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Walmajarri language

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RegionWestern Australia
Native speakers
283 (2016 census)[1]
  • Walmatjarri
  • Djuwarliny (Tjuwalinj)
  • Pililuna
Language codes
ISO 639-3wmt
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Walmajarri (many other names; see below) is a Pama–Nyungan language spoken in the Kimberley region of Western Australia by the Walmadjari and related peoples.

Walmajarri is declared a definitely endangered language by UNESCO[4] based on their scale of Language Vitality and Endangerment.[5]


Names for this language break down along the three dialects:

  • Walmajarri, Walmatjarri, Walmatjari, Walmadjari, Walmatjiri, Walmajiri, Walmatjeri, Walmadjeri, Walmadyeri, Walmaharri, Wolmeri, Wolmera, Wulmari
  • Bililuna, Pililuna
  • Jiwarliny, Juwaliny, Tjiwaling, Tjiwarlin


Communities with a Walmajarri population are:

The Walmajarri people used to live in the Great Sandy Desert. The effects of colonialism took them to the cattle stations, towns and missions in the North and scattered them over a wide area.[6] The geographical distance accounts for the fact that there are several dialects, which have been further polarised by the lack of contact and further influenced by neighbouring languages.



Front Back
High i, iː u, uː
Low a, aː


Peripheral Laminal Apical
Bilabial Velar Palatal Alveolar Retroflex
Stop p k c t ʈ
Nasal m ŋ ɲ n ɳ
Lateral ʎ l ɭ
Rhotic r
Approximant w j ɻ

Consonants are allowed as the final sound of a word in most cases.[7]


Warlmajarri is a suffixing language. There are no prefixes.

At least one dictionary of Walmajarri is available online, compiled by Eirlys Richards and Joyce Hudson.[8]


Warlmajarri has four syntactic cases: nominative, ergative, dative and assessory case. The cases assign different meanings to the noun phrases of a sentence. Therefore, the word order can vary quite freely. Subject, Object or Verb can appear initial, final, medial in sentence.

However, the second position of a sentence is always reserved for the Verbal Auxiliary. Sometimes referred to as a Catalyst, the Verbal Auxiliary indicates the mood of a sentence (similar to the English auxiliaries), but also cross-references its noun phrases. The person and number of the noun phrases in their syntactic cases are shown in the Verbal Auxiliary.


Some resources of the language spoken can be found in various archives or databases, such as the Pacific and Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures (PARADISEC) catalogue.[9]

See also

  • Ngurrara, a grouping of peoples of language groups including Walmajarri


  1. ^ "Census 2016, Language spoken at home by Sex (SA2+)". stat.data.abs.gov.au. ABS. Retrieved 30 October 2017.
  2. ^ A66 Walmajarri at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
  3. ^ Endangered Languages Project data for Djuwarliny.
  4. ^ "UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in danger". www.unesco.org. Retrieved 2020-12-04
  5. ^ UNESCO Ad Hoc Expert Group on Endangered Languages. 2003. Language Vitality and Endangerment. Document Adopted by the International Expert Meeting on UNESCO Programme Safeguarding of Endangered Languages. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from [1]
  6. ^ McGregor, William B. (2004). The Languages of the Kimberley, Western Australia. Taylor & Francis Group. pp. 11–12. ISBN 9780203434710.
  7. ^ McGregor, William B (2004). The Languages of the Kimberley, Western Australia. Abingdon, Oxon: Taylor & Francis Group. p. 92.
  8. ^ Walmajarri-English Interactive Dictionary. ausil.org. Retrieved 2020-12-04.
  9. ^ nickT. "Home". PARADISEC. Retrieved 2020-12-04.
  • Hudson, Joyce. (1978). The Walmatjari: An Introduction to the Language and Culture. Darwin: Summer Institute of Linguistics
  • Hudson, Joyce. (1978). The core of Walmatjari grammar. Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. New Jersey, U.S.A.: Humanities Press Inc.
  • Hudson, Joyce & Richards, Eirlys. (1969). The phonology of Walmatjari.
  • Hudson, Joyce & Richards, Eirlys. (1990). Walmajarri–English Dictionary. Darwin: Summer Institute of Linguistics
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Walmajarri language
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