Written forms of the language are used in church contexts (scripture, liturgy, hymns) but little outside of this context. Following their 1988 survey, Karhunen and Vuorinen (1991) reported a high degree of bilingualism with Indonesian, at all age levels, throughout the Mori and Padoe areas. On two visits to the Mori Bawah area circa 2004, primarily Tinompo village, I observed continued use of the Mori Bawah language, in fact in people’s gardens it was practically the only language used. We thus tentatively rate Mori Bawah as 4/Vulnerable.
Whether the current youngest generation values and continues to learn Mori Bawah requires further investigation, and in fact that answer may vary from dialect to dialect, even village to village. For example, we were told that of the Karunsi'e who had migrated from south of Lake Matano to the Mori Atas area circa 1960, only the oldest generation still spoke their distinctive dialect, succeeding generations having switched to ‘bahasa Melayu’ (Manado Malay or something similar to it).
What Others Have Written
In the rural areas approximately eighty per cent of the population is bilingual in Mori and Indonesian, and even though Mori is still the medium of everyday conversation, the people freely switch from one language to another. In urban centers, however, bilingualism is as high as ninety-eight per cent among Mori adult inhabitants and Indonesian is rapidly replacing the local language as the medium of daily speech, the language of the home, and the first language taught to children.
Karhunen and Vuorinen (1991:43–44)
Throughout the [Mori and Padoe] area surveyed people seemed to know Indonesian well, and that seemed to be the case from early childhood to old age. Although the language used in families was predominantly Mori or Padoe, parents often talked to their younger children in Indonesian in order to prepare them to enter school. Only in one village in Lembo the kepala desa claimed that their youngest child, about 5–6 years of age, did not know Indonesian yet. Most of the villages we visited, however, were easy to reach by road, so the state of bilingualism might be somewhat different in the few villages that are not so easily accessible. …
Besides in homes, Mori and Padoe were widely used among the people in the villages when visiting each other or working together in fields and gardens. The only exception was perhaps children who quite frequently talked to each other in Indonesian when playing together. Also, most of the village affairs were discussed in the local language with the kepala desa if he was of the same ethnic group. In governmental offices Indonesian was generally used even though the office workers in the three Mori kecamatans were mostly Mori themselves. We were told that using Indonesian was more appropriate as the relationship was so formal. Most shopkeepers were from ‘outside’ (Bugis) so Indonesian was used with them. School teachers were reported to teach in Indonesian from the first grade on, but it was once mentioned that they may use the local language as an intermediate language in their teaching, which suggests that not every child knows Indonesian well enough when starting school. Church services and gatherings at homes were conducted predominantly in Indonesian, though occasionally Mori or Padoe was used in preaching, singing, or announcements. Free conversation before and after such gatherings was always in the local language.
Mori is the predominant language used in homes, village affairs, and fields, while Indonesian is the primary language of churches, mosques and government offices. Karhunen and Vuorinen (1991:42–43) report a high degree of bilingualism in Indonesian throughout the Mori area.
Barsel, Linda A. 1994. The verb morphology of Mori, Sulawesi. (Pacific Linguistics, B‑111.) Canberra: Australian National University.
Karhunen, Marjo; and Paula Vuorinen. 1991. Sociolinguistic survey Mori and Padoe area (Kecamatan Nuha in South Sulawesi, Kecamatans Mori Atas, Lembo and Petasia in Central Sulawesi). UNHAS-SIL more Sulawesi sociolinguistic surveys, 1987–1991 (Workpapers in Indonesian Languages and Cultures, 11), edited by Timothy Friberg, 35–53. Ujung Pandang: Summer Institute of Linguistics.
Mead, David E. 1999. The Bungku-Tolaki languages of south-eastern Sulawesi, Indonesia. (Pacific Linguistics, D-91.) Canberra: Australian National University.