Buginese language

Buginese (Basa Ugi, elsewhere also Bahasa Bugis, Bugis, Bugi, De) is the language spoken by about four million people mainly in the southern part of Sulawesi, Indonesia.


The word Buginese derives from the word Bahasa Bugis in Malay. In Buginese, it is called Basa Ugi while the Bugis people are called To Ugi. Ugi in Buginese means The First King which refers to the first king of the ancient Bugis kingdom, Cina.

Little is known about the early history of this language due to the lack of written records. The earliest written record of this language is Sureq Galigo, the epic creation myth of the Bugis people.

Another written source of Buginese is Lontara, a term which refers to the traditional script and historical record as well. However the earliest historical record of Lontara dates to around the 17th century and cannot be accepted as a reliable source of history since it was influenced by myths.

Prior to the Dutch arrival in the 18th century, a missionary, B.F. Matthews, translated the bible into Buginese, which made him the first European to acquire knowledge of the language. He was also one of the first Europeans to master Makassarese. The dictionaries and grammar books compiled by him and the literature and folkfore texts he published remain basic sources of information about both languages.

Upon colonization by the Dutch, a number of Bugis fled from their home area of South Sulawesi seeking a better life. This led to the existence of small groups of Buginese speakers throughout the Malay Archipelago.


Buginese is an Ergative-absolutive language of the Austronesian language family and, to be more specific, it is Western Malayo-Polynesian. Therefore, this language is closely related to the languages from the western part of the Malay Archipelago, such as Javanese, Madurese and Sundanese. In fact, Buginese absorbed certain words from these languages, such as the word janrang, meaning 'horse', which is believed to come from the Javanese word anyarang. Buginese is also related to languages from the eastern part of the archipelago such as Malay.

Geographical Distribution

Most of the native speakers (around 3 million) are concentrated in South Sulawesi, Indonesia but there are small groups of Buginese speakers in the island of Java, Samarinda and east Sumatra of Indonesia, Sabah and Malay Peninsula, Malaysia and South Philippines. This Bugis diaspora is caused by the migration since 17th centuriy which was mainly driven by continuous warfare situations. (The Dutch direct colonization started in early 20th century.)


Buginese was traditionally written using the Lontara script, of the Brahmic family, which is also used for the Makassar language and the Mandar language. The name lontara derives from the Malay word for the palmyra palm, lontar, the leaves of which are the traditional material for manuscripts in India, South East Asia and Indonesia. Today, however, it is often written using the Roman alphabet.

The Buginese Lontara

The Buginese lontara (locally known as Aksara Bugis) has a slightly different pronunciation from the other lontaras like the Makassarese. It also utilizes diacritics to distinguish the vowels /a/, /e/, /e'/, /i/, /o/ and /u/.

Older texts, however, usually did not use diacritics, and readers were expected to identify words from context and thus provide the correct pronunciation. As one might expect, this led to erroneous readings; for example, bolo could be misread as bala by new readers.

Dialects and subdialects

The Bugis still distinguish themselves according to their major precolony states (Bone, Wajo, Soppeng and Sidenreng) or groups of petty states (around Pare-Pare, Sinjai and Suppa.) The languages of these areas, with their relatively minor differences from one another, have been largely recognized by linguists as constituting dialects: recent linguistic research has identified eleven of them, most comprising two or more sub-dialects.

These are part of the list of Buginese dialect:Bone (Palakka, Dua Boccoe, Mare), Pangkep (Pangkajane), Camba, Sidrap (Sidenreng, North Pinrang, Alitta), Pasangkayu (Ugi Riawa), Sinjai (Enna, Palattae, Bulukumba), Soppeng (Kessi), Wajo, Barru (Pare-Pare, Nepo, Soppeng Riaja, Tompo, Tanete), Sawitto (Pinrang), Luwuk (Luwuk, Bua Ponrang, Wara, Malangke-Ussu).

External links

See also

Search another word or see Buginese_languageon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature