Language of the Week: Week Ten - Ndorndorin.

Welcome to Week Ten of the A-Z of Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages!

This week's language of the week is Ndorndorin from Western Cape York! Traditionally, Ndorndorin was spoken in the Archer and Mission River catchments including Windawinda Creek - this locality provides another name for Ndorndorin as it is also known as Winduwinda, Windawinda, Ngwatainggeti, Luthigh and Uradhi. There is some uncertainty over the status and relationship of Ndorndorin due to the way it is named or describer; for example, Ngwatainggeti has been applied to the people, while Wikwija meaning 'bad speech' was a name given by Wik Mungkan speakers to the south. Additionally Ndorndorin is also known as Mbalidjan and Ndomdorin which may be consider horde or clan names.

Despite this linguistic uncertainty, Ndorndorin is believed to be related to the Wik languages. Following removals and the establishment of missions, the language was spoken at Aurukun and on Northern Peninsula Area (NPA), particularly New Mapoon and Injinoo communities. Today, however, AUSTLANG data indicates there are no fluent speakers and it is considered endangered.

Cape York Section - Tindale Map (1974).

The above image from the Tindale Map (1974) shows the location of Winduwinda and the related languages which Tindale lists as coming under this umbrella term, including Ndorndorin.

There are minimal language materials on Ndorndorin. Historical research from the area includes Roth (1910) and McConnell (1939) focuses on the culture and customs of groups in the area including Ndorndorin with some language content. Later work by Oates, Alpher, Hale and Sutton from the 1960-80's period were linguistic by nature, however, there were limited speakers by this time.

Pama Language Centre is the Indigenous Languages Centre for Cape York and supports language revival activities across the region. On the State Library Spoken exhibition webpages, view a digital story featuring Perry Yunkaporta and other Aurukun community members sharing their stories of Wik Munkgan and neighbouring languages.

Join State Library for next week's Language of the Week - Oykangand from Western Cape York!


Desmond Crump

Indigenous Languages Coordinator, State Library of Queensland

State Library of Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages Webpages

State Library of Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages Map


Spoken: Celebrating Queensland languages exhibition

Spoken Virtual Tour

Jarjum Stories exhibition

Minya Birran: What next for Indigenous Languages?



Archer River, Cape York Peninsula (1984). 7435 Ron and Ngaire Gale Collection

Section of Cape York from Tindale Aboriginal Tribes of Australia Map. MAPS 804 1974 02500 A 


References and Further Reading

State Library collections have limited material relating to Ndorndorin or Winduwinda; however, these are part of texts or items referring to the Wik Mungkan group of languages. Relevant items in the collections include the following:

27458 Aurukun Mission Records 1960-1974

Kilham, C., Adams, J., Bell, J. and Namponan, G. (1986) Dictionary and source book of the Wik-Mungkan language. G 499.15 1986

Oates, W. (1964) Gugu-yalanji and Wik-munkan language studiesQ 499.15 guy 

Roth, W. E. (1901-1910) North Queensland Ethnography: Bulletins 1-18.  NAT 306.089 rot 

Sayers, B. and Kilham, C. (1969) Wik-Munkan primer. P 499.15 SAY

Sutton, P. (ed) (1974) Languages of Cape York: papers presented to the Linguistic Symposium, Part B, held in conjunction with the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies Biennial General Meeting, May,1974 G 499.15 1976

Tindale, N. B. (1974) Aboriginal tribes of Australia: their terrain, environmental controls, distribution, limits and proper namesQ 994.0049915 tin


We welcome relevant, respectful comments.
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.
We also welcome direct feedback via Contact Us.
You may also want to ask our librarians.

Capell (1963) gives ‘Ndorndorin’ as the name of a language ‘Not accurately located but in area covered by Aurukun Mission’. However, this is not a dialect but a male personal name. About 6 men are on record with this name in Aurukun Mission records.
Capell said a speaker of it was Jimmy Clark who lived at Aurukun. But Ndorndorin was Jimmy Clark’s Big Name (Aurukun Mission records). Tindale (1974:190) erroneously gives ‘Ndorndorin (a horde name)’ under ‘Winduwinda’, probably following Capell in error..