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About Tausug Language

Tausūg (Tausūg: Bahasa Sūg, Malay: Bahasa Suluk) is a Visayan language spoken in the province of Sulu in the Philippines, in Malaysia, and in 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 and in Sabah (Malaysia). It is very closely related to the Butuanon language of northeastern Mindanao.

About the Tausug people

The Tausūg or Suluk people are an ethnic group of Sulu and Malaysia. The term Tausūg was derived from two words tau and sūg (or suluk) meaning "people of the current", referring to their homelands in the Sulu Archipelago. Sūg and suluk both mean the same thing, with the former being the phonetic evolution in Sulu of the latter (the L being dropped and thus the two short U's merging into one long U). The Tausūg people in Sabah refer to themselves as Tausūg but refers to their race as Suluk as documented in official documents such as birth certificates in Sabah, Malaysia. The Tausūg are part of the wider political identity of Muslim of Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan known as Moro ethnic group, who constitute the third largest Ethnic groups of Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan. They originally had an independent state known as the Sulu Sultanate, which once exercised sovereignty over the present day provinces of Basilan, Palawan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and the eastern part of the Malaysian state of Sabah (formerly North Borneo).


The Tausūg presently populate the Filipino province of Sulu as a majority, and the provinces of Zamboanga del Sur, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, Palawan, Cebu and Manila as minorities. There is a large population of Tausūgs in all parts of Sabah, Malaysia, who mainly work as construction laborers with a substantial number as skilled workers. The Tausūg workers tend to be confused with the more numerous Bajau workers in Sabah that are less skilled.

In Sabah, there are groups of Tausūg that had settled in the areas to the east of Sabah, from Kudat town to the north, to Sempurna, to the south east, since the Sulu Sultanate rule over the eastern part of Sabah. However most had interbred with other races in Sabah, especially the Bajaus, that what remained is only their Suluk race as documented in birth certificates.

The etymology of the conjugated word "Tausug" comes from the word "Tau" which means man and "Sug" which means current. Basically, they are the people of the current. Suluq-is a name of one place in Libya, suluq means a spiritual pathway in Libyan Arabic.


The Tausūg currently number about 953,000 in the Philippines. The Tausug language is called "Sinug" with "Bahasa" to mean Language. The Tausug language is related to Bicol, Tagalog and Visayan languages, being especially closely related to the Butuanon language of northeastern Mindanao, sharing many common words. The Tausūg however do not consider themselves as Visayan, using the term only to refer to Christian Bisaya-language speakers, given that the vast majority of Tausūgs are Muslims. In Malaysia, they number around 300,000. The recent migrants also speak Chavacano or another Visayan language - Cebuano - , and Tagalog in the Philippines; Malay in the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia; and English in both Malaysia and Philippines as second languages. Tausug is also related to Waray Waray.

Malaysian Tausūg, descendants of those resident when the Sulu Sultanate ruled the eastern part of Sabah, speak or understand the Sabahan dialect of Suluk, Bahasa Malaysia, and some English or Simunul, and those who are in contact with Bajau, those Bajau dialects. By the year 2000, most of the Tausūg children in Sabah, especially in towns of the west side of Sabah, were no longer speaking Tausūg; instead they speak the Sabahan dialect of Malay and English.


Tausūgs are experienced sailors and are known for their colorful boats or vintas. They are also superb warriors and craftsmen. They are also famous for the Pangalay dance (also known as Daling-Daling in Sabah), in which female dancers wear artificial elongated fingernails made from brass or silver known as janggay, and perform motions based on the Vidhyadhari (Bahasa Sūg: Bidadali) of pre-Islamic Buddhist legend.


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