|Region||Wadeye, Northern Territory, Australia|
|1,800 (2006 census)|
Murrinh-patha (literally "language-good"), called Garama by the Jaminjung, is an Australian Aboriginal language spoken by over 1,500 people, most of whom live in Wadeye in the Northern Territory, where it is the dominant language of the community. It is spoken by the Murrinh-Patha people, as well as several other peoples whose languages are extinct or nearly so, including the Mati Ke and Marri-Djabin.
Murrinh-patha can also be spelled Murrinh Patha, Murrinh-Patha, Murinbada, Murinbata, and Garama. Garama is the Jaminjung name for the language and its speakers. Murrinh-patha literally means "language-good."
There are three similar dialects of the Murrinhh-patha language, namely Murrinhdiminin, Murrinhkura, and Murrinhpatha.
Because of its role as the lingua franca in the region, Murrinh-patha is one of few Australian Aboriginal languages whose number of speakers has increased and whose usage has expanded over the past generation. Unlike many indigenous languages (particularly those of eastern Australia), children are actively acquiring the language and there is a language dictionary and grammar, and there have been portions of the Bible published in Murrinh-patha from 1982-1990. This renders Murrinh-patha one of Australia's few indigenous languages that is not endangered. Additionally, Murinh Patha is taught in schools and all locals are encouraged to learn it due to the wide range of use and functions of the language locally.
Murrinh-Patha was once thought to be a language isolate, based on comparisons of lexical data: At most 11% of its vocabulary is shared with any other language it has been tested against. However, its verbal inflections correspond closely to those of another language, Ngan’gityemerri (Ngan’gi). Green (2003) makes a case that the formal correspondences in core morphological sequences of the finite verbs of the two languages are too similar (in their complexities and their irregularities) to have come about through anything other than shared descent from a common parent language; the two languages make up the Southern Daly language family. Nonetheless, other than having cognates in their finite-verb morphology and in their words for 'thou' (nhinhi and nyinyi) and 'this' (kanhi and kinyi), they have almost nothing in common, and it is not clear what could explain this discrepancy.
Linguistic Typology concerns word order, and in Murrinh-patha sentences are ordered subject-object-verb. In other words, the English sentence "the cow ate the grass" would translate back from Murrinh-patha as "cow grass ate."
The Murrinh-Patha language displays extensive classifications both of nouns and verbs. Nouns are divided into ten classes or genders along roughly semantic lines, with some exceptions. Each noun class is associated with particles which must agree with the class.
Verbs occur in some 35 different conjugations. Each verb is morphologically complex, with the verb root surrounded by prefixes and suffixes identifying subject, object, tense, and mood; these affixes are different in the different conjugations.
- Street, C. S. (1987). An Introduction to the Language and Culture of the Murrinh-Patha. Darwin: Summer Institute of Linguistics.
- Walsh, M. (1976). "The Murinypata language of north-west Australia". Australian National University.
- Walsh, M. (1976). "Ergative, locative and instrumental case inflections: Murinjpata". In R. M. W. Dixon. Grammatical categories in Australian languages. Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. pp. 405–408.
- Walsh, M. (1995). "Body parts in Murrinh-Patha: incorporation, grammar and metaphor". In H. Chappell and W. B. McGregor. The Grammar of Inalienability: A Typological Perspective on Body Part Terms and the Part-Whole Relation. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter. pp. 327–380.
- Walsh, M. (1996). "Vouns and nerbs: a category squish in Murrinh-Patha (Northern Australia)". In W. B. McGregor. Studies in Kimberley Languages in Honour of Howard Coate. Munich and Newcastle: Lincom Europa. pp. 227–252.
- Walsh, M. (1997). "Noun classes, nominal classification and generics in Murrinhpatha". In M. Harvey and N. Reid. Nominal Classification in Aboriginal Australia. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company. pp. 255–292.
- Murrinh-patha at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
- Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Murrinh-Patha". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.
- Murrinh-patha at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
- Abely, Mark. Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 2003. Page 18-19.
- Reid, N.J. Ngan’gityemerri. Unpublished PhD thesis, Australian National University, Canberra, 1990.
- Green, I. "The Genetic Status of Murrinh-patha" in Evans, N., ed. "The Non-Pama-Nyungan Languages of Northern Australia: comparative studies of the continent’s most linguistically complex region". Studies in Language Change, 552. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics, 2003.
- Note that Ngan’gityemerri has no nh, and so would expect to have ny where its relatives have nh.