Last changed 16 September 2020

to Vocabulary of the Warlmanpa language

1979 introduction (slightly amended)
David Nash

[Linguistics & Philosophy, 20C-128 M.I.T., Cambridge MA 02139, USA —1979]


Parts of Speech
Verb conjugations
Grammatical Preface
(1) Verbal inflexions
(2) Auxiliaries
(3) Finite complementizer
(4) Infinitive complementizers
(5) Pronominals
(6) Number
(7) Determiners
(8) Case (suffixed to nominals, including determiners and pronouns)
(9) Noun formatives
(10) Kinship terminology
(11) Verb formatives
(12) Enclitics
(13) Sentence particles
(14) Phonological rules


Warlmanpa is a Pama-Nyungan language of the Western Desert type still spoken by a few families living on the fringes of their traditional land in west central Northern Territory, Australia.

This vocabulary is based on information collected at Tennant Creek, Banka Banka, Warrabri, and Elliott, especially with the invaluable co-operation of the late Bunny Napurrula (d. 2015), Jessie Cooper Napangarti (d. 1979-80), Donald Graham Jupurrula (d. 1986), Norah Graham Napanangka (d. c1996), and Jimmy Newcastle Japaljarri (d. c1996) and their families, in the periods October 1977 to August 1978, June to August 1979, July to October 1980. It incorporates the data of Kenneth Hale's transcription of two hours recording he made of an interview with Jack Walker and Lofty in 1959–60, and Donald Graham in late 1966.

Field work was supported in 1977-78 by a Fellowship in the Department of Linguistics, S.G.S. at the Australian National University, and by equipment and consultation fees provided by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. Writing up has been supported in part by National Institute for Mental Health grant MH 13390-12 (1978-80), and National Science Foundation grant number BNS-7913950 (1979-81) (Kenneth Hale, Principal Investigator) to the Department of Linguistics & Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


The spelling system follows the one for Warlpiri used in the Warlpiri Bilingual Education Programme. The major addition is the series of tense stop consonants, represented by double letters, as seen in this chart of the consonants.
                         apico-    apico-  lamino-   dorso-
              bilabial  alveolar  domal   alveolar  velar

stops  lax       p         t       rt       j         k
       tense     pp        tt      rtt      jj        kk
nasals           m         n       rn       ny        ng
laterals                   l       rl       ly
flap                       rr
glides           w                 r        y
The vowels are i, a, u. Long vowels are written ii, aa, uu. Word-initially, and after a hyphen, rl, rn, rt are written l, n, t respectively. Especially within roots, lyj, nyj are often written lj,nj respectively. Alphabetical order is normal, with composite letters regarded as broken into constituents, except that initial n always precedes initial ng. Hyphen is regarded as ordered before a.

Parts of Speech

Verbs are distinguished by being cited in the imperative, with the suffix marked off by a hyphen. Minor parts of speech are labelled, and the remainder are nominals.

Verb conjugations

The conjugation membership of a verb is indicated by citing it in the IMP, with the suffix separated by a hyphen. The conjugations are numbered to show alignments with Warlpiri conjugations as given in the Yuendumu dictionary (Hale 1974).
 imperative                         conjugation
     -ka       (consonant-final stem      1c
               (vowel-final stem          2
     -ngka     (i-final stem              1b
               (a,u-final stem            3
     -nta                                 5
     -nyja                                4
     -rra                                 1d
     wangka                               1a
Paradigms are given in the appendix Warlmanpa Verbs, which also arranges verbs by their root.


Prt    particle                  =     synonymous with
cf.    compare                   opp.  antonymous to
trans. transitive                IMP   imperative
ERG    ergative case             DAT   dative case

Grammatical Preface

(1) Verbal inflexions:

The verb roots of Warlmanpa may be grouped into five conjugations, with some conjugations having subgroupings. The paradigms are given throughout the list of verbs which follows the rest of the vocabulary.

(2) Auxiliaries:

nga- 1. (with future verb) 'future tense', as in Yamakarna pannya, ngarna kami. I'm going to the shade, and will sit down. 2. (with potential verb) 'potential', as in: Ngampurrparna kanya, ngarna yamaka panama. I might want to go to the shade.

ngarra- (possibly a longer alternant of nga-) 1. (with potential) 'potential', as in Malikurlu ngarrangu pinya. The dog might bite you.

-nga 1.(with potential verb) 'admonitive', as in: Nyanyangunga. He is liable to see you. 2. (with irrealis) 'past counterfactual', as in: Nyangkarlangunga. He would have seen you. 3. (possibly with future -- see (3) kula- )

nga---nga 1. (with potential verb) 'admonitive', as in: Ngurrakarna pina pana, ngajunga parra purlunyanma. I'll come back lest the sun set on me. 2. (with counterfactual) 'conditional' as in: Karin pirrakujarrarlama, ngarnangunga ngapa yinyjakurla. If you were thirsty, I would give you water.

-- (i.e., phonologically null) 1. (with future, present, past, potential, imperative) 'future, present, past, potential, imperative (respectively)' 2. (with irrealis) 'past counterfactual', 'tried to' 3. (with counterfactual) 'counterfactual' (especially in subordinate clause of conditional).

kari- 1. (with future verb) ''conditional', as in: Yumpanya ngapa karin ngukanmi, murrumurrujamin. If you drink this water, you'll get sick. 2. (with irrealis) 'conditional', as in: Karirna karima pankarla, ngarnanga palapalajarrarla. If I were to go far, I'd get tired.

(3) Finite complementizer:

ngula- 'instantiated relative', as in: Wanyjilan panangurra ngularnangu nyangu? Where were you going when I saw you? Malikin nyangu, ngulaju pungu? Did you see the dog that bit me? Kurturna manma, ngula lungunya. I'll get the child who is crying. Ngularna kangurnu, yungurnajana. I gave it to them ,what I brought here. Ngarrkamannyarna ngularna riit-janya. I know how to read.

kula- 'negative', as in: Kularna nyangu. I didn't see him. Kularnanga nyanyi. I won't see him. Kularnangu purtukanya. I can't hear you.

(4) Infinitive complementizers

(suffixed to infinitive verb, and to a noun grammatically related to the infinitive or when there is no infinitive -- see the examples):

-ka 'relative, main clause object coreferential with subordinate subject', as in: Nyangujun karlika partakurrumanjika. You saw me making a boomerang. Karntarla wanganya ngarrkaku karlika ngartanjaka. The woman is talking to the man trimming the boomerang. Malikirna purtukangu payimanjika. I heard the dog howling.

-karra 'relative, main clause subject coreferential with subordinate subject', as in: Yina-ngarninyjakarrarlu karta-pungunya karli. While singing, he is trimming the boomerang. Pakanjakarrarna wanu. While I was chopping it, I fell down. Ngarrka wanganya kanjakarra. The man is talking while sitting.

-kapina 'for' Preparative Purposive; 'towards' on nouns

-rlajinta 'relative, main clause reflexive and subject coreferential with subordinate subject', as in: Nganarlajintankulunyanu pakannya? What are you fighting with yourselves over?

-rla 'sequential', as in: Kuyurna ngarnu manjarla. I took the meat and ate it.

-ku 'purposive', as in: Yamakarna pannya kanjaku. I'm going to sit in the shade. Jawartirna panamirni ngapaku manjaku. Tomorrow I'll come to get water.

-kuma 'admonitive', as in: Pingka panka wanjakuma. Go slowly lest you fall. Kari panka karntakuma. Move away because of the woman.

-kupa 'desiderative', as in: Panangurnujunpala nyanyjakupa. You two came to see me. Kurtu lungunya ngampurlukupa. The child is crying for milk.

-wangu 'negative', as in: Pirtij-wanyjawangu. Don't climb up. Kiyanjawangurlu winyjaka. Leave it, don't throw it.

-jila (alternant of -wangu)

-warnu (alternant -ngarnu) 'resultative') used for perfective relatives: Palapalarna karliwarnu pakanjingarnu. I'm tired from chopping a boomerang. Karlikurnarla nyintinyaku wayinnya partakurru-manjingarnuku. I'm looking for the boomerang that you made. (NOTE: Complements may inflect for ergative or dative case if their subject is deleted under identity with a main clause argument bearing that case.)

(5) Pronominals:

The independent pronouns, which do not inflect for the ergative, are:
ngayu first person, 'I', 'we'

nyuntu second person, 'you'

The clitic pronouns, which occur suffixed to the auxiliary base, are:

subject clitic object clitic
rna ju
ja jangu
li ngali
n(ku) ngu
npala ngupala

pala palangu
rna-lu nganpa
lpa(lu) lpangu
nku-lu nyangu
lu jana



1 1st person singular
12, 122 1st person inclusive dual, plural
11, 111 1st person exclusive dual, plural
2, 22, 222 2nd person singular, dual, plural
3, 33, 333 3rd person singular, dual, plural

The order of the clitics in the auxiliary is basically:

1st person - 2nd person - {3rd person, nyanu} - rla

except for 2-3 sequences realised as -jana-n, -nyanu-n, -jana-nkulu, -nyanu-nkulu; also -jana-lu. That is, the sequence of clitics


which would arise by merely placing the second person clitic before the third person or reflexive marker, are not allowed. Instead, they are converted to the following:


Also, the -lu of -rna-lu and -lpa-(lu) usually occurs separately if there is an object clitic, separated from -rna- and -lpa- by the object enclitic. Thus one usually says:

Ngayu-rna-nyangu-lu nya-nganya.
I-111s-222o see-Present
'We are looking at you (plural).'

rather than:

Ngayu-rna-lu-nyangu nya-nganya.

to render 'We pl exc see you pl'. The sequence -lpa-lu does not occur — if there is no object clitic, the -lu deletes. The one possibility not covered by the above template is the sequence of two non-singular third person clitics, which is:

Thus for example:
Ngayu-rna-jana-lu nya-nganya.
I-111s-333o see-Present
'We are looking at them.'

When a nonsingular subject occurs with a nonsingular object, the plural clitic is used for both, regardless of the actual number associated with the nominal with which the clitic is construed; Hale (1973) dubbed this phenomenon Dual Neutralisation.

It is possible to have a sequence of three clitics — in such cases, the allowable sequence conforms to the pattern:

subject & dative - rla .

The second person subject clitic -n(ku) retains the parenthetic portion only before -rla (and -lu).

The reflexive/reciprocal object is -nyanu. In the first person singular, -ju may be used instead.

In the imperative, the element -n(ku) is deleted from the second person clitic; that is, only the number portion appears.

(6) Number:

There are two number inflexions which combine with nominals:

(-jima) -jarra, -ja 'dual'
-panyji, -panyju 'paucal, lesser plural' (rare)

and these are normally construed with pronominal clitics marking dual and plural respectively.

Some (but not all) nouns of human reference reduplicate to form a plural, e.g.
pulkapulka 'old men'
yapayapa 'children'
jarlujarlu 'old people'
japurlajapurla 'boys'
kurtukurtu 'children'

The suffix -tarra (as in Mudburra) is used by some speakers as a nominal plural.

(7) Determiners:

The definite determiners (articles and demonstratives) are:
yimpa ~ yumpa 'this'
yarri 'that'
yali 'that removed'
nyanungu 'the, that aforementioned'
nyamu 'that time, that evocative'
kuya 'thus, like this, like that'

There is suppletion in the proximal stem: for the inflected cases of yimpa, yumpa, a different root is used:
murlu 'this-ERG'
muku 'this-DAT'
mukurla 'this-GEN'
muka 'this-ALLATIVE, hither, to here'
mirla, mirlayi (also: mirlanga) 'this-LOC, here'
'this-ELATIVE, hence, from here'

The indefinite determiners are:
jinta 'one'
jirrima ~ jirrama 'two, a pair'
yukarti 'a few, several'
tartu 'many'

The interrogative determiners are:
ngana (takes polysyllable alternant of suffixes) 'who, what'
wanyji ~ wanyjila (also: nyaparla) 'where'
nyayanga 'what ones, how many'

Other interrogatives are:
nyapa ''how', 'which, where'
nyapa-ja-, nyapa-ma- 'to do what'
nyangurla 'when'
nganaku, nganawarnu

Cardinal direction terms include 'up' and 'down', and these take certain special suffixes.:
basic form
'in the —, across the —'
'from the —'
yanjarra 'north' yantija
kurlarra 'south' kurlija
'east' kakarrija
karlarra 'west' karlija
'up', etc
'down', etc
kantu 'long way down/inside'
and derivatives of these are given in the vocabulary. These take nominal suffixes -ngurlu 'from', -wartingki 'dweller', and the special suffixes -purta 'towards', -ija 'to, in, around' (on irregular stems), -rni 'this way from' which replace the final -rra of the cardinal stems. The -ija forms can be reduplicated to give a wider denotation.

Directional suffixes are given in the introduction to the list of verbs.

(8) Case (suffixed to nominals, including determiners and pronouns):

-ngu (with disyllables) ~ -rlu (with polysyllables) 'ergative: subject of a transitive clause; instrumental', as in: Ngarrkangu karli ngartarnu. The man trimmed the boomerang. Malikurluju pungu. The dog bit me. Nganarnangu manmi murlu pamarrparlu? What shall I get you with this money?

-ku 'dative, indirect object, purposive', as in: Wayikarla lanngariku Jungarrayiku. Look for a ghost gum for Jungarrayi. Ngayurna pannya wirlinyi wawirriku. I'm going hunting for kangaroo.

-nga (with disyllables) ~ -rla (with polysyllables) 'locative — at, on, in', as in: Karli yulunga kanya. The boomerang is on the ground. Yiwirtirla kantungurlu kanya. He's under the tree.

-ka 'allative, directional — to, toward, into, onto', as in: Kiyarnurna yamaka. I threw it into the shade. Yalikarna panama. I'll go there. Wanyjikan yarnu? Where did you put it? Papuluka purlunyanta. Enter the house.

-kapina 'towards', also Preparative Purposive? on Infinitive

-ngurlu 'elative — from', as in: Yiwirtingurlu wanu. He fell out of the tree. Malikingurluju ngannya. He's scolding me over his dog.

-warnu 'resultative', as in: Jirrmirinyparna parrawarnu. I'm sweating from the heat.

-kuma 'aversative, for fear of, to avoid', as in: Kari panka karntakuma. Move away because of women. (See also the examples under -nyanu in 10.)

(9) Noun formatives:

N-kurla 'genitive, having', as in: Maliki yarrinya, Jakamakurla. That dog is Jakama's. Ngarnangu yiwirtirlu kartapinyi ngayinyakurlarlu kirtanakurlarlu. I'll spear you with my father's spear.

-nya 'genitive' forms the possessive of a pronoun, with the final vowel of the pronoun changing to i, so: ngayinya 'my, our', nyuntinya (~ nyintinya) 'your', and also nyaninya 'his, hers, its, theirs'.

N-nyarrirni (? ~ nyayirni) 'very N', as in: partakurrunyarrirni 'very good'

N-wartingi 'native of' (with place names and habitats)

N-nganarra 'denizen of' (with habitats)

N-parna 'having, bearing'

N-kanyanu 'another', as in: Karlikujurla yapakanyanurlu wayinnya. Someone else is looking for a boomerang for me.

NOMIC 'agentive' (introduction to the list of verbs)

N-jila 'lacking, without', as in: Pamarrpajilarna. I don't have any money.

N-nganyja 'like, similar to', as in: Papulanyinganyjarnalu kanya. We are like whitefellas. (also: -piya) Note: kiyanginyja 'like this'.

N-palka 'associated with, exhibiting', as in: Kuyupalka. Hunter. Kilipalka. Cheeky. Wijipalka. Robber.

(10) Kinship terminology:

Suffixes which occur only on kinship terms:

-na 'my, our', as in: Ngamirninarluju karli yungu. My mother's brother gave me a boomerang. Kalyartina My karlyarti (friend).

-jupu 'your', as in Jukajupu. Your first cross cousin.

-nyanu 'his (anaphoric)', as in: Ngarrkangunyanu kurntangu mannya ngalapinyanukuma. The man is ashamed of his son.

-nginta, -rlangu 'reciprocal pair', as in: Jajanginta. Mother's mother and daughter's child.

The subsection terms are as follows:

  Table of subsection names

code man woman
A Japaja Napaja Japalyi
Ngalyirri, Napalya
A Jungurra Namurlpa Jukartayi
B Japanangka Napanangka Janama
B Japangarti Napangarti Japayarti Ngampayarti
C Jampijinpa Nampijinpa Jampilka
C Jangala Nangala Jangkali
D Jakama Nakama Jakarra
D Jupula Napula Jula(ma)

Note: Nganan puntu? What's your skin (subsection)

These days the Warlpiri subsection terminology is often used instead.

The possessor of a kinsman in the same generation is marked by -ku-pirtanga (~ -ku-purtanga), and in an ascending generation by -ku-palangu. The usual genitive is used otherwise.

See also a historical note on Warlmanpa kinship terms and subsections.

(11) Verb formatives:

N-ja- (forms V1d) 'inchoative, to become N', as in:
Kurtu yimpa wiri-janya. This child is getting big.
Kilikupa-janya. He's getting to want a fight.

N-ma- (forms V5) 'causative, to cause to become N'

INCEPTIVE (forms V5, retaining transitivity of root; irregular IMP) (see introduction to appendix on verbs) 'to go and V'.

(12) Enclitics:

-ma (phonological extension, used to lengthen a word for stylistic euphony; also with a focussing function), as in: Nganama yimpa? What's this?

-lku 'now, then, and then'

-wiyi 'first, before', as in: Ngularna witta=wiyi kangurra, Warlmanparna wanganyurra. When I was small, I used to talk Warlmanpa.

-yijala 'also', as in: Ngarrkangu ngulaju pakarnu, ngangunga pakanma=yijala. The man who hit me might hit you too.

-yi 'still, then as now'

-nya 'focus, topic', 'emphatic'

-muju 'too, also', as in: Ngayu=mujurna wangami. I have to talk too. (~ Mujurna wangami ngayu. with muju as particle)

(13) Sentence particles:

ngarra, marta 'potential' juppu 'for no reason, just because'
nganta 'suppositional, quotative'

kirli 'permissive' wayi (introduces polar question)
kala 'however, but'

ngarra 'maybe, might', as in: Malikurlu ngarrangu pinya. The dog might bite you. [moved from 2, March 2018]

puta 'half, partly', as in: Putaju ngaka. Don't scold me. Putaju nganja. Drink some on me.

Conjunction: kapi 'and'. (Disjunction is not expressed by a single word.)

(14) Phonological rules:

A. Regressive vowel assimilation occurs to some extent in nouns with stem-final i, which changes to u before some suffixes in u, so maliki but malikurlu, parntapi but parntapulku. Regressive assimilation occurs in verb roots of the conjugations 1b and 3b — see the paradigms.

B. Stress falls on the first syllable of each word. There is a secondary stress on the first syllable (and third syllable of a four syllable morpheme) of a morpheme of two or more syllables. Adjacent monosyllabic morphemes received an alternating secondary stress, but not so as to produce two adjacent stresses or a word-final stress.

Published corpus of Warlmanpa

In the early 1950s Arthur Capell recorded and published (twice) a list of 20 Warlmanpa words, and a 9-line text. Apart from the citation of some pronoun forms in Hale's 1973 paper (and a few words in Linklater 1940's The Magic Snake) this has been the only published material in Warlmanpa.
I. Capell (1952:129) The Wailbri through their own eyes. Oceania 23.2
II. Capell (1962:46-47) Some linguistic types in Australia. Sydney: Oceania.

The word list is repeated here, in Capell's spelling and in the practical orthography:

man ŋarga ngarrka
woman gaɳɖa karnta
head wa:lu walu
eye milba milpa
nose gubala (mulyu)0
mouth gadidi (lirra)1
tongue ŋaljanu ngalyanu
kangaroo malu (wawirri)2
tree ˈjuwidi yiwirti
a fly waɹaŋaɹa warangarra
sun bara parra
moon baɖaŋara partangarra
fire wa:ɭu warlu
smoke ˈjugudu yukurtu
water ŋaba ngappa
see njanji nyanyi (FUT)
look for wajini wayinya (PRES)
take mani mannya (PRES)
go jani (pannya PRES)3
speak waŋginji wanganyi (FUT)
Notes: 0. gubala not recognised (in any language of the region); mulyu is expected
1. Warlpiri kartirdi 'teeth'; 2. Warlpiri (western) marlu 'red kangaroo'; 3. Warlmanpa -yanya occurs only in compounds

Suffixes and enclitics

Warlmanpa (and Warlpiri) 'baby talk'


Australia languages

Created: original document 1979; web page circa 1997
Last changed
16 September 2020

2012 David Nash