Monday, March 10, 2014

Language Profile: Ilokano

Today we're going to take a brief look at Ilokano, the third most-spoken language in the Philippines after Tagalog and Cebuano. Also spelled Ilocano, the language is a member of the Austronesian family of languages that includes Indonesian and Malay.

Lake Pinatubo on the Philippine island of Luzon
Ilokano boasts approximately 8 million native speakers. It is used as a lingua franca in the northern region of the Philippines and has been an official language in its La Union province since 2012. It is also used as a language of instruction for young children in primary school. There are also many Ilocano speakers living in the United States, as well as many other places across the globe, from Europe to the Middle East.

There are two dialects of Ilokano, which primarily differ in terms of vowels. The southern dialect uses one more vowel than the northern dialect, and each dialect has a distinct pronunciation of the letter e.

In terms of its lexicon, Ilokano contains many loanwords from Spanish, English, Arabic, and Sanskrit. The linguistic influence of Spanish is especially strong, and can be found in many words, including the Ilokano terms for the days of the week and the months of the year. These terms are taken directly from Spanish, with some minor spelling differences, such as the Spanish jueves ("Thursday") becoming huebes in Ilokano, and Spanish febrero ("February") becoming pebrero in Ilokano. The Ilokano language also uses two distinct number systems, one system borrowed from Spanish, and another native system.