Location and Classification
Tukang Besi is spoken in the Tukang Besi Archipelago, which lies southeast of Buton Island in the province of Southeast Sulawesi. Following Donohue’s 2000 dialect geography, linguists have recognized two languages: North Tukang Besi, spoken on the islands of Wanci and Kaledupa, and South Tukang Besi, spoken on the islands of Tomea and Binongko. Despite differences owing to historical sound change, and even low inherent intelligibility, local opinion strongly favors recognizing only a single language.
Esser (1938) included Tukang Besi within his “Moena-Boetoengsche groep” and—despite some questions in the intervening years—Van den Berg (2003) confirmed Tukang Besi's position as a primary branch within Muna-Buton.
In broad outline two dialects of North Tukang Besi can be recognized, one spoken on the island of Wanci and one spoken on the island of Kalepuda. These two dialects are 85% lexically similar in basic vocabulary (Donohue 2000:57). On Wanci in turn the inhabitants distinguish four further speech varieties (Donohue 2000:64):
- pogau Wanse, spoken in the north, west, and hill area;
- pogau Mandati, spoken in the southwest, southern hills, and east coast;
- pogau Lia, spoken in the south;
- pogau Kapota, spoken on the nearby island of Kapota.
Based on research conducted circa 1994, Donohue (1999:3) estimated there were 50,000 speakers on Wanci and Kaledupa islands, but noted that additional communities scattered throughout Indonesia could double this total. Andersen (2006:5) estimates 120,000 speakers (60,000 on the home islands, and 60,000 abroad).
Andersen, T. David. 2006. Suku bahasa di Sulawesi Tenggara. Unpublished typescript, 11 pp.
Berg, René van den. 2003. The place of Tukang Besi and the Muna-Buton languages. Issues in Austronesian historical phonology (Pacific Linguistics, 550), edited by John Lynch, 87–113. Canberra: Australian National University.
Donohue, Mark. 1999. A grammar of Tukang Besi. (Mouton Grammar Library, 20.) Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Donohue, Mark. 2000. Tukang Besi dialectology. Spices from the East: Papers in languages of eastern Indonesia (Pacific Linguistics, 503), edited by Charles E. Grimes, 55–72. Canberra: Australian National University.
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.