Sulawesi Language Alliance

Championing Local Languages in the Heart of Indonesia

About Our Director

International Director David MeadOur International Director and the founder of Sulawesi Language Alliance is David Mead. David received a master’s degree in linguistics from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1984, and earned his PhD in linguistics from Rice University in 1998. He is an experienced as well as passionate surveyor and language field researcher.

David first went to Sulawesi in 1987 and has since traveled widely across the island, working with speakers of indigenous languages in five out of the island’s six provinces (the only exception is Gorontalo Province). While David has appreciated opportunities to teach linguistics in the United States, Canada and Indonesia, the plight of Sulawesi’s endangered languages has created a desire to devote more time and effort to working directly and intimately with speakers themselves.

Overview of Work Experience

2008–present founder and international director, Sulawesi Language Alliance
1999–2008 Sulawesi regional survey coordinator, Indo-Pacific Branch of SIL
1999–2005 linguistics coordinator, Indo-Pacific Branch of SIL
1998–1999 post-doctorate position for research, Rice University
1993–1998 teaching assistant and degree program, Rice University
1992 invited lecturer, fall semester, Trinity Western University
1990–1993 adjunct assistant professor, University of Texas at Arlington
1987–1989 Indonesian language learning and survey in central and southeastern Sulawesi; professor of linguistics at Hasanuddin University

David also has continuing research interests in Kulisusu (since 1996) and Mori Bawah (since 2003), including analysis of the sound system and grammar, orthography design, text collection, dictionary development, website development, and beginning curriculum design.



1998 Proto–Bungku-Tolaki: Reconstruction of its phonology and aspects of its morphosyntax. Ph.D. dissertation. Rice University, Houston, TX.


1999 The Bungku-Tolaki languages of south-eastern Sulawesi, Indonesia. (Pacific Linguistics, D-91.) Canberra: Australian National University.

Translated Books

2011 by Samuel J. Esser, translated by David Mead. Phonology and morphology of Mori. (SIL e-Books, 27.) Dallas: SIL International. Online. URL:

Edited Volumes

2007 Mead, David (ed.) 10-ICAL historical comparative papers. Journal special issue. Studies in Philippine Languages and Cultures, 15.
2007 Mead, David (ed.) 10-ICAL Sumatra papers. Journal special issue. Studies in Philippine Languages and Cultures, 16.
1999 Mead, David (ed.) Studies in Sulawesi linguistics, part 5. (NUSA Linguistics studies of Indonesian and other languages in Indonesia, 45). Jakarta: Universitas Katolik Indonesia Atma Jaya. [Open-access archive. URL:]

Book Chapters

2015 with Joanna Smith. The focus systems of Wotu, Barang-barang and Wolio: Synchronic and diachronic perspectives. Language change in Austronesian languages (Asia-Pacific Linguistics, 018; Studies in Austronesian Linguistics, 004), edited by Malcolm Ross and I Wayan Arka, 51–78. Canberra: Australian National University. Online. URL:
2009 Kinship terms in Bungku-Tolaki languages: Inheritance, innovation and borrowing. Austronesian historical linguistics and culture history: A festschrift for Robert Blust, (Pacific Linguistics, 601), edited by Sander Adelaar and Andrew Pawley, 489–507. Canberra: Australian National University.
2008 with Scott Youngman. Verb serialization in Tolaki. Serial verb constructions in Austronesian and Papuan languages (Pacific Linguistics, 594), edited by Gunter Senft and Miriam van Staden, 113–139. Canberra: Australian National University.
2008 Functions of the Mori Bawah indefinite particle ba: Towards a comparative study. Language and text in the Austronesian world: Studies in honour of Ülo Sirk (LINCOM Studies in Austronesian Linguistics, 6), edited by Yury A. Lander and Alexander K. Ogloblin, 209–232. Meunchen: LINCOM.
2006 Language endangerment and the Bible translation task in Indonesia. Penerjemah, penerjemahan Alkitab, dan pembina penerjemahan, edited by Tim Lembaga Alkitab Indonesia, 14–20. Jakarta: LAI.
2005 Mori Bawah. The Austronesian languages of Asia and Madagascar, edited by Nikolaus Himmelmann and Sander Adelaar, 683–708. London: Routledge.
2003 The Saluan-Banggai microgroup of eastern Sulawesi. Issues in Austronesian historical phonology (Pacific Linguistics, 550), edited by John Lynch, 65–86. Canberra: Australian National University.
2003 Evidence for a Celebic supergroup. Issues in Austronesian historical phonology (Pacific Linguistics, 550), edited by John Lynch, 115–141. Canberra: Australian National University.
2002 Proto-Celebic Focus Revisited. The history and typology of Western Austronesian voice systems (Pacific Linguistics, 518), edited by Fay Wouk and Malcolm Ross, 143–177. Canberra: Australian National University.
2001 A preliminary sketch of the Bobongko language. Studies in Sulawesi Linguistics, part 7 (NUSA Linguistic Studies of Indonesian and Other Languages in Indonesia, 49), edited by Wyn D. Laidig, 6194. Jakarta: Badan Penyelenggara Seri Nusa, Universitas Katolik Indonesia Atma Jaya. [Reproduced online. URL: (accessed January 14, 2014).]
2001 Ihwal konjungsi dalam Bahasa Mori Bawah di Sulawesi Tengah. PELBBA 14: Tipologi bahasa pragmatik pengajaran bahasa, edited by Bambang Kaswanti Purwo, 1–32. Yogyakarta: Kanisius.
1999 Active, passive and antipassive in Bungku-Tolaki languages. Studies in Sulawesi Linguistics, part 5 (NUSA Linguistic studies of Indonesian and other languages in Indonesia, 45), edited by David Mead, 113–145. Jakarta: Universitas Atma Jaya. [Reproduced online. URL: (accessed January 14, 2014).]
1991 with Melanie Mead. Survey of the Pamona dialects of Kecamatan Bungku Tengah. UNHAS-SIL: more Sulawesi sociolinguistic surveys, 1987–1991 (Workpapers in Indonesian languages and cultures, 11), ed. by Timothy Friberg, 121–142. Ujung Pandang: Summer Institute of Linguistics.
1982 with Ron Artigue. Transport limitation of oxygen in multicell spheroids as determined by mathematical modeling. Biomedical engineering I: Recent developments, edited by Subrata Saha, 205–208. New York: Pergamon.

Journal Articles

2008 When to use a genitive pronoun in Mori Bawah (Sulawesi, Indonesia). 10-ICAL pronoun papers, edited by Sue McQuay, special issue. Studies in Philippine Languages and Cultures 17:137–178.
2004 Off the cassette tape and onto CD: Migrating analog audio data to digital format. Word & Deed 3.1:73–82.
2001 The numeral confix *i‑ ‑(e)n. Oceanic Linguistics 40:167–176.
2001 Review of “Demonstratives: Form, function and grammaticalization” by Holger Diessel. Notes on Linguistics 4:69–72.
1996 The evidence for final consonants in Proto-Bungku-Tolaki. Oceanic Linguistics 35:180–194.

Working Papers and Other Publications

2015 with Edy Pasanda. An initial appreciation of the dialect situation in Saluan and Batui. (SIL Electronic Survey Reports, 2015-013.) Online. URL:
2013 An initial assessment of the vitality of the indigenous languages of Sulawesi, Indonesia. Indonesia and Malaysia EGIDS Audit. Online. URL:
2011 with Hermanto Lim. Chinese in Indonesia: A background study. (SIL Electronic Survey Reports, 2011-028.) Dallas: SIL International. Online. URL:
2007 with Myung-young Lee. Mapping Indonesian Bajau communities in Sulawesi. (SIL Electronic Survey Reports, 2007-019.) Dallas: SIL International. Online. URL:
1995 The Bungku-Tolaki languages: Wordlists. 2 volumes. Kendari: Universitas Haluoleo.

In addition David has prepared numerous articles for the Sulang Language Data and Working Papers series, which are published on this website.

A Personal Testimony

I know a number of linguists who, like me, were drawn into the field by language itself, by language data as it were. To be the first to study a language—to know that it is intricately patterned and that it is your job to discover those patterns—is the most intellectually stimulating task I have ever engaged in. In this grand pursuit, however, I faced a challenge: could I busy myself just with language, abstracted from context, without concern for the people who spoke it?

I’m ready to work in the trenches. For a time I had dreamed of being well known in academic circles. Now I would trade that for a small place in the hearts of the people of Sulawesi.

Our director with Batui people

International Director David Mead with Batui speakers in Central Sulawesi

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