Alawa language

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Native toAustralia
RegionNorthern Territory; Arnhem Land, Roper River.
Native speakers
4 (2016 census)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3alh
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Alawa (Galawa) is a moribund Indigenous Australian language spoken by the Alawa people of the Northern Territory. In 1991, it had 18 remaining speakers and 4 semi-speakers.[4]



Alawa has a typical consonant inventory for an Indigenous Australian language, with five contrastive places of articulation, multiple lateral consonants, and no voicing contrast among the stops.[5]

Alveolar Palatal Peripheral
Alveolar Retroflex Alveo-palatal Velar Bilabial
Prenasalised Stop ⁿd ⁿɖ ⁿd̠ʲ ᵑɡ ᵐb
Devoiced Stop t ʈ t̠ʲ k p
Nasals n ɳ n̠ʲ ŋ m
Laterals l ɭ l̠ʲ
Vibrants r
Glide ɹ j w

Note: there are no standardised IPA symbols for alveopalatal stops.


The vowel system of Alawa is made up of four vowel phonemes: the high front vowel /i/, the high back vowel /u/, the mid front vowel /e/, and the low central vowel /a/.[6]

Front Central Back
High i u
Mid e
Low a

There are no rounding contrasts or length contrasts in this language.[7]


  1. ^ "Census 2016, Language spoken at home by Sex (SA2+)". Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Alawa". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ N92 Alawa at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
  4. ^ "Ethnologue: Alawa". Ethnologue.
  5. ^ Sharpe, Margaret C. 1972
  6. ^ Sharpe, Margaret C (1972). Alawa Phonology and Grammar. Canberra: Australian Institute for Aboriginal Studies.
  7. ^ Sharpe, Margaret C. 1972

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