Nukunu language

Nukunu language
Spoken in South Australia
Native speakers < 10  (date missing)
Language family
Writing system Latin
Language codes
ISO 639-3 nnv

Nukunu (many other names; see below) is a moribund Australian Aboriginal language spoken by the Nukunu people in Yorke Peninsula, South Australia.



This language has been known by many names by neighboring tribes and Australianists, including:

  • Nukuna, Nokunna, Noocoona, Nookoona, Nuguna, Nukana, Nukunnu, Nukunu, Njuguna
  • Doora
  • Pukunna
  • Tjura, Tyura
  • Wallaroo, Warra
  • Wongaidya (from wangkatya, present tense form of verb 'to speak')


Nukunu is a Pama–Nyungan language, closely related to neighboring languages in the Miru cluster[1] like Narungga, Kaurna, and Ngadjuri.



Nukunu has three different vowels with contrastive long and short lengths (a, i, u, a:, i:, u:).

Front Back
High i iː u uː
Low a aː


The Nukunu consonantal inventory is typical for a Pama–Nyungan language, with six places of articulation for stops and nasals. There are three rhotics in the language.

Peripheral Laminal Apical
Labial Velar Dental Palatal Alveolar Retroflex
Stop Voiceless p k c t ʈ
Voiced (ɖ)
Nasal m ŋ ɲ n ɳ
Lateral ʎ l ɭ
Tap ɾ
Trill r
Approximant w j ɻ

A phonemic voicing contrast exists in Nukunu, but it has only been observed in the retroflex stop series. An example demonstrating such a contrast intervocalically is kurdi (phlegm, IPA ['kuɖi]) and kurti (quandong, IPA ['kuʈi]).


In contrast with other Thura–Yura languages, Nukunu did not partake in either the initial th- lenition before vowels or the lenition of initial k- before vowels.


  1. ^ Hercus pp. 1; Schmidt called this cluster (a subgroup of Thura–Yura) as "Miru" in 1919. Perhaps these languages are part of the Kadli group as well.


  • Hercus, Luise Anna (1992). "Introduction". A Nukunu Dictionary. Maitland, South Australia: National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication entry. 

External links

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