In the west around the town of Tolitoli, the former center of the group, the language is in serious decline for a number of reasons, including the large number of outsiders now living in the area. This decline has left only a few eastern villages (particularly Diule, Pinjan, Binontoan and Lakuan) as the current ‘stronghold’ of Totoli language use, but even here residents are shifting to Indonesian.
Although Totoli is rated as 4/Vulnerable in UNESCO’s Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger (Moseley 2010), we suggest that a rating of 3/Definitely Endangered is more appropriate. See further Himmelmann’s discussion of the Totoli language situation (2010:65 ff.), a portion of which is quoted below.
What Others Have Written
In Tolitoli, for example, a town of more than 30,000 inhabitants, less than half of the population belong to the original settlers of the area, i.e. the Totoli… Of the four (administrative) villages which together form the town of Tolitoli, there is only one, Nalu, where the Totoli are in the majority. And it is this village where Totoli is still used as an everyday language in some quarters … The same holds to an even larger degree for the other villages which form a part of Tolitoli city. In these villages it is rare to find a fluent speaker below the age of fifty.
There are, for example, six other villages in the Tolitoli plain where Totoli used to be the everyday language… The Totoli permanently living in the village are now a minority because of out-of-area migrants and because a substantial minority of the younger generation studies or works outside the native village. Under the influence of the ‘outsiders,’ the permanent residents shift towards Indonesian as their everyday language.
Himmelmann and Riesberg (2012)
Totoli is more endangered than is apparent on first sight and speakers vary significantly with regard to which types of [grammatical] constructions they use and which they consider grammatical.
No literacy in it. In 1991, the ethnic group was reported to be 28,000 in twenty-nine villages or parts of villages; in 1996 it was about 25,000 in fewer villages, with four of these about 80km northeast of Tolitoli town. The town of more than 30,000 inhabitants consists of four villages, with less than half of the inhabitants ethnic Totoli in three of them. In the fourth village, the language is in part still used as everyday language, but quite a few of the young people from it received university education outside, and often got government jobs. Their daily language is Indonesian. Many of them return regularly to that village and influence language use there. In the other villages of Tolitoli, most fluent speakers of Totoli are over fifty. The Totoli language is definitely endangered there. The same is the case in six other villages in the Tolitoli plain, outside the town of Tolitoli, where under the influence of outsiders, the Totoli speakers shift to Indonesian. However, the four Totoli villages 80km northeast have no space for new migrants to settle there, and not many children go to towns for education. There Totoli is safe now, but potentially endangered.
Himmelmann, Nikolaus P. 2010. Language endangerment scenarios: A case study from northern Central Sulawesi. Endangered Languages of Austronesia, edited by Margaret Florey, 45–72. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Himmelmann, Nikolaus P.; and Sonja Riesberg. 2012. A unique voice among the many voices of western Austronesia. Paper presented at the Twelfth International Conference on Austronesian Linguistics (12-ICAL), Bali, Indonesia, July 2–6.
Moseley, Christopher (ed.) 2010. Atlas of the world’s languages in danger, 3rd ed., entirely revised, enlarged and updated. (Memory of Peoples Series.) Paris: UNESCO Publishing.
Wurm, Stephen A. 2007. Australasia and the Pacific. Encyclopedia of the world’s endangered languages, edited by Christopher Moseley, 425–577. New York: Routledge.