Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Alternative pronouns in Kinaray-a, Akeanon, and Onhan

Sometime last year a language named Kinaray-a caught my eye. It's spoken on the island on Panay in the provinces of Antique and Iloilo. The reason it interested me was because it was one of a handful of Central Philippine languages that had the fourth "schwa" vowel in its phonemic inventory. This phoneme, an unrounded back vowel, is prevalent in the languages of Northern Luzon such as Ilokano & Pangasinan, where it's represented by the letter "e". Many Visayan languages just have three; /a/ /i/ and /u/.

In any case, I decided to join a Kinaray-a mailing list to observe the participants use their language. The language certainly "felt" Visayan, but it was quite different from Hiligaynon, another language I've been exposed to which is spoken on Panay. Despite this, it's widely believed that Kinaray-a is a dialect of Hiligaynon or vice-versa even though they both occupy different branches of the Visayan family.

I noticed that they used the letter "u" and to represent the schwa vowel and one member wasn't too fond of my proposal to use "e".

Another thing that caught my eye and heard vaguely about was what I call the T-series pronouns.

Pronouns in Philippine languages are separated into categories. I'll use Tagalog as an example:

Nominative (Absolutive) - ako, ikaw (ka), siya, kami, tayo, kayo, sila
Genitive (Ergative) - ko, mo, niya, namin, natin, ninyo, nila
Oblique - sa akin, sa iyo, sa kaniya, sa amin, sa atin, sa inyo, sa kanila

In Kinaray-a, there are two sets of nominative pronouns. They appear to be based upon the genitive ones. Kinaray-a's pronouns are as follows:

Nominative (Absolutive) #1 - ako, ikaw (kaw), [none], kami, kita, kamo, sanda
Nominative (Absolutive) #2 - taken, timo, tana, tamen, taten, tinyo, tanda
Genitive (Ergative) - ko, mo, na, namen, naten, ninyo, nanda
Oblique - kanaken, kimo, kana, kanamen, kanaten, kaninyo, kananda

I found this rather odd. Even more odd was the fact that there is no 3rd person pronoun in the first series. I guess there is no need for one. In Tagalog, it is usually possible to leave out "siya" in a sentence.

I asked around and received a bunch of native speaker opinions on what the T-series pronouns could be used for. The best one was from Gail. Who said:

If someone told me "iririmaw kita" [let's get together], my knee jerk reaction would be to say, "amo ri-a abi mo" [that's what you delude yourself with]. but if he says "iririmaw tatun" [let's get together], aba okay ako diyan! [I'm ok with that] hehehe.

I concluded that it had to either be some kind of politeness marker or some kind of "softening" marker. I knew that this system existed in Aklanon, another Western Visayan language. So I consulted Dr. R. David Zorc, a fluent Aklanon speaker who is married to a native Aklanon.

An excerpt from his e-mail:

The differences are more pragmatic (i.e., discourse sensitive or oriented) than cultural. One set does not show more or less respect, as opposed to more emphasis, bringing the audience in to the fineries of the discussion or tale. They are limited to informal speech, rarely do they make it to writing, except in folktales where people or animals engage in extended discourse. They take quite a while to appear. For example, if I were telling of a bumpy plane trip to Manila, I would run through all the basic stuff using aku', e.g., umadtu aku sa erport ag naghuEa't aku' it mabu:hay
went - I - to - airport - and -waited - I - quite a while
Once we got up in the air, and the bumpy flight started, the airplane
or the weather could be characterized as:
ma7u'ndag gid 7it'7a:na 'it was very bumpy'
and what was going on in my stomach as:
masaki't gid 7it'7a:kun tyan, tumalig7ab 7a:nay aku', tapus sumukah gid
'my stomach was really sick, at first I belched, afterwards I just

And from another e-mail. This really explained things very well for me:

The Kinaray-a uses you describe ARE cultural, and so are some of the Aklanon
uses. ... What I believe is and has been going on is a long process of detopicalization. Object focus constructions allow the speaker to deemphasize himself or to be
deemphasized (gin-baligya7-a'n mo 'Did you sell it?', gin-baligya7'a'n ko 'I sold
it'; gin-Ea'bh-an ko 'I washed it'). In W.Bisayan dialects, the process is taken one step further by using an object-marked set instead of the topic marked set. I once heard Tagalogs say of Peace Corps Volunteers who always used the actor focus that they were "arrogant Americans." The lady's reaction to the IRIRIRMAW KITA smacks of the same thing. In the sick-on-airplane snippet I talked about, once the action gets
going, the actor removes himself from topicalization.

And he's right. In Tagalog, we usually switch from the nominative to the genitive. But in the three Western Visayan languages that I have looked at, there is another option. This, I find fascinating. I'd bet it'd be useful in Tagalog.

I also was told that there is another use for the t-series pronouns. Using two nominative pronouns in a row provides emphasis.

Kinaray-a: Ako taken ang nagabantay kang aken mga bata.
Tagalog: Ako mismo ang nagbabantay ng aking mga bata.
English I, myself, am watching over my children.

And I'll end this long post by showing Akeanon & Onhan's pronoun systems. I am corresponding with a native Onhan speaker about their pronouns. So it may need corrections later. Note that there is a hyphen in the Aklanon forms. It stands for a glottal stop.


Nominative #1 - ako, ikaw (ka), imaw, kami, kita, kamo, sanda
Nominative #2 - t-akon, t-imo, t-ana, t-amon, t-aton, t-inyo, t-anda
Genitive - ko (nakon), mo (nimo), na (nana), namon, ta (naton), ninyo, nanda
Oblique - kakon, kimo, kana, kamon, katon, kinyo, kanda


Nominative #1 - ako, ikaw (kaw), imaw, kami, kita, kamo, sanda
Nominative #2 - takon, timo, tana(?), tamon, taton, tinyo, tanda(?)
Genitive - ko (nakon), mo (nimo), na (nana), namon, ta (naton), ninyo, nanda
Oblique - akon, imo, ana, amon, aton, inyo, anda

I discovered Onhan's last night from this site. There are other Western Visayan languages, but I am unsure of them as I don't have resources about them.


Anonymous said...

I've read that in many languages the 3rd person singular indicative present tense is unmarked. The feeling is that it is the "default" person. English, however, is an exception, e.g. conf. "go" VS. "goes".

You've studied Ilocano, so, for example, when the verb stands alone without a pronoun, the 3rd person singular is implied, for example, "Napan" 'He/she/it went'.

Christopher Sundita said...

Ah, forgot about Ilokano there. And I guess using isu(na) would emphasize the subject, no?

Metallidude said...

Hi Mr Sundita,
What is the Akeanon possessive marker (as in 'ng' in 'Republika Ng Pilipinas - in Tagalog)??


Metallidude said...

Sorry to 'spam' your blog, but I need some help with translations. Im making an AFP (Philippine military) shirt. Would you happen to know "Armed Forces of the Philippines" in:

It's "Sandatahang Lakas Ng Pilipinas" in Tagalog, to start u off.