Tausug language

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Bahasa Sūg
بَهَسَ سُوگ
Native to Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia
Region — Spoken throughout the Sulu Archipelago and eastern Sabah
— Also spoken in Zamboanga City and North Kalimantan (Indonesia)
Ethnicity Tausūg people
Filipinos in Indonesia
Filipinos in Malaysia
Native speakers
1.1 million (2000)[1]
Latin (Malay alphabet)
Arabic (Jawi)
Official status
Official language in
Regional language in the Philippines
Regulated by Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino
Language codes
ISO 639-3 tsg
Glottolog taus1251[2]
Tausug language map.png
  Areas where Tausug is the majority language
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Tausug (Tausug: Bahasa Sūg, Malay: Bahasa Suluk, Filipino: Wikang Tausug) is a regional language spoken in the province of Sulu in the Philippines, in the eastern area of the state of Sabah, Malaysia, and in North Kalimantan, Indonesia by the Tausūg people.

It is widely spoken in the Sulu Archipelago (Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi), Zamboanga Peninsula (Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga del Sur, and Zamboanga City), Southern Palawan, Malaysia (eastern Sabah) and Indonesia (North Kalimantan). Tausug and Chavacano are the only Philippine languages spoken on the island of Borneo.

The Tausug language is very closely related to the Surigaonon language of the provinces Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur and Agusan del Sur, and to the Butuanon language of northeastern Mindanao.

Name of the language[edit]

The name of the language in Tausug is Bahasa Sūg, which means 'language of Sulu'. The word Tausūg is derived from two words "Tau" which means "person", and "sūg" which means "current", presumably referring to their economic livelihood depending on the strong currents of the Sulu Sea where they used to trans-navigate as fishermen, pearl divers and traders. The Sulu Sea has been use as the strategic trade route of the southern Philippines and other neighboring ASEAN nations, even up to the present time. As early as the 10th century it was believed that there was already flourishing trade route between Sulu with China and North Borneo. Basically the people in this area were known as "people of the current", which is the literal translation of "Tausūg".



Tausug Alphabet
Letter A B D G H I J K L M
Name Alip bā' dāl gā' hā' ī jīm kāp lām mīm
IPA /a/ /b/, /β/ /d/ /ɡ/, /ɣ/ /h/ /i/ /dʒ/ /k/ /l/ /m/
Letter N Ng P R S T U W Y '
Name nūn ngā' pā' rā' sīn tā' ū wāw yā' hamja
IPA /n/ /ɳ/ /p/ /r/ /s/ /t/ /u/ /w/ /j/ /ʔ/


Features: Gemination of all non-glottal consonants

  • b [b] or [β] when between vowels[4]
  • d [d]
  • g [ɡ] or [ɣ] when between vowels[4]
  • h [h]
  • j [dʒ]
  • k [k]
  • l [l]
  • m [m]
  • n [n]
  • ng [ɳ]
  • p [p]
  • r [r]
  • s [s]
  • t [t]
  • w [w]
  • y [j]


Features: Vowel lengthening (e.g. bāy 'house'). Stress: Nonphonemic stress on final syllable.

  • a/ā [a] and [aː]
  • i/ī [i] and [iː]
  • u/ū [u] and [uː]
  • ü [ɜ]
  • The letters o and e are used in loan words and names from other languages.

Diphthongs: aw, uy, ay, iw[5]


It is alleged that the Tausug language was previously written in a Baybayin-related script called "Luntarsug."[6] The former Sultan of Sulu appears to have confirmed this view with physical evidence. The Tausūg language was previously written with the Arabic alphabet. The script used was inspired by the use of Jawi in writing the Malay language.

An example of the Arabic alphabet in writing the Tausūg language:

  • Latin script – Wayruun tuhan malaingkan Allāh, hi Muhammad rasūl sin Allāh
  • Arabic script – وَيْـرُٷنْ تُـهَـنْ مَـلَـيِـڠْـكَـن هَالله، هِـمُـحَـمَّـدْ ئِـڠ رَسُـولْ سِـڠ الله
  • English translationThere is no god but Allah, Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah

The Arabic script used to write the Tausug language differs in some aspects to the script used for the Arabic language and in the Jawi script used for Malay languages. One of the main differences is in the way that word-initial vowels are written.

In Arabic, /in/ is (إن); in Jawi (Malay), it is (ان). In Tausug, it is (ئِن). The Tausug Arabic script utilises the letter yā' with a hamza to represent a short vowel. If a kasra (ِ) is added, it becomes an 'i' sound. If a fatha (َ) is added, it becomes an 'a' sound. If a damma (ُ) is added, it becomes a 'u' sound.


Tausug Alphabet – Arabic Script
Character Isolated Initial Medial Final Name
ا alip
ب ـﺒ ـﺐ bā'
ت ـﺘ ـﺖ tā'
ج ـﺠ ـﺞ jīm
د د ـد dāl
ر ـر rā'
س ـﺴ ـﺲ sīn
غ ـﻐـ ـﻎ gayn
ڠ ڠ ڠـ ـڠـ ـڠ ngā'
ف ـﻔ ـﻒ pā'
ک ک ـﻜ ـک kāp
گ گ ـﮕـ ـﮓ gāp
ل ـﻠ ـﻞ lām
م ـﻤ ـﻢ mīm
ن ـﻨ nūn
و ـو wāw
ه ـﻬ hā'
ي ـﻴـ yā'
ء ء ء hamja
أ أ ـأ alip with hamja above
ـﺆ wāw with hamja above
ئ ئ ئـ ــئـ ـئ yā' with hamja above
لا لا لا ــلا ــلا lām alip



Personal life[edit]

  Absolutive Ergative Oblique
1st person singular aku ku kāku'
1st person dual kita natu', ta katu'
2nd person singular ikaw, kaw mu kaymu
3rd person singular siya niya kaniya
1st person plural inclusive kitaniyu natu'niyu, taniyu kātu'niyu, kātu'natu'
1st person plural exclusive kami namu kāmu'
2nd person plural kamu niyu kaniyu
3rd person plural sila nila kanila


Enclitic Particles[edit]


Interrogative words[edit]


English Bahasa Sug
Who? Hisiyu?
What? Unu?
Where? Hawnu? or Hariin?
Why? Mayta'?
When? (future) Ku'nu?
When? (past) Ka'nu?
How? (process) Biya'diin?
How? (condition) Maunu-unu?


English Bahasa Sug
Who is your father? Hisiyu in ama' mu?
What is he doing? Unu in hiyhinang niya?
Where are you? Hawnu kaw? or Hariin kaw?
Why are you crying? Mayta' kaw nagtangis?
When are you arriving? (future) Ku'nu kaw dumatung?
When did you arrived? (past) Ka'nu kaw dimatung?
How did you know that? (process) Biya'diin mu yan naingat?
How is Hamid? (condition) Maunu-unu na hi Hamid?


English Tausug Latin Script Tausug Arabic Script
What is your name? Unu in ngān mu? اُنُ ئِـڠ ڠَـانـمُ؟
My name is Muhammad In ngān ku Muhammad ئِـڠ ڠَـانـكُ مُـحَـمَّـد
How are you? Maunu-unu nakaw? مَـؤُنُ اُنُ نَـكَـو؟
I am good Marayaw da isab مَـرَيَـو دَ ئِـسَـب
Where is Ahmad? Hawnu hi Ahmad? هَـونُ هِ أحـمَـد؟
He is in the house Ha bāy siya هَ بَـاي سِـيَ
Thank you Magsukul مَـگـسُـكُـل

Loan words[edit]

Many Tausug words derive from the Arabic language.

Some examples of Arabic words in Tausug are

Tausug Word Meaning (Tausug) Arabic Word Pronunciation Meaning (Arabic)
Adab manners أدب adab manners
Ahirat Hereafter آخرة ākhirah hereafter
Ajayb amazing عجيب 'ajīb amazing
Akkal intelligence عقل 'Aql intellect
Alam universe عالم 'ālam world
Allāh God الله Allāh God
Amānat message أمانة amānah trust
Ammal use عمل 'amal to make
Awal origin أوّل awwal first
Awliya ascetic أولياء awliyā' ascetics
Ayat verse آية āyah verse
Ayb shame عيب 'ayb shame
Barawi Desert robber بدوي badawī bedouin
Batāl unclean باطل bātil void
Bilāl Muezzin/caller to prayer بلال Bilāl Bilal ibn Rabah
Daawa excuse/alibi دعوة da'wah invitation
Duhul extremity دخول dukhūl entrance
Daira city دائرة dā'irah area
Dayyus cuckold ديّوث dayyūth cuckold
Dunya earth دنيا dunyā world
Duwaa prayer دعاء du'ā prayer/supplication
Habal news خبر khabar news
Hadas impurity حدث hadath impurity
Hakīka birth ritual عقيقة aqīqah birth ritual
Hakīkat truth حقيقة haqīqah truth
Hatīb speaker خطيب khatīb speaker
Hawa Eve حواء Hawā' Eve
Hidāyat announcement هداية hidāyah guidance
Hikmat wisdom حكمة hikmah wisdom
Hukum judge حكم hukm ruling
Humus alms خمس khums fifth
Hutba' sermon خطبة khutbah sermon
Hurup sound of a letter حروف hurūf letters
Ibilīs demon إبليس Iblīs devil
Ihilās sincerity إخلاص ikhlās sincerity
Ijin blessing إذن idhn permission
Ilmu' knowledge علم 'ilm knowledge
Imān forbearingness إيمان īmān faith
Intiha' end إنتهى intihā end
Irādat determination إرادة irādah determination
Islām Islam إسلام Islām Islam
Istigapar to beg pardon إستغفار istighfār to beg pardon
Instinja pure إستنجاء istinjā' to clean one's self
Jabūr Psalms زبور zabūr Psalms
Jāhil foolish جاهل jāhil ignorant
Jakāt tithe زكاة zakāh tithe
Jamāa congregation جماعة jamā'ah congregation
Jamān clock زمان zamān time
Janāja bier جنازة janāzah funeral
Jāt appearance ذات dhāt self
Jaytūn olive زيتون zaytūn olive
Jin spirit جنّ jinn demon
Jinā adultery زنا zinā adultery
Juba garment جبّة jubbah garment
Jubul anus دبر dubr anus
Junub pollution جنوب junūb dirty
Jurriyat lineage ذرية dhurriyyah offspring
Kahawa coffee قهوة qahwah coffee
Kāpil disbeliever كافر kāfir disbeliever
Karāmat miracle كرامة karāmah miracle
Kawwāt power قوّة quwwah force
Kubul grave قبور qubūr graves
Kudarat Power of God قدرة qudrah ability
Kulbān sacrifice قربان qurbān sacrifice
Kuppiya' male head covering كوفيّة kūffiyah kefiyyeh
Kupul disbelief كفز kufr disbelief
Lidjiki' blessing رزق rizq sustenance
Maana meaning معنة ma'nah meaning
Magrib sunset مغرب maghrib sunset
Magsukul Thanks شكر shukr thanks
Mahluk human مخلوق maklūq created
Maksud purpose مقصود maqsūd intended
Makbul fulfilled مقبول maqbūl accepted
Malak Beautiful ملك malak Angel
Maruhum deceased مرحوم marhūm deceased
Masrik east مشرق mashriq east
Matakaddam parable متقدّم mutaqaddam preceding
Mayat corpse ميت mayt dead
Mujijat mystery معجزة mu'jizah miracle
Mulid pupil مريد murīd pupil
Munapik hypocrite منافق munāfiq hypocrite
Murtad apostate مرتد murtad apostate
Muskil uncommon مشكل mushkil problem
Mustahak lawful owner مستحقّ mustahaqq deserving
Mustajab occurred مستجاب mustajāb answered
Muwallam scholar معلّم mu'allim teacher
Nabī prophet نبي nabī prophet
Najal promise نذر nadhar vow/promise
Najjis filth ناجس nājis filthy
Napas breath نفس nafas breathe
Napsu desire نفس nafs ego/desire
Nasihat advice نصيحة nasīhah advice
Paham familiarity فهم fahm understanding
Pardu' legislation فرض fard compulsory
Piil action فعل fi'l action
Pikil think فكر fikr thought
Pir'awn Pharaoh فرعون fir'awn Pharaoh
Rahmat blessing رحمة rahmah mercy
Rasūl messenger رسول rasūl messenger
Ruku' bow ركوع rukū' bowing
Rukun precept ركن rukn pillar
Sabab because سبب sabab reason/cause
Sahabat follower صحابة sahābah companions
Saytān Satan شيطان shaytān Satan
Sual discussion سؤال su'āl question
Subu dawn صبح subh dawn
Sunnat female circumcision سنّة sunnah tradition/sunnah
Takabbul arrogant تكبّر takabbur arrogance
Takwīm calendar تقويم taqwīm calendar
Tallak divorce طلاق talāq divorce
Tarasul Tausug poem تراسل tarāsul correspondence
Tasbi prayer beads تسبيح tasbīh praise
Ummul age عمر 'amr age
Wajib compulsory واجب wājib compulsory
Wakap pause وقف waqf pause
Waktu time وقت waqt time

Tausug words derived from Sanskrit

Tausug Word Meaning (Tausug) Sanskrit Word Pronunciation Meaning (Sanskrit)
Guru teacher गुरु guru teacher
Naga dragon नाग nāga serpent
Āgama religion आगम āgama religion
Lahu' eclipse राहु rāhu eclipse
Lupa appearance रूप rūpa appearance
Dukka grieve दुःख duḥkha suffering
Sutla' silk सूत्र sūtra to sew/thread


Tausug Cebuano Malay Kadazan-Dusun Javanese
1 – Isa (Hambook) usa satu iso siji
2 – Duwa duha dua duo loro
3 – Tū tulo tiga tolu telu
4 – Upat upat empat apat papat
5 – Lima lima lima limo limo
6 – Unum unom enam onom enem
7 – Pitu pito tujuh turu pitu
8 – Walu walo delapan walu wolu
9 – Siyam siyam sembilan siam songo
10 – Hangpu' napu'o sepuluh hopod sepuloh
Tausug Cebuano Malay
11 – Hangpuh tag isa napulo'g usa sebelas
20 – Kawha'an kawhaan dua puluh
30 – Katlu'an katloan tiga puluh
40 – Ka'patan kap'atan empat puluh
50 – Kay'man kalim'an lima puluh
60 – Ka'numan kanuman enam puluh
70 – Kapituwan kapitoan tujuh puluh
80 – Kawaluhan kawalohan delapan puluh
90 – Kasiyaman kasiyaman sembilan puluh
100 – Hanggattus usa ka gatus se ratus
1,000 – Ha'ngibu usa ka libo se ribu

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Tausug at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Tausug". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  3. ^ see Tan, Evangeline K. (1967). "The phonology of Tausug: a descriptive analysis". open.library.ubc.ca. M.A.Thesis, University of British Columbia. p. 16. 
  4. ^ a b Jawali, Hamsali S. 2006. Ta'u-sug–English–Tagalog Dictionary. National Bookstore: Mandaluyong.
  5. ^ As in issiw, variant of hisiyu, 'who.'
  6. ^ "Luntarsug: Reconstruction of a Lost Ancient Sulu Script". layagsug.com. 
  7. ^ "Blogger". www.tausug101.blogspot.com. 
  • Sundita, Christopher Allen (2002). In Bahasa Sug: An Introduction to Tausug. Lobel & Tria Partnership, Co. ISBN 971-92226-6-2.