In the recent past, the Barang-Barang language was favored by a somewhat isolated, interior location near the southern tip of Selayar Island, and there are indications that at least through the 1990s the number of speakers was holding steady, including children were continuing to learn the language. However, with only around 500 speakers and reported bilingualism in Selayar, Barang-Barang remains in a vulnerable position. We suggest 4/Vulnerable as an appropriate rating.
What Others Have Written
Friberg and Laskowske (1989:13)
Laiyolo is under pressure from Selayar in the younger generation but this does not seem to be the case for more isolated Barang-barang.
The Barang-barang language is spoken in the village of Barang-barang, Desa Lowa, located just south of Desa Laiyolo. Although the endonym for the village as well as the language is [loəʔ], both are sometimes referred as Lowa, Loa, Loa’, or Barang-barang. The official name of the village is Barang-barang; it serves at the government seat for Desa Lowa. Although Barang-barang was historically the central village of southern Selayar, it has remained much more isolated than Lembang Mate’ne. The nearest villages are several kilometers away. The road is improving, but transportation difficulties have hindered economic development... According to the head of the desa, there are 130 houses in Barang-barang. This seemed correct on the basis our estimates. Although we could not get an exact population figure, we learned from the Department of Statistics located in Benteng, that for Desa Lowa there are 4.5 people per house. Considering that a few families are from other areas, this gives us an estimate of about 550 people for Barang-barang. Language use in Barang-barang remains vigorous. We observed people of all ages use the Barang-barang language as the preferred means of communication with one another.
Belding, Laidig and Maingak (2001:2)
The people in Barang-barang sometimes refer to Selayar as Bisara Bĕkkaju, or 'the language of the birds in the trees.' According to the speakers, there is a twofold meaning to this. Originally it had to do with the birds which chirp in the trees, representing the unintelligible language all around them. Later on, however, a connotation developed that the birds in the trees were the ones responsible for eating up the fruit in those trees, in the same way that Selayar was 'eating up' their language. In this way, the villagers have captured in that phrase the endangered nature of their own language.
No literacy in it. In 1988, 600 speakers were reported for the Laiyolo dialect, and 450 for the Barang-Barang dialect. In the latter, language use was vigorous then, but in the Laiyolo dialect, children were not using the language. The number of speakers of the language is probably considerably less now. The large Selayar language is used as second language, and there is pressure from Indonesian too. The language is heading towards being endangered.
Belding, Joanna L.; Wyn D. Laidig, and Sahabu Dg. Maingak. 2001. A preliminary description of Barang-barang morphology. Studies in Sulawesi linguistics, part 7 (NUSA: Linguistic Studies of Indonesian and Other Languages in Indonesia, 49), edited by Wyn D. Laidig, 1–57. Jakarta: Badan Penyelenggara Seri NUSA, Universitas Katolik Indonesia Atma Jaya. [Reproduced online. URL: http://sealang.net/archives/nusa/pdf/nusa-v49-p1-60.pdf (accessed January 14, 2014).]
Friberg, Timothy; and Thomas V. Laskowske. 1989. South Sulawesi languages, 1989. Studies in Sulawesi linguistics, part 1 (NUSA: Linguistic Studies of Indonesian and Other Languages in Indonesia, 31), edited by James N. Sneddon, 1–17. Jakarta: Badan Penyelenggara Seri Nusa, Universitas Katolik Indonesia Atma Jaya. [Reproduced online. URL: http://sealang.net/archives/nusa/pdf/nusa-v31-p1-18.pdf (accessed January 13, 2014).]
Laidig, Wyn D. 1997. Laiyolo and Barang-barang survey report. Unpublished typescript, 3 pp.
Wurm, Stephen A. 2007. Australasia and the Pacific. Encyclopedia of the world’s endangered languages, edited by Christopher Moseley, 425–577. New York: Routledge.