Native toIndonesia
RegionNorth Sulawesi
EthnicityPonosakan people
Native speakers
4 (2014)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3pns
Approximate location where Ponosakan is spoken
Approximate location where Ponosakan is spoken
Approximate location where Ponosakan is spoken
Approximate location where Ponosakan is spoken
Approximate location where Ponosakan is spoken
Approximate location where Ponosakan is spoken
Coordinates: 0°55′N 124°43′E / 0.917°N 124.717°E / 0.917; 124.717
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Ponosakan is an Austronesian language spoken in the vicinity of the town of Belang [id], North Sulawesi, Indonesia. This language is almost extinct, with only four fluent speakers left as of November 2014.[1]


The locals in North Sulawesi often falsely identify Ponosakan as a Minahasan language,[2] due to the ethnic group's status as a subgroup of Minahasan people.[3] However, there is no doubt among scholars that this language actually belongs to the Gorontalo–Mongondow subgroup.[4][5][6] The Gorontalo–Mongondow languages are commonly classified as a part of the Philippine subfamily; Robert Blust specifically includes it in the Greater Central Philippine languages, alongside—among others—Tagalog and Visayan languages.[7]

In comparison to other Gorontalo–Mongondow languages, Ponosakan is relatively conservative in terms of phonology and structure.[8]

Demography and distribution

Ponosakan is spoken at the eastern end of Gorontalo–Mongondow languages' distribution. This language has been spoken by the Ponosakan people in and around Belang [id] from at least the 17th century.[8][9] Before World War II, Ponosakan was the most spoken language not only in Belang, but also in several other settlements around it.[9] But even in the 1920s, its number of speakers was already in decline.[10][12] Influx of migrants from other areas also altered the region's demography; when World War II started, already half of Belang residents were newcomers who did not speak Ponosakan. By the second half of the 20th century, "virtually no ethnic Ponosakans were learning the language anymore".[13]

In November 2014, there were reportedly only four elderly people who could still speak Ponosakan fluently.[1] Ponosakan has the fewest speakers among the Gorontalo–Mongondow languages.[8]


There are 16 consonants and 5 vowels in Ponosakan.[2] In addition, the phoneme /ʤ/ only occurs in loanwords.[14]

1. Consonants[2]
Labial Alveolar/
Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ
Stop voiceless p t k ʔ
voiced b d ɡ
Fricative s h
Lateral l
Trill r
Semivowel w j
2. Vowels[2]
Front Central Back
Closed i u
Mid e o
Open a



As with other Philippine languages, pronouns in Ponosakan are distinguished by case (nominative, genitive, and oblique);[15] number (singular and plural); and, for the first person plural pronouns, clusivity (inclusive and exclusive).[16] Other than the contrast between the singular and plural forms, Ponosakan also exhibits "count forms" for second and third person pronouns.[17] These forms are always followed by a number, as in siyatolu 'the three of them' and siya'opat 'the four of them'.[17] In contrast, plural forms cannot be followed by a number. Both the count and plural forms can be used to represent any number of people, although there is a preference towards using the count forms for smaller numbers.[17]

Case markers

There are three cases in Ponosakan: nominative, genitive, and oblique. Each case has its own marker, although the same marker is used for both nominative and genitive cases in common nouns.[17][18]

3. Case markers[17]
Nominative Genitive Oblique
Common in in kon
Personal singular si i ki/kongki
plural say nay konay


There are three root words for demonstratives in Ponosakan: (1) na’a 'near speaker (whether or not also near addressee)', (2) niyon 'near addressee (but not speaker)', and (3) tain or makota/takota 'far from both speaker and addressee'.[19] Examples of usage:[20]

Onu na'a? 'What's this? (near speaker, or near both speaker and addressee)'
Onu niyon? 'What's that? (near addressee but not speaker)'
Onu in tain? 'What's that? (far from both)'


There are at least 16 interrogative words in Ponosakan. Most of them contain one of the following three roots: -onu, -onda, and -ʔene.[20][21] The form -onu by itself means 'what', but this root form can also be found in mo’onu 'when', mongonu 'why', songonu 'how much', and kosongonu 'how many times'. The form -onda when used in isolation means 'where' (used after verbs only), but this base can also be found in ko’onda 'where', na’onda 'how (manner)', and ta’onda 'which'. The base -ʔene is prefixed with case markers for personal names to form personal interrogatives (see table 3): si’ene 'who (nominative)', i’ene 'who (genitive)', and ki’ene 'to whom (oblique)'; or, for the plural forms, say’ene, nay’ene, and konay’ene. The only interrogative word which doesn't show any of the above base forms is oyo 'why'.[20]


Negation in Ponosakan is found in several forms. The word deya' 'no' negates verbs, adjectives, existence or location. The word dika 'don't!' is used to negate commands. The word di’iman 'not' negates nouns and equational sentences. There are also doi’ which means 'don't like, doesn't like' and ta’awe which means 'I don't know'.[22]



  1. ^ a b c Lobel 2015, p. 396.
  2. ^ a b c d Lobel 2015, p. 399.
  3. ^ "Mengenal Suku Ponosakan Asal Sulawesi Utara". manadotopnews.com. Retrieved 2024-06-14.
  4. ^ Sneddon 1970, p. 13.
  5. ^ Usup 1986, p. 35.
  6. ^ Sneddon & Usup 1986, p. 410.
  7. ^ Blust 1991, p. 73, 85.
  8. ^ a b c Lobel 2015, p. 397.
  9. ^ a b Lobel 2015, p. 429.
  10. ^ Lobel 2015, p. 431.
  11. ^ Adriani, N. (1925). "De Minahasische talen" [The Minahasan language]. Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde (in Dutch). 81 (1): 135. doi:10.1163/22134379-90001541.
  12. ^ Het Ponosakansch, thans reeds aan 't verdwijnen... [Ponosakan, now already disappearing][11]
  13. ^ Lobel 2015, p. 430.
  14. ^ Lobel 2016, p. 397.
  15. ^ Lobel 2016, p. 399.
  16. ^ Lobel 2015, pp. 413.
  17. ^ a b c d e Lobel 2015, pp. 415–416.
  18. ^ Lobel 2016, p. 401.
  19. ^ Lobel 2015, pp. 417.
  20. ^ a b c Lobel 2015, pp. 418.
  21. ^ Lobel 2016, p. 402.
  22. ^ Lobel 2015, pp. 420.