Filipino, English, Chinese Languages And Globalization

Filipino, English, Chinese Languages And Globalization

Linguists classify Tagalog (and Pilipino, Filipino and Cebuano) as belonging to the Austronesian family of over 1200 living languages, which spread from Taiwan down to New Zealand, across the Pacific to the Hawaiian Islands and Easter Island off the coast of Chile. In the other direction, they spread as far East as Madagascar, which was settled by people from what today we call Indonesia.

The Summer Institute of Linguistics counts 171 languages in the Philippines branch of this language group. The relatively large number of languages reflects something called `tribal fission' and is more marked in Indonesia where the geography was more challenging. Early tribal settlers from what we call Malaysia today migrated to the Philippines and became isolated from each other by distance and geography.

Tagalog is thought to be quite young and (contrary to what you may read by some southern nationalists in the press who maintain that it is an imposition of the northern islands on the south and use it to support vague theories of Manila imperialism) probably originated in the Visayas only about 1000 years ago.

Linguists, philologists and etymologists are now able to study languages and - rather like looking at DNA - get some idea of the origins of the language. Other than Spanish and Malay the following may amuse you:

Chinese: the Hokkien Chinese came first to the Philippines as traders but many stayed on and had a big influence on local languages: food - siapao, tokwa to gambling - juteng, huweteng - and commerce: `suki'.

Sanskrit: Words such as `dalita' came from the Sanskrit `dhrta' (borne) thru Malay derita (to endure) before evolving to the Tagalog word where it means `great suffering'. Interestingly, both `dalita' and `'dukha' which mean 'suffering' in Malay - Sanskrit also refer to poverty and the poor in Tagalog. Thus, we have the equation of lack of money being equal to suffering. Try telling a Philippine that `money doesn't make you happy' and you are likely to be met with an incredulous stare.

Arabic: This too had an influence partially through the Islamic religion and, perhaps, via the Spanish thanks to the 600 year occupation of Spain (Andalucia - Al Andalus) by the Arabs. A common word is `yayah' from the Arabic `ayah'. The Tagalog `aqala' (hunch, idea) comes from the Arabic where it means `intelligence'.

Nahuatl: ( Mexican language) gave the Philippinos `nanay' and `tatay' and reflected the galleon trade between Spain and the Philippines via Mexico. One suspects there was also a trade in the gene pool as well. Other words that traveled from Mexico are: `tocayo', sombrero' and,if I remember correctly: tobacco, maize and papaya.

Going back to recent developments, modern Filipino seems to have adopted a huge number of English “connectors.” Just log onto any Pilipino chat room to hear or see the use of `but', `and' `then' etc. I hear `then' commonly in the spoken word to mean `carry on' of what happened next'.

I suspect that the huge number of returning OFWs, the increase in the use of the internet and the globalization of international commerce will continue to play a huge role in the evolution of Filipino and we will see a still greater influence and more borrowing from English. But, who knows, in 50 years, perhaps the wheel will turn full circle and Chinese will see a re-emergence. [Ron Turley]

Tip on Pronunciation Philippine Dialects, Tagalog, Visayan, Cebuano, Ilocano, Ilongo, Waray, others

The general rule is any Philippine dialect you attempt to read is always pronounced phonetically. You read it the way you see it. Exactly the way you read it in Japanese (which I have studied in High School and College). Words usually are read in blends. And, what I mean by that is if you have

a b k d e g h i l m n ng p r s t u w y

You say the consonants and short vowel sounds together: NO LONG

VOWELS the way they teach you in ENGLISH regardless of whether it's a,e, i,o, u

a ba ka da e ga ha i la ma na (ng or nga) pa ra sa ta u wa ya.

You can at least trust that the source of the tip is coming from someone who has a knack for language. I have studied, as I mentioned, Japanese, Spanish, a little bit of German, was a college graduate in International Business (foreign language was the requirement to graduate), and currently studying Latin and Russian.

Oh, another handy tip. When you pronounce words phonetically, you want to really open that mouth and work those mouth muscles (which are conditioned to speak foreign language). I used to have a Japanese teacher in high school who, after an hour of translating vocabularies for us in English, always complained of her facial muscles being tired of speaking in English. That is true of any language. It's a workout in and of itself. [Arlene]