Sunday, May 19, 2013

Language Profile: Filipino & Tagalog, Part 1

In this week's language profile, we're taking a look at Filipino and Tagalog. We normally stick to one language per week, so we're providing a brief history lesson today to explain why it makes far more sense to discuss these two languages from the Philippines together.

Philip II of Spain was also the King of
Portugal, as well as King of England,
Ireland, and France by marriage!
The Philippines had been inhabited for at least a couple thousand years before Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan claimed the islands for Spain in 1521. In fact, the islands were soon after named for King Philip II of Spain. A few hundred years later, they were ceded to the U.S. for $20 million as part of the 1898 Treaty of Paris that ended the Spanish-American War. The country was under American control until it gained commonwealth status in 1935 and full independence in 1946.

Once the Philippines became a commonwealth, its leaders decided it needed its own national language, not the long-used Spanish and English of its colonizers. It was decided in 1937 that the indigenous language Tagalog would be the basis of this new national language, which would be called Pilipino. By 1987, the language was officially renamed Filipino in a new constitution, which also stated that as Filipino evolved, it should be developed and enriched by existing indigenous Philippine languages. Most people presumed this meant that the national language would be representative of all the country's ethnic groups as it was originally meant to be.

It's now over twenty years later, and by all accounts there is no discernible difference between Tagalog and Filipino. They have the same grammar, vocabulary, syntax... at best, linguists say they can be classified as distinct varieties of one language, with Filipino being a prestige register of Tagalog. There aren't any signs of new contributions to Filipino from any of the country's other indigenous languages, sadly.

Now that we've covered the history of these two varieties, we'll tell you all about the language itself in Part 2 tomorrow.

Read part 2.