson Ranges. In modern times many people live with Yankunytjatjara at Amata, Ernabella, Fregon, Kenmore Park, Mimili and Indulkana (Eckert & Hudson, 1988).


Sourcebook for Central Australian Languages (1981): 

Madoidja (A41 ) in Sourcebook for Central Australian Languages (1981).


Names of the language and different spellings that have been used:

Bidjandjadjara (AIAS), Bidjandjara (Herrmann), Jabu (Berndt, Herrmann), Njangadjadjara (AIAS), Nyangatjatjara (Douglas), Pidzan'dza (Berndt), Pidzandza (Herrmann), Pitjintara (Herrmann), Pitjandjara (T), Pitjantjatjara (Douglas), Pitchentara (Roheim)

This term has sometimes been used to refer to all of the Western Desert Language. See also: Yankuntjatjara, Ngaanyatjarra, Ngaatjatjara, Antikirinya, Pintupi, Kukatja (W.A.), Kukatja (S.A./N.T.), Kukata (S.A.).


This name, recognised by Tindale but not included in RLS or Oates 1973, is applied to a group Tindale 1974 mentions as in contact with Pintupi, Pitjantjatjara and Ngaatatjara. The alternant names recorded by Tindale are: Wankawinan, Kalgonei, Kalguni, Wanudjara, Pintularapi, Mangawara, Tjurti, Widanda.

Classification of the language:

Western Desert group, Wati subgroup

Identification codes:

Oates '73: 56.6a

AIAS: C.006

Capell: C6

Present number and distribution of speakers:

Western Desert, in N.T., S.A. and W.A. Ernabella, Docker River, Areyonga, Alice Springs.

Milliken, 1972 -- 874 (in N.T.)

Black, 1979 -- 2000, including 300-400 Ngaanyatjarra

People who have worked intensively on the language:

Paul Eckert, Ernabella.

Practical orthography:

Established orthography, from Ernabella.

Word lists:

Ernabella, IAD.

Grammar or sketch grammar:

Douglas & Trudinger, IAD.

Material available on the language:

AIAS Selected reading list, Central and Western Desert: The Aranda, Bidjandjarra, Bindubi, Waljbiri. 17p. mimeo. AIAS. 197?


Craig, Beryl. Bibliography (of works on Pitjantjatjara ). AIAS.


de Graaf, Mark. 197?. Aboriginal literature: a bibliography of literature on anthropology and Aboriginals with Pitjantjatjara references extracted. Alice Springs Community College. 55+20p. xeroxed ts.

Aboriginal Land Rights Commission. 1973. Extracts from first report (July 1973), pages S1-S5. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service. 4p. (with Pitjantjatjara translation)

Capp, Robert. 1973. Report on visits to Areyonga and Hermannsburg with regard to:- Pitjantjatjara dialects, literacy materials, standard orthography for central Australian languages. Ernabella School. 5p. ts.

---------- Survival Pitjantjatjara. 7p. mimeo. ts.

Eckert, Paul & James Wafer. 1979. Pitjantjatjara orthography circulars. April, 3p. June, 3p., and some replies.

English-Pitjantjara vocabulary. 197?. 19p. mimeo. ts. IAD. (prepared at Ernabella Mission; accompanied by itjantjatjara-English vocabulary)

Glass, A. & Dorothy Hackett. 1979b. Medical phrases from three Western Desert languages. (Ngaanyatjarra, Wangkatja, Pitjanytjatjarra). 59p. Perth: Human Sciences Research.

Hale, Kenneth L. 1973. Deep-surface canonical disparities in relation to analaysis and change: an Australian example, pp. 401-58 in Current Trends in Linguistics, Volume 11, ed. by Thomas Sebeok. The Hague: Mouton. (compares Pitjantjatjara and Luritja)

Hansen, Kenneth C. & Lesley E. Hansen. 1975. A comparison of Western Desert dialects. Chart 2, pp.28-29 in their Core of Pintupi Grammar. IAD.

An illustrated topical dictionary of the Western Desert language: Ernabella dialect. 22p. ms. (A prepublication draft of: An illustrated topical dictionary of the Western Desert language: Warburton Ranges dialect, by Wilfred H. Douglas, with Ernabella words written in as corrections.)

Kirke, Brian K. 197?. Pronunciation of central Australian languages. 8p. mimeo ts. IAD.

---------- English-Pitjantjatjara dictionary: a-be. 44p. ms.

Myers, Deborah (ed.) 1978. A simple explanation of Pitjantjatjara. 39p. Adelaide: Education Department of S.A.

O'Grady, G.N. & T.J. Klokeid. 1969. Australian Linguistic Classification: A Plea for Coordination of Effort. Oceania 39:298-311. Questions and answers relating to medical information and

procedure in the Pitjantjara languages devised by Dr B. Whittenbury, translated by Malpiya Heffernen & Jim Downing. IAD, 197?. 14p. mimeo. (previous editions were 9p., 10p. mimeo. ts.)

ten Raa, Eric & S.T. Woenne. 1974. Research Dictionary of the Western Desert Language of Australia. Department of Anthropology, University of Western Australia. (I 11988) (primarily Ngaatjatjara)

Tindale, N.B. 1931-37. Vocabulary of Pitjandjara, the language of the natives of the Great Western Desert. (Adelaide). 138p. ts. (some words of Pintupi, Ngalia, Kukatja, Nga:dadjara, Wirongu)

---------- 1933. Journal of an anthropological expedition to the Mann and Musgrave Ranges, May-July 1933. ms. (vocabulary of 2830 entries in Pitjandjara, Pintupi, Ngalia, Kukatja and Ngadadjara)

---------- 1951. Second visit to Ooldea, to study the Aborigines. Apr. 1951. 85p. ts., ms. (vocabulary of 90 additional words in Ngalea, Pitjandjara and Ngadadjara)

Trudinger, Ronald M. 194? Pitjantjatjara grammar. Ernabella Mission. 19p. mimeo. ts.

---------- 1943. Grammar of the Pitjantjatjara dialect, Central Australia. Oceania 13.3:205-223.

Literacy material:

Sheppard, Nancy [with Yanyi]. 1975. Alitjinya Ngura Tjukurtjarangka. Alitji in the Dreamtime. Illustrations by Byron S. Sewell. Adapted and translated from Lewis Carroll's story: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. 104p. Adelaide: Department of Adult Education, University of Adelaide. A number of mimeograph stories produced by IAD, DAA. Others produced by Shirley Gudgeon and others at Ernabella.

Kathy Menning (comp.) and David Nash (ed.) 1981. © IAD Press

AIATSIS gratefully acknowledges IAD Press for permission to use this material in AUSTLANG.


Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association made recordings in 80's. University of Adelaide developed a language course late 60's. South Australia. Dept. for Education and Children's Services written a school language program in 1994. Bible translation work has been carried out.

Courses available at the University of South Australia - https://study.unisa.edu.au/short-courses/pitjantjatjara-yankunytjatjara-language/ 

Heather Bowe, Paul Eckert, Cliff Goddard, David Rose, Yaitya Warra Wodli Language Centre Inc
Indigenous organisations: 


Wangka Goldfields Aboriginal Language Centre - https://wangka.com.au/

Year Source Speaker numbers
1990Schmidtincl. with Western Desert A80

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 Large (more than 200 pages) 4
Text Collection Large (more than 200 pages) 4
Grammar Sketch grammar (less than 100 pages) 2
Audio-visual More than 10 3
Manuscript note: 
tape transcription/field note available

Goddard, Cliff. 1993. A learners guide to Pitjantjatjara/Yankunytjatjara. Alice Springs: IAD Press.


Goddard, Cliff. 1992. Pitjantjatjara/Yankunytjatjara to English dictionary. Alice Springs: IAD Press.

Source Family Group Sub-group Name Relationship
Ethnologue (2005) Pama-Nyungan South-West Wati Pitjantjatjara Pitjantjatjara [dialects: Yankunytjatjara, Pitjantjatjara (Pithantjatjarra)]
Dixon (2002)       Pitjantjatjarra The Western Desert language. dialects: (a) Warnman, (b) Yulparitja, (c) Manjtjiltjara (or Martu Wangka), (d) Kartutjarra, (e) Kukatja, (f) Pintupi, (g) Luritja, (h) Ngaatjatjarr, (i) Ngaanjatjarra, G) Wangkatha, (k) Wangatja, (l) Ngaliya, (m) Pitjantjatjarra, (n) Yankuntjatjarra, (o) Kukarta
Wurm (1994) Pama-Nyungan South-West   Pitjantjatjara  
Walsh (1981) Pama-Nyungan South-West Wati/Western Desert Pitjantjatjara  
Oates (1975) Pama-Nyungan Western Desert Proper Wati Bidjandjadjara/Njangadadjara  
Wurm (1972) Pama-Nyungan Southwest (or Nyungic) Western Desert Language Pitjantjatjara  
O'Grady, Voegelin and Voegelin (1966) Pama-Nyungan Southwest Wati Pitjantjatjara