The ethnic Toraja language is dominant in Tana Toraja with the main language as the Sa'dan Toraja. Although the national Indonesian language is the official language and is spoken in the community, all elementary schools in Tana Toraja teach Toraja language.

Language varieties of Toraja, including Kalumpang, Mamasa, Tae, Talondo, Toala, and Toraja-Sa'dan, belong to the Malayo-Polynesian language from the Austronesian family. At the outset, the isolated geographical nature of Tana Toraja formed many dialects between the Toraja languages themselves. After the formal administration of Tana Toraja, some Toraja dialects have been influenced by other languages through the transmigration program, introduced since the colonialism period, and it has been a major factor in the linguistic variety of Toraja languages.

Linguistic variety of Toraja languages
DenominationsISO 639-3Population (as of)Dialects
Kalumpang kli 12,000 (1991) Karataun, Mablei, Mangki (E'da), Bone Hau (Ta'da).
Mamasa mqj 100,000 (1991) Northern Mamasa, Central Mamasa, Pattae' (Southern Mamasa, Patta' Binuang, Binuang, Tae', Binuang-Paki-Batetanga-Anteapi)
Ta'e rob 250,000 (1992) Rongkong, Northeast Luwu, South Luwu, Bua.
Talondo' tln 500 (1986)  
Toala' tlz 30,000 (1983) Toala', Palili'.
Torajan-Sa'dan sda 500,000 (1990) Makale (Tallulembangna), Rantepao (Kesu'), Toraja Barat (West Toraja, Mappa-Pana).
Source: Gordon (2005).


A prominent attribute of Toraja language is the notion of grief. The importance of death ceremony in Toraja culture has characterised their languages to express intricate degrees of grief and mourning. The Toraja language contains many terms referring to sadness, longing, depression, and mental pain. Giving a clear expression of the psychological and physical effect of loss is a catharsis and sometimes lessens the pain of grief itself.

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