K1: Yawuru

AIATSIS code: 
AIATSIS reference name: 


Thesaurus heading language
Thesaurus heading people
ABN name
ABS name
Horton name
Ethnologue name
ISO 639-3 code
Tindale name
Tindale (1974)
Yauor, Jauor, Yauera, Djauor, Yaoro, Yauro, Yaroro, Yawur, Jaoro, Jauro, Jawuru (Mangala term), Kakudu-Kakudu (Mangala name), Gawor, Nawudu (extreme variant of pronunciation of Jawuru; also applied to Karadjari).
O'Grady et al (1966)
Yauor, Yauera, Djauor
Other sources
Yawur, Djauor, Jauor, Jawuru, Yawoorroo, Gawor, Jaoro, Jauro, Jauur, Kakudu Kakudu, Nawudu, Yaora, Yaoro, Yaoru, Yaroro, Yauera, Yauor, Yauro, Yawur, Yawuri, Yawurr

Yawuru is a non-Pama Nyungan language from the north west of Western Australia.

Hosokawa describes three dialects of Yawuru: Julbayi (Southern coastal) K48, Marangan (Eastern inland) K54 and Jukun K2 (1991:5-6).

McGregor classifies Yawuru as one of the Eastern Nyulnyulan languages, along with Nyikina K3, Warrwa K10 and Jukun K2. He contrasts these with the Western Nyulnyulan languages, Bardi K15, Jawi K16, Jabirrjabirr K8, Nyulnyul K13, Nimanburru K9 and Ngumbarl K4 (2010:209).


  • Hosokawa, Komei. 1991. The Yawuru language of West Kimberley: a meaning-based description. Australian National University, PhD. (MS 3041).
  • Hosokawa, Komei. 1994. Retribalization and language mixing: aspects of identity strategies among Broome Aborigines, Western Australia. Bulletin of the National Museum of Ethnology, vol. 19, no. 3. pp. 491-534.
  • Hosokawa, Komei. 2011. The Yawuru language of West Kimberley: a meaning-based description. Muenchen: Lincom Europa (Published version of MS 3041).
  • McGregor, William B. 2010. The semantics, pragmatics and evolution of two verbless negative constructions in Nyulnyul. Oceanic Linguistics 49(1):205-232.
State / Territory: 
Location information: 

... south of Broome, as far as Thangoo (Stokes 1984:9).

The general associations of Yawuru were from Willie Creek south to Cape Villaret. They extended inland to include the drainages into Roebuck Bay. According to Paddy Roe (p.c. in 1986), the northern boundary of the Jukun country is Willie Creek, north of Cable Beach; form there up to Quandon Point is Ngumbarl country. Eastern shore of Roebuck Bay south to within 5 miles of (8km) of Cape Villaret, inland nearly to Dampier Downs, n.n. [Mandikarakapo]. Their southern boundary with the Karadjari is marked by transition from open saltmarsh plain to the dense pindan scrub and heavy sand of the Karadjari country. Inland limits were inferred in accordance with drainage basins (Harvey AILEC 0802).

Yawuru or Badjabug, around Broome and western shore of Roebuck Bay, Nalen Nalena, at the south-western end of Dampier Land. Jukun - between Willy Creek, Wergenmere, and Cape Huygens (Djabaragon), the northern entrance of Roebuck Bay (Nalen Nalena), formerly in Broome itself (Nekes and Worms as cited in Harvey AILEC 0802).

The traditional territory of Yawuru-speaking Aborigines is located to the south, east and north-west of Broome ... This includes the so-called Jukun area ... The Julbayi dialect ... was originally spoken in the coastal savannah area between the Mararr sandhill west of the present Thangoo homestead and Jibari sandhill (so-called "Yardoogarra Point") near Giblara, or Cape Villaret. ... The traditional residents of teh Broome are proper (around the township, Cable Beach, Gantheaume Point, Fisherman's Bend adn the north-west of Roebuck Plains) wer Minyjirr .. or "Big Yawuru", whose language is usually referred to as Jukun (Hosokawa as cited in Harvey AILEC 0802).


Handbook of Kimberley Languages (1988): 

Marawa (A22 ) in Handbook of Kimberley Languages (1988).

4.11 Yawuru / Jauor

Names of the language and different spellings that have been used:
Djauor , Gawor (Capell), Jauor (Capell, AIAS, Worms, O'Grady, Oates & Oates), Yaoro (Nekes & Worms, Worms), Yaoru (Worms), Yauor, Yawoorroo (Hudson & McConvell), Yawur, Yawuru (Oates, Black, Black & Walsh, Hosokawa, Kerr), Yowaroo, Yowera (Bates)
Yawuru speakers sometimes refer to their language as "Small Yawuru", as distinct from Jukun, which they refer to as "Big Yawuru".
Classification of the language:
Nyulnyulan family
Identification codes:
Oates 1973: 49.2
Capell: K12
Present number and distribution of speakers:
Few speakers, Broome region (Oates & Oates)
Stokes - 5-10 speakers (1978-1979)
Hosokawa - at least 40 (1986)
People who have worked intensively on the language:
Bronwyn Stokes, mid-to late-1970s, did some work on the language, in Broome
Komei Hosokawa began intensive research in 1986, working mainly in Broome
Practical orthography:
Hosokawa uses a slight variant of the Dampier Land orthography, in which u is used instead of oo.
Word lists:
Bates (nd), Capell (1940, 1966, nd), Hosokawa (1986a, 1986g, 1986h, 1987), Kerr (nd), Lands et al. (1987), Nekes (1939), Torres et al (1987), Worms (1938a, 1838b, 1944, 1949, 1957b), Stokes (nd)
Textual material:
Capell (1949/50), Keogh (1981), Nekes & Worms (1953), Trask (1966), Torres (1987), Stokes (nd), Worms (1957a, 1970)
Grammar or sketch grammar:
Capell (1940), Nekes (1939), and Hosokawa (1986b-e and forthcoming) contain some grammatical information; Stokes (nd and 1985) contains information on verbs.
Material available on the language:
Bates, D.M. nd. Native vocabularies - Broome Magisterial District. typescript. Section 12, 2E: 1b. ANL-MS365-52/61-104.
Brandenstein, C.G von. 1970. Portugese loan-words in Aboriginal languages of north-western Australia. (A problem of Indo-European and Fino-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.
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.
_____ .1966. A new approach to Australian linguistics. (Oceania Linguistic Monographs, 1) Sydney: University of Sydney.
_____ .1970. Linguistic change in Australia. In Pilling, A.R. & Waterman, R.A. (eds), Diprotodon to detribalisation. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press. 240-255.
_____ .nd. Dictionaries of northern Australian languages. Typed and arranged by J. Trefry. typescript. AIAS Ms1399. (A1;B1).
Holmer, N. 1963. On the history and structure of the Australian languages. (Australian Essays and Studies, 3) Upsala: Lundequist.
Hosokawa, K. 1986a. [Yawuru word list.] manuscript.
_____ .1986b. Yawuru field note (1): pre-verb. typescript.
_____ . 1986c. Yawuru field note (2): use of dative. typescript.
_____ .1986d. Yawuru field note (3): words of direction. typescript.
_____ .1986e. Yawuru field note (4): use of the ergative suffix -ni and types of syntactic construction. typescript.
_____ .1986f. Traditional place names in Yawuru country and adjacent areas. typescript.
_____ .1986g. Gooniyandi and Yawuru: some common lexical items (surface resemblances). typescript.
_____ .1986h. [Short word list in Yawuru and neighbouring languages.] typescript.
_____ .1987. Classified Yawuru dictionary. preliminary edition. typescript.
_____ .forthcoming. Preverb in Yawuru: a functional slot for predicate formation. To appear in Sakiyama, O., et al. (eds), Festschrift for Professor Tatsuo Nishida. Tokyo: Sanseido.
Hudson, J. 1987. Spelling book: Yawuru. Broome: Jawa Curriculum Support Centre.
Keogh, R.D. 1981. The two men: an Aboriginal song cycle from the Kimberleys. B.Mus. (Hons) thesis, University of Sydney.
Kerr, N.F. 1967. [Transcriptions from tapes - Nyigina, Yawur and Karadjari.] 5 folders. manuscript. AIAS Ms 805.
_____ .nd. A comparative word-list: Nyigina and neighbouring languages. typescript. AIAS Ms 25.
Lands, M. et al. 1987. Mayi: some bush fruits of Dampierland. Broome: Magabala Books.
Nekes, H. 1939. The pronoun in Nyol-Nyol (Nyul-Nyul) and related dialects. In Elkin, A.P. (ed.), Studies in Australian linguistics. (Oceania Monograph, 3) Sydney: University of Sydney. 139-163.
Nekes, H. & Worms, E.A. 1953. Australian languages. (Micro-Bibliotheca Anthropos, 10) Fribourg: Anthropos-Institut. 1058pp. AIAS MF 4.
Stokes, B. 1978-. Field notes: Nyigina. manuscript. AIAS A3 35. (A3a;B1).
_____ .nd. [Basic materials in Yawuru.] 41pp. typescript. KLRC.
_____ .1985. The verb from Noonkanbah to Broome: "alternative-prefixing" verbal systems of the West Kimberley. typescript.
Torres, P. et al. 1987. Jalygurr: Aussie animal rhymes. Broome: Magabala Books.
Trask, W.R. 1966. The unwritten song: poetry of the primitive and traditional peoples of the world. Volume 1: The far north / Africa / Indonesia / Melanesia / Australia. New York: Macmillan.
Worms, E.A. 1938a. Foreign words in some Kimberley tribes in North-Western Australia. Oceania 8. 458-462.
_____ .1938b. Onomatopoeia in some Kimberley tribes of North-West Australia. Oceania 8. 453-457.
_____ .1942. Sense of smell of the Australian Aborigines: a psychological and linguistic study of the natives of the Kimberley division. Oceania 13. 107-130.
_____ .1944. Aboriginal place names in Kimberley, Western Australia. Oceania 14. 284-310.
_____ .1949. An Australian migratory myth. Primitive man 22. 33-38.
_____ .1957a. The poetry of the Yaoro and Bad, North-Western Australia. Annali Lateranensi 21. 213-229.
_____ .1957b. Australian mythical terms: their etymology and dispersion. Anthropos 52. 732-768.
_____ .1970. Observations on the mission field of the Pallottine Fathers in north-west Australia. In Pilling, A.R. & Waterman, R.A. (eds), Diprotodon to detribalisation. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press. 367-379.
Language programme:
A social studies type programme has been initiated in Nulungu College, Broome.
Language learning material:
Literacy material:
Hudson, J. 1987. Spelling book: Yawuru. Broome: Jawa Curriculum Support Centre.

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

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

Komei Hosokawa, Nora Kerr, Rarrdjali Aboriginal Corporation (http://www.members.westnet.com.au/anugraha/yawuru/)
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 Large grammar (more than 200 pages) 4
Audio-visual More than 10 3
Manuscript note: 
tape transcription/field note available

Hosokawa, Komei. 1991. The Yawuru language of West Kimberley: a meaningbased description, Australian National University: PhD


Hosokawa, Komei. 1988. Classified Yawuru dictionary, ms.

Source Family Group Sub-group Name Relationship
Ethnologue (2005) Nyulnyulan     Yawuru Yawuru [dialects: Northern Yawuru, Southern Coastal Yawuru, Eastern Inland Yawuru. Related to Nyikina, Warrwa, Ngumbarl, Nimanburru, Jabirrjabirr, Nyulnyul, Bardi, Jawi]
Dixon (2002)   FITZROY RIVER SUBGROUP*   Yawuru (or Yawur) Njigina Stokes (1982), Hosokawa (1991), McCregor (1994) further dialects: Warrwa, Yawuru (or Yawur), Jukun
Wurm (1994) Nyulnyulan     Yawuru  
Walsh (1981) Nyulnyulan     Yawuru  
Oates (1975) Njulnjulan     Yawuru  
Wurm (1972) Nyulnyulan     Yawuru (Yauor, Djauor)  
O'Grady, Voegelin and Voegelin (1966) Nyulnyulan     Jauor