Identification. The Makassar live in the southern corner of the southwestern peninsula of Sulawesi (formerly the Celebes), Indonesia. Along with the Bugis, with whom they share many cultural features, they have been famous for centuries as seafaring traders and agents of Islam in the eastern part of the Malay Archipelago. Their name for themselves is "Tu Mangkasara'," meaning "people who behave frankly."
Location. Makassar territory is roughly between 5° and 7° S, and 119°20′ and 120°30′ E, including the island of Salayar. The Makassar inhabit the volcanic mountainous area around Mount Bawakaraeng/Lompobattang, which is traversed by a number of rivers, as well as the coastal plains, where most settlements are inhabited by a mixed Bugis-Makassar population. Except for the areas east of the volcano massif, where rainfalls are more evenly distributed over the year, the rainy season lasts from October to April.
Demography. The Makassar number about 1.8 million, with an average population density of some 245 persons per square kilometer (excluding the provincial capital Ujung Pandang). The rate of population increase in the rural areas is low today, which results from an increasing migration to the towns as well as from national birth-control projects. Makassar constitute some 72 percent of the population of Ujung Pandang (formerly Makassar), the remainder being composed of ethnic groups from all over Indonesia, including a large number of Chinese.
Linguistic Affiliation. Makassar belongs to the West Indonesian Subgroup of the Austronesian Language Family, and is most closely related to Bugis, Mandar, and several Toraja languages. It is subdivided into five mutually intelligible dialects (Lakiung, Bantaeng, Turatea, Selayar, and Konjo, the latter being classified as a separate language by some linguists), of which the "Standard Makassar," the Lakiung dialect, spoken in the western regions, is most widely used (74 percent). There are two speech levels, the higher of which is more complex in regard to morphology and lexicon. Today, few people are capable of using the high variety. The Makassar have a syllabic script comprised of nineteen characters and four additional vowel signs, which was created in the sixteenth century on the basis of Sanskrit writing and is still used, mainly by older people.