Kunjen language

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Native to Australia
Region Cape York Peninsula, Queensland
Native speakers
2  (2005)[1]
Uw Oykangand
Uw Olkola
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Either:
kjn – Oykangand
olk – Olkol
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Kunjen, or Koko Wangkara, is a Paman language spoken on the Cape York Peninsula of Queensland, Australia, by the Uw Olkola and Uw Oykangand people. The two dialects, Uw Olkola (Olgolo) and Uw Oykangand, are very close, being mutually intelligible and sharing 97% of their core vocabulary.[2]

A small dictionary of Kunjen has been compiled by Philip Hamilton.[3]

Respect register[edit]

As in many other Australian languages, such as Dyirbal, Kunjen also has a respect register, which is a polite way of speaking with a potential mother-in-law and is called Olkel-Ilmbanhthi. Most of the vocabulary is replaced, while affixes and function words are kept.[4]

The sentence below is in normal Uw Oykangand:

Alka-nhdh idu-rr ay
spear-instr spear-pst I
"I speared it with a spear"

The equivalent in Olkel-Ilmbanhthi is:

Udnga-nhdh yanganyunyja-rr ay
spear-instr spear-pst I
"I speared it with a spear"



Kunjen has 5 vowels:

Front Back
Unrounded Rounded
Close i u
Mid e o
Open a

There is a lexical vowel harmony constraint in Kunjen: Close and mid vowels do not co-occur in a word.


Kunjen has 27 consonants:

Peripheral Laminal Apical
Bilabial Velar Palatal Dental Alveolar Retroflex
Plosive Voiceless p /p/ k /k/ ch /c/ th /t̪/ t /t/
Voiced b /b/ g /g/ j /ɟ/ dh /d̪/ d /d/
Nasal Plain m /m/ ng /ŋ/ ny /ɲ/ nh /n̪/ n /n/
Prestopped bm /ᵇm/ gng /ᶢŋ/ jny /ᶡɲ/ dnh /ᵈ̪n̪/ dn /ᵈn/
Trill rr /r/
Approximant Central w /w/ y /j/ r /ɻ/
Lateral ly /ʎ/ lh /l̪/ l /l/


  1. ^ a b Kunjen at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
  2. ^ Description of the languages Uw Olkola and Uw Oykangand
  3. ^ Uw Oykangand and Uw Olkola wordlist
  4. ^ Evans, Nicholas (2006). "Warramurrungunji Undone: Australian Languages in the 51st Millennium". In Brenzinger, Matthias. Language Diversity Endangered. pp. 354–355.