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. However, it is not clear how many languages these would be based on mutual intelligibility.
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.
Ethnologue lists the following Bajaw dialects. Locations and demographics are from Palleson (1985).
- West Coast Bajau
- Indonesian Bajau
- Sulamu: Sulamu, Kupang Bay, southern Timor. 400 speakers.
- Kajoa: Kajoa Island, 80 km south of Ternate off the west coast of Halmahera
- Roti: Roti Island, southwest of Timor. Fewer than 200 speakers.
- Jaya Bakti: Jaya Bakti, Banggai Regency, central Sulawesi. 3,000 speakers.
- Poso: Polande, Poso Regency, on the southeast coast of the Gulf of Poso, central Sulawesi
- Togian 1: Pulaw Enaw, just off the south coast of Togian Island, Gulf of Tomini, Sulawesi
- Togian 2: Togian Islands, Gulf of Tomini, Sulawesi
- Wallace: exact location unknown, probably central Moluccas. 117 words collected by Alfred Russel Wallace around 1860.
Together, West Coast Bajau, Indonesian Bajau, and Mapun comprise a Borneo Coast Bajaw branch in Ethnologue.
- Mead, David and Myung-young Lee 2007. Mapping Indonesian Bajau Communities in Sulawesi. SIL Electronic Survey Reports 2007-019.
- Pallesen, A. Kemp. 1985. Culture contact and language convergence. Philippine journal of linguistics: special monograph issue, 24. Manila: Linguistic Society of the Philippines.
- Youngman, Scott. 2005. Summary of Bajau Lexicostatistics Project (through October 1989). SIL International. (word lists of 16 Indonesian Bajau varieties spoken in Sulawesi)