Sulawesi Language Alliance

Championing Local Languages in the Heart of Indonesia

About Sulawesi Language Alliance

Increasing globalization, decreasing isolation, economic disparities, and the promotion of languages of wider communication pose significant threats to the survival of indigenous languages and cultures wordwide. In view of these threats, Sulawesi Language Alliance exists to help ethnic minorities of Sulawesi, Indonesia, reclaim and preserve their language and cultural heritage. Properly the work of revitalizing languages and cultures belongs to the communities themselves. We are there to provide information, technical assistance and sometimes simply the inspiration which will help them to go beyond passivity and reactivity and become active participants in determining the future of their language and culture.

Our work with language communities can be broken down into four broad areas of service: research, promotion, technical assistance, and dissemination. Over all that we do, Sulawesi Language Alliance embraces six core principles that govern our partnerships with indigenous groups.


Sulawesi Language Alliance will conduct baseline surveys to assess degree of language endangerment. Survey methods will include:

  • rapid appraisal surveys to gain an appreciation of language-use patterns across an entire area;

  • in-depth surveys to identify local, household and even individual factors which impinge on the use (or non-use) of the vernacular language, and to provide a baseline against which to measure changes in language use in future years.

Through hands-on effort, we also seek to identify fruitful practices in revitalizing languages in the Indonesian context. We want to understand which activities worked well and why they succeeded, while other activities fell flat or did not meet expectations.


To both insiders and outsiders, to community members and government officials, Sulawesi Language Alliance is a voice for the value of local languages, even when those languages are disparaged by the dominant culture. We want to document (unfold and expose) the unique patterns of each language—and assure people that it’s okay to be beautifully different from the national language. We want to awaken people to general trajectories of language decline, the possibility of rapid language loss and real cultural extinction, and the consequences which their present choices will have on succeeding generations. We want to dispel myths—e.g. speakers of minority languages lack intelligence, or that children growing up with two languages in the home will be confused.

We want to identify, train and support local community members who desire to promote their language. We want to encourage networking between language activists, so that they can learn from and encourage each other—and feel that they are part of a larger effort beyond their own small community.

Technical assistance

An important aim of Sulawesi Language Alliance is to provide technical assistance in areas where indigenous communities lack the requisite expertise. Areas of support include:

  • orthography design and testing, including analyzing the sound system of a language in cases where no reliable analysis yet exists;

  • grammar analysis, leading to language learning lessons (curriculum design);

  • compiling dictionaries, including how to compose well-formed entries and select appropriate example sentences;

  • operating a portable recording studio and making quality audio and video recordings in the field;

  • helping native authors and communities understand the inherent rights which they have in material which they have produced, and to exercise those rights;

  • assembling a corpus of recorded, transcribed and translated stories and other materials which document how the language is spoken today;

  • selecting, preparing and publishing materials in the local language;

  • posting language and cultural materials to the internet;

  • archiving language and cultural materials to ensure availability to future generations.

Importantly, even when providing technical asistance in such areas, we encourage local participation as a way of training, building capacity, and fostering interest within a language community in their language and its linguistic analysis.


Sulawesi Language Alliance maintains a web-based portal for (a) disseminating information regarding Sulawesi languages such as endangerment status and quality of documentation, and for (b) providing access to language and cultural materials from across Sulawesi. These materials will include native-authored texts and other vernacular language materials, linguistic descriptions, dictionaries, word lists, survey reports, survey instruments, and more. Through this website, we aim to:

  • promote the local languages of Sulawesi and enhance ethnic pride through worldwide (internet) recognition;

  • serve as a resource to local communities as well as the wider research community looking for information on, or materials in, Sulawesi languages;

  • promote the work of Sulawesi Language Alliance to our visa and other sponsors and to the general public.

You may also like:
Core Principles Governing Our Work
About Our Director 
About Endangered Languages 

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