Alawa, also known as Galawa or Waliburu, is the language spoken in the area including Hodgson Downs, Nutwood Downs, and Tanumbirini stations, south of the Roper River and east of the Stuart Highway, The younger people hardly use the Ianguage except when speaking with their elders, and even the latter now use a Creole which they call Pidgin English for many conversations, so Alawa is not greatly used now.
The Alawa tribe has about a hundred members, according to the Northern Territory Welfare Branch records. As an estimate, about a hundred more of Aboriginal descent have an Alawa mother or foster parents. Most of these understand a little Alawa and use some Alawa words in their Creole. The estimated number who know the language well is thirty. The others know simple expressions only.
Very little study of the language or people has been done in the past. The aim of the present study is to describe the phonology and grammar of the language systematically. Most detail has been given in phonology, including general voice quality and intonation, and in morphology. This study is based on data gathered during four field trips, totalling four and a half months, over a period of two years from June 1966 to May 1968.
Alawa is an inflexional language, of the type known as prefixing among Australian languages. In the singular, two genders are distinguished, masculine and feminine. Singular, dual and plural numbers are distinguished. Substantives are inflected for case; verbs are inflected for tense, aspect and mood, for agreement with subject, and sometimes for agreement with a referent. The Alawa verb consists of an invariant verb root and following auxiliary verb; this structure has not been found in very many Australian languages.