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Remembering Tagálog, Part 1: Series Introduction

Tuesday, 30th October 2012

Elephants In the Room

There are a number uncomfortable realizations about the Tagálog language which Filipinos try not to become too aware of lest they be accused of lack of love for their country. For example,

  • We hail Tagálog as our national language and yet 72.2% of our nation’s 90 million people prefer to speak in one or more of the other 175 languages of the Philippines.
  • We have annual awards for prose and poetry in Tagálog, yet it’s orthography is alien to the language’s greatest literary personage, Francisco Baltazar y de la Cruz.
  • We agree that Tagálog in practice fails to serve as an adequate vehicle of concepts in matters of finance, higher mathematics, the sciences, and other important fields of study yet it is the vernacular for 25 million people,
  • We believe that ignorance of Tagálog is a great shame to those born in the Philippines and yet it is Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) regulation that is to blame for so crippling the language that makes it unworkable.

Filipinos are afflicted with a form of cognitive dissonance when it comes to making critical enquiries about the nature of the Tagálog language… or at least, what they believe to be the Tagálog language.


Surprising Facts

First, many are surprised to discover that the national language of the Philippines is NOT Tagálog. In fact:

“Article XIV, § 6. The national language of the [sic] Philippines is Filipino. As it evolves, it shall be further developed and enriched on the basis of existing Philippine and other languages.” – 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines,

In consequence of this, another common misconception among Filipinos is that Filipino and Tagálog are just synonyms for the same language. As it is, in popular usage, both terms are used interchangeably. So it is altogether surprising to discover at this point that Filipino and Tagálog are actually two mutually intelligible but separate languages. In fact, SIL International (formerly the Summer Institute of Linguistics) classifies Filipino as [ISO 639-3: fil], while Tagálog is classified as [ISO 639-3: tgl].


Cultural Imposition

In the 75 years since it’s inception, promotion and usage of the Filipino language has resulted in a number of unintended consequences for the country as a whole. Many of our nations have discovered that the emphasis of the Filipino language has, in practice, undermined the natural expansion and use of other Filipino languages and continually prevents Filipinos in lower socio-economic demographics from articulating higher thought and expressing critical reasoning, thus leading in part to our contemporary educational caste system. It is only now, in the era of Internet communications, that our non-Filipino speaking nations are beginning to organize and fight to retain their cultural distinctiveness in the face of state-sponsored power. Viewing the history of both languages critically, one comes to the realization that:

  1. Filipino is a constructed language under the purview of a state bureaucracy;
  2. Filipino was created in 1937 for the insidious purpose of imposing an artificial cultural homogeneity upon the different nations of the Philippines at the expense of indigenous culture;
  3. Filipino is a counterfeit derivative of the authentic Tagálog language, rather than a dialect like its proponents say;
  4. Filipino has been rewritten over many times for nationalistic reasons rather than linguistic ones.

In this series of articles, I will try to touch upon forgotten rules of orthography, former points of cultural distinctiveness, and other topics of interest.


References

  • La Julian, P. (2007, June 18). New center to document Philippine dialects. Philippine Daily Inquirer.
  • Lendoyro, C. (1909). The Tagálog language: A comprehensive grammatical treatise adapted to self-instruction and particularly designed for use of those engaged in government service, or in business or trade in the Philippines. (2nd ed.). Manila, Philippine Islands: Juan Fajardo.
  • Morrow, P. (2010, July 16). The Filipino language that might have been. Pilipino Express.

  • Nigg, C. (1904). A Tagalog English and English Tagálog dictionary.
  • Pardo de Tavera, T. (1884). Contribucion para el estudio de los antiguos alfabetos Filipinos. Losana, Spain: Imprenta de Jaunin Hermanos.
  • Sevilla, J. (1923). Ag̃ aklat ng̃ Tagálog. Intramuros, Philippines: Librería y Papelería de J. Martínez.
  • Sevilla, J., Sevilla, R., & Alvero, A. (1940). Sálitikán ñg wikãg pãgbansâ. Manila, Philippine Islands: Imprenta Sevilla.
  • Wolfenden, E. (1961). A re-statement of Tagalog grammar: Appended with José Rizal’s Nueva ortografía del lenguaje Tagalog. Manila: Summer Institute of Linguistics and Institute of National Language. ii, 44 pages.
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