An adjective is a part of speech used to describe something, which usually goes with a noun or noun phrase, giving more information about the object signified.

English examples include big, good, red, Australian, expensive, wooden, quick.

In English, adjectives usually go before the noun they modify (e.g., a big rock) and there is a certain order in which they should go (e.g., you can’t say *a red big rock).

Other languages have different rules, like where the adjective goes in relation to the noun it modifies, or what order the adjectives go in. Some languages only have a few adjectives.

Don’t assume that the rules for adjectives in another language are the same as in English.


An adverb is a word or phrase that modifies the meaning of an adjectiveverb, or another adverb.

Adverbs typically express manner, place, time, frequency, degree, level of certainty, etc., Answering questions such as how?in what way?when?where?, and to what extent?.

Examples of adverbs in English include gentlyherenowvery.

Adverbs are usually considered to be a part of speech


An affix is an addition to the base form or stem of a word in order to modify its meaning or create a new word. An affix is a morpheme which can attach before (as a prefix), after (as a suffix), inside (as an infix), or around (as a circumfix) the stem or base form of a word.

The following chart gives examples of different kinds of affixes in English and in Kunwinjku:

Prefix un-do Ngalwamud (female of Wamud skin) prefix-stem Appears before the stem
Suffix look-ing Sydney-beh (from Sydney stem-suffix Appears after the stem
Infix abso〈flippin’〉lutely kamre (he/she is coming – compare kare he/she is going) st〈infix〉em Appears within a stem
Circumfix en⟩light⟨en xxx circumfix⟩stem⟨circumfix One portion appears before the stem, the other after

alveolar ridge

The alveolar ridge is a hard ridge found just behind the upper teeth.


Many consonant sounds are made with the tongue making contact with the alveolar ridge, such as [d, n, t, l].

To feel your alveolar ridge, put your tongue on your top teeth then pull it back along until it touches the roof of your mouth (palate). You should feel a ridge between your teeth and the palate.

Retroflex sounds are made at the alveolar ridge also, but use the underside of the tongue to make contact.


An article is a word that is used to define a noun as specific or unspecific.

English uses two kinds of articles:

  • definite article – the
  • indefinite article – a, an

Technically these are part of the word class known as determiners

Australian languages do not generally use articles, but have a range of determiners, which give grammatical information about a noun or noun phrase.


A clause is the next smallest unit after a sentence, it generally includes a subject and a verb.

For example in English the sentence:

After they cooked dinner, they ate it

contains two clauses:

After they cooked dinner

they ate it


A consonant is a speech sound made with some closure or constriction of the vocal tract.

Examples include

  • [p] pronounced with closure at the lips;
  • [d] pronounced with closure at the front of the tongue and the alveolar ridge;
  • [k] pronounced with the back of the tongue against the velum;
  • [m] and [n], which have air flowing through the nose (nasals)

Contrasting with consonants are vowels.


Demonstrative words show which person or thing is being referred to.

They specify an entity in terms of the distance (real or metaphorical) from the speaker (e.g. this week, those books)

Examples of demonstratives in English include this, that, these, those.

There is a distinction between demonstrative adjectives, which modify nouns, and demonstrative pronouns, which replace nouns

  • These pretzels are making me thirsty (demonstrative adjective)
  • I don’t like this book (demonstrative adjective)
  • That smells delicious (demonstrative pronoun)
  • Those are my favourites (demonstrative pronoun)

Australian Aboriginal languages make finer distinctions in demonstratives than English does. They generally express distances in space and time, and may indicate things such as

  • distance from the speaker or hearer
    • here, close by
    • here, a little further
    • there, close by
    • there, some distance
    • there, out of sight
    • there, a long way away
  • place in discourse
    • that mentioned just now
    • that mentioned before
  • assumptions about the hearer’s attention
    • the one being pointed to
    • the one just mentioned
    • the one you know is being referred to

Demonstratives may be marked for person and number

  • Demonstrative pronouns might have an object form in your language.
  • Demonstratives might have dual and plural forms.

Demonstratives might also be marked for person and number, e.g.

  • those two, nearby
  • that female, far away



A consonant sound made by touching the tongue tip to the teeth.

Examples in English include the ‘th’ sounds in ‘thin’ and ‘then.

In Indigenous Australian languages, consonants made in this position may be spelled as ‘th’, ‘dh’ ‘nh’ or ‘lh’


A determiner is a word, phrase or affix which modifies a noun phrase[glossary].

In English these can be [glossary]articles, possessive pronouns, and numerals.

In English, determiners include

  • articles (a, an, the)
  • numerals (including cardinal numbers (one, two, three…) and ordinal numbers (first, second, third…))
  • demonstratives (this, that, these, those)
  • partitives (some of, piece of, and others)
  • quantifiers (most, all, and others)
  • difference words (other, another),
  • possessive determiners (my, your, his, her, its, our, their).

In Australian Indigenous languages, determiners can include most of these, but not articles.