Location and History
The Wotu are a small people group living in two villages, Lampenai and Bawalipu, in the Wotu district at the head of the Gulf of Bone (Masruddin and Wahibah 2009).
The archeological record indicates that Wotu emerged in the thirteenth century as an early, important political center on the Gulf of Bone. As a polity under the Bugis kingdom of Luwu', the Wotuese held sway over the Kalaena River basin, an important access route linking the bay area with the highlands of central Sulawesi (Schrauwers 1997:363; Bulbeck 2000:7).
In the early and middle parts of the twentieth century, the linguistic position of Wotu was unclear to researchers, who wavered between placing it with Bare’e (today called Pamona) and related languages of highland Sulawesi, or with Bugis and other languages of South Sulawesi (see summaries in Noorduyn 1991:134 and Donohue 2004:25). Since the survey by Grimes and Grimes (1987:62–63 ff.), it has been known rather that Wotu shares its closest linguistic affinities with languages further to the south, including Wolio (on Buton Island) and Laiyolo (on Selayar Island).
In 1988 it was estimated there were 4,000 speakers of Wotu (Vail 1991:61). Despite a proud heritage, in the present day the language is in significant decline owing to speakers shifting to Bugis and Indonesian. Masruddin and Wahibah (2009) estimate that today Wotu speakers may number as few as 500, with most parents no longer passing the language on to their children.
Bulbeck, F. David. 2000. Economy, military and ideology in pre-Islamic Luwu, South Sulawesi, Indonesia. Australasian Historical Archeology 18:3–16.
Donohue, Mark. 2004. The pretenders to the Muna-Buton group. Papers in Austronesian subgrouping and dialectology (Pacific Linguistics, 563), edited by John Bowden and Nikolaus P. Himmelmann, 21–35. Canberra: Australian National University.
Grimes, Charles E.; and Barbara D. Grimes. 1987. Languages of South Sulawesi. (Pacific Linguistics, D-78.) Canberra: Australian National University.
Masruddin; and Wahibah. 2009. The use of Wotu language by the Wotunese: A survey on an endangered language. Paper presented at the Kongres Internasional Masyarakat Linguistik Indonesia (KIMLI) 2009, Batu, Malang, November 5–7. Three-page summary available online. URL: http://sastra.um.ac.id/?page_id=1895 (accessed March 18, 2011).
Noorduyn, J. 1991a. A critical survey of studies on the languages of Sulawesi. (Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, Bibliographic Series 18.) Leiden: KITLV Press.
Schrauwers, Albert. 1997. Houses, hierarchy, headhunting and exchange: Rethinking political relations in the Southeast Asian realm of Luwu’. Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 153:356–380.
Vail, I. W. 1991. Sociolinguistic survey report Kabupaten Luwu: Report on the Rongkong-Luwu languages. UNHAS-SIL more Sulawesi sociolinguistic surveys, 1987–1991 (Workpapers in Indonesian Languages and Cultures, 11), edited by Timothy Friberg, 55–120. Ujung Pandang: Summer Institute of Linguistics.