Pronunciation Guide

Yolŋu Phonemes and Orthography

This website contains words in Yolŋu Aboriginal languages, which have several very specific sounds not used in English. If your tongue is not used correctly, you are not saying the words correctly. The notes and interactive chart below will help you understand this – click on a phoneme to see the tongue motion and hear it pronounced by Charles Darwin University’s Yolŋu lecturer Waymamba Gaykamaŋu.

Another important guideline is that the first syllables of words are emphasized.



the tail-n represents a soft ng, as in “singer”


soft ng followed by a hard g, like in “stronger”


separately pronounced n and then g, like in “mangrove”

n d l

retroflexed tongue – say the consonant with the back of the tip of the tongue pushing against the gum ridge, behind the top teeth

dj tj ny

do not pronounce the y or j as in English. The tip of the tongue pushes against the back of the bottom teeth while the blade (middle) pushes up against the gum ridge. Say the n, t or d with the tongue starting from this position.


a rolled r, usually just one quick flap, or a short roll flicking against the gum ridge

glottal stop – cutting off the sound from the top of the throat