Cia-Cia language

Cia-Cia (Bahasa Ciacia), also known as Buton or Butonese, is an Austronesian language spoken principally around the city of Baubau on the southern tip of Buton Island off the southeast coast of Sulawesi in Indonesia.

Bahasa Ciacia
바하사 찌아찌아
An elementary school sign in Indonesian (top) and Korean (bottom)
Native toIndonesia
RegionBaubau, Buton Island, Southeast Sulawesi
Native speakers
79,000 (2005)[1]
Hangul (present)
Latin (present)
Gundhul (historical)
Language codes
ISO 639-3cia

In 2009, the language gained international media attention as the city of Baubau was teaching children to read and write Cia-Cia in Hangul, the Korean alphabet, and the mayor consulted the Indonesian government on the possibility of making the writing system official.[2] However, the project encountered difficulties between the city of Baubau, the Hunminjeongeum Society, and the Seoul Metropolitan Government in 2011,[3] and was abandoned in 2012.[4] As of 2017 it remains in use in schools and on local signs.[5]


As of 2005 there were 80,000 speakers.[1] Speakers also use Wolio, which is closely related to Cia-Cia, as well as Indonesian, the national language of Indonesia. Wolio is falling into disuse as a written language among the Cia-Cia, as it is written using the Arabic script and Indonesian is now taught in schools with the Latin script.[6]

Geographic distribution

A student is writing on a whiteboard

Cia-Cia is spoken in Southeast Sulawesi, south Buton Island, Binongko Island, and Batu Atas Island.[1]

According to legend, Cia-Cia speakers on Binonko descend from Butonese troops sent by a Butonese Sultan.[7]


The name of the language comes from the negator cia "no". It is also known as Buton, Butonese, Butung, and in Dutch Boetonees, names it shares with Wolio, and as South Buton or Southern Butung.[1]


The language situation on the island of Buton is very complicated and not known in great detail.[8]

Dialects include Kaesabu, Sampolawa (Mambulu-Laporo), Wabula (with its subvarieties), and Masiri.[9] The Masiri dialect shows the greatest amount of vocabulary in common with the standard dialect.[1] Konisi & Hidayat discuss two dialects, Pesisir and Pedalaman; Pedalaman has gh in native words where Pesisir has r, but has r in loan words.



Bilabial Alveolar Postalveolar Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ
Stop voiceless p t t͡ʃ k ʔ
voiced b d d͡ʒ ɡ
implosive ɓ ɗ
Fricative β s h
Approximant l
Trill (r) (ʁ)


Front Back
Close i u
Mid e o
Open a


Cia-Cia was once written in a Jawi-like script, called Gundhul, based on Arabic with five additional consonant letters but no signs for vowels.

The Cia-Cia Latin alphabet[10]
Consonants gknddhtr~ghlmbv~wbhpsngjch
IPA/ɡ//k//n//ɗ//d//t//r ~ ʁ//l//m//ɓ//β//b//p//s//ʔ//ŋ//dʒ//tʃ//h/
Vowels aeoui

In 2009, residents of the city of Baubau attempted to adopt Hangul, the script for the Korean language, as their script for writing Cia-Cia.[11]

The Cia-Cia Hangul alphabet
Consonants gknddhtrlmbvbhpsngjch
Vowels aeoui(null)

* ᄙ is not a separate letter. The medial /r/ and /l/ are distinguished by writing a single letter (ㄹ) for /r/ and double (ᄙ) for /l/. Double ㄹ must be written in two syllables. The final /l/ is written with a single letter ㄹ; for the final consonant /r/, the null vowel (ㅡ) is added. Null consonant and vowel letters (으) are added for initial /l/.

An example of the proposed Hangul script and followed by Latin and IPA alphabet:[12]



The numerals 110 are:

Numerals 110[13]
English onetwothreefourfivesixseveneightnineten
Romanization dise, iserua, ghuatolupa'alimano'opicuwalu, oalusiuaompulu
Hangul 디세, 이세루아똘루빠아을리마노오삐쭈ᄫᅡᆯ루, 오알루시우아옴뿔루



  1. Cia-Cia at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Lee Tae-hoon, "Hangeul didn’t become Cia Cia’s official writing", Korea Times, 2010-10-06.
  3. "Adoption of Hangeul by Indonesian Tribe Hits Snag". The Chosun Ilbo. 10 October 2011. Archived from the original on 13 December 2011. Retrieved 30 June 2017.
  4. Yi, Whan-woo (8 October 2012). "Sejong Institute withdrawal to leave Cia-Cia out in cold". The Korea Times. Archived from the original on 6 February 2017. Retrieved 30 June 2017.
  5. "Wow... Ada Kampung Korea di Sulawesi Tenggara!". KOMPASTV.
  6. Butonese - Introduction
  7. Noorduyn, J. 1991. "A critical survey of studies on the languages of Sulawesi" p. 131.
  8. Noorduyn, J. 1991. "A critical survey of studies on the languages of Sulawesi" p. 130.
  9. Donohue, Mark. 1999. "A grammar of Tukang Besi". p. 6.
  10. slideshow
  11. Agence France-Presse, "Southeast Sulawesi Tribe Using Korean Alphabet to Preserve Native Tongue Archived 10 August 2009 at the Wayback Machine", Jakarta Globe, 2009 August 06
  12. (in Korean) 印尼 소수민족, '한글' 공식 문자로 채택
  13. Numbers in Austronesian languages


  • van den Berg, René. 1991. "Preliminary notes on the Cia-Cia language (South Buton)." In Harry A. Poeze and Pim Schoorl (eds.), Excursies in Celebes: Een bundel bijdragen bij het afscheid van J. Noorduyn als directeur-secretaris van het KITLV, 305-24. Leiden: KITLV.
  • Mustafa Abdullah. 1985. Struktur bahasa Cia-Cia. Proyek Penelitian Bahasa dan Sastra Indonesia dan Daerah Sulawesi Selatan, Departemen Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan.
  • Ho-Young Lee, Hyosung Hwang, Abidin. 2009. Bahasa Cia-Cia 1. Hunmin jeongeum Society of Korea.
  • La Yani Konisi; Ahid Hidayat (2001). Analisis kategori kata bahasa cia liwungau (Research report) (in Indonesian). Universitas Terbuka Kendari.
  • Cho Tae-Young. 2012. Cia-Cia Language: From The Era of Oral To The Era of Writing. Humaniora No.3 Vol 24.
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