Ngayarda languages

Ngayarda languages
Western Australia
Linguistic classification: Pama–Nyungan

The Ngayarda languages is the name given by linguists to a group of closely related languages in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. The languages classified as members of the Ngayarda languages group are (following Dench 1995):

Dench (1995) says that for Yinhawangka, Nhuwala and Ngarla there is insufficient data to enable them to be confidently classified, however he places them in the Ngayarda group for convenience. Further, there are grounds for considering Yindjibarndi-Kurrama and Ngarluma-Kariyarra to be dialect pairs however the local socio-political perception is that they are separate languages.

The Ngayarda grouping is justified on the basis of lexicostatistics as well as the following grammatical features first proposed by O'Grady (1966) as diagnostic of this group:

  • The better-known members of the group (i.e. Ngarluma and Yindjibarndi) have a productive active/passive voice distinction.
  • The reflex of Proto Pama-Nyungan *-lu~-ngku is not used as a marker of transitive subject
  • The Proto Pama-Nyungan suffix *-ku has shifted from the specialised meaning indirect object to the broader meaning object
  • The Proto Pama-Nyungan verb suffix *-(l)ku has shifted from future (or optative) to present

C.G. von Brandenstein devised a classification which divided this group into a Coastal Ngayarda and an Inland Ngayarda. This is no longer considered correct, however Austin (1988) points out that von Brandenstein's errors have been reproduced by Wurm and Hattori in their map of Australian languages, which appears to be based on the same classification.

The name ngayarda comes from the word for 'man' in many of the languages of the group. The Ngayarda languages group is a member of the Southwest branch of the Pama–Nyungan family.

Southwest Pama–Nyungan













Kanyara languages

Mantharta languages

Kartu languages

Nyunga languages

Mirniny languages

Wati languages

Marrngu languages

Ngumpin languages

Nannga languages

Yura languages


  • Dench, Alan. 1995. 'Martuthunira: A language of the Pilbara region of Western Australia PL C-125. Pacific Linguistics: Canberra
  • O'Grady, G.N. 1966. 'Proto-Ngayarda Phonology'. Oceanic Linguistics 5:71-130.

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