North Halmahera languages

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North Halmahera
Halmahera, North Halmaheran
Maluku Islands
Linguistic classificationWest Papuan
  • North Halmahera

The North Halmahera languages are the Papuan languages spoken in the northern and eastern parts of the island of Halmahera and some neighboring islands in Indonesia. The southwestern part of the island is occupied by the unrelated South Halmahera languages, which are a subgroup of Austronesian.

The best known North Halmaheran language is Ternate (50 000 native speakers), which is a regional lingua franca and which, along with Tidore, were the languages of the rival medieval Ternate and Tidore sultanates, famous for their role in the spice trade.


The classification used here is that of Voorhoeve 1988.[2]

 Core Halmaheran 


Sahu: Sahu, Waioli, Gamkonora

Galela–Tobelo (Northeast Halmaheran): Tobelo, GalelaLoloda, Modole, Pagu, Tabaru

West Makian

West Makian is divergent, perhaps due to Austronesian influence. It was once classified as an Austronesian language.

There is a degree of mutual intelligibility between the Galela–Tobelo languages, and Voorhoeve 1988 considered them dialects of a language he called Northeast Halmaheran, though most speakers consider them to be distinct languages. Ethnologue adds Kao, which it classifies as Sahu but notes may be a marginal dialect of Pagu.


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "North Halmahera". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ Voorhoeve, C.L. 1988. The languages of the northern Halmaheran stock. Papers in New Guinea Linguistics, no. 26., 181-209. (Pacific Linguistics A-76). Canberra: Australian National University.