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Burarra language

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(Redirected from ISO 639:bvr)

RegionNorthern Territory
EthnicityBurarra, Gadjalivia
Native speakers
1,229 (2021 census)[1]
  • Gun-narta (Gidjingaliya, Anbarra)
  • Gun-nartpa (Gudjarlabiya)
  • Gun-narda (Martay)
Language codes
ISO 639-3bvr

The Burarra language is an Australian Aboriginal language spoken by the Burarra people of Arnhem Land. It has several dialects.

Other names and spellings include Barera, Bawera, Burada, Bureda, Burera, An-barra (Anbarra), Gidjingaliya, Gu-jingarliya, Gu-jarlabiya, Gun-Guragone (also used for Guragone), Jikai, Tchikai.

The Djangu people have a Burarra clan, which is sometimes confused with this language.[3]


Burarra is a prefixing non-Pama-Nyungan language. Along with Gurr-goni, it makes up the Burarran branch of the Maningrida language family (which also includes Ndjébbana and Na-kara).[4][5][6]


The Burarra people are from the Blyth and Cadell River regions of Central and North-central Arnhem Land, but many now reside further west in Maningrida township at the mouth of the Liverpool River.[4][7]


Glasgow (1994) distinguishes three dialects of Burarra: Gun-nartpa (Mu-golarra / Mukarli group from the Cadell River region), Gun-narta (An-barra, western side of the mouth of the Blythe River), and Gun-narda (Martay, eastern side of the Blythe River).[7] These dialect names derive from each dialect's word for the demonstrative "that". She further notes that the two latter dialects (Gun-narta and Gun-narda) are frequently grouped together and referred to by their eastern neighbours as "Burarra", and by themselves as "Gu-jingarliya" ('language'/'with tongue').

Green (1987) distinguishes two dialects: Gun-nartpa and Burarra (Gu-jingarliya), but notes that noticeable dialectal differences exist within the group of Burarra speakers.[4]



Labial Alveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar
Plosive fortis p t ʈ c k
lenis b d ɖ ɟ g
Nasal m n ɳ ɲ ŋ
Lateral l ɭ
Rhotic r ɻ
Glide w j

In most cases, fortis and lenis refers to the voicing in consonants where fortis is voiceless and lenis is voiced.[9] In this case, plosives are distinguished by intra-oral peak pressure and stricture duration. Fortis consonants are usually longer in duration and have a greater intra-oral pressure while lenis consonants can often be pronounced as fricatives or approximants. The Burarra language also allows for the clustering of consonants.[8]


Burara has a five vowel system.

Vowel chart[8][4]
Front Central Back
Close i u
Open-mid æ~ɛ ɔ
Open a

The vowels can be realized as:

  • /i/: close-mid front vowel, [e], or [ɪ]
  • /a/: low central vowels [ä], [ɐ] or schwa [ə]
  • /æ/: [æ], [ɛ] or [e]
  • /ɔ/: [ɔ] or [o]
  • /u/: schwa [ə], a lowered open-mid back rounded vowel [ɔ̞], a lowered [ö], or [ʊ][8]


Burarra is a prefixing, multiple-classifying language. Verbs co-reference their subjects and objects through the use of prefixes, and inflect for tense and status. Serial verbs can be used to express categories like aspect, compound action and causation.[4]

Nouns inflect for case and belong to one of four noun classes (an-, jin-, mun- and gun-).[4][7]

Further reading[edit]

  • Capell, A. (1942). "Languages of Arnhem Land, North Australia". Oceania. 12 (4): 364–392. doi:10.1002/j.1834-4461.1942.tb00365.x.
  • Elwell, Vanessa (1982). "Some social factors affecting multilingualism among Aboriginal Australians: a case study of Maningrida". International Journal of the Sociology of Language (36): 83–103. doi:10.1515/ijsl.1982.36.83.
  • Glasgow, Kathleen (1981). "Burarra phonemes". Work Papers of SIL-AAB, Series A (PDF). Vol. 5. Darwin: Summer Institute of Linguistics. pp. 63–89. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 April 2021.
  • Glasgow, Kathleen (1981). "Burarra orthography". Work Papers of SIL-AAB, Series A (PDF). Vol. 5. Darwin: Summer Institute of Linguistics. pp. 91–101. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 April 2021.
  • Green, Rebecca (2003). "Proto Maningrida within Proto Arnhem: evidence from verbal inflectional suffixes". In Evans, N. (ed.). The non-Pama-Nyungan languages of Northern Australia: comparative studies of the continent's most linguistically complex region. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. pp. 369–421. doi:10.15144/PL-552.369. hdl:1885/254183.
  • Handelsmann, Robert (1996). Needs Survey of Community Languages: Central Arnhem Land, Northern Territory (Maningrida and Outstations) (Report). Canberra: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission.
  • Trefry, D. (1983). "Discerning the back vowels /u/ and /o/ in Burarra, a language of the Australian Northern Territory". Working Papers of the Speech and Language Research Centre. 3 (6): 19–51.


  1. ^ "SBS Australian Census Explorer". Retrieved 10 January 2023.
  2. ^ N82 Burarra at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
  3. ^ N135 Burarra (Djangu) at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Green, Rebecca (1987). A sketch grammar of Burarra (Honours thesis). Canberra: Australian National University.
  5. ^ Elwell, Vanessa (1977). Multilingualism and lingua francas among Australian Aborigines: A case study of Maningrida (Honours thesis). Canberra: Australian National University.
  6. ^ O'Grady, G.N.; Voegelin, C.F. (1967). "Languages of the world: Indo-Pacific Fascicle Six". Anthropological Linguistics. 8 (2). JSTOR 30029431.
  7. ^ a b c Glasgow, Kathleen (1994). Burarra–Gun-nartpa dictionary with English finder list. Darwin: Summer Institute of Linguistics.
  8. ^ a b c d Graetzer, Naomi (2005). An Acoustic Study of Coarticulation: Consonant-Vowel and Vowel-to-Vowel Coarticulation in Four Australian Languages (MA thesis). University of Melbourne. pp. 37–39.
  9. ^ "Fortis and lenis". notendur.hi.is. Archived from the original on 7 June 2021. Retrieved 22 December 2018.

External links[edit]