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The People and their Traditional Country

Traditionally Kartujarra country is located around the area of Jigalong Community in the western area of the Pilbara region of Western Australia. It is bordered by the Putijarra language to the east and south, Nyiyaparli to the west and Warnman and Manyjilyjara to the north and northeast.


In 2004 there were estimated to be less than 400 speakers of the Kartujarra language. There may be far fewer than that number now as most children of Kartujarra people speak Martu Wangka which combines elements of Manyjilyjarra and Kartujarra languages with influences from the Warnman, Nyiyaparli and Putijarra languages. As such, children of Kartujarra speakers may not speak an unaltered form of the language and may be unable to identify Kartujarra elements. In 2006, Kartujarra speakers identified only five people who could still speak a pure form of the language.


Most Kartujarra speakers live in the communities of Parnngurr and Jigalong in the central Great Sandy Desert region. Other people live in Punmu and Parnpajinya Communities. Many other people have intermarried and are spread across towns and communities in the northern Pilbara and speak English or other Indigenous languages.


Language Resources and Recordings

The earliest recordings of Kartujarra appear to be by Daisy Bates in 1929. Marsh conducted extensive studies of the language during the 1960s and 70s. O’Grady conducted recordings in 1967, Kolkeid 1967 and Tonkinson in 1970. Wangka Maya published the Kartujarra Dictionary in 2005, which can be seen on-line as a e-Book Dictionary.


Also available is Nyamilu Piniwarta Wimi Yirrangkajingka: Nanas' Stories of Nullagine which features some stories written in Kartujarra and Warnman with English translations.


Kartujarra traditional country near Jigalong. (Picture by Nadine Hicks)

Language Details

Kartujarra is part of the Pama-Nyungan language family; a large group of indigenous languages spread over much of the Australian continent. It belongs to the Wati subgroup of languages along with forty other languages such as Warnman, Manyjilyjarra, Ngaanyatjarra, Pintupi, Yulparija and others. It is particularly close to Manyjilyjarra and Putijarra languages as there are many common vocabulary elements, grammar and sociolinguistic similarities.


Past spellings of the Kartujarra language include Kartudjara, Katudjara, Katajara, Gadudjara or the name Martu, Walmala, Orailku and Ngadari.


Creek bed on Kartujarra country. (Picture by Nadine Hicks)

Written Examples of the Kartujarra Language


Nyinangurna ngayu Kurlkungka juljukurlu warrkamurringurna and jijiju born narringu jinya nyarra. Palangka mirtarna yanu hospitalkarti, ngayu karrungka.

I was working on Noreena Downs Station, a long time ago and my baby was born there. I remained at the creek, I didn’t know about going to the hospital.


Yangkurniyarngalapa ngurrakarti marlulukurri palangkanyina ngayu. Still I come back ngaangka yangapartimarluluku Yirrangkajikarti.

We used to all go hunting and to our tribal country for initiation business and I would remain there. Still I come back northeast to this place from the initiation business to Nullagine Community.


Not now kuwarii. Kuwarrilaju pensioner. Ngaluju pension every week. Fortnight pensioner ngaangka.

Not now today. Today I’m a pensioner. I’m still getting money every week. I’m a fortnight pensioner here.


Nyinangurna yanurnangalyu Yirrangkajikarti. Nyinangurna ngulyi marlijakupayi ngayukuju pikalymawanangulyu. Ngayumilingka ngurrarra.

After that I went to Nullagine. I was staying there while my child was a toddler walking slowly I made him follow us around. That’s my area, my country.


Jii murtilya japuwarta.

That boy is small.


Kuyii munjulypa.

The meat is cooked.


Kuyi pilki.

The meat is bad.


Yankunilaju ngurrakarti.

All of us are going home.



They were throwing it at her.


Pungkurna jarntu jiinya.

I want to hit that dog.


Jarntukujarralupula parnka pajalkija.

Two dogs were trying to bite a goanna.


Pungkungararna jarntu.

I ought to have hit the dog.



I might hit you.



Get it!



Bite it!



Get mine!

Wanyjakartila yankuni?

Where are we all going?


Nganan nyuntu?

Who are you?


Ngaanangku tayimu?

What's your time?


Yaalun yanku?

How will you go?


Nyaartan yanku Yantiyarrakarti?

When are you going to Yandeyarra?


Ngana ngaanya?

What’s this?


Ngana jiinya?

What’s that?


Mirtarna yankuni.

I’m not going.


Mirtarna kanyini.

I haven’t got it.



I haven’t any money.


Mirtalampa majanu.

He didn’t wait for us.


Mirtalun yarra jarntuwana.

Don’t go past the dogs.