Alipba’ta’: The Alphabets in Bahasa Sūg

Originally published: June 4, 2012
Updated: January 15, 2015

Assalamu Alaykum. This is the first lesson on “Tausūg 101: Learning Bahasa Sūg” by Anak Iluh. For more lessons, please click list of lessons. 
Spoken languages are made by articulating different sounds. And just like any other languages, Bahasa Sūg has its own sets of letters with their respective sounds as well. I have to remind everyone that the original letters were written in Sulat Sūg (the Jawi form) and these Latin letters are only representations of the sounds that are common with the other languages. This was discussed in our previous post “Tausūg 101: Learning Bahasa Sūg (Intro) ##link##”.
For this lesson on with the other succeeding lessons to come, we will use the guideline set by a Tausug Scholar for this, Dr. Benjamin Bangahan in his published work: “Bahasa Sūg Phonetics and Orthography” as found in this link: Bangsasulu. We are publishing it here with his permission as well.

Alipba’ta’: The Alphabets in Bahasa Sūg

                The Bahasa Sūg alphabet is known as Alipba’ta’ or shorter Alipba’. It is composed of 4 vowel sounds and 24* consonant sounds, with a total of 28 letters.  They are as follows with their names and pronunciations:

Vowels (4)
Sinūg Letter
Name/pronunciation
Equivalent in International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)
Aa
Ā
/a/
Ii
Iy
/i/
Uu
Uw
/u/
Üü
Ü
/ė/
Consonants (24)
Basic Consonants (17)
Sinūg Letter
Name/pronunciation
Equivalent in International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)
Bb
Bā’
/b/, /β/
Tt
Tā’
/t/
Jj
Jiym
/dʒ/
Hh
Hā’
/h/
Dd
Dāl
/d/
Rr
Rā’
/r/
Ss
Siyn
/s/
Gg
Gā’
/ɡ/, /ɣ/
Pp
Pā’
/p/
Kk
Kāp
/k/
Ll
Lām
/l/
Mm
Miym
/m/
Nn
Nuwn
/n/
NG ng
Ngā’
/ŋ/
NY ny
Nyā’
/ɲ/
Ww
Wāw
/w/
Yy
Yā’
/y/
Borrowed from Arabic (6)*
DH dh
Dhāl
/ð/
Ff
/f/
KH kh
Khā’
/x/
GH gh
Ghayn
/ɣ/
SH sh*
Shiyn
/ʃ/
Qq
Qawf
/q/
Borrowed from Malay (1)
Ch ch/TS ts
Tsā’
/t͡ʃ/
*In Dr. Bangahan’s guideline, the letter /Sh/ was not included in the borrowed consonants, thus the total number of consonants were 23 letters. We added the letter /Sh/ in this lesson/blog and so our total number of consonants are 24 instead of 23.
                The three vowels, /A/, /I/ and /U/ are the same as the English vowels and the Arabic sounds Fatha (a), Kasra (i) and Damma (u). Usually, there are no /O/ or /E/ sounds in Bahasa Sūg in contrast with the English vowels. Although at present time, due to the influence of ‘modernization’, we can find some Tausūg words written with letters “O” and “E” in them; it must still be considered that the original vowels were only three. These vowels, their derivatives and transformations will be discussed in Lesson 4, in sha Allah.

          The fourth vowel /Üü/ is an exception though. According to Dr. Bangahan, “it is pronounced similar to the “u” in the English word “urn” symbolized in the dictionary with “ė” with a diacritical dot on top…” There are certain words in Bahasa Sūg that uses the letter /ü/ instead of the regular /u/. Their usage are also distinct in some Tausūgs living in the rural areas in the Sulu islands. This is a bit harder to explain in text, so for the sake of making things simpler, throughout the lessons we will only use the vowel /Uu/ for all words with this sound unless necessary changes are needed.

          The 17 basic common consonants—all except letters B and G—will have the same sounds as the universal phonetic sounds, all throughout; be it in conversations or in written words. There are some letters that changes as their positions in a word or in a sentence are changed (an example is the word “Daig” to “Haraig”) which will also be discussed along the course. The special rulings in pronouncing the sounds /Bb/ and /Gg/, and the variations in some letters like /D/, /R/, /K/, /P/, etc. will be discussed in Lessons 2 and 3 respectively, in shaa Allah.

         There are also ‘occasional’ borrowed sounds found in Bahasa Sūg. Most of them are consonants derived or borrowed from other languages such as Arabic and Malay which are

Arabic (6): /F/ in Fatima, /Gh/ in Ghaib, /Kh/ in Khalifa,
    /Sh/ in Shaytan, /Q/ in Qur’an and /Z/ in Zakat.
Malay (1): /Ch or Ts/ as in Bitsara

These borrowed letters are only used in borrowed words, proper names as names of person as “Shamir”, “Zainab” or in other Islamic terms as “Zakat”, “Khalifa”, “Shaytan”, etc.

                These are the letters and sounds you will meet in Bahasa Sūg. It is more or less commonly found in other languages as well. If you have a good background in Tagalog and a little of Arabic, and Malay you will surely have an easier way of learning Bahasa Sūg as well. No sweat!
We will have more of these conversations in the future, in sha Allah. For questions, suggestions and translations, please like our Facebook page Tausūg 101 and post your queries. You can also email me at anakiluhmd@gmail.com. Our next lesson is about the special rulings on “The Sounds B and G”.

Salam Kasilasa.
Anak Iluh

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