It has been suggested that this article be merged into Sama–Bajaw languages. (Discuss) Proposed since April 2022.
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).

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
Front Central Back
Close i u
Close-mid e o
Mid ə
Open a

Vowel sounds /i u e/ are heard as [ɪ ʊ ɛ] within in 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.


  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.