Gunbarlang language

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Native toAustralia
RegionArnhem Land
Extinctby 2016[1]
  • Djimbilirri
  • Gurrigurri
  • Gumunggurdu
  • Marrabanggu
  • Marranumbu
  • Gunguluwala[2]
Language codes
ISO 639-3wlg

Gunbarlang (Kunbarlang) is an Australian Aboriginal language in northern Australia with multiple dialects. Other names are Gungalang and Warlang. Speakers are multilingual in Kunwinjku and Mawng. Most of the Gunbarlang people now speak Kunwinjku.[5]


Gunbarlang has been proposed to be included into the marne group of Gunwinyguan family[6], making its closest relatives the Central Gunwinyguan languages Bininj Kunwok and Dalabon. The label marne refers to the phonological shape of the benefactive applicative affix common to all three languages (as opposed to the bak languages to the east, e.g. Rembarrnga, Ngandi and Wubuy/Nunggubuyu).[7]

Geographic distribution[edit]

Some Gunbarlang speakers live in Warruwi on South Goulburn Island and Maningrida. Historically, it was also spoken in Gunbalanya.[8]


Gunbarlang is a polysynthetic language with complex verb morphology. It includes polypersonal agreement, incorporation, and a number of derivational affixes. Word order in a (transitive) clause is SVO or SOV.[9][10]


Morphology is primarily agglutinating. Verbal morphology (rather than case marking or syntax) encodes a significant part of grammatical relations.


The verb includes obligatory agreement with its core arguments in the form of bound pronouns. The subject/agent prefix precedes the object prefix. Subject prefixes form four mood series: positive indicative, "non-performative", future/intentional, and potential.[11]

The verb features derivational affixes, such as benefactive, directional, and TAM.


Case in not marked on nouns and free pronouns, but bound pronouns follow nominative-accusative alignment.[12]

Gunbarlang distinguishes five noun classes on demonstratives (M, F, plants, body-parts, and inanimate), but only four on other constituents (collapsing the latter two).[13][14]


  1. ^ ABS. "Census 2016, Language spoken at home by Sex (SA2+)". Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  2. ^ Dixon 2002, p. xl
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Kunbarlang". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. ^ N69 Gunbarlang at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
  5. ^ Gunbarlang at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  6. ^ Evans, N. (2003). Bininj Gun-Wok: A Pan-Dialectal Grammar of Mayali, Kunwinjku and Kune. ANU. p. 33. hdl:1885/53188.
  7. ^ Alpher, B., Evans, N. & Harvey, M. 2003. "Proto Gunwinyguan verb suffixes." In Nicholas Evans (ed.), The non-Pama-Nyungan languages of northern Australia: Comparative Studies of the continent's most linguistically complex region, 305-352. Canberra: Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University.
  8. ^ Harris 1969
  9. ^ Coleman 1982
  10. ^ Kapitonov 2019
  11. ^ Dixon 2002, p. 338
  12. ^ Dixon 2002, p. 350
  13. ^ Coleman 1982
  14. ^ Dixon 2002, p. 478