Bajaw language

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Native toIndonesia, Malaysia, Philippines
Regioncoastal areas of the Sulu Sea, Sabah, Sulawesi, and the Maluku Islands
Native speakers
260,000 (2000–2011)[1]
(may be ethnic population)
Language codes
ISO 639-3Variously:
bdl – Sulawesi
bdr – Sabah West Coast
sjm – Mapun

Bajaw is the language of the Bajaw, widely known as the 'sea gypsies' of Maritime Southeast Asia. Differences exist between the language's varieties in western Sabah, Mapun (previously Cagayan de Tawi-Tawi/Sulu) in southern Philippines, eastern Sabah, and across Sulawesi to Maluku. However, it is not clear how many languages these would be based on mutual intelligibility.


West Coast Bajau is distributed in the following locations of Sabah, Malaysia (Ethnologue).

  • scattered along the west coast from Papar district to Kudat district, mainly in Tuaran and Kota Belud towns
  • Telutu’ village, Banggi Island, Kudat district
  • Pitas district: along the west coast and Mengkubau Laut, Mengkapon, Dalima’, Mapan-Mapan, Pantai Laut, Layag-Layag, Mausar, Jambangan, Sibayan Laut, and Kanibungan villages

Indonesian Bajau is widely distributed throughout Sulawesi and Nusa Tenggara. It is also located throughout Maluku Utara Province in the Bacan Islands, Obi Islands, Kayoa, and Sula Islands, which are located to the southwest of Halmahera Island (Ethnologue).

Mapun is spoken on Cagayan de Sulu (Mapun) island, Tawi-Tawi, Philippines.


Ethnologue lists the following population statistics for Bajaw.


Ethnologue lists the following Bajaw dialects. Locations and demographics are from Palleson (1985).

Together, West Coast Bajau, Indonesian Bajau, and Mapun comprise a Borneo Coast Bajaw branch in Ethnologue.


  1. ^ Sulawesi at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Sabah West Coast at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Mapun at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  • Mead, David; Lee, Myung-young (2007), Mapping Indonesian Bajau Communities in Sulawesi, SIL Electronic Survey Reports 2007-019, SIL International
  • Miller, Mark Turner (2007). A Grammar of West Coast Bajau (Ph.D. thesis). University of Texas at Arlington. hdl:10106/577.
  • Pallesen, A. Kemp. 1985. Culture contact and language convergence. Philippine journal of linguistics: special monograph issue, 24. Manila: Linguistic Society of the Philippines.
  • Youngman, Scott (2005), Summary of Bajau Lexicostatistics Project (through October 1989), SIL International (word lists of 16 Indonesian Bajau varieties spoken in Sulawesi)