The Moma homeland is the Kulawi valley. This upland valley, exceeding 500 m elevation, can be reached by following the Palu River upstream (southward) then the Miu and the Oo, which drain the northern portion of the Kulawi valley. The southern portion of this valley is drained by the south-flowing Mewe, a tributary of the Lariang. Along its eastern side, the Kulawi valley is bordered by the Lore Lindu National Park.
Some have considered Moma to be a dialect of Kaili, among others Wumbu et al. (1973) and Barr and Barr (1979). According to Noorduyn (1991:140, footnote), even Esser toyed with the idea of classifying Kulawi as ‘Southern Kaili.’ However, Esser later reversed himself, and on the map he prepared for the Atlas van Tropisch Nederland he treated Kulawi as distinct (Esser 1938).
Moma shares its closest linguistic relationship with Lindu, and from a purely lexicostatistical point of view they could even be considered dialects. However, they are geographically, linguistically and socially distinct, and are best considered separate languages.
‘Moma’ versus ‘Kulawi’
At one time, and even today, the names Moma and Kulawi can be used synonymously to refer to one and the same language. The former appelation is derived from moma, the local word meaning ‘no,’ while the latter is derived from the name of the valley where this language is spoken. However, when the Dutch colonial government extended its authority to areas south of the Palu Valley, they consolidated several smaller, Uma-speaking territories under the rule of the chiefs at Kulawi (Aragon 2000:95). As a result the name ‘Kulawi’ in both a geographic and political sense was extended over a greater area than previously, with the further result that the Uma language has sometimes been known as ‘South Kulawi’ and Moma as ‘North Kulawi’ or even ‘Kulawi-Moma’ to distinguish it from Uma.
A survey conducted in 1978 reported 5,500 speakers of Kulawi (Moma) (Barr and Barr 1979:49).
Aragon, Lorraine V. 2000. Fields of the Lord: Animism, Christian minorities, and state development in Indonesia. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press.
Barr, Donald F.; and Sharon G. Barr. 1979. Languages of Central Sulawesi: Checklist, preliminary classification, language maps, wordlists. In cooperation with C. Salombe. Ujung Pandang: UNHAS-SIL.
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.
Noorduyn, J. 1991. The languages of Sulawesi. Papers in Austronesian linguistics, no. 1 (Pacific Linguistics, A‑81), edited by H. Steinhauer, 137–150. Canberra: Australian national University.
Wumbu, Indra Bangsawan, Masjhuddin Masjhuda, Belahan Mo. I. Tang, and Sinjoro Tobogu. 1973. Kekerabatan bahasa-bahasa di Sulawesi Tengah: Sebuah hasil prasurvey kebudayaan di Sulawesi Tengah, tahap I – 1972. Palu: Team Prasurvey Kebudayaan Propinsi Sulawesi Tengah.