A guide to Maningrida language resources

Over the years many people have worked to develop language teaching and learning resources for the languages in the Maningrida region. Much of this work came about as part of the Burarra/Gun-nartpa and Ndjébbana bilingual programs at Maningrida CEC from the late 1970s to 2008. Some was created through bible translation work and liturgy translation, especially for Burarra.

Other materials are dictionaries and teaching and learning resources. There are many academic articles written by linguists and anthropologists that contain valuable information, although sometimes the language is a bit hard to understand. Digging deeper there is also considerable archival material that has been recorded and stored in archives at AIATSIS in Canberra and elsewhere.

Click here for a guide to spelling in different Maningrida languages

Click here for a language map and some information about the languages of Maningrida

Watch the film Maningrida Sunrise, which showcases multilingual education at Maningrida in 1992

Click here to read the Maningrida Language Plan

Bilingual literature in Ndjébbana, Burarra, Gun-nartpa, Kuninjku, Kune, Gurr-goni, Djinaŋ, Na-kara …

Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages
Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages

The literature that was created as part of the Burarra and Ndjébbana bilingual programs has been compiled and digitised by the Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages project based at Charles Darwin University.

Many of these books can be viewed and downloaded from the Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages website.


All of the Maningrida languages have been researched to a greater or lesser extent. Linguists have worked with language speakers and recorded many stories and other forms of knowledge. Some linguists have created databases for dictionaries and in some cases these dictionaries have been published in print form. In some cases the dictionaries exist only as printed manuscripts that have not been published.

Unpublished dictionaries


A lot of work has been done on a Ndjébbana dictionary by Graham McKay, Carolyn Coleman, Rebecca Green and others, and there is a detailed database created by Rebecca Green, who also formatted it for printing. Maningrida School has copies of this draft dictionary, and the language team use it for planning teaching and learning and for developing resources, but it is not yet published.

Rebecca Green worked with Ndjébbana elders to standardise the spellings, consolidate information from across many different documents and added new vocabulary, definitions and information about semantic fields such as kinship, seasons, bush medicine and many other topics. This dictionary database has developed into a rich resource about Ndjébbana/Kunibídji language and culture, alongside a wide range of written resources on many topics (some available through LAAL).

Kuninjku and Kune

Kuninjku and Kune are two dialects of a wide spread language that is sometimes called Bininj Kunwok ‘people’s language’. These two dialects are from the eastern side of Bininj Kunwok. Kuninjku is spoken by people who live in the Marrkolidjban and Mumeka area and Kune is spoken even further east, around Borlkdjam and Bulukardaru. There is a dictionary database for these dialects compiled by Murray Garde. It is used at Maningrida College for the Kuninjku and Kune language program but is not published at this stage.

Published and printed dictionaries:



Glasgow, K. (1994). Burarra – Gun-nartpa dictionary: with English finder list. Darwin: Summer Institute of Linguistics.


Eather, B. (2005). A first dictionary of Na-Kara. Winnellie, NT: Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation.

 gurrgoni-cover copy 2


Green, R., & Nimbadja, L. (2015). Gurr-goni to English Dictionary. Batchelor: Batchelor Press.


Evans, N., Merlan, F., & Tukumba, M. (2004). A First Dictionary of Dalabon. Maningrida: Maningrida Arts and Culture.

On-line electronic dictionaries

Some dictionaries are available online through AuSIL:




The Yolŋu Matha dictionary compiled by David Zorc was published in book form in 1986.

It is also available online, as part of the Yolngu Matha program at Charles Darwin University. The online dictionary has been substantially updated from the early printed version.

Yolŋu Matha Dictionary (CDU)

Link here to download the Gupapuyŋu language app

The Gupapuyŋu app is produced by the Yolŋu language studies program at Charles Darwin University. It has been developed to help people who are learning Yolŋu languages and culture to work on some basic aspects of the language and will run on either Macintosh or Windows computers.


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For Kuninjku and Kune there is an online animal and plant name dictionary compiled by Murray Garde and others:

Bininj Kun-wok – what plant is that?

Grammars and learners’ guides

A learners’ guide provides an introduction to someone who is interested in learning a language. It describes the rules for putting words and sentences together and often is structured like a course.

Eather, B. (2005). A learner’s guide to the Na-Kara language. Winnellie, NT: Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation.

Saulwick, A. (2003c). A learner’s guide to the Rembarrnga language. Maningrida: Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation.

A grammar is a more detailed description of a language, usually written by a linguist and often aimed at an audience of other linguists. Grammars can be very technical, however with a bit of dedication a non-linguist can learn a lot about a language from reading one.

Another type of resource in this category is the journal article or book chapter that describes and explains an aspect of language. Again, these are quite technical and are often presented in terms of a theoretical argument.

Click here for a list of dictionaries, learners guides, grammars and articles on Maningrida languages.

Cultural induction resources

Alongside these language resources there are also many other useful documents that we can classify as cultural induction resources. These are documents like staff handbooks and other kinds of resources developed to help newcomers to Maningrida to settle in and learn something about the cultural mix that they have entered. A team of people working in collaboration with the Lúrra Language and Culture program at Maningrida College are working to uncover and repurpose these important resources. Watch this space.