Adnyamathanha; Kuyani
yura ngarwala
RegionSouth Australia
EthnicityAdnyamathanha, Kuyani, Wailpi
Native speakers
262 (2021 census)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3Either:
adt – Adnyamathanha
gvy – Guyani
Glottologadny1235  Adnyamathanha
guya1249  Guyani
AIATSIS[2]L10 Adnyamathanha, L9 Kuyani
Traditional lands of Aboriginal peoples near Adelaide
Adnyamathanha is classified as Severely Endangered by the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

The Adnyamathanha language (pronounced /ˈɑːdnjəmʌdənə/), also known as yura ngarwala and other names, and Kuyani, also known as Guyani and other variants, are two closely related Australian Aboriginal languages. They are traditional languages of the Adnyamathanha of and the Kuyani peoples, of the Flinders Ranges and to the west of the Flinders respectively, in South Australia.

As of the 2016 Australian census, there were around 140 speakers of Adnyamathanha, making it an endangered language; there have been no speakers of Kuyani recorded since 1975. The first bilingual dictionary of the language was published in November 2020.

The name of the witchetty grub comes from Adnyamathanha.


While R. M. W. Dixon classifies Adnyamathanha and Guyani as a single language, Ethnologue, Glottolog and AIATSIS treats them as separate languages, L10: Adnyamathanha[2] and L9: Kuyani.[4]


Estimates of the number of people who speak Adnyamathanha are variable, though it is a severely endangered language. According to Oates (1973) there were only 30 speakers, around 20 according to Schmidt in 1990, 127 in the 1996 Australian census, and about 140 counted in the 2016 census.[2]


Adnyamathanha has a complex system of personal pronouns. There are 10 different ways of saying we "you and I" (first person dual), depending on the relationship between the speaker and the addressee.

First dictionary (2020)

The linguist Bernhard Schebeck travelled to the Nepabunna region in the 1970s, and wrote An Adnyamathanha-English Research Dictionary in 2000, which was "For private, or internal, use only – not for publication".[5] Dorothy Tunbridge, a linguist from Canberra and author of[6] Flinders Ranges Dreaming[7] visited the area in the 1980s. Both contributed much to knowledge of the language, but neither recorded all of the words that were known to local speakers.[8]

In November 2020 the first-ever bilingual Adnyamathanha/English dictionary and grammar was published, with translations from and to each language. Compiled by Terrence Coulthard and his wife Josephine, the 400-page Adnyamathanha Culture Guide and Language Book[9] includes descriptions of cultural practices, songlines (muda), the Adnyamathanha kinship system and social history.[10] Terrence, an Adnyamathanha speaker, had been collecting information on the culture and language for 40 years, building on the earlier work by Schebeck and Tunbridge.[8] Linguists and others from Adelaide University's Mobile Language Team helped the couple to finalise work on the book in the 18 months to two years before publication.[10][8]

The Coulthards run Iga Warta, a cultural tourism enterprise, located near Nepabunna in the Gammon Ranges, the site of a mission where Terrence grew up.[8] Iga Warta means "native orange",[11] named by 19th-century English botanist John Lindley as Capparis mitchelii.[12][13]


A couple of witchetty grubs.


This language has been known by many names and variant spellings of names, including:

Yura ngarwala is a widely used term for the Adnyamathanha language. It translates literally to 'people speak'. However, in modern times yura has come to mean 'Adnyamathanha person', rather than 'person' generally, and thus the term translates to 'Adnyamathanha person speak'.

Guyani is also spelled Kijani, Kuyani, Kwiani.


Adjnjamathanha and Guyani have the same phonemic inventory.


Front Back
High i iː u uː
Low a aː


Most of the nasals and laterals are allophonically prestopped.[15]

Peripheral Laminal Apical
Labial Velar Palatal Dental Alveolar Retroflex Glottal
Plosive voiceless p k c t ʈ (ʔ)
voiced (ɖ )
Fricative voiced (v)
Nasal m ~ bm ŋ ɲ ~ ɟɲ n̪ ~ d̪n̪ n ~ dn ɳ ~ ɖɳ
Lateral ʎ ~ ɟʎ l̪ ~ d̪l̪ l ~ dl ɭ ~ ɖɭ
Flap ɾ ɽ
Trill r
Approximant w j ɻ

[v] may be an allophone of /p/.


While the closely related Guyani retains word-initial stops, Adnyamathanha has undergone systematic lenition of stops in this position. Former *p has become [v], former *t̪ and probably also *c have become /j/, and former *k has disappeared entirely.


  1. ^ Australian Bureau of Statistics (2021). "Cultural diversity: Census". Retrieved 13 October 2022.
  2. ^ a b c L10 Adnyamathanha at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies  (see the info box for additional links)
  3. ^ Endangered Languages Project data for Kuyani.
  4. ^ L9 Kuyani at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
  5. ^ Schebeck, B. (Bernhard) (2000), An Adnyamathanha-English Research Dictionary (Version 0.02 ed.), Bernhard Schebeck, retrieved 12 November 2020
  6. ^ Austlit (18 February 2011). "Dorothy Tunbridge". AustLit. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  7. ^ Tunbridge, Dorothy; Coulthard, Annie; Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies; Nepabunna Aboriginal School (Nepabunna, S.A.) (1988), Flinders Ranges Dreaming, Aboriginal Studies Press for the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, ISBN 978-0-85575-193-7
  8. ^ a b c d Skujins, Angela (9 November 2020). "The first Adnyamathanha dictionary, 40 years in the making". CityMag. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  9. ^ Coulthard, Terrence; Coulthard, Josephine (2020). Adnyamathanha: A Culture Guide and Language Book. Iga Warta. ISBN 978-0-646-82427-7. Retrieved 15 November 2020.
  10. ^ a b "Adnyamathanha Dictionary Launched in Adelaide". Mobile Language Team. 6 November 2020. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  11. ^ "Iga Warta: The Place of the Native Orange" (PDF). Iga Warta. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  12. ^ Clarke, Philip A. (2008). Aboriginal Plant Collectors: Botanists and Australian Aboriginal People in the Nineteenth Century. Rosenberg Pub. p. 44. ISBN 978-1-877058-68-4. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  13. ^ "Plants Used by the Adnjamathanha". Australian Plants Society. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  14. ^ Bock, David; Atkins, Brendan (11 November 2018). "Witchetty grubs". The Australian Museum. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  15. ^ Jeff Mielke, 2008. The emergence of distinctive features, p 135