Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Language Profile: Cebuano

Today we're taking a brief look at Cebuano, a member of the Austronesian language family. Also known as Binisaya, it is spoken in the Philippines, where it is the second most-spoken language after Tagalog. It gets its name from Cebu, a Philippine island where it is spoken.

Despite not being formally taught in schools and universities, Cebuano is spoken by considerably large numbers of people in the Philippines. It is also used as a lingua franca in several parts of the Philippines.

A beach on the Philippine island of Cebu.
The language is composed of 21 phonemes, which is broken down into 16 consonants and 5 vowels. The consonants include ng and ʔ, which represents a glottal stop. It is written using a Latin-based alphabet.

There are several regional dialects of Cebuano which mostly differ phonologically. Some dialects are also used in code-switching forms in combination with English.

Cebuano's lexicon has been influenced by several languages. It is closely related to languages spoken in Malaysia and Indonesia, as well as having Latin influences. The language takes thousands of words from Spanish, including terms such as gwapa (guapa in Spanish) meaning "beautiful", and kurus (cruz in Spanish) meaning "cross".

English has been a more recent influence on the language, with the adoption of words such as brislit ("bracelet") and hayskul ("high school"). Cebuano also contains vocabulary from Arabic, especially terms used in Islam, as well as Sanskrit.