Pamona, also known as Bare’e, is centrally located in the island of Sulawesi, and must be regarded as one of the principal languages of Central Sulawesi province. Owing to the linguistic and ethnographic work of Nicolaus Adriani and Albertus Kruyt in the early part of the twentieth century, Pamona is also one of the best described languages and peoples of Sulawesi.
While the area around Lake Poso can be considered the Pamona heartland, the language is spoken more broadly than that, including: northward along the southern coast of the Gulf of Tomini; southward in the upper basin of the Kalaena River, which drains into the Gulf of Bone; and eastward in the upper valley of the Laa as well as in the nearby mountains of the eastern peninsula of Sulawesi and along the coast of the Gulf of Tolo.
Following Adriani and Kruyt (1914), Pamona comprises four principal dialects: a central or Lake Poso dialect; a northern or Poso-Tojo dialect; a southern or Are’e (also called Pu’umboto) dialect; and an eastern or Ampana dialect. In addition to these four, Adriani also identified several minor dialects spoken by small communities on the periphery of the Pamona area, or in enclaves separated from it. These include Lalaeo, Rapangkaka, Laiwonu, Tobau, Topada, Tokondindi and Sinohoan (this last is now extinct), while two other Pamona dialects identified by Adriani—Tombelala and Batui—are now regarded as languages in their own right. For an overview of Pamona dialects, see Mead
Based on subdistrict-by-subdistrict population estimates, including both Central and South Sulawesi, Lauder et al. (2000) estimated 137,000 speakers of Pamona.
Adriani, N.; and Alb. C. Kruyt. 1914. De Bare’e-sprekende Toradja’s van Midden Celebes, vol. 3: Taal- en letterkundige schets der Bare’e-taal en overzicht van het taalgebied Celebes–Zuid-Halmahera. Batavia: Landsdrukkerij.
Lauder, Multamia R. M. T.; Ayatrohaedi, Frans Asisi Datang, Hans Lapoliwa, Buha Aritonang, Ferry Feirizal, Sugiyono, Non Martis, Wati Kurniawati, and Hidayatul Astar. 2000. Penelitian kekerabatan dan pemetaan bahasa-bahasa daerah di Indonesia: Propinsi Sulawesi Tengah. Jakarta: Pusat Pembinaan dan Pengembangan Bahasa, Departemen Pendidikan Nasional.
Mead, David. 2012. Overview of Pamona dialects (per Nicolaus Adriani). Sulang Language Data and Working Papers: Survey Reports, 2. Sulawesi Language Alliance. Online. URL: http://sulang.org/resources/survey-reports/002.