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Toba Batak language

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Title: Toba Batak language  
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Subject: Toba Batak people, Batak Karo language, Enggano language, Classification schemes for Southeast Asian languages, Toba
Collection: Batak Languages, Languages of Indonesia
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Toba Batak language

Batak Toba
Native to Indonesia
Region Samosir Island (2° 30′ N, 99°), and to the east, south, and west of Toba Lake in north Sumatra.
Native speakers
2 million  (1991)[1]
Latin, Batak alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-3 bbc
Glottolog bata1289[2]

Batak Toba [3] is an Austronesian language spoken in North Sumatra province in Indonesia. It is part of a group of languages called "Batak".

There are approximately 2,000,000 Batak Toba speakers, living to the east, west and south of Lake Toba. Historically it was written using Batak script, but the Latin script is now used for most writing.

Herman Neubronner van der Tuuk was involved in translating the Christian Bible into Batak Toba.


  • Name of the language 1
  • Description of the language 2
  • References 3
  • Footnotes 4

Name of the language

The name of this language arises from a rich and complex history of ethnic identity in colonial and post-colonial Indonesia. It is a generic name for the common language used by the people of the districts of Toba, Uluan, Humbang, Habinsaran, Samosir, and Silindung, centered upon the Island of Sumatra; more particularly, at Lake Toba. Linguistically and culturally these tribes of people are closely related. Other nearby communities such as Silalahi and Tongging may also be classified as speakers of Toba Batak.

The term "Toba Batak" is, itself, a derivation of the Toba Batak language. As such, it is used both as a noun and an adjective; both to describe a language, and also to describe the people who speak the language.

Among the aforementioned districts, Toba is the most densely populated and politically the most prominent district so that "Toba Batak" became a label for all communities speaking a dialect closely akin to the dialect spoken in Toba. In contemporary Indonesia the language is seldom referred to as "Toba Batak" (bahasa Batak Toba), but more commonly and simply as "Batak" (bahasa Batak). The (Toba)-Batak refer to it in their own language as "Hata Batak". This "Batak" language is different from the languages of other "Batak" people that can be divided in speaking a northern Batak dialect (Karo Batak, and Pakpak-Dairi Batak – linguistically this dialect group also includes the culturally very different Alas people), a central Batak dialect (Simalungun) and closely related other southern Batak dialects such as Angkola and Mandailing.

Description of the language

There are several dictionaries and grammars for each of the five major dialects of Batak (Angkola-Mandailing, Toba, Simalungun, Pakpal-Dairi, and Karo). Specifically for Toba Batak the most important dictionaries are that of Johannes Warneck (Toba-German) and Herman Neubronner van der Tuuk (Toba-Dutch).


  • Reference to contemporary Batak Bible
  • Example translation of Biblical Scripture (published by the Language Museum, a site published by Zhang Hong, an internet consultant and amateur linguist in Beijing China)
  • Musgrave, Simon. Non-subject Arguments in Indonesian: Department of Linguistics and Applied Linguistics, THE UNIVERSITY OF MELBOURNE. See page 112 (doc page 101) and reference to Cole, Peter & Gabriella Hermon (2000) Word order and binding in Toba Batak. Paper presented at AFLA 7, Amsterdam
  • Sejara Indonesia An Online Outline of Indonesia History.
  • Neubronner van der Tuuk, Hermanus. A grammar of Toba-Batak. The Hague, 1971. First English edition, first published in Dutch in 1864-1867. Translation J. Scott-Kemball, edited by A. Teeuw and R. Roolvink.


  1. ^ Batak Toba at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Batak Toba". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ Laurie Bauer, 2007, The Linguistics Student’s Handbook, Edinburgh
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