Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The Filipino vs. Tagalog debate: Bisalog

First I made some slight changes to my Obligatory Introductory Post.

I apologize for not having written in a while. I returned to school (taking three classes; history, math, & physics) and am still working, so I haven't had the right mood for writing any meaningful entries for this blog. I am at home, sick today. So I think I can muster up some strength to write an entry. ;-)

My blog has been mentioned in two other blogs recently; Languagehat & Sauvage Noble. I'm a regular reader of LanguageHat - the information about various languages in there simply fascinates me. I'll start reading Sauvage Noble, too, which is incidentally run by a Filipino named Angelo Mercado who's a doctoral student. I've read his blog on a couple of occasions, particularly when Language Log was having those "guess the language" quizzes. In any case, I'm grateful that they've mentioned my blog. :-) Welcome!

Anyway, I've been involved (again) recently in a bitter debate about the Philippine National Language, Filipino.

In a nutshell, Tagalog was chosen as the national language in 1937. In 1959, it was renamed to Pilipino (note the P). This was reaffirmed in the 1973 constitution (but set the spark to develop a language called Filipino). The 1987 made Filipino the national language, which "shall be further developed and enriched on the basis of existing Philippine and other languages."

From my understanding, this was supposed to be some sort of Philippine Esperanto but instead Tagalog was used the base while vocabulary from other Philippine languages was to be imported. And in a sense, it kind of has. There has been a Filipino dictionary (which I've not yet seen) published by the University of the Philippines that has imported these words. But judging from the examples that I have seen, they're not in common use.

Previously I said I debate with people about this. My view is that Filipino is a dialect of Manila Tagalog - it's virtually the Manila dialect. On the other hand, they believe that Filipino and Tagalog are two separate entities and they claim to be able to judge whether or not a sentence is in Tagalog or not. They have given me examples that they say is exclusively Filipino. But the examples are equally valid in Tagalog! I am guessing that while they see that Filipino is to be Tagalog with foreign borrowings, they see Tagalog as a language without any borrowings - even Spanish ones - and they point to the supposedly "pure" Tagalog of Batangas, Bulacan, or some rurale locale on the outer fringes of the Tagalog dialect continuum (standard Manila Tagalog & Filipino are somewhere in the middle.

If you've studied Philippine languages in depth, both you and I know that a pure Tagalog simply doesn't exist. Even before the arrival of the Spaniards, Tagalog absorbed many words from languages spoken in Luzon like Kapampangan, Ilokano, and Pangasinan. Even the Tagalog spoken in Batangas & Bulacan have their fair share of borrowings. Are these "Filipino," too?

So that is the gist of the debate. There's too much confusion and too much wishful thinking.

To further add to the confusion, someone sent this article about the Filipino dialect of Davao (down in Mindanao, far from Tagalog's homeland in Luzon) is being pushed as the Philippines' national language by outgoing University of the Philippines president Francisco Nemenzo.

Davao is home to many languages, the major ones are Davawenyo (a Central-Philippine language related to Mansakan), Davao Chabacano (a Spanish creole closely related to the Chabacano of Zamboanga), and Davao Visayan (essentially a Cebuano dialect).

This isn't the first time I've heard of Davao. It has come up in debates and I've been told that it's a whole different language. I've been under the impression that it's simply Tagalog with Visayan words thrown in. Someone has been able to locate a recent article written in Davao Tagalog. The article, written by Rene Lizada, is located here.

Here are some excerpts.

The second sentence of the first paragraph says:

Pumunta ako sa kalapit na park para mag dagan dagan
I went to a neighboring park to go running around.

Dagan (dalagan) is the Cebuano word. In Tagalog, it's takbo. And in the next sentences, takbo-takbo is used.

And the rest I'll put in a list. The Tagalog equivalent and an English translation is in parenthesis.

  • hoy bumaba ka na pare dahil kanina pa kaming naghulat (naghintay; wait) dito

  • tinali ang aso at nilipat yung iring (pusa; cat)

  • Wag kang bastos iba ang ibig kong sabihon (sabihin; say. In this case it was a different suffix)

  • Dahil malakas ang ulan ay inisip naming na mas mabut[i] kung muhawa na lang mi kay jusog[?] lagi ang ulan (umalis na lang kami kasi malakas[?]; ... for us to just leave because it's raining hard)!
And so on. If this is story is really representative of the Tagalog spoken in Davao, then to me it's nothing more than Tagalog as spoken by a Bisaya-speaking DavaoeƱo who codeswitches by putting Cebuano words into his Tagalog. In other words he's speaking what I affectionately call Bisalog (Bisaya & Tagalog). The randomness and word choice remind me of Taglish (Tagalog & English).

Furthermore this phenomenom is hardly exclusive to Davao. It exists everywhere in the Philippines where Tagalog is spoken as a second language. It is hardly new, either; this has been going on long before the existence of Filipino and Pilipino.

Maybe if people really want a national language for the Philippines that's really inclusive of other languages, they should just start from scratch.

A Philippine auxlang, anyone?

Friday, January 07, 2005


Looks like someone may be hacking me.

I wonder what they're looking for, though. There's no secret Philippine language stuff in my account. WYSIWYG here, folks. :-D

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