Native toWestern Australia
RegionRoebourne area
EthnicityNgarluma, Kariera, Jaburara
Native speakers
11 (2005)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3Either:
nrl – Ngarluma
vka – Kariyarra
AIATSIS[1]W38 Ngarluma, W39 Kariyarra
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.

Ngarluma and Kariyarra are members of a dialect continuum, which is a part of the Ngayarda language group of Western Australia, in the Pama–Nyungan language family. Some sources suggest that an extinct dialect, Jaburara, was a third member of the continuum.[3] However, it is clear that Jaburara had a distinct identity that has been partly obscured by a collapse in the numbers of Jaburara speakers during the late 19th century, and there is some evidence that Jaburara may have instead been a dialect of Martuthunira (see below).

While Ngarluma and Kariyarra, as parts of a continuum, are mutually intelligible, they are considered distinct languages by their speakers, reflecting an ethnic division between the Ngarluma and Kariyarra peoples. As such they may be regarded as a single, pluricentric language.

Under Carl Georg von Brandenstein's 1967 classification scheme, Ngarluma was classed as a "Coastal Ngayarda" (or Ngaryarta) language, but the separation of the group into "Coastal" and "Inland" groups is no longer considered valid.


Pidgin Ngarluma
Native speakers
Ngarluma-based pidgin
Language codes
ISO 639-3None (mis)

Apart from the division between Ngarluma and Kariyarra, there are either three or four sub-dialects within NgarlHowever, the inclusion of Jaburara – which parallels a belief amongst Ngarluma people that the Jaburara people and their traditional land were a sub-group of the Ngarluma people and lands – is controversial. There are two reasons for this: the Jaburara dialect is sometimes considered a dialect in its own right, or a dialect of Martuthunira. There is evidence for the latter theory in the word jaburara, which means "northerners" in the languages of the region:[4] the traditional lands of the Jaburara, on and around the Burrup Peninsula, are generally to the north of the Martuthunira lands (whereas the Jaburara are mostly west of the Ngarluma lands).

A pidginized form of Ngarluma was once used as a contact language in the area.[5]



Three vowels are present as /a i u/.


Peripheral Laminal Apical
Labial Velar Dental Palatal Alveolar Retroflex
Stop b k/ɡ ɟ d ɖ
Nasal m ŋ ɲ n ɳ
Lateral ʎ l ɭ
Rhotic r
Approximant w j ɻ

Linguistic area/boundaries

Kariyarra people, prior to European settlement occupied an area from the Yule River east to Port Hedland and south to the Hamersley Range.

The official Ngarluma Native Title Determination Area (including the Jaburara lands) covers the area southward from Point Samson, Cossack, Wickham, Roebourne, to the northern boundary of Millstream-Chichester National Park and; from the east side of the mouth of the Maitland River to the west side of the Peawah River near Whim Creek, including the towns of Dampier and Karratha.[7]

However, this boundary is controversial for two reasons: it includes areas also regarded as traditional country by many Martuthunira people and; for legal reasons, it does not include areas that many Ngarluma people consider to fall into their traditional country.


  1. ^ a b W38 Ngarluma at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies  (see the info box for additional links)
  2. ^ Endangered Languages Project data for Kariyarra.
  3. ^ See, for example: Lynette F. Oates & William J. Oates, 1970, Aboriginal Languages of Australia: A Revised Linguistic Survey of Australia, Canberra, Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies.
  4. ^ Nicholas Thieberger, 1996, "4.4 North of the Gascoyne River to Port Hedland", Handbook of Western Australian Aboriginal languages south of the Kimberley. (12 October 2012)
  5. ^ Alan Dench, 1998, "Pidgin Ngarluma: an indigenous contact language in North Western Australia", Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages, 13.1: 1--20.
  6. ^ Kohn, Allison (2012). A morphological description of Ngarluma. Port Hedland: Wangka Maya, Pilbara Aboriginal Language Centre.
  7. ^ Ngarluma Aboriginal Corporation, 2012, Ngarluma Aboriginal Corporation (12 October 2012).