Alawa language

Alawa (Galawa) is a moribund Indigenous Australian language spoken by the Alawa people of the Northern Territory. In 1991, there were reportedly 18 remaining speakers and 4 semi-speakers.[3]

Native toAustralia
RegionNorthern Territory; Arnhem Land, Roper River.
Native speakers
4 (2016 census)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3alh
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Alawa has a typical consonant inventory for an Indigenous Australian language, with five contrastive places of articulation, multiple lateral consonants, and no voicing contrast among the stops.[4]

Consonant phonemes
Alveolar Palatal Peripheral
Alveolar Retroflex Alveo-palatal Velar Bilabial
Prenasalised Stop ⁿd ⁿɖ ⁿd̠ʲ ᵑɡ ᵐb
Devoiced Stop t ʈ t̠ʲ k p
Nasals n ɳ n̠ʲ ŋ m
Laterals l ɭ l̠ʲ
Vibrants r
Glide ɹ j w

Note: there are no standardised IPA symbols for alveopalatal stops.


The vowel system of Alawa is made up of four vowel phonemes: the high front vowel /i/, the high back vowel /u/, the mid front vowel /e/, and the low central vowel /a/.[4]

Vowel phonemes
Front Central Back
High i u
Mid e
Low a

There are no rounding contrasts or length contrasts in this language.[4]


Capell (1942) lists the following basic vocabulary items:[5]

gloss Alawa
man lilmi
woman girija
head guɽuguɽu
eye gulur
nose gujumur
mouth ŋaːndal
tongue djeːjälŋ
stomach gundjäl
bone galawa
blood ŋulidji
kangaroo girimbọ
opossum gudjaɳi
emu djinaliri
crow waŋgunaji
fly wuɳɖil
sun marawaɭbaɭ
moon aɖaŋari
fire wubu
smoke guŋuŋu
water ŋọgọ

See alsoEdit

  • Glenn M. Wightman (1991), Alawa ethnobotany: Aboriginal plant use from Minyerri, northern Australia, 11, Conservation Commission of the Northern Territory, Wikidata Q109466390


  1. ^ "Census 2016, Language spoken at home by Sex (SA2+)". Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  2. ^ N92 Alawa at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
  3. ^ "Ethnologue: Alawa". Ethnologue.
  4. ^ a b c Sharpe, Margaret C (1972). Alawa Phonology and Grammar. Canberra: Australian Institute for Aboriginal Studies.
  5. ^ Capell, Arthur. 1941–1942, 1942–1943. Languages of Arnhem Land, North Australia. Oceania 12: 364–392, 13: 24–51.

External linksEdit