Thursday, July 15, 2004

Eight Major Languages No More

One of the most frequently-repeated facts about the languages of the Philippines is that there are eight major languages (or if they must, dialects.); Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilokano, Hiligaynon, Bikol, Waray-Waray, and Pangasinan. The reason for this, from my understanding, is that each of these languages have at least one million native speakers.

With the release of the mother tongue statistics of the Philippine Census of 2000, four more languages have become members of the "million club." This brings the number up to 12 major Philippine languages.

The twelve major languages of the Philippines are:
  1. Tagalog (21,485,927) - central & south Luzon.

  2. Cebuano (est. 18,000,000) - central Visayas & northern Mindanao.

  3. Ilokano (6,920,760) - northern Luzon

  4. Hiligaynon (est. 7,000,000) - western Visayas

  5. Bikol (4,583,034) - southeastern Luzon

  6. Waray-Waray (est. 3,000,000) - eastern Visayas

  7. Kapampangan (2,312,870) - central Luzon

  8. Pangasinan (1,362,142) - Pangasinan province

  9. Kinaray-a (est. 1,051,968) - western Visayas

  10. Maranao (1,035,966) - Mindanao

  11. Maguindanao (1,008,424)- Mindanao

  12. Tausug (918,069) - Sulu archipelago
If my math is right, the grand total is 68,679,160 who speak one of the twelve major languages out of 76,332,470 Filipinos. That's almost 90% of Filipinos! All the languages above are a much more inclusive representation of the languages of the Philippines, with the addition of three languages spoken either in or near Mindanao.

The census results are not perfect, however. Three of the languages whose numbers I estimated are spoken in the Visayas; Cebuano, Hiligaynon, and Waray-Waray. Kinaray-a may as well be in this group. The reason I estimated is that because in the Census, their numbers have decreased. For example, the census in 1995 said that where 14,486,196 Cebuanos (Boholanos included) but in 2000 there were 11,868,028.

This has also happened to Hiligaynon & Waray-Waray which, according to the 2000 census, have suffered losses of 464,339 and 42,443 speakers respectively.

Uh, so just where did these 3,124,950 Visayans go? Short of being abducted by aliens or mass genocide, the answer is in the census. As I've said, the census isn't perfect. Or more accurately, the methods used to calculate the mother tongue statistics aren't perfect.

Filipinos have a tendancy to give different names for their languages. If you have two different people that speak the same language, they might give you different names. The folks at the Philippine Census recognize this and consolidated the numbers where they could. But they didn't catch all of them. For example Kinaray-a was listed as three: Hamtikanon, Karay-a, and Kiniray-a.

In the Visayas, this happens frequently. There is the generic name Bisaya or Binisaya and the local name (and there can be a handful of local names). According to linguist R. David Zorc, there are about three dozen Visayan languages. So it is no surprise that in the census that there are about 5,778,435 "Bisaya/Binisaya" speakers.

I've double checked the percentages with the Philippine yearbook. Cebuano speakers have numbered at about 24% of the population since 1960. Hiligaynon at around 9-10%. And Waray-Waray at about 4-5%. So, my estimations are not too farfetched.

Furthermore, Tagalog is at about 32% according to the census of 2000 but 29.3% in 1995. Quite a leap if you ask me. Perhaps there were those who considered Tagalog their native tongue, even if it isn't.

Also, I have chosen to place Tausug on the list even if it's at 918,069. There are Tausugs in Sabah as well which bring the number over 1 million. It's an important language that's used as a lingua franca in the region.

What are the least-spoken languages? The five least-spoken languages are:

  1. Pinangal - spoken by 68. I don't know where this language is spoken. It's not listed on Ethnologue.

  2. Karolano - spoken in Negros Island (Visayas) by 71 people. Info here.

  3. Malbog - spoken by 197. Again, I don't know where.

  4. Tabangnon - spoken by 264 in Quezon Province to Paracale in Camarines Norte. Info about them here.

  5. Kabihug - 300 in Camarines Norte. Article here.
Now it's time to wait for the 2005 census....


Sharon said...

Accdg to the 2000 Census, the 5 speakers of Pinangal are from:
Isabela 2
Bulacan 1
Cavite 1
Nueva Ecija 1
I'm also trying to find out where the language originated.

xBongBongx said...

is that Malbog language is the Molbog of Palawan?

Anonymous said...

does the census include speakers who have migrated to other countries? and what about foreign-born children who are still taught the parents' first languages? --peter solis nery, hiligaynon writer

Evan said...

Dear Christopher,

Where did you get the data from the 2000 Census used in this post? I'm having a very hard time finding Philippines census Mother Tongue data online.

Thank you very much,