The Sangir Archipelago lies north of the northern tip of Sulawesi, with its principal island, Sangir Besar, located midway between Sulawesi and the island of Mindanao in the Philippines (see maps in Sneddon 1984:viii and Maryott 1999:188 inter alia).
Of the population of just the Sangir Archipelago, approximately sixty-five percent live on Sangir Besar; twenty percent on Siau Island to its south; ten percent on Tahuladang Island between Siau and mainland Sulawesi; and the remainder on several smaller islands (Maryott 1999:187).
In addition, there has been considerable outmigration of Sangirese to the Philippines, mainland Sulawesi and, to a lesser extent, the Moluccas.
For all countries, we estimate an ethnic population approaching a half million Sangir. This total includes 397,000 Sangir in North Sulawesi (Suryadinata, Arifin and Ananta 2003:7), 48,000 in other provinces of Indonesia, and 55,000 Sangir in the Philippines (Grimes 1996:665). Previous estimates which report only around half this number (e.g. Lewis 2009:448) have significantly underestimated the number of Sangir living outside of the homeland archipelago.
Following Sneddon (1984:2) and Maryott (1999:196–197), Sangir comprises five dialects,three of which are spoken on the island of Sangir Besar: Taruna in the northwest, Tabukang in the northeast and east, and Manganitu in the south and west, including that of the town of Tamako. The varieties spoken on Tahulandang and Siau Islands are usually considered dialects of Sangir owing to their mutual similarity with each other and the dialects on Sangir Besar (i.e. above ninety-three percent lexically similar in basic vocabulary). Because of reported limited intelligibility, however, Merrifield and Salea (1996:14) were willing to recognize Tahulandang and Siau as languages in their own right. Despite their geographical proximity, Tahulandang, Siau and Sangir have also had their separate histories; see among others Henley (1993).
An alternative view of Sangir dialects was presented by Sneddon (1983) and repeated in subsequent editions of the Ethnologue (e.g. Lewis 2009:448). However, his nine dialects—Taruna, Kandar, North Tabukang, Central Tabukang, South Tabukang, Manganitu, Tamako, Siau, and Tagulandang—are nothing other than the nine political districts (kecamatan) of the Sangir Archipelago in the 1980s, with each district considered to represent a distinct dialect.
Grimes, Barbara F. (ed.) 1996. Ethnologue: Languages of the world, 13th ed. Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics.
Henley, David. 1993. A superabundance of centers: Ternate and the contest for North Sulawesi. Cakalele 4:39–60.
Lewis, M. Paul (ed.) 2009. Ethnologue: Languages of the world, 16th edition. Dallas: SIL International.
Maryott, Kenneth R. 1999. Penelitian bahasa Sangir: Laporan status. Panorama bahasa Nusantara, edited by Bambang Kaswanti Purwo, 187–230. Jakarta: Masyarakat Linguistik Indonesia and Penerbit Referensia.
Sneddon, J. N. (compiler.) 1983. Northern Celebes (Sulawesi). Language atlas of the Pacific area, part 2: Japan area, Taiwan (Formosa), Philippines, mainland and insular South-east Asia (Pacific Linguistics, C‑67), edited by Stephen A. Wurm and Shirô Hattori, map 43. Canberra: Australian National University, Australian Academy of the Humanities and The Japan Academy.
Sneddon, J. N. 1984. Proto-Sangiric and the Sangiric languages. (Pacific Linguistics, B‑91.) Canberra: Australian National University.
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.