Languages of the Philippines

Languages of the Philippines
Map of the dominant ethnolinguistic groups of the Philippines.
Official languagesFilipino (Tagalog) and English[2]
Regional languages
Main foreign languages
Sign languagesPhilippine Sign Language
Common keyboard layouts

There are some 120 to 187 languages and dialects in the Philippines, depending on the method of classification.[4][5][6] Almost all are Malayo-Polynesian languages. A number of Spanish-influenced creole varieties generally called Chavacano are also spoken in certain communities. The 1987 constitution designates Filipino as the national language and an official language along with English.

While Filipino is used for communication across the country's diverse linguistic groups and is used in popular culture, the government operates mostly using English. Including second-language speakers, there are more speakers of Filipino than English in the Philippines.[7] The other regional languages are given official auxiliary status in their respective places according to the constitution but does not specify any language in particular.[8] Some of these regional languages are also used in education.[3]

The indigenous scripts of the Philippines (such as the Kulitan, Tagbanwa and others) are used very little; instead, Filipino languages are today written in the Latin script because of the Spanish and American colonial experience. Baybayin, though generally not understood, is one of the most well-known of the indigenous Filipino scripts and is used mainly in artistic applications such as on the Philippine banknotes, where the word "Pilipino" is inscribed using the writing system. Additionally, the Arabic script is used in the Muslim areas in the southern Philippines.

National and official languages

The 1987 Constitution declares Filipino as the national language of the country. Filipino and English are the official languages, with the recognition of the regional languages as auxiliary official in their respective regions (though not specifying any particular languages). Spanish and Arabic are to be promoted on an optional and voluntary basis.[9]

Spanish was the official language of the country for more than three centuries under Spanish colonial rule, and became the lingua franca of the Philippines in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1863, a Spanish decree introduced universal education, creating free public schooling in Spanish.[10] It was also the language of the Philippine Revolution, and the 1899 Malolos Constitution effectively proclaimed it as the official language of the First Philippine Republic.[11] National hero José Rizal wrote most of his works in Spanish. Luciano de la Rosa established that Spanish was spoken by a total of 60% of the population in the early 20th century as a first, second or third language. Following the American occupation of the Philippines and the imposition of English, the use of Spanish declined gradually, especially after the 1940s.

Under the U.S. occupation and civil regime, English began to be taught in schools. By 1901, public education used English as the medium of instruction. Around 600 educators (called "Thomasites") who arrived in that year aboard the USAT Thomas replaced the soldiers who also functioned as teachers. The 1935 Constitution added English as an official language alongside Spanish. A provision in this constitution also called for Congress to "take steps toward the development and adoption of a common national language based on one of the existing native languages." On November 12, 1937, the First National Assembly created the National Language Institute. President Manuel L. Quezón appointed native Waray speaker Jaime C. De Veyra to chair a committee of speakers of other regional languages. Their aim was to select a national language among the other regional languages. Ultimately, Tagalog was chosen as the base language December 30, 1937, on the basis that it was the most widely spoken and developed local language.[12]

In 1939, President Manuel L. Quezón renamed the Tagalog language as Wikang Pambansa ("national language" in English translation).[13] The language was further renamed in 1959 as Pilipino by Secretary of Education Jose Romero. The 1973 constitution declared the Pilipino language to be co-official, along with English, and mandated the development of a national language, to be known as Filipino. In addition, Spanish regained its official status when President Marcos signed Presidential Decree No. 155, s. 1973.[14]

The present constitution, ratified in 1987, designates Filipino and English as joint official languages. Filipino also had the distinction of being a national language that was to be "developed and enriched on the basis of existing Philippine and other languages." Although not explicitly stated in the constitution, Filipino is in practice almost completely composed of the Tagalog language as spoken in the capital, Manila; however, organizations such as the University of the Philippines began publishing dictionaries such as the UP Diksyonaryong Filipino in which words from various Philippine languages were also included. The present constitution is also the first to give recognition to other regional languages. The constitution also made mention of Spanish and Arabic, both of which are to be promoted on a voluntary and optional basis.

Language map of the 12 recognized auxiliary languages based on Ethnologue maps.

Filipino is an official language of education and also the major language of the broadcast media and cinema, but less important than English as a language of publication (except in some domains, like comic books) and less important for academic-scientific-technological discourse. Filipino is used as a lingua franca in all regions of the Philippines as well as within overseas Filipino communities, and is the dominant language of the armed forces (except perhaps for the small part of the commissioned officer corps from wealthy or upper-middle-class families) and of a large part of the civil service, most of whom are non-Tagalogs.

There are different forms of diglossia that exist in the case of regional languages. Locals may use their mother tongue or the regional lingua franca to communicate amongst themselves, but sometimes switch to foreign languages when addressing outsiders. Another is the prevalence of code-switching to English when speaking in both their first language and Tagalog.

The Constitution of the Philippines provides for the use of the vernacular languages as official auxiliary languages in provinces where Filipino is not the lingua franca. Filipinos at large are polyglots; In the case where the vernacular language is a regional language, Filipinos would speak in Filipino when speaking in formal situations while the regional languages are spoken in non-formal settings. This is evident in major urban areas outside Metro Manila like Camarines Norte in the Bikol-speaking area, and Davao in the Cebuano-speaking area. As of 2017, the case of Ilocano and Cebuano are becoming more of bilingualism than diglossia due to the publication of materials written in these languages.[citation needed]

The diglossia is more evident in the case of other languages such as Pangasinan, Kapampangan, Bikol, Waray, Hiligaynon, Sambal, and Maranao, where the written variant of the language is becoming less and less popular to give way to the use of Filipino. Although Philippine laws consider some of these languages as "major languages" there is little, if any, support coming from the government to preserve these languages. This may be bound to change, however, given current policy trends.[15]

There still exists another type of diglossia, which is between the regional languages and the minority languages. Here, we label the regional languages as acrolects while the minority languages as the basilect. In this case, the minority language is spoken only in very intimate circles, like the family or the tribe one belongs to. Outside this circle, one would speak in the prevalent regional language, while maintaining an adequate command of Filipino for formal situations. Unlike the case of the regional languages, these minority languages are always in danger of becoming extinct because of speakers favoring the more prevalent regional language. Moreover, most of the users of these languages are illiterate[specify] and as expected, there is a chance that these languages will no longer be revived due to lack of written records.[citation needed]

Aside from the two official nationwide languages used in the Philippines, namely, Filipino and English, other languages have been proposed as additional nationwide languages. Among the most prominent proposals are Japanese[16][17], and Spanish.[18]