Languages of the Philippines

From Academic Kids

Languages in the Philippines number more than 170 and almost all of them belong to the Western Malayo-Polynesian languages. The official languages are Filipino and English. While Filipino is the national language, both Filipino and English are considered official languages of the country according to the constitution. Both are used extensively in government, education, and commerce. Spanish is used for cultural and heritage purposes, with this it is only spoken among the Spanish - Filipino Mestizo community. With this multiplicity of languages, the Philippines has achieved one of the highest literacy rates in the East Asian and Pacific region. About 90% of the population 10 years of age and older are literate. A solid majority of Filipinos are completely bilingual, and sometimes trilingual--speaking both official languages in addition to their regional tongue.


Native Languages

A total of 172 native languages and dialects are spoken, all belonging to the Austronesian linguistic family. There are twelve Philippine languages with at least one million native speakers: Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilokano, Hiligaynon, Bikol, Waray-Waray, Kapampangan, Pangasinan, Kinaray-a, Maranao, Maguindanao, and Tausug. These are spoken natively by more than 90% of the population. As in The Americas, the Spanish missionaries preached the natives in local languages. Filipino is both the national language and an official language. There is a debate as to whether Filipino is just based on Tagalog or whether it is just another name for Tagalog. Tagalog is the dominant native language in the Philippines with Cebuano, a subgroup of Visayan, in a close second place. Since 1939, in an effort to develop national unity, the government has promoted the use of the official national language, Filipino. Filipino is taught in all schools and is gaining acceptance, particularly as a second language for a linguistically diverse population. Pilipino is a more native word or pronunciation for Filipino, just like Nippongo or Nihongo is to Japanese, or Franšais to French. There is no f sound in the original pre-Spanish Tagalog. Languages including other minor languages: The languages below are spoken in the Northern part of Luzon Island. The lingua franca or most significant language is Ilocano.

For languages spoken in the central region of the Philippines or Visayan region. See Visayan languages for a complete list. The lingua franca or most significant language is Cebuano. Ilonggo is also widely spoken. Southern languages:

Major Foreign Languages

Arabic is used by some members of the Muslim population. It is used in religious instruction and, more rarely, for official events among Muslim peoples. Historically, Arabic, along with Malay, was used as a lingua-franca between the various peoples of the south.

The islanders have been trading with China and Japan since the early 10th or 11th century. Mandarin Chinese is the medium of instruction in Chinese schools and lingua franca of the mainland and overseas Chinese. Hokkien Chinese is the language of the majority the Chinese in the Philippines, who immigrated from the Fujian (pronounced locally as Fookien or Hokkien) province in China.

Main Article: Philippine English English is an official language in the Philippines, imposed on by Americans during US colonization after the Philippine-American War. The Americans gradually succeeded in taking control of urban and coastal areas by the end of 1903 and began to aggressively promote English as a universal language. Although the first exposure to English was in 1762, when the British invaded Manila, English from that era never had any lasting influence. English is the dominant language in business, government, the legal system, medicine, the sciences and education. The native languages are often heard in colloquial settings. Filipinos tend to want their text books for subjects like calculus, physics, chemistry, biology, etc. written in English rather than Filipino. In the home with family and friends however, most use their vernaculars. The use of English may be thought to carry an air of formality, given its use in school, government and various ceremonies. A large percentage of the media such as television, newspapers and entertainment are also in English. Since Filipinos are very well oriented with English, a large influx of English words has been assimilated into Tagalog and the other native languages. It is customary to substitute English words even if the word exists in the original vernacular. See Taglish.

Since pre-Spanish times, there have been small Indian communities in the Philippines. Indians tend to be able to speak Tagalog and the other native languages, and are often fluent in English. Among themselves, Hindi, Urdu, Sindhi, Tamil and are used.

There is a small Japanese community and a school for Japanese in Metro Manila due to the number of Japanese companies. Also there is a community of Japanese and Japanese descendants in the Davao region. In 1920, there were about 20,000 Japanese in the Davao region.

Spoken among Muslim peoples in the southern Philippines. It is also used in official events in these areas, as well as being found on signs. It is frequently written in the Malayo-Arabic Jawi script. Spoken Bahasa Melayu also has a very important historical context. Just as Old Malay and Indonesian cultures and civilizations in ancient Sumatra and Java have had a large influence on the history, lifestyles, and culture of various Philippine peoples, Old Malay has also had an immense influence on many if not most of the languages spoken in the Philippines. Roughly a third of all commonly used verbs and nouns used in the Philippines are of Old Malay origin. When the Spanish had first arrived in the Philippines in the 16th Century, Old Malay was already the official spoken language of the aristocracy and was also used as languages. It is believed that Ferdinand Magellan’s Moluccan slave Enrique could converse with local leaders in Ceb˙ island, confirming to Magellan his arrival in Southeast Asia. An example of Old Malay and Javanese languages spoken in Philippine history can be seen in the language of the Laguna Copperplate Inscription.

Main Article: Spanish in the Philippines

Spanish began to be the first language in the archipelago from 1565, when the Spanish Conquistador Miguel Lˇpez de Legaspi founded the first Spanish settlement on Ceb˙. In 1593, the first printing press was founded. A great portion of the colonial history of the Philippines is written in Spanish. Many land titles, contracts, newspapers and literature are still written in Spanish. There are approximately 4,000 Spanish words in Tagalog, and around 6,000 Spanish words in the Visayan family of languages. The Spanish counting system, calendar, Spanish time expressions, etc. is still in use with slight modifications. After World War II and during the Marcos regime, many of the old Spanish-speaking families in Philippines migrated to Europe and the Americas. There were 6 million Spanish speakers in the Philippines in 1940. The 1950 Census stated that the Spanish-speaking Filipinos made up 6% of the population. Spanish ceased to be an official language in 1973 and a required subject in college in 1987 during the Aquino Administration. A Spanish creole has evolved in Zamboanga,Mindanao and various parts of the countries, and the majority of historic documents of the country are still in Spanish.

Philippine Languages Comparison Chart

Below is a chart of Philippine languages. While there has been misunderstandings on which ones should be classified as language and which ones should be classified as dialect, this chart confirms that most have similarities but are not mutually comprehensible with each other. These languages are arranged according to the regions they are natively spoken (from north to south, then east to west).

  one two three four person house dog coconut day new we (inc.) what
Ivatan asa dadowa tatdo apat tao vahay chito niyoy araw va-yo yaten ango
Ilokano maysa dua tallo uppat tao balay aso niog aldaw baro datayo ania
Pangasinan sakey duara talora apatira too abong aso niyog agew balo sikatayo anto
Ibanag tadday dua tallu appa' tolay balay kitu niuk aggaw bagu sittam anni
Gaddang antet addwa tallo appat tolay balay atu ayog aw bawu ikkanetem sanenay
Kapampangan metung adwa atlu apat tau bale asu ngungut aldo bayu ikatamu nanu
Tagalog isa dalawa tatlo apat tao bahay aso niyog araw bago tayo ano
Bikol saro duwa tulo apat tawo harong ayam niyog aldaw ba-go kita ano
Kinaray-a sara darwa tatlo apat taho balay ayam niyog adlaw bag-o kita, taten ano
Ilonggo isa duha tatlo apat tawo balay ido lubi adlaw bag-o kita ano
Cebuano usa duha tulo upat tawo balay iro lubi adlaw bag-o kita unsa
Waray-Waray usa duha tulo upat tawo balay ayam lubi adlaw bag-o kita ano
Tboli sotu lewu tlu fat tau gunu ohu lefo kdaw lomi tekuy tedu
Tausug hambuuk duwa tu upat tau bay iru' niyug adlaw ba-gu kitaniyu unu

False friends Among Philippine Languages

Compounding the problem of mutual intelligibility among Philippine languages, there are lots of false friends among them.

  Ilocano Pangasinan Kapampangan Tagalog Bikol Ilonggo Cebuano Waray-Waray
bukid field (farm) hill/mountain
gamot medicine roots (of plants)
gubat forest battle/war
habol go after blanket
hilo become nauseous poison or thread
hipon prawn/shrimp shrimp paste (bagoong)
ilog river quarrel over something
irog loved one move over
katok knock a door silly/senseless
kumot blanket fist
laban against/opposed to in support of
lagay put male genitals male genitals
langgam ant bird
libang do leisurely things defecate do leisurely things
libog sexually arouse confuse
paa foot leg
pagod tired burnt/scorched
palit change/exchange buy
pagong turtle frog
tapak kick patch a hole
sili chili chili penis
usap talk chew
utong nipple breath


es:Lenguas de las Filipinas


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