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Kayardild language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

RegionSouth Wellesley Islands, north west Queensland, Australia
EthnicityKaiadilt, Yanggal
Native speakers
8 (2016 census)[1]
  • Kayardild
  • Yangkaal[2]
Language codes
ISO 639-3Either:
gyd – Kayardild
nny – Yangkaal/Nyangga (two different languages)
AIATSIS[3]G35 Kayardild, G37 Yangkaal
Kayardild Traditional area
Kayardild is classified as Critically Endangered by the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger

Kayardild is a moribund Tangkic language spoken by the Kaiadilt on the South Wellesley Islands, north west Queensland, Australia. Other members of the family include Yangkaal (spoken by the Yangkaal people), Lardil, and Yukulta (Ganggalidda).

Kayardild is a critically endangered language, considered near-extinct.[5] In 1981, there were around fifty native speakers of Kayardild. The number of speakers of Kayardild significantly reduced since the 1940s as a result of the stolen generations.[6] By 1981, there were fifty known native speakers.[6] In the 2016 census, there were eight.[1]

Kayardild is known for its many unusual case phenomena, including case stacking of up to four levels, the use of clause-level case to signal interclausal relations and pragmatic factors, and another set of 'verbal case' endings which convert their hosts from nouns into verbs morphologically. It is also well-known for only allowing subordination one level deep. Kayardild is the only known spoken language where tense markers appear on both nouns and verbs.[7]

Kayardild, but speakers tend to have a preference for SOV.[8]


Kayardild consonant phonemes[9]
Peripheral Laminal Apical
Bilabial Velar Palatal Dental Alveolar Retroflex
Plosive p k c t ʈ
Nasal m ŋ ɲ n ɳ
Trill r
Lateral l
Approximant w j ɻ
Kayardild vowel phonemes[9]
Front Back
Close i u
Open a


  1. ^ a b "Census 2016, Language spoken at home by Sex (SA2+)". stat.data.abs.gov.au. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Archived from the original on 26 December 2018. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  2. ^ Dixon, R. M. W. (2002). Australian Languages: Their Nature and Development. Cambridge University Press. p. xxxix. ISBN 0521473780.
  3. ^ G35 Kayardild at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies  (see the info box for additional links)
  4. ^ Endangered Languages Project data for Yangkaal.
  5. ^ "Kayardild". Glottolog 5.0. Retrieved 16 May 2024.
  6. ^ a b Wuethrich, Bernice (2000). "Learning the World's Languages: Before They Vanish". Science. 288 (5469): 1156–1159. ISSN 0036-8075.
  7. ^ Dorian, Nancy C. (2002). "Commentary: Broadening the Rhetorical and Descriptive Horizons in Endangered-Language Linguistics". Journal of Linguistic Anthropology. 12 (2): 134–140. doi:10.1525/jlin.2002.12.2.134. JSTOR 43104008.
  8. ^ Evans, Nicholas (1995). A Grammar of Kayardild: With Historical-comparative Notes on Tangkic. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-11-012795-9.
  9. ^ a b Evans (1995b:51)


Further reading[edit]