bahasa Ternate / bahasa Tarnate
Native toIndonesia
RegionNorth Maluku (Ternate, Hiri, Kayoa, Bacan Islands, Halmahera)
Native speakers
(42,000[1] cited 1981)[2]
20,000 L2 speakers (1981)[1]
West Papuan
Latin script (Rumi)
Historically Arabic script (Jawi)[3][4]
Language codes
ISO 639-3tft
Approximate location where Ternate is spoken
Approximate location where Ternate is spoken
Location in Southeast Asia
Coordinates: 0°1′N 127°44′E / 0.017°N 127.733°E / 0.017; 127.733

Ternate or Ternatese (bahasa Ternate, bahasa Tarnate[Note 1]) is a North Halmahera language of eastern Indonesia. It is spoken on the island of Ternate and some neighboring areas in North Maluku, including Halmahera, Hiri, Kayoa, and the Bacan Islands. Historically, it served as the primary language of the Sultanate of Ternate, famous for its role in the spice trade. A North Halmahera language, it is unlike most languages of Indonesia which belong to the Austronesian language family.[6]

This language should be distinguished from Ternate Malay, a local Malay-based creole which it has heavily influenced. Ternate serves as the first language of ethnic Ternateans, mainly in the rural areas, while Ternate Malay is used as a means of interethnic and trade communication, particularly in the urban part of the island.[5][7] More recently, there has been a language shift from Ternate towards Malay.[8]

The language has been influential as a source of lexical and grammatical borrowing for North Moluccan Malay, the local variant of Malay, which has given rise to other eastern Indonesian offshoots of Malay, such as Manado Malay.[9][10]

Written records

Ternate and Tidore are notable for being the only indigenous non-Austronesian ("Papuan") languages of the region to have established literary traditions prior to first European contact.[11][12] The Ternate language was recorded with the Arabic script since the 15th century, while the Latin alphabet is used in modern writing.[3][13] Other languages of the North Halmahera region, which were not written down until the arrival of Christian missionaries, have received significant lexical influence from Ternate.[14]


Ternate is a member of the North Halmahera language family,[6] which is classified by some as part of a larger West Papuan family, a proposed linking of the North Halmahera languages with the Papuan languages of the Bird's Head Peninsula.[15] It is most closely related to the Tidore language, which is native to the southern neighboring island. The distinction between Ternate and Tidore appears to be based on sociopolitical factors rather than linguistic differences.[16][17] While many authors have described these varieties as separate languages,[17] some classifications identify them as dialects of a single language, collectively termed as either "Ternate" or "Ternate-Tidore".[18][13][19]


Ternate, like other North Halmahera languages, is not a tonal language.


Ternate consonant phonemes
Labial Alveolar Palato-alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Plosive/Affricate voiceless p t k
voiced b d ɡ
Fricative voiceless f s
Approximant central w j h
lateral l
Flap ɾ


Ternate vowel phonemes
Front Central Back
High i u
Mid e o
Low a


  1. ^ The term bahasa Ternate asli is sometimes used to distinguish the language from Ternate Malay.[5]


  1. ^ a b Ternate at Ethnologue (14th ed., 2000).
  2. ^ Ternate at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  3. ^ a b Frederik Sigismund Alexander de Clercq (1890). Bijdragen tot de kennis der residentie Ternate (in Dutch). E.J. Brill. p. 193.
  4. ^ "Ternatan/Tidorese - Dictionary definition of Ternatan/Tidorese". encyclopedia.com.
  5. ^ a b Litamahuputty, Betty (2012). "A description of Ternate Malay". Wacana. 14 (2): 335.
  6. ^ a b Lewis, M. Paul (2009). "Ternate - A language of Indonesia (Maluku)". Ethnologue: Languages of the World (16th ed.). SIL International.
  7. ^ Litamahuputty, Betty (March 10, 2007). "Description of Ternate Malay". Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Jakarta station. Archived from the original on June 10, 2007.
  8. ^ Mahdi Ahmad; Sumarlam Sumarlam; Djatmika Djatmika; Sri Marmanto (13 August 2016). "Pemertahanan bahasa Ternate pada masyarakat multilingual". Prasasti: Conference Series (in Indonesian): 466–473. doi:10.20961/pras.v0i0.1574 (inactive 31 July 2022).((cite journal)): CS1 maint: DOI inactive as of July 2022 (link)
  9. ^ Taylor, Paul Michael (1999). "Introduction" (PDF). F.S.A. de Clercq's Ternate: The Residency and its Sultanate (Smithsonian Institution Libraries digital ed.). Smithsonian Institution Libraries. p. 7.
  10. ^ Allen, Robert B.; Hayami-Allen, Rika (2002). "Orientation in the Spice Islands" (PDF). Papers from the Tenth Annual Meeting of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society. Arizona State University, Program for Southeast Asian Studies. p. 21.
  11. ^ Warnk, Holger (2010). "The coming of Islam and Moluccan-Malay culture to New Guinea c.1500–1920". Indonesia and the Malay World. 38 (110): 109–134. doi:10.1080/13639811003665454. S2CID 162188648.
  12. ^ Taylor, Paul Michael (1988). "From mantra to mataráa: Opacity and transparency in the language of Tobelo magic and medicine (Halmahera Island, Indonesia)". Social Science & Medicine. 27 (5): 430. doi:10.1016/0277-9536(88)90365-6. PMID 3067356.
  13. ^ a b Hayami-Allen, Rika (2001). A Descriptive Study of the Language of Ternate, the Northern Moluccas, Indonesia. University of Pittsburgh.
  14. ^ Dalby, Andrew (2015). Dictionary of Languages: The Definitive Reference to More than 400 Languages. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 620. ISBN 978-1-4081-0214-5.
  15. ^ Enfield, Nick; Comrie, Bernard, eds. (2015). Languages of Mainland Southeast Asia: The State of the Art. Walter de Gruyter. p. 269. ISBN 9781501501685.
  16. ^ Bowden, John, Emic and Etic Classifications of Languages in the North Maluku Region (PDF), archived from the original (PDF) on 2019-10-20, retrieved 2022-08-01 – via Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
  17. ^ a b Bowden, John (2005). "Language Contact and Metatypic Restructuring in the Directional System of North Maluku Malay" (PDF). Concentric: Studies in Linguistics. 31 (2): 139.
  18. ^ "Ternate - Peta Bahasa" (in Indonesian).
  19. ^ Palmer, Bill (2017). The Languages and Linguistics of the New Guinea Area: A Comprehensive Guide. Walter de Gruyter. p. 577. ISBN 9783110295252.