Yolŋu (Yolŋu Matha)

Yolŋu is a group of Pama-Nyungan languages consisting of six main languages and 12 dialects spoken in 30 different clans. They are spoken by about 5,700 people in northeastern Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory of Australia, particularly in Elcho Island, Crocodile Islands, Wessel Islands and the English Companys Islands. There is some mutual intelligibility between these languages and dialects

Yolŋu is also known as Yolngu or Yuulngu. Each group of speakers has their own name for their variety of Yolŋu. As the Yolŋu people practise exogamy (marrying people who speak a different language), most speak several varities of Yolŋu, and/or other languages.

The major varieties of Yolŋu are Dhangu-Djangu, Nhangu, Dhuwal, Ritharrngu, Djinang and Djinba. Dhangu-Djangu has about 310 speakers. Nhangu has about 10 speakers. Dhuwal has about 5,171 speakers, Ritharrngu has about 32 speakers. Djinang has 125 speakers, and Djinba has 53 speakers.

During the 1930s, missionaries developed various ways of writing Yolŋu, which are still used today, though there is no standard spelling system.

Yolŋu languages are considered endangered, and efforts are being made to document and revitalise them. An online dictionary of Yolŋu languages was launched in 2015 by Charles Darwin University.

Yolŋu alphabet and pronunciation

Yolŋu alphabet and pronunciation


These letters and sounds are common to Yolŋu languages, although there are differences in pronunciation between varieties.

Download an alphabet chart for Yolŋu (Excel)

Sample videos in Yolŋu

Information about Yolngu | Phrases | Numbers


Information about the Yolŋu language

Pama-Nyungan languages

Alyawarr, Arrernte, Bundjalung, Dharawal, Dhuwal, Diyari, Djinang, Djinba, Gamilaraay, Gooniyandi, Gugadja, Guugu Yalandji, Guugu Yimithirr, Kala Lagaw Ya, Kalkatungu, Kaurna, Kuku Nyungkal, Kunjen, Kuuk Thaayorre, Martu Wangka, Ngaanyatjarra, Ngiyambaa, Nhangu, Noongar, Paakantyi, Pintupi, Pitjantjatjara, Warlpiri, Wemba Wemba, Wik-Mungkan, Wiradjuri, Yankunytjatjara, Yindjibarndi, Yolŋu

Languages written with the Latin alphabet

Page last modified: 23.04.21


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