Dhuwal language

Dhuwal (also Dual, Duala) is one of the Yolŋu languages spoken by Aboriginal Australians in the Northern Territory, Australia. Although all Yolŋu languages are mutually intelligible to some extent, Dhuwal represents a distinct dialect continuum of eight separate varieties.

Native toAustralia
RegionNorthern Territory
EthnicityDaii, Dhuwal, Dhuwala, Makarrwanhalmirr
Native speakers
5,171 (2016 census)[1]
Standard forms
  • Gupapuyngu
  • Gumatj
  • Djambarrpuyngu
  • Djapu
  • Liyagalawumirr
  • Guyamirlili
  • Dhalwangu [Dhay'yi]
  • Djarrwark [Dhay'yi]
Yolŋu Sign Language
Official status
Official language in
Northern Territory (as lingua franca for aborigines)[2]
Language codes
ISO 639-3Variously:
dwu  Dhuwal
djr  Djambarrpuyngu
gnn  Gumatj
guf  Gupapuyngu
dax  Dayi (Dhay'yi)
dwy  Dhuwaya
Glottologdhuw1248  Dhuwal-Dhuwala[3]
dayi1244  Dayi[4]
AIATSIS[5]N198 Dhuwal, N199 Dhuwala, N118 Dhay'yi


Dialects of the Yirritja moiety are (a) Gupapuyngu and Gumatj; those of the Dhuwa moiety are (b) Djambarrpuyngu, Djapu, Liyagalawumirr, and Guyamirlili (Gwijamil). In addition, it would appear that the Dhay'yi (Dayi) dialects, (a) Dhalwangu and (b) Djarrwark, are part of the same language.[6]

Ethnologue divides Dhuwal into four languages, plus Dayi and the contact variety Dhuwaya:

  • Dhuwal proper, Datiwuy, Dhuwaya, Liyagawumirr, Marrangu, and Djapu: 600 speakers
  • Djampbarrpuyŋu, 2,760 speakers
  • Gumatj, 240 speakers
  • Gupapuyngu, 330 speakers
  • Dhay'yi (Dayi) and Dhalwangu, 170 speakers

Numbers are from the 2006 census.

Dhuwaya is a stigmatized contact variant used by the younger generation in informal contexts, and is the form taught in schools, having replaced Gumatj ca. 1990.


Dhuwal consonants[7]

Bilabial Lamino-dental Apico-alveolar Lamino-palatal Apico-domal / Retroflex Velar Glottal
Lenis b dh d ɟ ɖ g
Fortis p th t c ʈ k ʔ
Nasal m nh n ɲ ɳ ŋ
Glide w r y ɻ
Lateral l ɭ

Dhuwal vowels [7]

Highi, i:u, u:
Lowa, a:

Vowel length is contrastive in first syllable only.


Probably every Australian language with speakers remaining has had an orthography developed for it, in each case in the Latin script. Sounds not found in English are usually represented by digraphs, or more rarely by diacritics, such as underlines, or extra symbols, sometimes borrowed from the International Phonetic Alphabet. Some examples are shown in the following table.

Language Example Translation Type
Pitjantjatjara dialect of the Western Desert language paa 'earth, dirt, ground; land' diacritic (underline) indicates the retroflex nasal ([ɳ])
Wajarri nhanha 'this, this one' digraph indicating the dental nasal ([n̪])
Yolŋu languages yolŋu 'person, man' 'ŋ' represents the velar nasal (borrowed from the International Phonetic Alphabet)


  1. ABS. "Census 2016, Language spoken at home by Sex (SA2+)". stat.data.abs.gov.au. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  2. http://www.ethnologue.com/language/djr
  3. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Dhuwal-Dhuwala". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Dayi". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  5. N198 Dhuwal at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies  (see the info box for additional links)
  6. Dixon, Robert M. W. (2002). Australian Languages: Their Nature and Development. Cambridge University Press. p. xxxvi. ISBN 978-0-521-47378-1.
  7. Walker, Alan; Zorc, David R. (1981). "Austronesian loanwords in Yolngu-Matha of northeast Arnhem Land". Aboriginal History. 5: 109–134.

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