Wajarri language

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Native toAustralia
RegionMurchison area of Western Australia
Ethnicity200 Watjarri (1981),[1] ?Nokaan
Native speakers
20 (2005)[2]
  • Kartu
    • Watjarri languages
      • Wajarri
  • Watjarri
  • Birdungu (Pidungu)
  • ? Nhugarn (extinct 1967)
Language codes
ISO 639-3wbv

Wajarri is a moribund Australian Aboriginal language. It is one of the Kartu languages of the Pama–Nyungan family. ‘

Geographic distribution[edit]

Wajarri country is inland from Geraldton, and extends as far south and west as Mullewa, north to Gascoyne Junction and east to Meekatharra.

History and current status[edit]

The Yamaji Language Centre carried out work on Wajarri throughout the 1990s, producing an illustrated wordlist and various other items.

Since July 2005, the Irra Wangga – Geraldton Language Programme has continued work on the Wajarri language, producing publications including a print dictionary and a dictionary app, working with schools involved in the teaching of the language, and holding weekly community language classes (current 2008). In 2008 Wajarri became the first Australian Aboriginal language available at senior secondary level (TEE) in the state of Western Australia.

People who are Wajarri speakers, or who are descended primarily from Wajarri speakers also refer to themselves as Wajarri. The word for 'man' in Wajarri is yamaji and this word is also commonly used by Wajarri people to refer to themselves. Depending on the context yamaji may also be used to refer to other Aboriginal people, particularly people from the Murchison-Gascoyne region.

Sketch grammars of Wajarri have been written by Douglas (1981) and Marmion (1996)



Front Central Back
High i iː u uː
Low a aː


Peripheral Laminal Apical
Labial Velar Dental Palatal Alveolar Retroflex
Stop p (b) k (g) t̪ (th) c (j) t (d) ʈ (rd)
Nasal m ŋ (ng) n̪ (nh) ɲ (ny) n ɳ (rn)
Lateral l̪ (lh) ʎ (ly) l ɭ (rl)
Rhotic r (rr)
Approximant w j (y) ɻ (r)

The symbols in brackets show the forms used in the practical orthography employed in the Wajarri dictionary, where these differ from standard IPA symbols. Although Douglas (1981) claimed there was no laminal contrast (i.e. no phonemic contrast between the dentals and palatals), Marmion (1986) demonstrated that there is such a contrast.


  1. ^ Wajarri language at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ "UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in danger". www.unesco.org. Retrieved 12 June 2018.
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Wajarri". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. ^ A39 Wajarri at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
  • Boddington, Ross and Boddinton, Olive. 1996. The Budara Story. Magabala Books.
  • Douglas, Wilfrid H. 1981. 'Watjarri'. In Dixon, R.M.W. and Blake, Barry J (Eds.), Handbook of Australian Languages: Vol. 2. ANU Press.
  • Mackman, Doreen (Ed.). 2012. Wajarri dictionary: the language of the Murchison Region of Western Australia, Wajarri to English, English to Wajarri. Geraldton, Irra Wangga Language Centre.
  • Marmion, Douglas. 1996. A description of the morphology of Wajarri. Unpublished Hons. thesis, University of New England.