Tausug language

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Bahasa Sūg
بَهَسَ سُوگ
Native toPhilippines, Malaysia
Region— Spoken throughout the Sulu Archipelago (Basilan and Tawi-Tawi), southern Palawan and eastern Sabah
— Also spoken in Zamboanga City and Zamboanga Peninsula
Native speakers
1.2 million (2010)[1]
Latin (Malay alphabet)
Arabic (Jawi)
Official status
Official language in
Regional language in the Philippines
Regulated byKomisyon sa Wikang Filipino
Language codes
ISO 639-3tsg
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. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Tausug (Bahasa Sūg; Jawi: بَهَسَ سُوگ;[2][3] Malay: Bahasa Suluk) is an Austronesian language spoken in the province of Sulu in the Philippines and in the eastern area of the state of Sabah, Malaysia, by the Tausūg people. It is widely spoken in the Sulu Archipelago (Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and Basilan), the Zamboanga Peninsula (Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga del Sur, and Zamboanga City), southern Palawan, and Malaysia (eastern Sabah).

Tausug has some lexical similarities or near similarities with Surigaonon language of the provinces Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, and Agusan del Sur and with the Butuanon language of Agusan del Norte; it has also some vocabulary similarities with Sugbuanon, Bicolano, and with other Philippine languages.[2] Many Malay and Arabic words are found in Bahasa Sūg.


In English, the language is primarily known as Tausug (i.e., Tausug language "language of the Tausug people"). The local name of the language is bahasa Sūg (Sulu language). The term Tausūg (tau Sūg, meaning "people of Sulu") is derived from two words: tau ("person") and Sūg[4] (The transformation of "Sūk", itself the contraction of Sūlūk[5]). Thus, in Tausug, Tausug refers to people while Bahasa Sug refers to the language. Several scholars postulate that "Sūlūk" derives from "Ahl ul-Sūlūk", or "people of the path (to Allah)," in reference to the Islamic missionaries who arrived to spread the religion of Islam.[6] Meanwhile, a similar sounding word "sug", which means "water-current", has been given by a number of writers as the etymologic source of the term; the two words, even if similarly pronounced, are not related.[2] In the past, the language has also been simply referred to using the generic term "Moro".[7]


Tausug is an Austronesian language. It is classified by linguists as being a member of the Bisayan languages family, which includes Cebuano and Waray.[8] In particular, it has many similarities with the Surigaonon language of the provinces Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur and Agusan del Sur and with the Butuanon language of Agusan del Norte[8] – both spoken in northeastern Mindanao; hence, Zorc (1977) groups these three languages as part of a "South Bisayan" grouping.


Tausug is primarily spoken in the Sulu Archipelago, which aside from the island of Sulu, also includes the Tawi-Tawi chain of islands and the island of Basilan. It is a lingua franca spoken in different areas/islands of the archipelago.[9]

Due to migration, the language is also spoken alongside other local languages in the Zamboanga Peninsula (e.g., Cebuano and Chavacano), which includes the provinces of Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga Sibugay and Zamboanga del Sur and Zamboanga City. It is also spoken in Southern Palawan and in Eastern Sabah, Malaysia.



Tausug has three vowel phonemes: /a/, /i/, /u/, with phonemic length (e.g. īpun, "shrimp" vs. ipun, "tooth"). Stress is not phonemic and usually occurs on the final syllable.[10]

The vowel phonemes have a broad range of allophones:[11]

  • /a/: [a,ɐ,ɑ]
  • /i/: [i,ɪ]
  • /u/: [u,ʊ,ɤ,ʌ,ə]

Tausug has expectedly developed some variations in accent and vocabulary from one area to another, but there are two basic dialects characterized by differences with regard to vowel sounds. The "Gimbahanun" (literally means people from the farm) speakers, the residents of the out-of-town rural areas, use four vowels: /a/, /i/, /u/ and /ə/,[12] the last vowel representing schwa sound or "obscure u", a retention from Proto-Philippine and Proto-Bisayan. The "Parianun", the residents of the urban areas, use only three vowel phonemes: /a/, /i/, /u/,[13]; the loss of /ə/ is common in many Bisayan and other Philippine languages.


The consonant phonemes are:[14]

Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ
voiceless p t k ʔ
voiced b d d͡ʒ ⟨j⟩ ɡ
Fricative f s h
Approximant l j ⟨y⟩ w
Trill r


  • /b/: per default [b], but [β] between vowels
  • /g/: per default [ɡ], but [ɣ] between vowels
  • /h/: per default [h], but [ɦ] between vowels
  • /r/: per default [r], but [ɹ] before /m,n,g,k/

Medial gemination (of all non-glottal consonants) is phonemic.[11]



Personal pronouns[edit]

Tausug has three pronouns sets:[15]

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


Case markers[edit]

The case markers of Tausug are:[16]

nominative genitive oblique
common in sin ha
proper singular hi kay
proper plural hinda' kanda'

Non-subject undergoers take the oblique marker when definite or a proper noun, but indefinite common nouns take the genitive marker sin.

  • Hi Nasul in kimaun ha mampallam. "It was Nasul who ate the mango."
  • Nagdakdak sin baju' in manga bujang. "The maidens washed clothes."


The positive existential ("there is") is aun, the negative existential ("there is none") is way.[17]

Interrogative words[edit]

English Tausug
Who? Siyu?/Hisiyu?[8]
What? Unu?
Where? Diin? / Hariin? / Hāin? (contracted Hariin) / Haunu? (Ha+uuu)
Why? Mayta'? / Mahi?
When? (future) Ku'nu?
When? (past) Ka'nu?
How? (manner) Biya'diin?
How many? Pila?


Verbs in Tausug are inflected for focus and aspect.[18]

completed progressive contemplative imperative
Actor focus ⟨im⟩

Patient focus ⟨i⟩ C⟨iy⟩V- -un -a
Locative focus ⟨i⟩ -an C⟨iy⟩V- -an -an -i
Instrument focus ⟨i⟩ C⟨iy⟩V- hi- -an

Affixes expressing ability:

completed progressive contemplative
Actor focus naka- nakaka- maka-
Patient focus na- na-CV- ma-
Locative focus kiya- -an kiya-CV- -an ka- -an
Instrument focus kiya- kiya-CV- hika-


Tausug numerals:[8][19]

1 isa / hambuuk
2 duwa
4 upat
5 lima
6 unum
7 pitu
8 walu
9 siyam
10 hangpū'
11 hangpū' tag isa
20 kawha'an
30 katlu'an
40 kapatan
50 kay'man
60 kanuman
70 kapituwan
80 kawaluwan
90 kasiyaman
100 hanggatus
1,000 hangibu

Writing system[edit]

Tausug is today primarily written using the Latin alphabet. Historically, it had previously been written using 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 malayngkan Allāh, hi Muhammad ing (in) 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 Tausug differs in some aspects from the script used for Arabic and in the Jawi script used for Malay. 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 utilizes the letter yā' with a hamza (ئ) to represent a short vowel. If a kasra (ئِ) is added, it becomes an 'i' sound. If a fatha (ئَ) is added, it becomes an 'a' sound. If a damma (ئُ) is added, it becomes a 'u' sound.


Tausug Alphabet (Bahasa Sūg Alipbā'tā')
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/, /ɦ/ /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/ /ŋ/ /p/ /r/, /ɹ/ /s/ /t/ /u/ /w/ /j/ /ʔ/


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


English Tausug Latin Script Tausug Arabic Script
What is your name? Unu in ngān mu?[a] / Siyu in ngān mu? اُنُ ئِـن ڠَـان مُ؟
My name is Muhammad In ngān ku Muhammad ئِـن ڠَـان كُ مُـحَـمَّـد
How are you? Maunu-unu na kaw? مَـؤُنُعاُنُ نَـكَـو؟
I am good Marayaw da isab مَـرَيَـو دَ ئِـسَـب
Where is Ahmad? Hariin hi Ahmad? هَـونُ هِ أحـمَـد؟
He is in the house Yadtu siya ha bāy هَ بَـاي سِـيَ
Thank you Magsukul kaymu مَـگـسُـكُـل


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


  1. ^ "Unu in ngān mu?" is a literal translation of Tagalog question "Ano ang pangalan mo?" (or "What is your name?" in English) but is not used by autochthonous Tausūg in day-to-day conversations. To use "Unu in ngān mu" is a glaring sign that the speaker is not a Tausug. "Siyu (or Hisiyu) in ngān mu?" is used for knowing the given or personal name, but to know other callings that are not personal, "Unu" is used, as in: "Unu in pagtawag kaymu ha bāy?" (What is your calling in the house?... "In pagtawag kāku' Bungsu, sabab aku in kabungsuhan." (My calling is Bungsu because I am the youngest); "Unu in ama' mu? Siyu in ngān niya?" (What is your father? What is his name?)..."In ama' ku mangingista'. In ngān niya hi Abdulla." (My father is a fisherman. His name is Abdulla);[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "2010 Census of Population and Housing, Report No. 2A - Demographic and Housing Characteristics (Non-Sample Variables)" (PDF). Retrieved May 2, 2022.
  2. ^ a b c Bangahan, Benjamin S. (2015). "English-Bahasa Sūg Dictionary". Vibal Publishing House.
  3. ^ Jannaral, Julmunir I. (September 11, 2019). "English-Bahasa Sug Dictionary Launched Today". The Manila Times. Retrieved December 3, 2020.
  4. ^ Haskins, Jim (1982). The Filipino Nation: The Philippines: Lands and Peoples, a Cultural Geography. Grolier International. p. 190. ISBN 9780717285099.
  5. ^ "Tausug". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved December 3, 2020.
  6. ^ Hamsain, AbdulAziz H. (June 27, 2016). "The Journey of a Tausug Doctor". TausugOnline. Retrieved December 3, 2020.
  7. ^ Philippine Commission (1901). Report of the Philippine Commission to the President (Report). Washington: Government Printing Office. Nevertheless, anyone who knows Visaya will note the moment that he studies the Moro language of Sulu that...
  8. ^ a b c d Zorc, David Paul (1977). The Bisayan Dialects of the Philippines: Subgrouping and Reconstruction. Canberra, Australia: Dept. of Linguistics, Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University. doi:10.15144/PL-C44. ISBN 0858831570.
  9. ^ "Tausug". www.csueastbay.edu. Retrieved December 3, 2020.
  10. ^ Peneyra (1992), pp. 1–2.
  11. ^ a b c Tan (1967), p. 16
  12. ^ Tan (1967).
  13. ^ Rubino (2005).
  14. ^ Peneyra (1992), p. 1.
  15. ^ Peneyra (1992), pp. 4–5.
  16. ^ Peneyra (1992), pp. 7, 14–15.
  17. ^ Peneyra (1992), p. 32.
  18. ^ Peneyra (1992), pp. 35–47.
  19. ^ mpi-lingweb.shh.mpg.de https://mpi-lingweb.shh.mpg.de/numeral/Tausug.htm. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)CS1 maint: url-status (link)


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]