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Desmond Taylor leads the search for an endangered mammal featured in Langamarlu Wangka

The People and their Traditional Country

Manyjilyjarra country is in the central Great Sandy Desert region of northwest Western Australia. It is north east of Telfer and includes part of the Canning Stock Route. Walmajarri borders it to the north, Warnman to the southwest with Yulparija and Nyangumarta to the west.


In 2004 there were estimated to be less than 500 speakers of the Manyjilyjarra language. There may be much less than that number now as many children of Manyjilyjarra people speak Martu Wangka, which combines elements of the Manyjilyjarra and Kartujarra languages with influences from the Warnman, Nyiyaparli and Putijarra languages. As such, children of Manyjilyjarra speakers may not speak a pure form of the language and may be unable to identify Manyjilyjarra elements. Due to the development and use of Martu Wangka, Manyjilyjarra is considered a highly endangered language.


Most Manyjilyjarra speakers live in the communities of Punmu and Kunuwarraji in the central Great Sandy Desert region. Other people live in Parnngurr, Jigalong and Parnpajinya Communities. Many other people have intermarried and are spread across towns and communities in the northern Pilbara.


Language Resources and Recordings

Many Manyjilyjarra community members have worked on recordings of their language, including Joshua Booth, Darson, Larry Colley, Liz Sailor, Bobby Roberts, Milton Chapman, Mitchell Biljabu and Allan Charles, among others. Early linguistic work was by Klokeid, who made the first recordings of this language in 1967 and Marsh, who worked extensively with the language from 1976 and produced a sketch grammar. McConvell produced a wordlist in 1980. Further work was done by Sharp, Thieberger and Clendon. In 2009, Wangka Maya published the Manyjilyjarra Dictionary, which can be seen on-line as an e-Book Dictionary. The Manyjilyjarra Interactive Dictionary was published in 2009 and is also available to view on-line. The Manyjilyjarra Sketch Grammar was published in 2008.


Other resources available include Jumangkarni Wimi - Dreaming Stories from the Desert in Manyjilyjarra and Warnman with English translations. Langamarlu Wangka is the story of the search for an endangered mammal in the Great Sandy Desert told in Manyjilyjarra and English, while Mulyamiji Wangka features the endangered great desert skink.


Punmungka Turlku features Manyjilyjarra songs recorded in the Punmu community in 2008.


Language Details

Manyjilyjarra 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, Kartujarra, Ngaanyatjarra, Pintupi, Yulparija and others.


Past spellings of the Manyjilyjarra language include Manjiljara, Mandjildjara, Mandjiltjara, Mandjildara, Manjiljarra or the name Martu.


Written Examples of the Manyjilyjarra Language


Nganangkamarraya yanu ngurrajanu?

Why did they leave camp?


Jijingapulampa nyinaku milangka.

The child of that couple will be in the Milangka group.


Ngurrparnanra mutukaku.

I know nothing about motorcars.


Julyjujanurna nyinani ngaangka.

I’ve been living here for a long time.



At a rocky place.


Ngaa kujarrapula kamalpa. Nyininpaya pujiman parraya yaninpa. Kalyuparni. Ngurlapaya jikirninpa kalyungka. Kaya yaninpa kuju wirlarra.

Those two people were bushmen (before European settlement). They were without water, thirsty. They wanted to drink water. They got water one night.