Identification. Aranda refers first of all to a language group. There have been at least eleven dialects in this group, each spoken by a different cultural bloc living in the desert areas of central Australia. The most northerly of these groups, the Anmatjera, Kaititj, Iliaura (or Alyawarra), Jaroinga, and Andakerebina, are not usually known as Aranda, even though they are Aranda speakers. Aranda is a postcontact denomination, now commonly accepted. It normally refers only to the following groups, some of which have died out by now or lost their distinct identities: Western Aranda, Northern Aranda, Eastern Aranda, Central Aranda, Upper Southern Aranda (or Pertame), and Lower Southern Aranda (or Alenyentharrpe).
Location. Arandic groups have been distributed throughout the area of the Northern Territory, Queensland, and South Australia between 132° and 139° S and 20° and 27° E. They have mainly occupied the relatively well-watered Mountainous areas of this desert region, although several groups, particularly around the northern, eastern, and southern fringes of the Aranda-speaking area, have very extensive sandhill regions within their territories.
Demography. The total population of Aranda speakers in precontact times probably did not exceed 3,000. The population fell very sharply after the coming of Whites, mainly through the introduction of new diseases. At the present time the total population figure is comparable to that of the precontact era and is rising, although the spatial and cultural distribution of that figure has shifted dramatically. Major settlements at or near Hermannsburg, Alice Springs, and Santa Teresa account for the bulk of the Aranda population.
Linguistic Affiliation. Australian Aboriginal languages, of which there are some 250, form a distinct family. Of the Arandic dialects, the most commonly heard today are Western Aranda (Hermannsburg / Alice Springs district) and Eastern Aranda (Alice Springs / Santa Teresa district). The total number of Aranda speakers probably does not exceed 3,000, one-half of whom would be speakers of Western Aranda. Most people are competent in more than one dialect and many are fluent in second and third languages, including various forms of English. Loan words, largely from Western Desert and Warlpiri neighbors, are commonly used and integrated into Aranda. Arandic languages now have a number of literary forms for use in publishing and bilingual education.