The Kalao language is spoken on the eastern side of Kalao Island, one of the small islands which dot the Flores Sea southward and eastward of Selayar Island. The name of the principal Kalao-speaking village, Lambego, is sometimes also used as a name for the language as well as the island.
To locate Kalao Island, see among others the sketch map in Broch (1981:45) (where the island is labeled ‘Lambego’) or the sketch map in Friberg and Laskowske (1989:12).
Kalao is 77% and 76% lexically similar with Barang-Barang and Laiyolo, two small languages of southern Selayar Island with which Kalao shares its closest linguistic affinities. Conversely, it is distantly related to Bonerate (31% lexically similar), even though these two languages are separated only by a narrow strait (Friberg and Laskowske 1989:14).
Without language data, it cannot be known whether the ‘Kalaotoa’ language referenced by Pelenkahu, Muthalib and Pattiasina (1974:33) and Grimes and Grimes (1987:62) is to be equated with this language, or rather considered a dialect of Bonerate. Kalaotoa is another island, located further east. Its name means ‘Old Kalao,’ and according to oral tradition the present-day Kalao people came from there (reported in Friberg and Laskowske 1989:14).
A survey which visited Kalao in 1988 estimated 500 speakers (Friberg and Laskowske 1989:13).
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).]
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).]
Grimes, Charles E.; and Barbara D. Grimes. 1987. Languages of South Sulawesi. (Pacific Linguistics, D-78.) Canberra: Australian National University.
Pelenkahu, R. A.; Abdul Muthalib, and J. F. Pattiasina. 1974. Peta bahasa Sulawesi (buku petunjuk). Ujung Pandang: Lembaga Bahasa Nasional Cabang III.