Based on a survey conducted in the Luwu-Rongkong area during the late 1980s, Vail (1991:61) estimated that there were 2,000 speakers of Lemolang. However, these numbers have almost certainly not been maintained, given the shift to surrounding languages which was in process even then. Although Lemolang is rated as 4/Vulnerable in UNESCO’s Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger (Moseley 2010), we suggest that a rating of 2/Severely Endangered is likely to be more accurate. At the same time, we plead for further research to document this unique language.
What Others Have Written
Like the Limolang villages of Sassa and Salassa, the interest in the present generation of young people [in Baebunta] to learn and/or use that language is minimal. They prefer instead to use the neighboring Tae' language or Indonesian. The prime contributing factor leading to this current situation was the effect that the period of the Islamic uprising had on the transient population. The more dominant Rongkong/Tae' group was moved down from the hills to settle amongst the Limolang speakers after they returned from a period of fleeing. Thus the use of Limolang language has become subordinated to that of the more dominant Tae' group.
Everywhere this survey was conducted Tae' was the prime language used in the home and the local community. This of course contrasted with the situation related to Limolang where the language appears to be dying in that fewer and fewer of the young people in Limolang-speaking villages are using it.
In Luwu, the Lemolang (Baebunta) community is gradually abandoning its own language for Bugis, despite proud memories of a non-Bugis heritage.
No literacy in it. There are reports that some children do not speak the language. A dialect of the very large Tae language is the dominant language of the area. That and Indonesian exert pressure on Lemolang for which 2,000 speakers were reported in 1995. This may well be less now. The language is potentially endangered.
Bulbeck, F. David. 2000. Economy, military and ideology in pre-Islamic Luwu, South Sulawesi, Indonesia. Australasian Historical Archeology 18:3–16.
Moseley, Christopher (ed.) 2010. Atlas of the world’s languages in danger, 3rd ed., entirely revised, enlarged and updated. (Memory of Peoples Series.) Paris: UNESCO Publishing.
Vail, I. W. 1991. Sociolinguistic survey report Kabupaten Luwu: Report on the Rongkong-Luwu languages. UNHAS-SIL more Sulawesi sociolinguistic surveys, 1987–1991 (Workpapers in Indonesian Languages and Cultures, 11), edited by Timothy Friberg, 55–120. Ujung Pandang: Summer Institute of Linguistics.
Wurm, Stephen A. 2007. Australasia and the Pacific. Encyclopedia of the world’s endangered languages, edited by Christopher Moseley, 425–577. New York: Routledge.