Tiwi /ˈtwi/[3] is an Australian Aboriginal language spoken by the Tiwi people on the Tiwi Islands, within sight of the coast of northern Australia. It is one of about 10% of Australian languages still being frequently learned by children.

Quick facts: Tiwi, Native to, Region, Ethnicity, Nati...
Native toAustralia
RegionBathurst and Melville Islands, Northern Territory
EthnicityTiwi people
Native speakers
2,040 (2016 census)[1]
  • Traditional Tiwi
  • New Tiwi
Language codes
ISO 639-3tiw
Tiwi (purple), among other non-Pama-Nyungan languages (grey)
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Traditional Tiwi, spoken by people over the age of fifty by 2005, is a polysynthetic language. However, this grammatical complexity has been lost among younger generations. Tiwi has around one hundred nominals that can be incorporated into verbs, most of them quite different from the corresponding free forms.[4]

Tiwi has long been regarded as a language isolate due to its large scale of linguistic differences from other languages in the mainland Australia regions.[5] However, recent research using historical linguistic techniques suggests that the Tiwi language might be under the Gunwinyguan family (a language family that consists of languages primarily spoken in North Central Australia).[6]