Daly languages

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Daly River region, northern Australia
Linguistic classificationGeographic group of Australian language families.
The Daly languages (color), among the other non-Pama-Nyungan languages (grey)

Closeup. Anson Bay is the northernmost section, Murrinh-patha the westernmost.

The Daly languages are an areal group of four to five language families of Indigenous Australian languages.[1][2] They are spoken within the vicinity of the Daly River in the Northern Territory.


In the lexicostatistic classification of O'Grady, Voegelin and Vogelin, the Daly languages were put in four distinct families.[3] Darrell Tryon combined these into a single family, with the exception of Murrinh-patha.[4][5]

However, such methodologies do not account for loan words. Ian Green found that the languages could not be shown to be related by the comparative method, and so should be considered five independent families and language isolates.[6] The features they do share also tend to be shared with neighboring languages outside the Daly group.

The established families are:

Murrinh-patha and Ngan’gityemerri are generally accepted as being related in a Southern Daly family. Malak-Malak and Wagaydyic have received less acceptance as Northern Daly.


  1. ^ Nordlinger, Rachel (2017). "Chapter 37: The languages of the Daly region (Northern Australia)". In Fortescue, Michael; Mithun, Marianne; Evans, Nicholas. Oxford Handbook of Polysynthesis. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 782–807.
  2. ^ McConvell, Patrick; Evans, Nicholas, eds. (1997). Archaeology and Linguistics: Global Perspectives on Ancient Australia. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.
  3. ^ O'Grady, G. N.; Voegelin, C. F.; Voegelin, F. M. (1966). "Languages of the world: Indo-Pacific Fascicle 6". Anthropological Linguistics. 8 (2).CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ Tryon, D. T. (1968). "The Daly River languages: a survey". Papers in Australian Linguistics. 3: 21–36.
  5. ^ Tryon, D. T. (1974). Daly family languages, Australia. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
  6. ^ 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.

External links[edit]

  • The Daly Languages website (dalylanguages.org) brings together analysis, field note sketches and recordings of these languages.