Bajaw language

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(Redirected from ISO 639:bdr)
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.


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.


The following are the sounds of west coast Bajaw:

Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Plosive voiceless p t k ʔ
voiced b d ɡ
Fricative s
Rhotic r
Lateral l
Semivowel w j
  • Stop sounds /p t k/ when in word-final position are heard as unreleased [p̚ t̚ k̚], as is the case with the voiced stop sounds /b d ɡ/ as [b̚ d̚ ɡ̚].
  • /l/ can be heard as a retroflex lateral [ɭ] in word-final position.
  • /r/ can be heard as a flap [ɾ] when in intervocalic position.
Front Central Back
Close i u
Close-mid e o
Mid ə
Open a

The vowel sounds /i u e/ are heard as [ɪ ʊ ɛ] within closed syllables.[2]


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.

Further reading[edit]

  • Archangeli, Diana and Yip, Jonathan and Yiu, Suki (2021). "Indonesian Bajau (East Lombok)". Illustrations of the IPA. Journal of the International Phonetic Association. 51 (2): 314–332. doi:10.1017/S0025100319000239{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link), with supplementary sound recordings.


  1. ^ Sulawesi at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
    Sabah West Coast at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
    Mapun at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ Miller, Mark T. (2007). A Grammar of West Coast Bajau. University of Texas Arlington.