L3: Kaurna

AIATSIS code: 
AIATSIS reference name: 


Thesaurus heading language
Thesaurus heading people
ABN name
Kaurna language
ABS name
Horton name
Ethnologue name
ISO 639-3 code
Tindale name
Tindale (1974)
Kaura (misprint for Kaurna), Coorna, Koornawarra, Nantuwara ('Kangaroo speakers,' name given to northern hordes), Nantuwaru, Nganawara, Meljurna ('quarrelsome men,' said of northern hordes of Kaurna), Kurumidlanta (Pangkala term, lit. 'evil spirits'), Milipitingara (MS), Midlanta (another name given by Pangkala), Widninga (Ngadjuri term applied to Kaurna of Port Wakefield and Buckland Park), Winaini (horde north of Gawler), Winnay-nie, Meyu (['meju] = man), Wakanuwan (name applied by Jarildekald to this and some other tribes, including Ngaiawang), 'Adelaide tribe,' Warra (means 'speech' a name for language), Warrah, Karnuwarra ('hills language,' a northern dialect, presumably that of Port Wakefield), Jaitjawar:a ('our own language'), Padnaindi (horde name), Padnayndie, Medaindi (horde living near Glenelg), Medain-die, Merildekald (Tanganekald term also loosely given to Peramangk), Merelde (Ramindjeri term applied most frequently to the Peramangk but also to the Kaurna).
O'Grady et al (1966)
Kaura, Coorna, Koornawarra, Nganawara, Kurumidlanta, Milipitingara, Widninga, Winnaynie, Meyu
Other sources
Nantuwara, Adelaide tribe, Coorna, Gaurna, Jaitjawar:a, Karnuwarra, Kaura, Koornawarra, Kurumidlanta, Medaindi, Medaindie, Meljurna, Merelde, Merildekald, Meyu, Midlanta, Milipitingara, Nantuwaru, Nganawara, Padnaindi, Padnayndie, Wakanuwan, Warra, Warrah, Widninga, Winaini, Winnaynie, Winnay nie, Medain die

Kaurna is a member of the Thura-Yura L63 sub-group of Pama-Nyungan. Other members include Nukunu L4; Ngadjuri L5; Narangga L1Barngala L6Adnyamathanha L10Kuyani L9Nauo L2 and Wirangu C1, which exhibits some differences with the Thura-Yura languages. One particular cultural-linguistic feature uniquely Thura-Yura is the use of ten birth-order names. Another are the regular pronoun forms unique to the sub-group (Simpson & Hercus 2004:179).

Teichelmann and Schürmann produced a sketch grammar (1840), which was supplemented by additional notes by Teichelmann (1858) and Teichelmann's extensive vocabulary (1857). These and other resources have been used in the reclamation of the Kaurna language, see Kaurna Warra Pintyanthi https://www.adelaide.edu.au/kwp/index/

  • Amery, Robert. 1995. Learning and reviving a language from historical sources. In Paper and talk: a manual for reconstituting materials in Australian indigenous languages from historical sources, ed. N. Thieberger, 147-164. Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press.
  • Hercus, Luise Anna. 1992. A Nukunu dictionary. Canberra: Department of Linguistics, The Faculties, Australian National University.
  • Mobile Language Team. Kaurna, <http://www.mobilelanguageteam.com.au/languages/about/kaurna#dialects>, viewed 10 May 2016.
  • Simpson, J & L Hercus. 2004. Thura-Yura as a subgroup, in (Bowern & Koch eds) Australian Languages : classification and the comparative method. Amsterdam/Philadelphia : John Benjamins.

  • Teichelmann, Christian Gottlieb & C. W. Schürmann. 1840. Outlines of a grammar, vocabulary, and phraseology, of the Aboriginal language of South Australia, spoken by the natives in, and for some distance around, Adelaide. Adelaide: the authors.
  • 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: 

Adelaide Plain (Amery 1995) Cape Jervis to Port Wakefield along eastern shore of Gulf St. Vincent; inland to near Crystal Brook, Snowtown, Blyth, Hoyleton, Hamley Bridge, Clarendon, Gawler, and Myponga; from the east side of the Hummock Range to Red Hill where northern hordes were sometimes known as the Nantuwara. Inland the Jultiwira or stringy bark forests of the Mount Lofty Ranges marked their boundary (Tindale 1974). The Map in Amery 2000 extends to north of Crystal Brook.

Indigenous organisations: 

Kaurna Warra Pintyanthi https://www.adelaide.edu.au/kwp/index/

The University of Adelaide—Mobile Language Team - https://mobilelanguageteam.com.au/

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 Sketch grammar (less than 100 pages) 2
Audio-visual None 0
Manuscript note: 
Check Nekes MF4

C.G. Teichelmann & C.W. Schurmann. 1840. Outlines of a grammar, vocabulary, and phraseology, of the Aboriginal language of South Australia, spoken by the natives in and for some distance around Adelaide published by the authors at the Native Location, Adelaide. Adelaide: the Authors.


Teichelmann, C.G. 1857. Dictionary of the Adelaide dialect. No. 59. Bleek's catalogue of Sir George Grey's Library, South African Public Library. Amery, Rob and Simpson, Jane. 2003. Warra Kaurna: a resource for Kaurna language programs. Adelaide: Kaurna Language Program.

Source Family Group Sub-group Name Relationship
Ethnologue (2005)          
Dixon (2002)   SPENCER GULF BASIN AREAL GROUP   Kaurna, Nantuwara Kadli Teichelmann and Schürmann (1840) dialects: Kaurna, Nantuwara, Ngadjuri, Narangka, Nukunu
Wurm (1994) Pama-Nyungan South-West   Kaurna  
Walsh (1981) Pama-Nyungan South-West Yura Kaurna  
Oates (1975) Pama-Nyungan Southern Western Desert Type Yura Gaurna  
Wurm (1972) Pama-Nyungan Southwest (or Nyungic) Yura Kaurna  
O'Grady, Voegelin and Voegelin (1966) Pama-Nyungan Southwest Yura Kaurna