Nukunu language

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Region South Australia
Ethnicity Nukunu
Extinct ca. 2000
Language codes
ISO 639-3 nnv
Glottolog nugu1241[1]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Nukunu (or Nugunu; many other names: see below) is a moribund Australian Aboriginal language spoken by Nukunu people on Yorke Peninsula, South Australia.


This language has been known by many names by neighboring tribes and Australianists, including:

  • Nukuna, Nokunna, Noocoona, Nookoona, Nuguna, Nukana, Nukunnu, Nukunu, Njuguna
  • Doora
  • Pukunna
  • Tjura, Tyura
  • Wallaroo, Warra
  • Wongaidya (from wangkatya, present tense form of verb 'to speak')


Nukunu is a Pama–Nyungan language, closely related to neighboring languages in the Miru cluster[3] like Narungga, Kaurna, and Ngadjuri.



Nukunu has three different vowels with contrastive long and short lengths (a, i, u, a:, i:, u:).

Front Back
High i iː u uː
Low a aː


The Nukunu consonantal inventory is typical for a Pama–Nyungan language, with six places of articulation for stops and nasals. There are three rhotics in the language.

Peripheral Laminal Apical
Labial Velar Dental Palatal Alveolar Retroflex
Stop Voiceless p k c t ʈ
Voiced (ɖ)
Nasal m ŋ ɲ n ɳ
Lateral ʎ l ɭ
Tap ɾ
Trill r
Approximant w j ɻ

A phonemic voicing contrast exists in Nukunu, but it has only been observed in the retroflex stop series. An example demonstrating such a contrast intervocalically is kurdi (phlegm, IPA ['kuɖi]) and kurti (quandong, IPA ['kuʈi]).


In contrast with other Thura–Yura languages, Nukunu did not partake in either the initial th- lenition before vowels or the lenition of initial k- before vowels.


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Nugunu (Australia)". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  2. ^ Nukunu at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
  3. ^ Hercus pp. 1; Schmidt called this cluster (a subgroup of Thura–Yura) as "Miru" in 1919. Perhaps these languages are part of the Kadli group as well.


  • Hercus, Luise Anna (1992). "Introduction". A Nukunu Dictionary. Maitland, South Australia: National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication entry.