Bininj Kunwok Dialects

Dialects of the same language are usually considered those which are mutually intelligible.

There are many different names for the various varieties of Bininj Kunwok. Here are some of the main ones:


This is often considered the 'main' dialect because it has the largest number of speakers, most of whom live at Kunbarlanja (also spelt Gunbalanya in English format, formerly Oenpelli), but also at outstations such as Mamardawerre, Kumarrirnbang, Kudjekbinj and Manmoyi.


This is the dialect spoken on outstations of Maningrida on the lower Mann and Liverpool Rivers districts of western Arnhem Land. This includes places such as Mumeka, Marrkolidjban, Mankorlod, Barrihdjowkkeng, Kakodbebuldi, Kurrurldul and Yikarrakkal. There are about 400 speakers of this dialect.


This is the Arnhem Land plateau stone country dialect. It is no longer really spoken by young people, most of whom have switched to the main Kunwinjku variety. Although no longer spoken much these days, young people still have some passive knowledge about distinct lexical forms of this variety. Some traditional Kunborrk song texts are still sung in Kundedjnjenghmi as are some contemporary pop songs by bands such as the Nabarlek Band from Manmoyi on the Mann River.


Kundjeyhmi is the variety spoken in Kakadu National Park. It has a few grammatical features and many lexical features which are quite different from Kunwinjku and Kuninjku. This variety is now endangered as most young people with Kundjeyhmi speaking parents have now switched to English, North Australian Kriol,  Aboriginal English or Kunwinjku. Speakers of Kundjeyhmi previously wanted to distinguish themselves from Kunwinjku speakers by using a different orthography This means that Bininj Kunwok was previously written in two different spelling systems or othographies. This situation changed in June 2015 after the Kundjeyhmi speaking community decided to use the same orthography as Kunwinjku and the other dialects of Bininj Kunwok. This will make vernacular literacy programs in Kakadu National Park and western Arnhem Land less complicated than they have been in the past.


This variety is spoken on the outstations in the Cadell River district south of Maningrida at places such as Korlobidahdah, Buluhkaduru and Bolkdjam. Some Kune speakers say their variety is the same as the one referred to as Mayali, which is how Aboriginal people in the Katherine district refer to their variety of Bininj Gunwok. Kune has a few minor grammatical differences to the other varieties, but lots of lexical (vocabulary) differences.


This is the name used for the variety spoken in south-west Arnhem Land and around Pine Creek, Manyallaluk and Katherine. Some Kundjeyhmi speakers say that Kundjeyhmi and Mayali are the same thing or have a lot in common. Some people use this name Mayali as a collective term for all the Bininj Gunwok dialects but most Kunwinjku speakers do not accept this and say that all of the varieties should be called Kunwinjku.

A Kunwinjku and Kuninjku parallel text

The following text illustrates some dialect differences between the Kunwinjku and Kuninjku dialects:

The text is in Kunwinjku as spoken at Kunbarlanja. The text was composed by Faith Mangiru. It has been translated into Kuninjku by Melba Gunjarrwanga (from Mumeka) and Marina Murdilnga (from Yikarrakkal).

Kunwinjku is in this colour

Kuninjku is in this colour

English is in this colour.

1. Bu kun-kare bene-bokenh daluk bene-wam beneh-warlbuni kore man-berrk bene-yawani man-kung.

1. Bu kun-kare bene-bokenh daluk bene-wam beneh-djangkang kure man-berrk beneh-yawam man-kung.

1. Long ago, two women went off hunting in the savanna, looking for honey hives.

2. Bu malamalaywini kukabel bedda bene-yimeng wanjh "Ngarr-rey ngarr-warlbun man-kung."

2. Bu kam-barrhbom ngulamanjmak bedda bene-yimeng wanjh, "Ngarr-ay ngarr-warlbun man-kung."

2. In the early morning they said "Let's go looking for honey".

3. Wanjh bedda bene-kang kun-barlkudja kun-djabarrk dja djabbilana nawu man-kung kabene-dahkendong dja mak duruk berrewoneng.

3. Wanjh bedda bene-kang kun-kanin mak kun-madj mak mam-bard nawu man-kung kabene-dahkendong mak duruk berrewoneng.

3. They took digging sticks, some baskets and a billycan to put the honey in and they also took their dogs.

4. Bu bene-balhrey namekbe duruk wohnomeng na-kudji na-kimukken kalawan wanjh bene-bom bene-kukmey bene-kukkani.

4. Bu beneh-wam namekke duruk wohnomeng na-kudji na-kimukken kalawan wanjh bene-bom bene-kukmey bene-kukkang.

4. Along the way the dogs sniffed out a big goanna and they killed it, picked it up and carried it.

5. Bene-wam wanjh ngal-kudji nang man-kung wanjh bi-kayhmeng ngal-buyika bi-marneyimeng "Yim-ray nga-ngalkeng man-kung, nahni man-kung kah-di kore kuboy."

5. Bene-wam wanjh ngal-kudji nang man-kung wanjh bi-marnekayhmeng ngal-buyika bi-marneyimeng, "Yim-ray nga-ngalkeng man-kung, nanih man-kung kah-di kure mikambe."

5. They kept going and one saw some honey and called out to the other and said "Come, I've found some honey here in this termite mound".

6. Wanjh bene-karuy bene-mey bene-dahkendoy kore djabbilana wanjh bene-yawoyhwam bene-yawani na-wern man-kung.

6. Wanjh bene-karuy bene-mey bene-dahkendoy kure mambard wanjh bene-yawoyhwam bene-yawam na-wern man-kung.

6. Then they started digging it out and putting it into the billycan and then they went off again looking for lots of honey.

7. Bu bene-wam bene-karuy na-wern man-kung kore kuboy wanjh bene-barlkeng bene-dahkendoy kore djabbilana wanjh bene-marneyimerrinj, "Bonj wanjh ngarr-durndeng ngarr-dokme kured."

7. Bu bene-wam bene-karuy na-wern man-kung kure mikambe wanjh bene-barlkeng bene-dahkendoy kure mambard wanjh bene-marneyimerrinj, "Bonj wanjh ngarr-durndeng ngarr-dokme kured."

7. As they went they dug lots of honey hives out of termite mounds and filled up the billy can and then said to each other "OK, that's enough, let's go home."

8. Bu bene-balhrey bene-barldurndengi ngal-kudji yimeng "Ngarr-ray ngarr-wohmang barrdjungka dja man-dem kore kulabbarl."

8. Bu bene-wam bene-durndi ngal-kudji yimeng "Ngarr-ay ngarr-wohmang kanwerr mak burdbarrk kure kulabbarl."

8. As they went back, one of them said "Let's get the corms of white and purple waterlillies in the billabong."

9. Wanjh bene-mey bene-barlkeng wanjh bene-dokmeng kured.

9. Wanjh bene-mey bene-barlkeng wanjh bene-dokmeng kured.

9. They got them and filled their bags and then headed off back to camp.

10. Bu bene-bebmeng kured wanjh bene-worrhmeng bene-wilkdi nawu kalawan dja mandem dja manu barrdjungka bene-kinjeng kore kuyirrke. Dja nawu man-kung bene-delengbarnnameng kore balabbala.

10. Bu bene-bebmeng kured wanjh bene-worrhmeng bene-wilkdi nawu kalawan mak burdbarrk mak manekke kanjwerr bene-kinjeng kure kuyirrke nawu man-kung bene-delengbarnnameng kure balabbala.

10. When they got home, they made a fire and cooked the goanna in the ashes along with the water lilly corms which they cooked on the coals. As for the honey, they hung up the full container on the platform.

11. Bu beneh-ni bene-madbuni runguhruy wilkkihwilkkidi nawu kalawan dja mandem wanjh bu djolengminj wanjh bene-wayhkeng bene-kurrmeng wolebukkiyoy.

11. Bu beneh-ni bene-madbom runguhruy wilkkihwilkkidi nawu kalawan mak burdbarrk wanjh bu djolengminj wanjh bene-wayhkeng bene-kurrmeng bubuhmeng.

11. They sat there and waited for the goanna and waterlilly corms to cook in the ashes and when they were cooked they lifted them out and left them to cool.

12. Bu beneh-ni kedjelkminj wanjh bene-djalkdjalkmey wanjh bene-nguneng kalawan dja mak mandem dja barrdjungka bene-nguneng warridj.

12. Bu beneh-ni djelmirranj wanjh bene-dadjdadjeng wanjh bene-nguneng kalawan mak burdbarrk mak kanwerr beneh-nguneng warridj.

12. They sat there until they became cool and they cut everything up and ate the goanna along with the waterlilly corms.

13. Bene-nguneng bene-worrkminj nawu kalawan dja mandem dja barrdjungka rowk wanjh bene-bomarnbom man-kung dja bene-bonguneng bene-worrkminj.

13. Bene-nguneng bene-worrkminj nawu kalawan mak burdbarrk mak kanjwerr rowk wanjh bene-kolhmarnbom man-kung mak bene-kolhnguneng bene-worrkminj.

13. They ate the goanna and waterlillies and were full and then they mixed up some of the honey with water and drank it until they were full.

14. Wanjh munguyh bene-manjburrbuni man-kung nawu bene-nguneng dja warridj bu bene-bonguneng bene-bomanjbekkang man-bomanjmakkaykenh duninj.

14. Wanjh munguyh beneh-manjbengkang man-kung nawu beneh-kolhnguneng mak warridj bu beneh-kolhnguneng beneh-kolhmanjbekkang man-kolhmanjmak duninj.

14. They kept tasting the honey they ate and had mixed into a drink and it tasted really delicious.

15. Wanjh bene-yimeng "Yoh, nahni nawu man-kung ngarr-wam ngarr-karungi ngarrh-mangi nakka nuk na-manjmakkaykenh duninj.

15. Wanjh bene-yimeng "Yoh, nanih nawu man-kung ngarr-wam ngarr-karuy ngarrh-mey nakka nuk na-manjmak .

15. Then they said, "Yes, this honey we went and got by digging, it is absolutely very good tasting honey."

16. Dja nawu bene-dahkendoy man-kung kore djabbilana munguyh delengdi bene-barnnameng berrewoneng delengbarndi kore balabbala kured kore bene-yoy.

16. Nakka wanjh nawu bene-dahkendoy man-kung kure mambard munguyh delengdi bene-barnnameng berrewoneng delengbarndi kure balabbala kured kure bene-yoy.

16. That honey which they put into the billycan stayed there hanging up for ages (because there was so much of it) and so it hung there on the platform where those two slept.


That is all.