Bonerate is spoken on four islands to the southeast of Selayar Island in the middle of the Flores Sea. While these islands are administered as part of South Sulawesi Province, geographically they lie closer to Flores Island. The every-day language of the islands of Bonerate and Madu is solidly (but not exclusively) Bonerate, while Kalaotoa and Karompa have more mixed populations (Bonerate, Selayar, Konjo, Bajau, and Cia-Cia) (Friberg and Laskowske 1989:14; Esser 1938 likewise included Kalaotoa island, but Broch 1981:48 omits it). To locate these islands, see among others the sketch map in Broch (1981:45); a sketch map showing the general location of the Bonerate language can also be found in Friberg and Laskowske (1989:12).
History and Classification
According to oral tradition, the Bonerate originate from Binongko (Kriebel 1920:208). Binongko is the southernmost island in the Tukang Besi Archipelago in Southeast Sulawesi. Donohue in fact calculates that the speech varieties of Bonerate and Binongko are eighty-five percent lexically similar, and regards them as a dialects of a single language, South Tukang Besi (Donohue 2000:57). However given the geographic distance, length of separation and individual histories, it is not clear that the Bonerate share in the strong sense of cultural identity which otherwise broadly characterizes the inhabitants of Tukang Besi.
History tells us that Bonerate had a mixed population. Bakkers (1862:237–238, 249) mentioned among others Makasarese, Buginese, Selayarese, Butonese, and people from Ende, Bima, Sumbawa, Timor and Flores who had settled on Bonerate—not to mention a sizable slave population from other parts—and it speaks to the strength of the Bonerate language that it predominates among their descendants.
Based on data from the 2000 national census, Indonesia Pelangi Nusantara (2010:109) reports an ethnic population of 13,000 Bonerate.
Bakkers, J. A. 1862. De eilanden Bonerate and Kalao. Tijdschrift voor Indische Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 11:215–264.
Broch, Harald B. 1981. Cultural variation on the islands in the Sea of Flores. Archipel 22:43–53. [Reproduced online. URL: http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/arch_0044-8613_1981_num_22_1_1668 (accessed January 14, 2014).]
Donohue, Mark. 2000. Tukang Besi dialectology. Spices from the East: Papers in languages of eastern Indonesia (Pacific Linguistics, 503), edited by Charles E. Grimes, 55–72. Canberra: Australian National University.
Esser, S. J. 1938. Talen. Map, scale 1:10,000,000. Atlas van Tropisch Nederland, by Koninklijk Nederlandsch Aardrijkskundig Genootschap in cooperation with the Topografischen Dienst in Nederlandsch-Indië, sheet 9b. ’s-Gravenhage: Martinus Nijhoff.
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).]
Indonesia Pelangi Nusantara. 2010. Profil doa suku-suku yang terabaikan. Jakarta: IPN.
Kriebel, D. J. C. 1920. Het eiland Bonerate. Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde van Nederlandsch-Indië 76:202–222.