Languages of Sulawesi
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Languages of Sulawesi
Map showing the distribution of the languages of Sulawesi

On the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, 114 native languages are spoken, all of which belong to the Malayo-Polynesian subgroup of the Austronesian language family.[1] With a total number of 17,200,000 inhabitants (2015 estimate, based on census data from 2010),[2] Sulawesi displays a high linguistic diversity when compared with the most densely populated Indonesian island Java,[3] which hosts 4-8 languages (depending on count) spoken by 145,100,000 inhabitants.[2]


All but three of the languages of Sulawesi belong to one of the following five subgroups,[4] which are almost exclusively[a] spoken on Sulawesi:

The remaining three languages are affiliated to subgroups which are primarily found outside of Sulawesi. Indonesian Bajau belongs to the Sama-Bajaw languages, and is spoken by scattered, traditionally nomadic coastal communities (locally known as Bajo people) which are distributed in many areas of eastern Indonesia. Makassar Malay and Manado Malay are Malay-based creoles.[1]

The Gorontalo-Mongondow languages are part of the Greater Central Philippine languages, and thus more closely related to the languages of the central and southern Philippines than to other languages of Sulawesi.[5] The Sangiric and Minahasan languages are included in the proposed Philippine subgroup, which also comprises the Greater Central Philippine languages and several other subgroups of the Philippines.[6]

The Celebic and South Sulawesi languages are primary branches of Malayo-Polynesian.[7]

Language vitality

Some languages, like Buginese (five million speakers) and Makassarese (two million speakers), are widely distributed and vigorously used. Many of the languages with much smaller numbers of speakers are also still vigorously spoken, but some languages are almost extinct, because language use of the ethnic population has shifted to the dominant regional language, e.g. in the case of Ponosakan, with four remaining speakers.[8]

List of languages

Gorontalo-Mongondow languages

The Gorontalo-Mongondow languages are spoken in the provinces of Gorontalo, North Sulawesi and Central Sulawesi. The following internal classification is based on Sneddon & Usup (1986):[9]

Sangiric languages

The Sangiric languages are spoken in North Sulawesi, and in the southern Philippines on the Sarangani Islands off the southern coast of Mindanao. The following internal classification is based on Sneddon (1984):[10]

Minahasan languages

The Minahasan languages are spoken in North Sulawesi. The following internal classification is based on Sneddon (1978):[11]

South Sulawesi languages

The South Sulawesi languages are mainly spoken in the provinces of South Sulawesi and West Sulawesi. Languages of the Tamanic branch are spoken outside of Sulawesi in West Borneo. The following internal classification is based on Friberg and Laskowske (1989):[12]

Celebic languages

The Celebic languages are primarily spoken in Central Sulawesi and Southeast Sulawesi, and also in parts of South Sulawesi and West Sulawesi. The following internal classification is based on the Ethnologue:[13]

See also


  1. ^ Only the South Sulawesi languages Embaloh and Taman, and the Sangiric language Sangil are located outside of Sulawesi.


  1. ^ a b Lewis, M. Paul (ed.) (2009). "Languages of Indonesia (Sulawesi)". Ethnologue: Languages of the World (16th ed.). Dallas, Texas: SIL International.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  2. ^ a b "Proyeksi Penduduk menurut provinsi, 2010-2035 (Population estimate by provinces, 2010-2035)". Badan Pusat Statistik. Retrieved 2019.
  3. ^ Noorduyn, J. (1991). "The Languages of Sulawesi". In H. Steinhauer (ed.). Papers in Austronesian linguistics. Pacific Linguistics A-81. Canberra: Australian National University.
  4. ^ Mead, David (2003). "Evidence for a Celebic supergroup." In Issues in Austronesian historical phonology, John Lynch (ed.). pages 115-141. Pacific Linguistics 550. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University.
  5. ^ Blust, Robert (1991). "The Greater Central Philippines hypothesis". Oceanic Linguistics. 30 (2): 73-129. doi:10.2307/3623084. JSTOR 3623084.
  6. ^ Blust, Robert (2005). "The linguistic macrohistory of the Philippines". In Liao, Hsiu-Chuan; Rubino, Carl R.Galvez (eds.). Current issues in Philippine linguistics pangaral kay Lawrence A. Reid. 2005: Linguistic Society of the Philippines and SIL Philippines. pp. 31-68.CS1 maint: location (link)
  7. ^ Smith, Alexander D. (2017). "The Western Malayo-Polynesian Problem". Oceanic Linguistics. 56 (2): 435-490. doi:10.1353/ol.2017.0021.
  8. ^ Lobel, Jason William (2015). "Ponosakan: A Dying Language of Northeastern Sulawesi". Oceanic Linguistics. 54 (2): 396-435. doi:10.1353/ol.2015.0022. JSTOR 43897709.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  9. ^ Sneddon, James N.; Usup, Hunggu Tadjuddin (1986). "Shared sound changes in the Gorontalic language group: Implications for subgrouping". Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde. 142 (4): 407-426. JSTOR 27863783.
  10. ^ Sneddon, James N. (1984). Proto-Sangiric and the Sangiric languages. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
  11. ^ Sneddon, James N. (1978). Proto-Minahasan: phonology, morphology, and wordlist. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
  12. ^ Friberg, T. and T.V. Laskowske (1989). "South Sulawesi languages". In: J.N. Sneddon (ed.), Studies in Sulawesi linguistics part 1, pp. 1-17. Jakarta: Badan Penyelenggara Seri Nusa.
  13. ^ Lewis, M. Paul (et al., eds.) (2015). "Celebic". Ethnologue: Languages of the World (18th ed.). Dallas, Texas: SIL International.

Further reading

  • Noorduyn J. (1991). A Critical Survey of Studies on the Languages of Sulawesi. Leiden: KITLV Press.
  • Sneddon, J. N. (1993). "The Drift Towards Final Open Syllables in Sulawesi Languages". Oceanic Linguistics. 32 (1): 1-44. JSTOR 3623095.

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