Nganʼgityemerri language

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Native toAustralia
RegionNorthern Territory; Mission, Tipperary Station, Flora and Daly rivers junction, Daly River
EthnicityNangiomeri etc.
Native speakers
26 (2016 census)[1]
Southern Daly?
  • Nganʼgityemerri
  • Nganʼgikurunggurr
  • Nganʼgiwumirri
  • Nganʼgimerri
Language codes
ISO 639-3nam

Nganʼgityemerri—or Nganʼgi for short—is an Australian Aboriginal language spoken in the Daly River region of Australiaʼs Northern Territory. The language is spoken in three mutually intelligible dialects: Nganʼgikurunggurr, Ngenʼgiwumirri, and Nganʼgimerri, which are 90% cognate but distinct languages sociolinguistically.[3][2] Nganʼgi is spoken by about 150-200 people in the region around the Daly River (most living in the communities of Nauiyu, Peppimenarti and Wudigapildhiyerr) and in a number of smaller outstations on traditional lands (such as Nganambala and Merrepen). Official census data, however, states only 26 at home speakers.

Spelling variants[edit]

Nganʼgi is sometimes also referred to by its speakers as Ngan'gityemerri. The varieties of this language have using widely differing spellings, including Nangikurrunggurr, Ngankikurungkurr, Ngenkikurrunggur, Ngangikarangurr, Ngankikurrunkurr, Nangikurunggurr, Nanggikorongo, Nangikurungguru, Nangikurungurr, Nangikurunurr, Nangityemer, Nganʼgikurunggurr, Ngangikurongor, Ngangikurrunggurr, Ngangikurrungur, Ngan'gikurunggurr, Ngangikurunggurr, Tyemeri, Moil, Moiil, Moyl, Moyle, Ngangi-Wumeri, Ngenkiwumerri, Nangumiri, Nangiomeri, Nangimera, Mariwumiri, Mariwunini, Murin-wumiri, Nanggiomeri, Nanggiwumiri, Nanggumiri, Nangimeri, Nangiomera, Nangi-wumiri, Ngan'giwumirri, Ngengewumiri, Ngen'giwumirri, Ngengomeri, Ngen-gomeri and Wumiri.

Sometimes it is referred to by the names it is called by neighbouring languages, such as Marityemeri, Marri Sjemirri and Murrinh Tyemerri.


Consonant inventory[4]

Bilabial Apical Laminal Dorsal
Stop p b t d ty k
Fricative f s sy g
Nasal m n ny ng
Lateral l
Flap/Trill rr
Continuant r
Glide w y

Vowel inventory[4]

Front Back
High i u
Low e a

In Nganʼgityemerri /a/ is a phonological back vowel rather than front or central vowel.[4]

Grammatical features[edit]

Nganʼgi is a non-Pama-Nyungan language with strong head-marking properties. It has 31 finite verbs, which combine with a large class of coverbs to form morphologically complex verb words with the type of information requiring a sentence to convey in English (including information about the subject, the object and other participants). Nganʼgi also has a system of 16 noun classes (including bound prefixes and free words), which exhibit agreement properties on modifying words. Nganʼgi also has sound features which are unusual by Australian standards, including a three-way obstruent contrast; it has two series of stops, as well as phonemic fricatives.[5][6][7]

Relationship to other languages[edit]

The first major study of Nganʼgi was Darrell Tryonʼs 1974 work, a broad discussion of Nganʼgi as one of a dozen or so "Daly family languages". Tryon viewed Nganʼgikurunggurr and Ngenʼgiwumirri as two languages of the "Tyemeri subgroup" of the Daly family.[8] They are now classified with Murrinh-Patha as a Southern Daly family, a position not without problems; see Southern Daly languages for details.[9]


  • Alpher, Barry and Courtenay, Karen. Unpublished field notes: Alpher and Courtenay collected Nganʼgikurunggurr data whilst working at the School of Australian Linguistics (now part of the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education) during the late 1970s. A word list (with some analysis of verbal morphology) is held in the institute's library.
  • Callan, William. nd. A grammar of Ngankikurunguru. ms. AIATSIS, Canberra (44 pp): This manuscript quotes Tryon, which dates it to the early 1970s; includes some vocabulary and partial finite verb paradigm tables.
  • Ellis, S.J. 1988. Sociolinguistic survey report: Daly region languages. In Ray, M.J. ed Aboriginal Language use in the Northern Territory: 5 reports. Work Papers of SIL-AAIB, B13. Darwin: SIL.
  • Laves, Gerhardt. 1931. ms 2189. Unpublished fieldnotes on Nganʼgimerri. AIATSIS Library, Canberra. Laves was the first linguist to work on Ngan'gityemerri. In 1931 he collected some 200 pages of vocabulary, grammatical notes and (largely untranscribed) texts, in Ngan'gimerri, the speech variety of the now extinct rak-Merren patri-line. Laves returned to the USA later that year, and appears not to have published anything from his Australian data. His works, including detailed studies of Matngela, Karriyarri, Kumbaingir and Nyungar, were acquired by AIATSIS in 1986. Laves work is particularly interesting, both for the quality of the analysis, and the diachronic evidence it provides for changes within the Ngan'gi verb structure.[10]
  • Reid, N.J. "Class and Classifier in Nganʼgityemerri" in Harvey, M. and Reid, N. (eds), Nominal Classification in Aboriginal Australia. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 1997.
  • Reid, N.J. "Sit right down the back: serialized posture verbs in Nganʼgityemerri and other Northern Australian languages" in Newman, J. ed. Sitting, Lying and Standing: Posture verbs in typological perspective. John Benjamins: Amsterdam, 2002(a).
  • Reid, N.J. "'Ken Hale would just love this': finding the 31st Nganʼgityemerri finite verb" in Simpson, J. Nash, D. Laughren, M. Austin, A. and Alpher, B. eds. Forty Years On: Ken Hale and Australian Languages. Pacific Linguistics: Canberra, 2002(b).
  • Reid, N.J. "Languages of the World: Ngan'gityemerri". The Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics II. Oxford: Elsevier, 2005.
  • Tryon, Darrell. The Daly River Languages: a survey. Series A, 14. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics, 1968.
  • Tryon, Darrell. "Noun Classification and Concord in the Daly River Languages". Mankind, Vol 7, 3 pp 218–222 (1970).


  1. ^ "Census 2016, Language spoken at home by Sex (SA2+)". ABS. Retrieved 2017-10-30.
  2. ^ a b N157 Nganʼgityemerri at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
  3. ^ Reid, N.J. and P. McTaggart, Ngan'gi Dictionary. Armidale: Australian Linguistics Press, 2008.
  4. ^ a b c Reid, N.J. Ngan'gityemerri: A Language of the Daly River Region, Northern territory of Australia (Thesis). Australian National University, 1990.
  5. ^ Hoddinott, W. and F. Kofod, The Ngankikurungkurr Language (Daly River Area, Northern Territory). Series D, No. 77. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics, 1988 (the largest published description of Nganʼgi).
  6. ^ Tryon, Darrell, "The Daly Language Family: a structural survey" in Laycock, D., ed. Linguistic Trends in Australia. Australian Aboriginal Studies, 23. Canberra: Australian Institute for Aboriginal Studies, pp. 51–57.
  7. ^ Reid, N.J. "Complex verb collocations in Nganʼgityemerri: a non-derivational mechanism for manipulating valency alternations" in Dixon. R.M.W. and A. Aikenvald (eds), Changing Valency. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
  8. ^ Tryon, Darrell. The Daly Family Languages, Australia. Series C, no. 32. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics, 1974.
  9. ^ Green, I. "The Genetic Status of Murrinh-patha" in Evans, N., ed. "The Non-Pama-Nyungan Languages of Northern Australia: comparative studies of the continent's most linguistically complex region". Studies in Language Change, 552. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics, 2003.
  10. ^ Reid, N.J. "Phrasal verb to synthetic verb: recorded morphosyntactic change in Nganʼgityemerri" in Evans, N. (ed.) Studies in Non-Pama-Nyungan Languages: comparative studies of the continent's most linguistically complex region. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics, 2003.

External links[edit]