Enindhilyagwa language

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Enindhilyakwa, Enindhilyagwa
Native toAustralia
Northern Territory
RegionGroote Eylandt, Northern Territory, Australia
Native speakers
1,486 (2016 census)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3aoi
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Anindilyakwa is an Australian Aboriginal language spoken by the Warnindhilyagwa people on Groote Eylandt in the Gulf of Carpentaria in the Northern Territory of Australia. A 2001 Australian government study identified more than 1000 speakers of the language,[4] although there are reports of as many as three thousand. In 2008, it was cited in a study on whether humans had an innate ability to count without having words for numbers. While the language traditionally had terms for numbers up to 20, they are no longer known to younger speakers.[5][6] In the 2016 census, around 1500 people said they spoke Anindilyakwa.[7]

Anindilyakwa may be most closely related to Nunggubuyu, on the adjacent mainland, but that is yet to be confirmed.[3]


Spellings of the name include:

  • Andiljangwa
  • Andilyaugwa
  • Anindilyakwa (used by Ethnologue)
  • Aninhdhilyagwa (used by R. M. W. Dixon's Australian Languages)
  • Enindiljaugwa
  • Enindhilyagwa
  • Wanindilyaugwa

It also known as Groote Eylandt, after its location. Another name is Ingura or Yingguru.


Anindilyakwa is related to the Arnhem languages of the mainland.[8][9]



The analysis of Anindilyakwa's vowels is open to interpretation. Stokes[10] analyses it as having four phonemic vowels, /i e a u/. Leeding[11] analyses it as having just two, /ɨ a/.


Peripheral Coronal
Bilabial Velar Laminal Apical
rounded unrounded Palatal Dental Alveolar Retroflex
Stop p k c t ʈ
Nasal m ŋʷ ŋ ɲ n ɳ
Lateral ʎ (ɭ)
Rhotic r ɻ
Semivowel w j


All Anindilyakwa words end in a vowel. Clusters of up to three consonants can occur within words.


Noun classes[edit]

Anindilyakwa has five noun classes, or genders, each marked by a prefix:

  • Human male
  • Non-human male
  • Female (human or non-human)
  • Inanimate "lustrous", with the prefix a-.
  • Inanimate "non-lustrous", with the prefix mwa-.

For bound pronouns, instead of "human male" and "non-human male" classes there is a single "male" class.

All native nouns carry a class prefix, but some loanwords may lack them.


According to Stokes[12] the language traditionally had numerals up to twenty but since the introduction of English, English words are now used almost exclusively for numbers above five.


This song is a translation of the church song "This is the day", sung by the local churchgoers in the community of Angurugu. The spelling and translation requires confirmation.

Anindilyakwa Approximate translation
Mema mamawurra

Ngumanekburrakama God

Narriyekiyerra, Akuwerikilyelyingmajungwuna



This day

Made by God

We will rejoice and be glad in it

This is the day made by God

We will rejoice in it


  1. ^ "Census 2016, Language spoken at home by Sex (SA2+)". stat.data.abs.gov.au. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Anindilyakwa". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ a b N151 Anindilyakwa at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
  4. ^ http://www.deh.gov.au/soe/techpapers/languages/indicator3d.html Archived July 17, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ UCL Media Relations, "Aboriginal kids can count without numbers" Archived 20 June 2018 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ The Science Show, Genetic anomaly could explain severe difficulty with arithmetic, Australian Broadcasting Corporation
  7. ^ "2016 Census QuickStats: Anindilyakwa (Groote)". www.censusdata.abs.gov.au. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 27 August 2017.
  8. ^ Bowern & Koch, 2004. Australian Languages: Classification and the Comparative Method, p 44
  9. ^ Bowern, Claire. 2011. "How Many Languages Were Spoken in Australia?", Anggarrgoon: Australian languages on the web, December 23, 2011 (corrected February 6, 2012)
  10. ^ Stokes, J. (1981). "Anindilyakwa phonology from phoneme to syllable". In Waters, B. (ed.). Australian phonologies: collected papers. Darwin: Summer Institute of Linguistics, Australian Aborigines Branch. pp. 138–81.
  11. ^ Leeding, V. J. (1989). Anindilyakwa phonology and morphology. PhD dissertation. University of Sydney.
  12. ^ Stokes, J. (1982). "A description of the mathematical concepts of Groote Eylandt Aborigines". In Hargrave, S. (ed.). Work Papers of SIL-AAB: Language and Culture. Darwin: Summer Institute of Linguistics, Australian Aborigines Branch. pp. 33–152.
  • Leeding, V. J. (1996). "Body parts and possession in Anindilyakwa". In Chappell, H.; McGregor, W. (eds.). The grammar of inalienability: a typological perspective on body part terms and the part-whole relation. Berlin: Mounton de Gruyter. pp. 193–249.

External links[edit]