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Ternate or Ternatese (bahasa Ternate, bahasa Tarnate) is a North Halmahera language of 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.

bahasa Ternate / bahasa Tarnate
Native toIndonesia
RegionNorth Maluku (Ternate, Hiri, Kayoa, Bacan Islands, some areas of 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
Ternate is located in Southeast Asia
Location in Southeast Asia
Coordinates: 0°1′N 127°44′E / 0.017°N 127.733°E / 0.017; 127.733

This language should not be confused with Ternate Malay, a local Malay-based creole which it has heavily influenced. Ternate serves as the first language of many indigenous Ternateans, while Ternate Malay is employed as a means of interethnic and trade communication.[6]


Ternate is a member of the North Halmahera branch of the West Papuan language family.[7] It is most closely related to the Tidore language native to the southern neighboring island. There is a high degree of mutual intelligibility between the Ternate-Tidore language varieties, and some classifications identify these idioms as dialects of a single language, collectively termed as either "Ternate" or "Ternate-Tidore".[8][9]


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. ^ a b Ternate at Ethnologue (14th ed., 2000).
  2. ^ Ternate at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  3. ^ 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".
  5. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Ternate". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  6. ^ 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. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  7. ^ Lewis, M. Paul (2009). "Ternate - A language of Indonesia (Maluku)". Ethnologue: Languages of the World (16th ed.). SIL International.
  8. ^ "Ternate - Peta Bahasa" (in Indonesian).
  9. ^ Rika Hayami-Allen (2001). A Descriptive Study of the Language of Ternate, the Northern Moluccas, Indonesia. University of Pittsburgh.