Introduction and Location
With close to half a million speakers, Mandar is the principal language of the province of West Sulawesi, which was formed from portions of South Sulawesi province in 2004. In fact the present-day borders of West Sulawesi largely correspond to what was the Afdeeling Mandar (Mandar District) during the Dutch colonial period. Mandar itself is spoken in coastal areas in the southern part of the province. Along with the Bugis, Makasar, and Butonese, the Mandar must be regarded as one of the principal maritime peoples of Sulawesi.
Although there may have been a time when Mandar served as a lingua franca for western Sulawesi, the common language for inter-ethnic communication today is Indonesian.
Mandar comprises four dialects: Balanipa, Majene, Pamboang, and Sendana; it should be noted that each of these dialects corresponds to a Mandar state within the former Pitu Baqbana Binanga (‘seven river mouths’) confederation. Slightly north and geographically separate from the main language area is a possible fifth dialect, Malunda, which is either “an independent Mandar enclave in Ulumandak territory or an Ulumandak dialect with heavy borrowing from Mandar” (Friberg and Laskowske 1989:5).
The number of Mandar speakers probably lies between the quarter million reported by Grimes and Grimes (1987:35) and the more than half million reported in the 2000 national census (Suryadinata, Arifin and Ananta 2003:7, but almost certainly calculated on an overly broad understanding of ‘Mandar’). An estimate of 475,000 (Indonesia Pelangi Nusantara 2010:121), comprising 425,000 in the homeland area with an additional 50,000 living in other parts of Indonesia, particularly Borneo and Java, is in the ballpark.
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.
Indonesia Pelangi Nusantara. 2010. Profil doa suku-suku yang terabaikan. Jakarta: IPN.
Suryadinata, Leo; Evi Nurvidya Arifin, and Aris Ananta. 2003. Indonesia’s population: Ethnicity and religion in a changing political landscape. (Indonesia’s Population Series, 1.) Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.