Malak-Malak Language
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Malak-Malak Language
Nguluk Wanggarr
RegionNorthern Territory
EthnicityMulluk-Mulluk, Ngolokwangga, Djerait
Native speakers
10 Malak-Malak (2016 census)[1]
5 Tyeraity (2005)[2]
  • Malak-Malak
  • Djerait (Kuwema)
Language codes
mpb - Malak-Malak
woa - Kuwema (Tyaraity)
AIATSIS[2]N22 Malak Malak, N10 Kuwema (Tyaraity)
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Malak-Malak (also spelt Mullukmulluk, Malagmalag, Malak-Malak), also known as Ngolak-Wonga (Nguluwongga), is an Australian Aboriginal language spoken by the Mulluk-Mulluk people. Malakmalak is nearly extinct, with children growing up speaking Kriol or English instead. The language is spoken in the Daly River area around Woolianna and Nauiyu. The Kuwema or Tyaraity (Tyeraty) variety is distinct.


Malakmalak was formerly classified in a Northern Daly family along with the "Anson Bay" group of Wagaydy (Patjtjamalh, Wadjiginy, Kandjerramalh) and the unattested Giyug. Green concluded that Wagaydy and Malakmalak were two separate language families.[4] Some later classifications have linked them such as Bowern (2011).[5] However, the Wagaydy people are recent arrivals in the area, and their language may only similar due to borrowing.[6]AIATSIS and Glottolog both treat Wagaydy as an isolate and Giyug as unclassifiable.

In contemporary usage, "Northern Daly" (e.g. Harvey 2003[7], Cahir 2006[8], Nordlinger 2017[9]) most often refers specifically to the group of languages which includes Malakmalak and Tyerraty[10] (also known as Guwema), a variety with which MalakMalak differs significantly in vocabulary (65% according to Tryon's 200 word list), but is very close to morphologically.[11]




Bilabial Alveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar
Stop voiceless p t c k
voiced b d g
Nasal m n ? ?
Trill r
Lateral l ?
Approximant w ? j

Typological classification

MalakMalak, is an ergative-absolutive language with constituent order mainly determined by information structure and prosody, but syntactically free. Marking of core-cases is optional. The language is mostly dependent-marking (1), but also has no marking (2) and head-marking features (2).[14]

(1) dependent-marking: possession

Doro-ngayi muyiny
name-3SG.F dog

"Doro's dog"

(2) no marking: noun-adjective

meldaty ada tjung yintjerrik
trip 1SG.excl.go.PST stick small.M

"I tripped on the little stick"

(3) head-marking: noun-adposition

ngatj yunu tjinang pak-ma nende wag puyunduk-nana
EMPH 3SG.M.sit.PST stay.give sit-CONT thing/person water underneath-LOC

"he sits down underneath the water"

Morphosyntactic properties

MalakMalak's verb phrase uses complex predicates. These consist of an inflecting verb that has properties of person, number and tense. MalakMalak only has six such verbs. In example (4), yuyu and vida are inflecting verbs. Additionally, there are coverbs which have aspectual properties, but do not inflect for number, tense or person. They occur with inflecting verbs. They are unlimited in number and new verbs are also borrowed into this class. In (4), kubuk-karrarr, dat-tyed, and ka are coverbs. They can also form serial verbs (kubuk-karrarr, dat-tyed).[15]

(4) Complex Predicates and Serial Coverbs

kubuk-karrarr dat-tjed yuyu yanak ka yida=ke
swim-move.up look-stand 3SG.M.stand.PST one come 3SG.M.go.PST=FOC

"he crossed the river and looked once, then he came here"

Spatial Language

MalakMalak employs all three "classic" types of spatial Frames of Reference: intrinsic, relative and absolute. Additionally, the language uses place names and body-part orientation to talk about space.[16][17] The intrinsic Frame requires some kind of portioning of the ground object or landmark into named facets from which search domains can be projected.[18] In English this would be, for example, the tree is in front of the man. And in MalakMalak it would be (5).

(5) intrinsic Frame of Reference

tjung angundu-na muyu
tree behind-LOC 3SG.N*.stand.PST

"the tree was behind (the man)"

The relative Frame of Reference involves mapping from the observer's own axes (front, back, left, right) onto the ground object.[18] An English example is the ball is on the right. In MalakMalak it would be (6)

(6) relative Frame of Reference

yerra tjalmiyiny dek kantjuk purrat-ma wuta
now right place up/upwards jump-CONT 3SG.N.go.PST

"now the ball was on the right, jumping up (lit. jumping in an upward place on the right)"

The absolute Frame of Reference requires xed bearings that are instantly available to all members of the community.[18] An English example is the opera is west of here. In MalakMalak, three different types of absolute frames can be used. Those based on the course of the sun (east/west) (7a), on prevailing winds (northwesterly/southeasterly) (7b), and on two sides of the prominent Daly River (northeastern/southwestern bank) (7c).

(7a) absolute Frame of Reference (sun)

miri tjalk-ma yina, yina miri paiga-ma
sun go.down-CONT this this sun go.up-CONT

"this one is west and this one is east"

(7b) absolute Frame of Reference (wind)

Waliwali-nen pudang tjedali yuyu nul-yen pudang tjedali yuyu
Daly.River-DIR face.towards stand.PART 3SG.M.stand.PRS northwesterly-DIR face.towards stand.part 3SG.M.stand.PRS

"one is facing the river and the other one is facing northwest"

(7c) absolute Frame of Reference (riverbank)

duk puyunduk kinangga yide chair=we
place underneath 3SG.M.go/be.PRS chair=FOC

"it is underneath, on the northeastern bank's side, of the chair"


The following basic vocabulary items of Northern Daly language varieties are from Tryon (1968).[19]

no. gloss Mullukmulluk Djeraity
1 head pund? pundu
2 hair pund?mæk pundumæR
3 eyes num?r? num?r?
4 nose yinïn yinun
5 ear ?awoer munin?awoer
6 tooth dit diR
7 tongue ?ænd?l ?ændulk
8 shoulder moendoel mændoem
9 elbow pimïle pimilu
10 hand na?ïl na?ulk
11 breasts wiyoe wi?
12 back payak da?
13 belly poe? poe?
14 navel ?oe?oet ?oe?uruk
15 heart mændulma mændulma
16 urine wur? wur?
17 excrete woen woen
18 thigh ?æt ?æR
19 leg wilit dulk
20 knee poe?goel poe?goel
21 foot ma?an mæl
22 skin ?æ?ïdl karala
23 fat milyoe la?
24 blood dawut padaw?
25 bone noeroet mur?
26 man yi?a loelamboer
27 woman alawaR aloerguR
28 father ba?a papa?a
29 mother wiya?a kala?a
30 grandmother æ?æ?a ?eyæ
31 policeman ?æyæ?man ?aya?di?
32 spear ?a?ar ?a?al
33 woomera yarawa maduR
34 boomerang ?ïmbi?ïmbi? ?ïmbi?ïmbi?
35 nullanulla warawara ?ændæ?
36 hair-belt pudur purur
37 canoe wænde wænd?
38 axe walyïmba li?puRp
39 dilly bag kar?r pæmbuR
40 fire ?oe? ?u
41 smoke wæn wæn
42 water wak wak
43 cloud dur? pæRk
44 rainbow dæpul?l?y pul?l?y
45 barramundi w? w?
46 sea ?amba? ?amba?
47 river wakwur? wur?
48 stone wadlk wul?
49 ground pawuRk woen?oe
50 track yære æR?
51 dust pul? pul?
52 sun mïre mir?
53 moon yædlk yoelk
54 star noemoeroel numurudl
55 night puwaR poyæd?
56 tomorrow noeyænoe nuy?
57 today æmæn æ?ika
58 big wunædle wudæl?
59 possum woeyoe woeyoe
60 dog moyi? moweyi?
61 tail woemoe wum?
62 meat
63 snake ?un?ul ?alala
64 red kangaroo ?æyoet manduRk
65 porcupine mæn? man?
66 emu ?ïnburat ?oeroe?
67 crow wa?gïr wa?guR
68 goanna ?æri? ?æ?
69 blue tongue lizard kumugut p?r?t
70 mosquito wænn wæn?un
71 sugar-bag pi?ak ?oe?oen
72 camp dæk dæk
73 black eyïkeyïk eyukeyuk
74 white pu?ma tamalma
75 red widma witma
76 one yanak?a yawunuka
77 two wæræna wærunuka
78 when? amanæle ?ædekælædi?
79 what? nïgidæ nïgidæ
80 who? ey?n a?on
81 I ?a ?a
82 you wa?are ni?
83 he yoendoen yoendoen
84 grass wæne wænoe
85 vegetable food mi miy?
86 tree ?oe? ?u
87 leaf dæmbæl woeR
88 pandanus mur?mur? nar?
89 ironwood pawit æluRk
90 ripe moe?oe? damberæmæ
91 good yunbayan munbay?n
92 bad yinat munæt?
93 blind wu?ak wu?
94 deaf ?ab? ?amama
95 saliva ?alïlk ?alulk


  1. ^ "Census 2016, Language spoken at home by Sex (SA2+)". Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved .
  2. ^ a b N22 Malak Malak at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies  (see the info box for additional links)
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Northern Daly". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. ^ Green, I. "The Genetic Status of Murrinh-patha" in Evans, N., ed. "The Non-Pama-Nyungan Languages of Northern Australia: comparative studies of the continent's most linguistically complex region". Studies in Language Change, 552. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics, 2003.
  5. ^ Bowern, Claire. 2011. "How Many Languages Were Spoken in Australia?", Anggarrgoon: Australian languages on the web, December 23, 2011 (corrected February 6, 2012)
  6. ^ N31 Patjtjamalh at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
  7. ^ Harvey, M. (2003). "The evolution of verb systems in the Eastern Daly language family." In N. Evans ed. The Non-Pama Nyungan languages of Northern Australia. Canberra, Pacific Linguistics. pp. 159-184.
  8. ^ Cahir, P. (2006). "Verb functions and Argument Structure in MalakMalak: a Northern daly Language of the Daly River Region, Northern Territory." Honours Thesis. University of Melbourne.
  9. ^ Nordlinger, Rachel (2017). "Chapter 37: The languages of the Daly region (Northern Australia)". In Fortescue, Michael; Mithun, Marianne; Evans, Nicholas (eds.). Oxford Handbook of Polysynthesis. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 782-807.
  10. ^
  11. ^ Tryon, D. T. (1974). Daly family languages, Australia. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. pp. 24-41.
  12. ^ Hoffmann, Dorothea (in prep), MalakMalak Sketch Grammar
  13. ^ Hoffmann, Dorothea (in prep), MalakMalak Sketch Grammar
  14. ^ "Collection Items". Retrieved .
  15. ^ "Dorothea Hoffmann: "Complex Predicates and Serialization in the Daly River Languages (and beyond?)"". Retrieved .
  16. ^ "Dorothea Hoffmann. (MUR). "Mapping Worlds: Frames of Reference in MalakMalak". In Proceedings to the 39th Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistic Society 2013. University of California: Berkeley". Retrieved .
  17. ^ "Dorothea Hoffmann. (in prep). "Usage Patterns of Spatial Frames of Reference and Orientation: Evidence from three Australian languages"". Retrieved .
  18. ^ a b c Levinson, Stephen; Wilkins, David (2006). Grammars of Space: Explorations in cognitive diversity. Cambridge University Press. pp. 20-21.
  19. ^ Tryon, Darrell T. "The Daly River Languages: A Survey". In Aguas, E.F. and Tryon, D. editors, Papers in Australian Linguistics No. 3. A-14:21-49. Pacific Linguistics, The Australian National University, 1968. doi:10.15144/PL-A14.21

External links

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