Monday, July 8, 2002
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Map1. Map of Central Philippines, with names of major islands labeled.
Names of languages and language groups are given in all capitals.
The languages of
Romblon, as well as all languages native to the Philippines, belong
to the Austronesian language family, which includes languages spoken
in China, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Micronesia, Papua New Guinea,
Guam, Hawaii, Samoa, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and 25 other countries
in insular and mainland Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. It is
the 2nd largest language family in the world with 1,262 known languages,
second only to the Niger-Congo family's 1,489 languages. All of the
languages of the Philippines except Samalan (Blust 1991) are classified
as Philippine languages under the Western Malayo-Polynesian branch of
Austronesian. The Philippine language group has three main branches:
Northern, Southern and Central, the latter of which is composed of the
Bisayan, Bikol and Tagalog languages.
|The following chart shows some lexical items in the three languages of Romblon as well as in the other languages that they are related to.|
Population of Speakers and Location
Romblomanon has 110,870 speakers and is the native language throughout Romblon and Sibuyan Islands, as well as in San Agustin town on Tablas Island. Asi has the fewest speakers with 70,371, and is native to the islands of Simara, Banton, Maestro de Campo, as well as the towns of Odiongan and Calatrava on Tablas Island. The "purer" variety of Asi is found in the islands north of Tablas, while the varieties in Odiongan and Calatrava (brought by settlers from Banton) have been influenced by Romblomanon and Onhan. In Romblon Province, the Onhan language is spoken by 83,116 people in the remaining towns of Tablas (excluding Odiongan, Calatrava, and San Agustin), and on Carabao Island. It is also spoken on Boracay and a small part of northwest Panay, where it is considered by the locals to be a dialect of Aklanon, but linguists like Zorc (1977) have classified Onhan as separate from Aklanon under the Western Bisayan branch of the Bisayan language group, so as such we will refer to it as a separate language. Still, there are some similarities between Onhan and Aklanon, and popular accounts on Tablas relate that the Onhans immigrated to Tablas from Panay.
The Asi language is not classified under any subgroup of Bisayan, and instead makes up its own immediate branch of Bisayan. In lay terms, this indicates that the speakers of Asi were probably extremely isolated for hundreds or even a thousand years from the groups speaking other Bisayan languages. Zorc (1977) characterized Asi as "intermediate between West Bisayan and Central Bisayan", and stated in his dissertation that:
Still, with the
lack of written language samples and historical records representing
pre-Spanish times, we may never know the true origin of the Asi-speaking
Most Central Philippine languages have a basic phoneme inventory of three vowels /a i u/(3) and 16 consonants / b k d g h l m n ng p r s t w y ? /. Asi has the same inventory of sounds but several phonological changes have taken place in Asi that have not most affected other Central Philippine languages. These are (1) the sound that is pronounced /l/ (or /r/) in most CPh languages is usually pronounced /y/ in Asi; (2) the sound pronounced /d/ in most CPh languages is usually pronounced /r/ in Asi; and (3) the sound pronounced /y/ in most CPh languages is usually pronounced /d/ in Asi.
While looking odd at first to a reader unfamiliar with the Asi language, meaning can be extracted from Asi words by reverting the y, r, and d to their equivalencies in other CPh languages.
|In many words there is more than one change that has taken place, but the principles remain the same:|
|Note that in some affixed forms, these changes do not take place:|
|An analysis of lexical items in several Asi texts produced the following statistical analysis:|
all (if not all) of the counter-examples are most likely relatively recent
borrowings from either Tagalog or Bisayan languages (probably a language
from Panay, i.e. Hiligaynon, Capiznon, Aklanon, or Kinaray-a). That Asi
would have borrowed from Tagalog or a Panayan-Bisayan language is predictable
since the entire Romblon province was formerly part of the province of
Capiz on the island of Panay in the Western Visayas region, and although
now an independent province, is now part of the Southern Tagalog region.
Likewise, with Tagalog being the national language of the Philippines,
its widespread usage explains why Asi would have been influenced by it,
especially as it is the language of wider communication between Tablas's
speakers of Asi, Onhan, Romblomanon, and Tagalog.
The restrictions on these phonological changes can be characterized as follows:
Asi has borrowed vocabulary from WBis and Bik, including taó “to give” (also WBis, Bik), inggwa (cf. Bik, Mas, Rom igwá), búsoy (cf. WBis búsul), rámoy (cf. WBis dám«l), and ilam “I don’t know” (also WBis).
Zorc proposed that Asi may have a Cebuano substratum, but conceded that the evidence is “far from conclusive…[but] deserves consideration in the light of future research on the substrata and superstrata of [Asi] and other Bs dialects.” (Zorc, 1977, p. 278)
Asi also has a number of unique vocabulary items which are either innovations or independent retentions, some examples of which are shown in the following table:
the same phonemic inventory as Asi, which is the general Central Philippine
phonemic inventory. It is classified as a central Bisayan language,
and possibly developed as a type of creole (4)
when speakers of the various Central Bisayan languages like Hiligaynon,
Capiznon, and Masbatenyo intermingled with Cebuanos and Bikolanos who
immigrated to Romblon and Sibuyan Islands. Some borrowings from Bikol
include igwa "have" (also Mas), sinda
"they" (also Mas), úyo "to defecate"
(cf. Bik, Mas udô) and indo "your (plural)"
(cf. Bik, Mas saindo). Romblomanon also has borrowings resulting
from contact with the Asi and Onhan languages, like bahóy
(cf. WBis bahól) and ilam "I don't know" (also
WBis). Furthermore, there are also a small number of terms that are
unique to Romblomanon, like bayong "drunk", púwak
"throat", lupús "easy", and táyog
also undergone the phonological change wherein which the sound pronounced
as /l/ (or /r/) in most CPh languages has become /y/ in Romblomanon.
Although it is tempting to attribute this phonological change to influence
from (or on) Asi, this becomes less likely when we consider that identical
changes have also taken place in Bantayan Bisaya and the more distant
Surigaonon, Jaun-Jaun, Naturalis and Kantilan languages (South Bisayan
languages spoken in Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur on Mindanao).
Thus, it is just as likely that the /l/ > /y/ change took place independently
in these languages, perhaps as a result of the instability of the *l
and *r proto-phonemes in Proto-Central Philippine.
15 counterexamples were found in the data, and these are all most likely
borrowings from Tagalog or another Central Philippine language. Overall,
the /l/ > /y/ change was found more often statistically in Romblomanon
(91% overall) than in Asi (79%), which may possibly be a reflection on
the type of texts used in the analysis.
The Romblomanon, Asi and Onhan languages are all Bisayan language, and as such, they all contain a number of lexical (vocabulary) items that are part of the general Bisayan lexicon and aren't generally found in other Central Philippine languages like Tagalog or Bikol.
|These languages also have a considerable number of vocabulary items that are common to most or all Central Philippine languages. Of course, these words are not borrowings from another Philippine language like Tagalog, but are part of the vocabulary that all of these languages have inherited from their common parent language.|
|There are other vocabulary items in these languages that are cognate (i.e., related), but have slightly different phonological structures, because of changes that have taken place in each language.|
|There are other cases where the word for a specific concept is different in each language.|
sentences show some of the similarities and differences between the languages
of Romblon in the context of sentences.
I didn't go.
That is a very rich
He will leave within
Peter and his group
was shot by Paul.
The pronoun system of the Philippine languages is inherited for the most part from the parent language, reconstructed as Proto-Philippine, so it should come as no surprise that there are major similarities in the pronouns of any Philippine language. The only major innovations in any of the languages of Romblon are the pronouns imaw in Onhan where most other languages have a form of siya, and nana and ana corresponding to MOST niya and iya/kaniya.
The demonstrative pronouns vary from language group to language group. In the following chart, we can see the similarities between Romblomanon and the other Central Bisayan languages, and Onhan and the other West Bisayan languages. Note that Asi is somewhat similar to the Central Bisayan set, but not as similar as the Central Bisayan languages are to each other.
Like the pronoun system, the numbers in the Philippine languages are also inherited from proto-Philippine. As such, there are only minimal differences between the numbers in the different languages. most notably, we see that the numbers in Asi bear similarities to both Central Bisayan languages like Romblomanon and West Bisayan languages like Onhan (Looknon dialect represented here).
markers that introduce nouns and noun phrases divide the languages along
Asi, which falls in the middle, has several unique markers, including
the nominative marker kag.
4.6. Verb Affixes
The verb affixes are remarkably similar in the various languages we are looking at. The most notable differences between Asi and the other two languages of Romblon are that (1) Asi marks present tense with repetition of the first syllable of the root (e.g. nagbabasa), instead of with the infix -a- (e.g. Onh gabasa, Rom (na)gabasa), and (2) Asi marks the future of Object Focus verbs with the prefix a- (e.g. abasahon).
Current Issues Surrounding the Languages
Asi and Onhan languages are all very much still in use throughout the
province of Romblon in most everyday situations, while Tagalog is taught
in schools and commonly used in communication between people who otherwise
wouldn't understand each other's native language. (Such usage of Tagalog
is common throughout the Philippines when speakers of two or more different
languages come into contact.) English is also taught in schools and
used in higher education.
The largest amount
of writing in and about the languages of Romblon appears to be being
done by linguists doing academic, religious, and private research. Dr.
R. David Zorc, whose work was outlined in section 1, is currently revising
his dissertation and the data from that dissertation for republication
in both printed and electronic formats. The Summer Institute of Linguistics
(SIL) continues to do linguistic research while working on the Asi and
Romblomanon translations of the Bible.
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
1. This is not meant at all to be demeaning of the SIL folks, many of whom dedicate their whole lives to translating the Holy Bible so that entire peoples who have gone unexposed to the Word of God may be able to read it in their own native language. However, it has been my observation that, without the strong background in Philippine Linguistics, many of the SIL linguists concentrate on language features that are far from unique in the Philippines. On the other hand, it is important to remember that having prior knowledge of related languages isn't always an advantage, as it may cause one to mistakenly transfer the characteristics of one language onto a related language.
2. This is only one possible sketch of the relationships among Austronesian languages, and is meant to be neither comprehensive nor definitive. The purpose is to give the reader a general idea of what languages are grouped under Austronesian and how they are related. I base my subgrouping on my own research at the Central Philippine level as well as the subgroupings of several other Austronesian and Philippine linguists.
3. Although the vowels "o" and "e" are used in spelling, they usually do not contrast (i.e. they don't cause a difference in meaning) in native words for most speakers in the spoken language, and therefore are usually considered to be allophones of /u/ and /i/, respectively. Foreign loans-especially those from Spanish-are often cited to justify the argument for a five-vowel system, but even in Spanish loans, most speakers don't pronounce "e" differently from "i", or "o" differently from "u", in normal speech. Furthermore, it is worth noting that many CPh languages, like the parent language they developed from, have a four-vowel system, retaining the /"/ vowel that the majority of CPh languages have lost.
4. I use the word "creole" with some reservations, as a creole is usually the result of the convergence of peoples speaking genetically unrelated languages, therefore resulting in a simplification of grammatical and phonological structures. To the best of my knowledge, no linguist has ever done a study on the results of the convergence of peoples speaking related languages which themselves diverged from a common ancestral language, which is the case of Romblomanon. Likewise, I have not come across any serious studies on the origins of the speakers of Romblomanon, but the language itself has elements from Hiligaynon and Capiznon combined with vocabulary from Cebuano, Asi, Onhan and Masbatenyo, the latter of which is itself a hybrid of Bikol, Waray-Waray and Cebuano (the apparent Bikol borrowings in Romblomanon may be from Masbatenyo and not Bikol itself). Romblomanon appears to be one of a series of hybrid languages along the northern Bisayan border that includes Marinduque Tagalog, Romblomanon, Bantayan Bisaya, Masbatenyo and Central Sorsoganon (as spoken in and around Sorsogon City). The development of such languages is predictable as the area borders on the Tagalog, Bikol, Cebuano and Central Bisayan areas and therefore has been the recipient of immigrants speaking all of these languages.
I would like to thank Ish Fabicon for facilitating my research in Romblon province as well as for inviting me to share this paper with the participants of Sanrokan 2002. Thanks are also due to those who proofread and commented on the drafts: Chris Sundita, Dr. R. David Zorc, Lyndon Fadri, Hsiu-Chuan Liao, Ish Fabicon, and Dr. Zev bar-Lev. Much of the data in this paper came from the archives of one of the greatest Austronesian linguists of our time, Dr. R. David Zorc, to whom I am indebted. The other half of the data came from the citizens of Romblon who spent their own personal time assisting me in my research, and to whom I am likewise indebted. Thanks to Phyllis Rappa of the Summer Institute of Linguistics for sharing with me the work she has done on Romblomanon. Special thanks are also due to all the people who helped me in any way during my stay in Romblon province.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason Lobel finished
his M.A. in Linguistics at San Diego State University in California.
He has co-authored four books on the languages of the Bikol Region,
and has taught at several Philippine universities as well as having
lectured in the U.S. on issues relating to a variety of Philippine languages.
He is currently involved in several projects on the Bikol and Bisayan
languages, including audio CDs and CD-Roms for learning Bikol, a book
about the languages of Romblon province, and a reference book about
the Central Philippine languages. His available publications may be
viewed online at http://home.san.rr.com/bikol/
and news on upcoming Romblon-related releases can be found at http://home.san.rr.com/bikol/romblon.html.
Blust, Robert. (1991). The Greater Central Philippine Hypothesis. Oceanic Linguistics 30 (2), 73-129.
English, Leo J. (1986). Tagalog-English Dictionary. Mandaluyong City: National Book Store.
Fadri, Lyndon F. (ed.). (1998-2000). SILAK. Manila.
Fadri, Lyndon F. (2001). Silak homepage [online]. Available: http://silak.is-online.net/ [March 2002].
Fauli, Ryan. (2002). Ryan Fauli's Yagting Cultural Heritage Collections [online]. Available: http://banton.home.ph/ [March 2002].
Law, Rence. (1998). The Affix 'pa-' and Movement in Romblomanon. In Sherri Brainard (ed.), Localist Case Grammar and Philippine Verbs, 35-43. Linguistic Society of the Philippines, special monograph issue, 45. Manila: Linguistic Society of the Philippines.
Ma, Young-Rye and Sherri Brainard. (1998). Emotion Verbs in Bantoanon. In Sherri Brainard (ed.), Localist Case Grammar and Philippine Verbs, 35-43. Linguistic Society of the Philippines, special monograph issue, 45. Manila: Linguistic Society of the Philippines.
National Statistics Office. (2002). Population Census [online]. Available: http://www.census.gov.ph/ [April 2002].
Summer Institute of Linguistics. A Phrase Book for Bantoanon (Asi). Manila: Summer Institute of Linguistics.
Summer Institute of Linguistics. (1998). Ang Istorya tungod kay Jose (The Story of Joseph: Genesis 37 to 50). Manila: International Bible Society.
Summer Institute of Linguistics. (2002). Ethnologue: Languages of the World, (14th ed.) . Available: at http://www.ethnologue.com/ [April 2002].
Zorc, R. D. P. (1977). The Bisayan Dialects of the Philippines: Subgrouping and Reconstruction. Pacific Linguistics, Series C, No. 44. Canberra: The Australian National University.
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