Sunday, August 29, 2004


I do know that the description of this blog is dedicated to the "the over 160 languages in the Republic of the Philippines." However, there is a language that is worth mentioning. It is part of the Philippine language family, and is particularly close to Ivatan and Itbayat of Batanes. This language is called Yami and it is spoken in Taiwan.

Taiwan is not only home to Chinese language such as Taiwanese, Mandarin, and Hakka but it is also home to Austronesian languages such as Atayal, Paiwan, Tsou, Rukai, Ami, and others. Yami is the only Austronesian language spoken in Taiwan that is considered part of the vast Malayo-Polynesian subfamily that includes languages as far west as Malagasy and as far east as Hawaiian and Rapa Nui.

Yami, Ivatan, and Itbayat belong to the Bashiic-Central Luzon-Northern Mindoro (henceforth, BCN) subfamily of the Northern Philippine branch. The most famous BCN language is one of the 12 most spoken languages in the Philippines, Kapampangan. The position of Kapampangan in this category is still pretty much shaky, but that's a whole other blog entry.

In any case, I have encountered a very interesting website dedicated to the Yami language. The URL is:

Knowing that Yami is related to the languages of the Batanes Islands, I wondered if it was mutually intelligible with them. The third chapter, The Common Origin of Bashiic cultures answered that for me. Apparently if the speakers try speaking their respective languages without foreign borrowings then their mutual intelligiblity is highly increased. For an Ivatan, this meant avoiding Spanish, English, & Tagalog words and a Yami had to avoid using Chinese & Japanese words.

I found the following passage, under "intercomprehension", particularly fascinating:

... In 1986 I succeeded in taking along a Yami friend named Si-Mogaz (male, 39), when I traveled from Irala to Ivatan and to Itbayat. My main curiosity was to see how well, after several hundreds of years of isolation, they could communicate with each other. Now we had living people at hand with a strong desire to communicate, which made the testing of mutual comprehension very different from the previous attempts with the recordings. The results showed themselves within the first hours of conversation. Si-Mogaz felt uncomfortable with the negative form of the Ivatan verb and was somewhat discouraged by the Spanish and English loanwords. As the hours passed, however, his conversation became more self-confident and a few very clear communication behavior patterns started surfacing. Both sides had realized by then that Spanish, English, and Tagalog loanwords on the one side, or Chinese and Japanese loanwords on the other, did not work, so they started eliminating them by looking for synonyms in their own languages. This spontaneous, instinctive response caused an unusual feeling of excitement for the conversants, as if they had understood subconsciously that they were making efforts to reconstruct the language of their common ancestors. Almost every time they succeeded in finding a proper synonym for a native word or bypassed an acculturated element of their contemporary vocabulary by finding a commonly understood synonym, they had to pause to express their excitement by saying: "we are relatives indeed," or "we surely have common origin." In the case of those Spanish words for which there were no Ivatan synonyms, or which were so strongly embedded in usage that the Ivatans could not work their way around them, to my greatest amazement Si-Mogaz started picking them up. At the end of the day he was using correctly the word siguro, which comes from the Spanish "sure." In Ivatanen it is used for "perhaps" and there is no exact Yami equivalent for it. ...
Very cool. Please be sure to read the transcriptions of two stories in Yami to get a feel for the language and to see similarities with other Philippine languages; Nikapowan no tawo do yayo (The creation myth of Yayo) and Nikapowan no tawo do tawo d'Iranmilek (The Creation Myth of Iranmilek). The list of Yami vocabulary is worth visiting as well.

The site also includes an extremely brief grammar & phonology. There are phonemes that are not prevalent in other Philippine languages such as a uvular stop found in Arabic and retroflex stops. On Dr. Rubino's page, you can read a brief description of Ivatan grammar.

And below is a map of the Bashiic area. Click it to enlarge. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Languages or Dialects?

I do apologize for not updating as often. I had just started working again, so I have a giant distraction now.

In any case, here's an essay that I have written a few years ago. I got so tired of explaining to people that Cebuano or Ilokano or what have you is not dialect but a language that I decided to write it.

The title is Languages or Dialects? Understating the Native Tongues of the Philipines

My essay has gained some notoriety in the Philippines and published in a couple of newspapers (I've never seen the actual papers, though) and people from DILA have printed it out to give as fliers. So hopefully people's perceptions have changed at least somewhat. ;-)

Whenever I'm not working or on the computer, I am working on Waray-Waray verbs for now. I came into contact with a good set of Waray books and making the most out of them. Apparently Waray doesn't have a separate affix for instrumental focus. An example in Tagalog would be Ipambili niya ng bigas ang pera ng kaniyang ina.

Until next time...

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Lake Sebu videos

I recently found these videos of the peoples living at Lake Sebu - mainly the Tbolis. You can hear the Tboli language in these videos. Tboli is unlike other Philippine languages I've encountered, which is probably why it's not classified in the same family other Philippine languages. It is Austronesian though.

The language reminds me of Khmer (of Cambodia) or a Slavic language like Czech with complex consonant clusters at the beginning of a word. The name of the language should exemplifies this. There are other words like sdo (fish), kdaw (day), mkik (cry), and tnilos (to cut meat).

Here are the videos...

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Bill 1563: Filipino as medium of instruction

Consider yourselves lucky - two blog entries in one day.

I heard from fellow linguaphile Viktoro about a proposed bill in the Philippine House of Representatives which seeks to make Tagalog as the medium of instruction in schools.

The full article is here. And below is an excerpt.

The bill's authors said use of the national language in the country's schools would better promote love of Filipino. They said the national language is much easier for students to understand.

The bill cited that there are more subjects being taught in English than Filipino including Science, Mathematics and the Makabayan subjects that covers music, values, practical arts and physical education. It noted that only Pilipino, Araling Panlipunan and Kasaysayan are taught using the national language.
Acquaintances of mine who are against Tagalog being the medium of instruction in non-Tagalog schools will probably disagree with me when I say that this is a step in the right direction. And I sincerely believe it is.

Ideally, I want Cebuano, Bikol, Ilokano, etc. used as mediums of instruction in their respective regions. But when that isn't possible, the next logical step would be to choose a language that's even remotely related to those languages. And that language is Tagalog. I do understand that many non-Tagalogs are not too fond of this idea, but I think the most important thing is to set aside all differences so that the children understand the subjects that they are learning. They cannot do that effectively in English or Spanish or what not. The languages will not disappear as long as it is spoken at home, on the streets, or anywhere in the child's life.

As I said, this is a first step. Hopefully the next will be Cebuano. Good luck to Bill 1563.

Non-Tagalog TV

One word. Awesome.

I learned that there are three Cebuano soap operas on a channel called Pinoy Central TV; Kapalaran, La Roca Negra, and This Life. I got curious and decided find out more about this channel, which is available on satellite dish here in the United States.

I managed to locate a programming guide and was overjoyed to find that there were not only Cebuano soap operas, but also Cebuano news (TV Patrol Central Visayas) and talk & variety shows (Chikahay Ta & Sabado na Gyud).

It just doesn't end there.

There are also regional varieties of TV Patrol airing in their native languages; TV Patrol Naga (Bikol), TV Patrol Northern Luzon (Ilokano), and TV Patrol Iloilo (Hiligaynon).

Wow, exciting.

You can see a 6MB clip of of a sample of Pinoy Central TV's showings by clicking here. The first minute of the clip has to do with the regional language program offerings. But they showed only Hiligaynon shows (which is fine, Hiligaynon's a beautiful language) but I wanted to see more. What a tease. The other two minutes are about some other things.

So now I am thinking about getting satellite TV, hopefully it's affordable. Or maybe I can bum tapes of broadcastings off of people. heh. ;-)

Monday, August 09, 2004

Tagalog article at Wikipedia

For the past few weeks, I've been working on article about Tagalog at Wikipedia. Wikipedia is basically an online encyclopedia and everyone can contribute. There was one for Tagalog and I gave it a complete overhaul.

The new article is at:

This article will be edited by other users and that's perfectly fine, since that's the nature of Wikipedia. But copies of past edits are saved. The copy I did is here


Tuesday, August 03, 2004

My Tausug Book

As many of you know, I wrote a book about the Tausug language titled In Bahasa Sug: An Introduction to Tausug. It's been published by my friend Jason Lobel who is currently in the Philippines. The book is done and I should be getting it when he returns to the USA in September. I have not seen the final product yet, and I am very anxious to see.

So it's kind of a tease (grin) when Sonny Villafania wrote to me saying that Jason showed him my book when they met Dr. David Zorc at De La Salle University in Manila. heh. heh. Then last night, Dr. Carl Rubino e-mails me saying that Dr. Zorc, who returned to the Washington D.C. area, showed him a copy of my book. So a copy of my book is across the country (I'm in the "other" and "greener" Washington. hehe.). Wow!

I think that I - the book's author - will be the last person to see it. I'll bet that even my mother will see it before I do. haha. That's ok. This is totally worth the wait.

Anyway, you can see the front & back cover of the book below. Click to see an enlarged photo.

The book will be in hardcover and paperback. There is a very limited supply of hardcover versions (20 or so) and much more of paperback. I have not determined the prices yet and I will make an announcement sometime after I receive the books.

If you're interested, please e-mail me and I will put you on my list which is short right now.

Dr. Rubino asked me if I'll be doing more books on other Philippine languages.

In a word?