Monday, May 20, 2013

Language Profile: Filipino & Tagalog, Part 2

Yesterday, we began our weekly language profile with a look at the history of Filipino and Tagalog. Today we'll be focusing on the linguistic characteristics of these mutually intelligible varieties spoken in the Philippines. 

The Philippines has two official languages, Filipino and English. It also has 8 official regional languages, one of which is Tagalog. Tagalog is an Austronesian language related to Javanese and Malay. Its name comes from the word tagailog, which means "river dweller". 

A monument in the Malate district of Manila.
As we mentioned yesterday, Filipino was intended to be a new national language created after centuries of colonial rule. Tagalog was chosen as the basis of this language because it was the most widely spoken indigenous language in the country, had the most developed literary tradition, and was spoken in Manila, the political and economic capital of the country. Although aspects of other indigenous languages were supposed to be involved in the development of this language, at this point Filipino is merely a prestige register of Tagalog.

Due to prior Spanish and American rule over the islands, it is not surprising that both English and Spanish have made significant contributions to the lexicon of Tagalog. By some accounts, up to 40% of daily conversation in Tagalog is composed of Spanish vocabulary!

The language is generally written using the Filipino alphabet, which is the basic 26-letter Latin alphabet used by the English language. However, it includes two additional letters: the Spanish ñ and the Tagalog ng.

It is not uncommon to hear code-switching (switching between languages) in Philippine society, as well as see it on television and in print media. This code-switching is known by the portmanteau Taglish when it is Tagalog being spoken with the occasional English word thrown in. Englog, on the other hand, is the name given to English spoken with some Tagalog vocabulary.