By by Mark T. Miller.

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Additional info for A grammar of West Coast Bajau

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Indonesian Bajau is spoken primarily on the coasts of Sulawesi. WC Bajau is the only language geographically centered in Borneo, specifically in Sabah. Part of their wide geographical distribution owes to the fact that the Sama-Bajaw have long been known as boat dwellers or ‘sea nomads’, though some have now adopted a sedentary lifestyle (Blust 2005:41). Despite their scattered distribution, the SamaBajaw languages “continue to exhibit clear evidence of a close genetic relationship, in phonology, lexicon, semantic structure and syntax” (Pallesen 1985:43).

The West Coast Bajau, settled slightly inland along the western and northern coasts, have become proficient in rice cultivation and livestock rearing. They are famous as horsemen, the reknowned 7 Boutin & Soderberg (1998) claim that at least six Sama-Bajaw languages are spoken in Sabah, with a combined population of 100,000. These languages are: West Coast Bajau (50,000); Southern Sama (30,000); Yakan (10,000); Balangingi Sama (7,000); Kagayan (3,000); and Pangutaran Sama. Sather (1997:10) claims that a number of Central Sama speakers have also begun to settle in south-eastern Sabah.

These coast-dwellers were the ancestors of the present-day West Coast Bajau and Mapun peoples. 3 The Tausug, who speak a Central Philippine language belonging to the East Mindanao subgroup, have had ongoing cultural contact with Sama-Bajaw peoples in the Sulu area for hundreds of years. Pallesen (1985) has shown that this culture contact has resulted in linguistic convergences in both directions. 3 Some of the Mapun moved on to their present homeland (the island of Cagayan de Sulu)4 while the WC Bajau eventually moved inland and southwards (Pallesen 1985:121), in keeping with the present concentration of WC Bajau speakers slightly inland along the western coast of Sabah.

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