Makassarese language

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Bahasa Makassar
ᨅᨔ ᨆᨀᨔᨑ Basa Mangkasaraʼ
Mangkasarak in Lontarak Script.svg
Native toIndonesia
RegionSouth Sulawesi (Sulawesi)
Native speakers
2.1 million (2000 census)[1]
  • Gowa (Lakiung)
  • Turatea
  • Marusuʼ-Pangkajeneʼ
Lontara (present)
Latin (present)
Old Makassarese (historical)
Language codes
ISO 639-2mak
ISO 639-3mak

Makassarese (basa Mangkasaraʼ or basa Mangkasarak), sometimes called Makasar, Makassar, or Macassar, is a language of the Makassarese people, spoken in South Sulawesi province of Indonesia. It is a member of the South Sulawesi group of the Austronesian language family, and thus closely related to, among others, Buginese.


The following description of Makassarese phonology is based on Jukes (2005).[2]


Makassarese has five vowels: /a/, /e/, /i/, /o/, /u/. The mid vowels are lowered to [ɛ] and [ɔ] in absolute final position and in the vowel sequences /ea/ and /oa/.


Makassarese consonants
Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Plosive voiceless p t c k ʔ
voiced b d ɟ ɡ
Fricative s h
Semivowel j w
Lateral l
Trill r
  • /ɲ/ is written ⟨ny⟩ before a vowel, ⟨n⟩ before ⟨c⟩ and ⟨j⟩
  • /ŋ/ is written ⟨ng⟩
  • /ɟ/ is written ⟨j⟩
  • /j/ is written ⟨y⟩
  • /h/ only occurs in loanwords
  • The glottal stop /ʔ/ only occurs in syllable-final position. It is written as ⟨k⟩ in the orthography promoted as the standard by the government and based on the practice in Indonesian language, as an apostrophe ⟨ʼ⟩ is other orthographic standards, or not written at all in informal writing.


All consonants except for /ʔ/ can appear in initial position. In final position, only /ŋ/ and /ʔ/ are found.

Consonant clusters only occur medially and (with one exception) can be analyzed as clusters of /ŋ/ or /ʔ/ + consonant. These clusters also arise through sandhi across morpheme boundaries.

nasal/lateral voiceless obstruents voiced stops + r
m n ɲ ŋ l p t c k s b d ɟ ɡ r
/ŋ/ mm nn ɲɲ ŋŋ ll mp nt ɲc ŋk ns mb nd ɲɟ ŋg nr
/ʔ/ ʔm ʔn ʔɲ ʔŋ ʔl pp tt cc kk ss ʔb ʔd ʔɟ ʔg ʔr

The geminate cluster /rr/ is only found in root-internal position and cannot be accounted for by the above rules.

Sequences of like vowels are contracted to a single vowel, e.g. sassa 'to wash' + -ang 'nominalizing suffix' > sassáng 'laundry', caʼdi 'small' + -i 'third person' > caʼdi 'it is small'.

Current writing systems[edit]

Although Makassarese is now often written in Latin script, it is still widely written using Lontara script, which once was used also to write important documents in Bugis and Mandar, two related languages from Sulawesi.


Some common words/phrases in the Makasar language, transcribed in the Latin script, are as follows (ʼ = glottal stop):

Writing system examples
Lontara Romanized Indonesian Translation
ᨈᨕᨘ tau orang people
ᨄᨎᨗᨀᨗ paʼnyiki kelelawar bat
ᨕᨑᨙ areng nama name
ᨕᨊ anaʼ anak child
ᨔᨙᨑᨙ᨞ ᨑᨘᨓ᨞ ᨈᨒᨘ᨞ ᨕᨄ᨞ ᨒᨗᨆ᨞ seʼre, rua, tallu, appaʼ, lima satu dua tiga empat lima one, two, three, four, five
ᨅᨕᨗᨊᨙ baine perempuan, istri female, woman, wife
ᨅᨘᨑᨊᨙ buraʼne laki-laki, suami male, man, husband
ᨈᨅᨙ tabeʼ permisi, maaf excuse me, sorry
ᨈᨕᨙᨊ, ᨈᨙᨊ, ᨈᨑᨙ taena, tena, tanreʼ tidak ada none, nothing
ᨒᨙᨅ leʼbaʼ pernah already
ᨔᨒᨆᨀᨗ ᨅᨈᨘ ᨆᨕᨙ salamakkiʼ battu mae selamat datang welcome
ᨕᨄ ᨕᨈᨘ ᨆᨕᨙ ᨀᨅᨑ? apa antu mae kabaraʼ? apa kabar? how are you?
ᨅᨍᨗᨅᨍᨗᨍᨗ bajiʼ-bajiʼji baik-baik saja I am fine
ᨊᨕᨗ ᨕᨑᨙᨊᨘ? nai arenta? siapa namamu? what's your name?
ᨒᨀᨙᨑᨙᨀᨗ ᨆᨕᨙ?
ᨒᨀᨙᨀᨗ ᨆᨕᨙ?
lakereki mae?,
kamu mau ke mana? where are you going?
ᨀᨙᨑᨙ ᨆᨕᨙᨀᨗ ᨕᨆᨈ kere maekiʼ ammantang? kamu tinggal di mana? where do you live?
ᨔᨗᨐᨄᨆᨗ ᨕᨘᨆᨘᨑᨘᨈ? siapami umuruʼta? berapa usiamu? how old are you?
ᨔᨒᨆᨀᨗ ᨑᨗ ᨆᨂᨙᨕᨈᨙ salamakkiʼ ri mangeanta selamat sampai tujuan have a safe trip
ᨔᨒᨆᨀᨗ ᨑᨗ ᨒᨄᨈ salamakkiʼ ri lampanta selamat tinggal goodbye
ᨅᨈᨘ ᨑᨗ ᨀᨈᨙ battu ri katte bergantung padamu it depends on you

Historical writing system[edit]

Sample of a handwritten book, written in Makassarese using the Makasar script, of a diary of the Princes of the Sultanate of Gowa. The palláwa punctuation signs, typical of this script, are drawn and colored in red, as well as a few proper names and some inserts in Arabic.
Museum display showing script comparison of Makasar (left), Lontara (center), and Bilang-bilang (right) at Balla Lompoa Museum, Sungguminasa, Gowa

Makassarese was historically written using Makasar script (also known as "Old Makassarese" or "Makassarese bird script" in English-language scholarly works).[3] In Makassarese the script is known as ukiriʼ jangang-jangang or huruf jangang-jangang ('bird letters'). It was used for official purposes in the kingdoms of Makasar in the 17th century but ceased to be used by the 19th century, being replaced by Lontara script.

In spite of their quite distinctive appearance, both the Makasar and Lontara scripts are derived from the ancient Brahmi script of India. Like other descendants of that script, each consonant has an inherent vowel "a", which is not marked. Other vowels can be indicated by adding diacritics above, below, or on either side of each consonant.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Makasar at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ Jukes, Anthony, "Makassar" in K. Alexander Adelaar & Nikolaus Himmelmann, 2005, The Austronesian languages of Asia and Madagascar, pp. 649-682, London, Routledge ISBN 0-7007-1286-0
  3. ^ Pandey, Anshuman (2015-11-02). "L2/15-233: Proposal to encode the Makasar script in Unicode" (PDF).

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]