Cia-Cia is the principal language of southern Buton Island, spoken in both interior and coastal villages. It is also spoken on Batu Atas Island and on the south coast of Binongko Island in the Tukang Besi Archipelago.
A definitive statement concerning the Cia-Cia dialect situation has yet to emerge.
Bhurhanuddin (1979:50) and Konisi and Hidayat (2001:10–11) distinguish two dialects, but it is unclear whether their divisions are comparable. The 16th edition of the Ethnologue lists four dialects (Lewis 2009:444), while the 1975 Monografi Daerah Sulawesi Tenggara (1975:67–68) and Abudullah et al. (1991:9) recognize respectively eight and nine dialects.
Donohue (2004:33, Figure 4) distinguishes three varieties, which he names Cia-Cia, Island Cia-Cia and Masiri—but he treats these as separate languages.
The phonological description by Hanan (2013), which outlines different realizations of r and w across the Cia-Cia area, is a step in the right direction, but it needs to be followed up by further research.
In 2009 Cia-Cia made international headlines as the first language outside of Korea to adopt the Hangul script (Choe 2009). Present efforts to teach school children Hangul-based reading and writing have been limited to Cia-Cia communities within the Baubau city limits and have not spread to the larger language area.
Andersen (2006:7) estimated 79,000 speakers of Cia-Cia.
Abdullah, Mustafa; Sjahruddin Kaseng, Said Mursalin, Kulla Lagousi, and Zalili Sailan. 1991. Struktur bahasa Cia-cia. Jakarta: Departemen Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan.
Andersen, T. David. 2006. Suku bahasa di Sulawesi Tenggara. Unpublished typescript, 11 pp.
Bhurhanuddin, B. H. 1979. Bahasa-bahasa daerah di Sulawesi Tenggara. Unpublished typescript, 60 pp.
Choe Sang-Hun. 2009. South Korea’s latest export: Its alphabet. The New York Times, 12 September 2009, page A4. [Online version available. URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/12/world/asia/12script.html (accessed August 3, 2012).]
Donohue, Mark. 2004. The pretenders to the Muna-Buton group. Papers in Austronesian subgrouping and dialectology (Pacific Linguistics, 563), edited by John Bowden and Nikolaus P. Himmelmann, 21–35. Canberra: Australian National University.
Hanan, Sandra Safitri. 2013. Karakteristik fonologi bahasa Cia-Cia. Fonologi bahasa daerah di pulau Sulawesi bagian selatan, edited by Masao Yamaguchi, Adri and Cho Tae Young, 65–79. Kyoto: Hokuto Publishing.
Konisi, La Yani; and Ahid Hidayat. 2001. Analisis kategori kata bahasa Cia Liwungau. Research report, vii, 62 pp. Kendari: Unit Belajar Jarak Jauh, Universitas Terbuka. Available online at the e-Library, Universitas Terbuka, URL: http://www.pustaka.ut.ac.id/pdfpenelitian/70042.pdf (accessed March 11, 2014).
Lewis, M. Paul (ed.) 2009. Ethnologue: Languages of the world, 16th edition. Dallas: SIL International.
Monografi Daerah Sulawesi Tenggara 1974–1975. . [Jakarta]: Proyek Pengembangan Media Kebudayaan, Ditjen. Kebudayaan, Departemen Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan RI.