Adnyamathanha language

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Region South Australia
Native speakers
110 (2006 census)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Either:
adt – Adnyamathanha
gvy – Guyani
Glottolog adny1235  (Adnyamathanha)[2]
guya1249  (Guyani)[3]
AIATSIS[1] L10 Adnyamathanha, L9 Kuyani
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Adnyamathanha (pronounced /ˈɑːdnjəmʌdənə/; many other names, see below) is an Australian Aboriginal language. It is the traditional language of the Adnyamathanha people.

The name of the witchetty grub comes from Adnyamathanha.

Estimates of the number of people who speak Adnyamathanha are variable, though it is definitely severely endangered. According to Oates 1973 there were only 30 speakers, around 20 according to Schmidt in 1990, 127 in the 1996 census, and about 107 counted in the 2006 census.[4]


This language has been known by many names and variants of names, including:

  • Adnyamathanha, Adynyamathanha, Adjnjamathanha, Atʸnʸamat̪an̪a, Adnjamathanha, Adnyamathana, Anyamathana, Ad'n'amadana, Anjimatana, Anjiwatana, Unyamootha
  • Wailpi, Wailbi, Waljbi, Wipie, the name of a dialect
  • Archualda
  • Benbakanjamata
  • Binbarnja
  • Gadjnjamada, Kanjimata, Keydnjmarda
  • Jandali
  • Mardala
  • Nimalda
  • Nuralda
  • Umbertana

Guyani is also spelled Kijani, Kuyani, Kwiani.


R. M. W. Dixon classifies Adnyamathanha and Guyani as a single language. Ethnologue treats them as separate, and so they each have their own ISO 639-3 codes.


Adjnjamathanha and Guyani have the same phonemic inventory.


Front Back
High i iː u uː
Low a aː


Most of the nasals and laterals are allophonically prestopped.[5]

Peripheral Laminal Apical
Labial Velar Palatal Dental Alveolar Retroflex Glottal
Plosive voiceless p k c t ʈ (ʔ)
voiced (ɖ )
Fricative voiced (v)
Nasal m ~ bm ŋ ɲ ~ ɟɲ n̪ ~ d̪n̪ n ~ dn ɳ ~ ɖɳ
Lateral ʎ ~ ɟʎ l̪ ~ d̪l̪ l ~ dl ɭ ~ ɖɭ
Flap ɾ ɽ
Trill r
Approximant w j ɻ

[v] may be an allophone of /p/.


While the closely related Guyani retains word-initial stops, Adnyamathanha has undergone systematic lenition of stops in this position. Former *p has become [v], former *t̪ and probably also *c have become /j/, and former *k has disappeared entirely.


Adnyamathanha has a complex system of personal pronouns. There are 10 different ways of saying ‘you and me’ (first person dual), depending on the relationship between the speaker and the person addressed.


'Witchetty grub'[edit]

A couple of witchetty grubs.

The word witchetty comes from Adynyamathanha wityu, "hooked stick" and vartu, "grub". Traditionally it is rare for men to dig for them. Witchetty grubs feature as Dreamings in many Aboriginal paintings. Once caught the grubs leak a brown water juice over fingers when held.


  1. ^ a b Adnyamathanha at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies  (see the info box for additional links)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Adnyamathanha". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Guyani". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  4. ^ "AUSTLANG". Retrieved 2015-09-12. 
  5. ^ Jeff Mielke, 2008. The emergence of distinctive features, p 135

External links[edit]