Nyangumarta language

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Native to Australia
Region Western Australia
Native speakers
250 (2005) to 310 (2006 census)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 nna
Glottolog nyan1301[2]

Nyangumarta is a language spoken by the Nyangumarta people and other Indigenous Australians in the region of Western Australia to the south and east of Lake Waukarlykarly, including Eighty Mile Beach, and part of the Great Sandy Desert inland to near Telfer. There are believed to be anywhere from 310 to about 520 [3] first-language speakers of Nyangumarta and many more partial speakers. It is also the most widely spoken Aboriginal language in the town of Port Hedland.


Nyangumarta is a member of the Marrngu branch of the Pama–Nyungan languages. The other members of this group are Mangarla and Karajarri, with which it shares features and vocabulary.[4]:5–9

Geographic distribution[edit]


Nyangumarta has two main dialects: Ngurlipartu, spoken in the southern, inland region, and Wanyarli, spoken in the northern, coastal region.[4]:9–12


Nyangumarta has a typical Australian phoneme inventory, with a large number of consonant phonemes, including multiple lateral and rhotic phonemes, but few vowel phonemes.


There are 17 consonant phonemes in Nyangumarta, with 5 pairs of homorganic plosives and nasals.[4]:38

Peripheral Apical Laminal
Bilabial Velar Alveolar Post-Alveolar Palatal
Obstruents p k t ʈ c
Nasals m ŋ n ɳ ɲ
Laterals l ɭ ʎ
Rhotics ɾ ɻ
Approximants w j

There are no voicing contrasts in Nyangmurta.

Allophones of the consonants tend to vary in manner of articulation rather than place of articulation- e.g. plosives are usually voiceless word-initially, but voiced intervocalically and following nasals, and some plosives have fricative allophones.[4]:40–41


There are 3 contrastive vowels in Nyangmarta.[4]:39–40

Front Back
High i u
Low a

Nyangmurta does not contrast roundedness or length in vowels.

Syllable Structure[edit]

Monosyllabic words are permitted in Nyangumarta, but they must be at least bimoraic, with short vowels and consonants each counting as one mora, and long vowels as two. All words must begin with a consonant, although, if the initial consonant is a glide followed by its matching vowel [i.e. a sequence of /ji/ or /wu/] the glide may be dropped by some speakers. Additionally, word-initial consonant clusters are not permitted in this language, except when a cluster is created through a process of vowel elision.[4]:44–45


Words in Nyangumarta are generally sorted into two major word classes: nominals, which take marking for case and number, and verbs, which take marking for Tense, aspect, and mood. In addition to these two, there are also small closed classes of particles, exclamations, and clitics. As is typical of Pama-Nyungan languages, Nyangamurta uses suffixes to show case, person, number, TAM.[4]:82–93

Nyangumarta has three numbers: singular, dual, and plural, with dual and plural 1st person marked for clusivity. Unusually for a language of the Pilbara region,[5] Nyangumarta has pronominal suffixes that attach to the verb in addition to independent pronouns.

A large number of Nyangumarta verbs are so-called complex verbs, formed out of a "pre-verb" (usually a nominal) plus an inflected stem, which combine to form a verb with a new meaning[4]:99–102

Miyul kalku-rnu
likeness keep-NFUT
s/he remembers it.
Janparr karri-nyi
hungry STAT-NFUT
s/he is hungry

Some nominals are bound, and have no meaning independent of their use in complex verbs

Wurang karri-nyi
duck out of sight


  1. ^ a b Nyangumarta at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Nyangumarta". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  3. ^ Wangka Maya Pilbara Aboriginal Language Centre
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Sharp, Janet Catherine (2004). Nyangumarta, a language of the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. 
  5. ^ Blake, Barry J. (1977). Case marking in Australian languages. Canberra. Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies
  • Janet Catherine Sharp. (2004). Nyangumarta, A Language of the Pilbara Region of Western Australia. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics