National and official languages
Spanish was the original official language of the country for more than three centuries, and became the lingua franca of the Philippines in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1863 a Spanish decree introduced universal education, creating free public schooling in Spanish. It was also the language of the Philippine Revolution, and the 1899 Malolos Constitution proclaimed it as the official language of the First Philippine Republic. National hero Jose Rizal wrote most of his works in Spanish, which was spoken by a total of 60% of the population in the early 1900s as a first, second or third language. Following the American occupation of the Philippines and the imposition of English, the use of Spanish declined gradually, especially after the 1940s.
Under the U.S. occupation and civil regime, English began to be taught in schools. By 1901, public education used English as the medium of instruction. Around 600 educators (called “Thomasites“) who arrived in that year aboard the USS Thomas replaced the soldiers who also functioned as teachers. The 1935 Constitution added English as an official language alongside Spanish. A provision in this constitution also called for Congress to “take steps toward the development and adoption of a common national language based on one of the existing native languages.” On November 12, 1937, the First National Assembly created the National Language Institute. President Manuel L. Quezon appointed native Waray-Waray speaker Jaime C. De Veyra to chair a committee of speakers of other regional languages. Their aim was to select a national language among the other regional languages. Ultimately, Tagalog was chosen as the base language December 31, 1937.
In 1939, President Manuel L. Quezon renamed the Tagalog language as Wikang Pambansa (“National language” in English translation). The language was further renamed in 1959 as Pilipino by Secretary of Education Jose Romero. The 1973 constitution declared the Pilipino language to be co-official, along with English, and mandated the development of a National Language, to be known as Filipino spelt Philippino.
The present constitution, ratified in 1987, stated that Filipino and English are both the official languages of the country. Filipino also had the distinction of being a national language that was to be “developed and enriched on the basis of existing Philippine and other languages.” Although not explicitly stated in the constitution, Filipino is in practice almost completely composed of the Tagalog as spoken in the capital, Manila; however, organizations such as the University of the Philippines began publishing dictionaries such as the UP Diksyonaryong Filipino in which words from various Philippine languages were also included. The constitution also made mention of Spanish and Arabic, both of which are to be promoted on a voluntary and optional basis; in reality, virtually nothing is being done to this end. This is in contrast to Morocco, where Spanish is spoken in the northern part of that country and is becoming a popular language to learn, after French among the country’s northern inhabitants. In Francophone Africa, the use of French, despite being a native language of only a minority of people who live in that part of Africa, is actively promoted, even if (as in Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia) it is not an official one.
Filipino is an official language of education, but less important than English. It is the major language of the broadcast media and cinema, but less important than English as a language of publication (except in some domains, like comic books, which are meant to speak directly to the Filipino psyche) and less important for academic-scientific-technological discourse. English and Filipino compete in the domains of business and government.[dubious ] Filipino is used as a lingua franca in all regions of the Philippines as well as within overseas Filipino communities, and is the dominant language of the armed forces (except perhaps for the small part of the commissioned officer corps from wealthy or upper middle class families) and of a large part of the civil service, most of whom are non-Tagalogs.
The Constitution of the Philippines provides for the use of the vernacular languages as auxiliary languages in provinces where Filipino is not the lingua franca. This is however not implemented as Filipinos at large would be polyglots. In the case where the vernacular language is a regional language, Filipinos would speak in Filipino when speaking in formal situations while the regional languages are spoken in non-formal settings. This is evident in major urban areas outside the National Capital Region like Laoag and Vigan in the Ilocano-speaking area, and Cebu and Davao in the Cebuano-speaking area. Although the case of Ilocano and Cebuano are becoming more of bilingualism than diglossia due to the publication of materials written in these languages.
The diglossia is more evident in the case of other languages such as Pangasinan, Kapampangan, Bikol, Waray, Hiligaynon, Sambal, and Maranao, where the written variant of the language is becoming less and less popular to give way to the use of Filipino. Although Philippine laws consider some of these languages as “major languages” there is little, if any, support coming from the government to preserve these languages. This may be bound to change, however, given current policy trends. Although Philippine linguists would agree that there is still no danger of these languages becoming extinct in the near future, the lack of support from the government makes these languages prone to “bastardation”.
There still exists another type of diglossia, which is between the regional languages and the minority languages. Here, we label the regional languages as acrolects while the minority languages as the basilect. In this case, the minority language is spoken only in very intimate circles, like the family or the tribe one belongs to. Outside this circle, one would speak in the prevalent regional language, while maintaining an adequate command of Filipino for formal situations. Unlike the case of the regional languages these minority languages are always in danger of becoming extinct because of speakers favoring the more prevalent regional language. Moreover, most of the users of these languages are illiterate and as expected, there is a chance that these languages will no longer be revived due to lack of written records.
 Indigenous languages
According to Ethnologue, a total of 171 native languages are spoken in the country. Except for English, Spanish, Hokkien (Lan-nang), Cantonese, Mandarin, and Chavacano, all of the languages belong to the Malayo-Polynesian branch of the Austronesian language family.
There are 13 native languages with at least one million native speakers: Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilokano, Hiligaynon, Waray-Waray, Kapampangan, Bikol, Albay Bikol , Pangasinan, Maranao, Maguindanao, Kinaray-a, and Tausug. One or more of these is spoken natively by more than 90% of the population.
 Classification of Philippine languages
Philippine languages are traditionally divided into a handful of subgroups. The first three are closely related geographic groupings: That is, the languages they contain may be no more related to each other than they are to languages in other groups. The smaller, southern groups are more distinct.
Northern Philippine languages such as Ilokano, Kapampangan, Pangasinan, and Sambal languages which are concentrated in northern and central Luzon. Some languages in Mindoro such as Iraya and Tadyawan are included in this group. The Yami language (also known as Tao of Orchid Island in Taiwan is also a member of this group.
Meso Philippine languages are perhaps the group with the most speakers and is the most geographically widespread, covering Central Luzon, the Visayas and many parts of Mindanao. Certain languages spoken in Palawan and Mindoro such as Tagbanwa, Palawano, and Hanunoo constitute their own respective subgroups. The largest subgroup are the Central Philippine languages which are composed of Tagalog; Bicol languages; 80% use Visayan languages such as Cebuano, Hiligaynon and Waray-Waray; and Mansakan languages.
Southern Philippine languages such as Maranao, Maguindanao, Manobo languages, and Subanun languages are concentrated in Mindanao but more than 80% use Visayan or cebuano language. Many Southern Philippine languages have been influenced by Malaysian, Indonesian, Sanskrit, and Arabic words.
The final three following groups are thought to be more distantly related to the previous three.
Southern Mindanao languages are languages such as Tboli and Blaan which are spoken in southern Mindanao.
Sama-Bajaw languages mainly centered in the Sulu Archipelago as well as parts of Borneo. One language, Abaknon, is spoken on Capul Island near Samar, which is far from other Sama languages. Other languages in this group are Yakan and Sama.
Sulawesi languages has only two representatives in the Philippines, the Sangil and the Sangir languages.
 Mutual intelligibility
Despite not being mutually intelligible, Philippine languages tend to be referred to by Filipinos as dialects.
The vast differences between the languages can be seen in the following translations of the Philippine national proverb “He who does not look back at his past plight will not reach his future.”
- Aklanon: Ro uwa’ gatan-aw sa anang ginhalinan hay indi makaabut sa anang ginapaeangpan.
- Asi: Kag tawong waya giruromroma it ida ginghalinan, indi makaabot sa ida apagtuan.
- Bangon: No fuktaw hadwa bumontag idwan dasog at bato lawan.
- Bikol: An dai tataong magsalingoy sa saiyang ginikanan, dai makakaabot sa padudumanan.
- Rinconada Bikol: A diri maglili sa pinaggalinan, diri makaaabot sa pigiyanan.
- Cebuano: Kadtong dili molingi sa gigikanan, dili makaabot sa gipadulongan.
- Ibanag: I tolay nga ari mallipay ta naggafuananna, ari makadde ta angayanna.
- Itawis: Ya tolay nga mari mallipay tsa naggafuananna, mari makakandet tsa angayanna.
- Ilokano: Ti haán a tumaliaw iti naggapuanna, saán a makadánon iti papanánna.
- Hiligaynon: Kon sin-o ang indi makahibalo magbalikid sang iya ginta-uhan, indi makaabot sa iya padulungan.
- Jama Mapun: Soysoy niya’ pandoy ngantele’ patulakan ne, niya’ ta’abut katakkahan ne.
- Kapampangan: Ing e byasang malikid king kayang penibatan, e ya makaratang king kayang pupuntalan.
- Kinaray-a: Ang indi kamaan magbalikid sa ana ginhalinan, indi makaabot sa ana paaragtunan.
- Miraya (West), Albay Bikol: Kan na taw na idi tataw mag linguy sa sanyang inalian, idi man maka abot sa sanyang paidtunan.
- Obo Manobo: Iddos minuvu no konnod kotuig nod loingoy to id pomonan din, konna mandad od poko-uma riyon tod undiyonnan din.
- Pangasinan: Say toon ag unlingaw ëd nanlapuan to, ag makasabi ëd laën to.
- Sambal (Botolan): Hay ahe nin nanlek ha pinag-ibatan, ay ahe makarateng ha lalakwen.
- Sambal (Tina): Hay kay tanda mamanomtom ha pinangibatan, kay immabot sa kakaon.
- Sangil: Tao mata taya mabiling su pubuakengnge taya dumanta su kadam tangi.
- Sinama: Ya Aa ga-i tau pa beleng ni awwal na, ga-i du sab makasong ni maksud na.
- Surigao-non: Yaon dili kahibayo molingi sa iya ing-gikanan, dili gajod makaabot iya pasingdan.
- Sorsogoanon: An diri mag-imud sa pinaghalian diri makaabot sa kakadtuan.
- Tagalog: Ang hindî marunong lumingón sa pinanggalingan ay hindî makararatíng sa paroroonan.
- Filipino: Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan, hindi makakarating sa pupuntuhan.
- Tausug: In di’ maingat lumingi’ pa bakas liyabayan niya, di’ makasampay pa kadtuun niya.
- Waray-Waray: An diri maaram lumingi ha tinikangan, diri maulpot ha kakadtoan.
- Yakan: Gey tau mayam sibukutan, gey tau tekka kaditaran.
 Dialectal variation
The amount of dialectal variation varies from language to language. Languages like Tagalog and Kapampangan are known to have very moderate dialectal variation.
In the languages of the Bicol Region, however, there is great dialectal variation. There are towns which have their own dialects. Below is the sentence “Were you there at the market for a long time?” translated into certain varieties of Bikol. The translation is followed by dialect and language, and town in Bicol where they are spoken. The final translations are in Tagalog and Ilonggo.
- Haloy ka duman sa saod? (Standard Bikol, and Bikol-Naga, a dialect of Central Bicolano or Bikol; Naga City, Camarines Sur)
- Aloy ka duman sa saod? (Magarao, a variety of Bikol-Naga, Central Bicolano; Magarao, Camarines Sur)
- Huray ka doon sa saod? (Northern Catanduanes Bicolano or Pandan Bikol; Pandan, Catanduanes)
- Naeban ika sadto sa sa-ran? (Iriga Bicolano or Rinconada; Iriga City)
- Uban ika adto sa saod? (Libon, Albay Bicolano; Libon, Albay)
- Naegey ika adto sa sa-ran? (Buhi-non, Albay Bicolano; Buhi, Camarines Sur)
- Eley ka idto sa sed? (Oasnon, Albay Bicolano; Oas, Albay)
- Dugay ka didto sa palengke? (Ticao, Masbatenyo; Monreal, Masbate)
- Awat ka didto sa plasa? (Gubat, Southern Sorsogon; Gubat, Sorsogon)
- Matagal ka roon sa palengke? (Tagalog)
- Nagdugay ka didto sa tyangge? (Ilonggo)
- Dugay ka didto sa merkado? (Cebuano)
- Yadto kaw sa tiangge nan dugay? (Surigao-non)
 False friends among Philippine languages (excluding Filipino and Bikol languages)
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One factor compounding the problem of mutual intelligibility among Philippine languages are those false friends, or false cognates, among the languages. There are many examples where a word in one language will have a greatly different meaning in another language.
Legend: Ilocano (ILO), Kapampangan (PMP), Tagalog (TGL), Cebuano (CEB), Ilonggo/Hiligaynon (HIL), Waray-Waray (WRY), Pangasinan (PANG), Surigao-non (SUR).
- bukid: field (farm) (TGL), hill/mountain (CEB, WRY,SUR & HIL).
- gamot: medicine (TGL), roots of plants (CEB , SUR & WRY).
- habol: pursue (TGL), blanket (CEB , SUR & HIL), dulled (CEB & HIL).
- hilo: become nauseous (TGL & HIL), poison or thread (CEB & HIL).
- hipon: prawn/shrimp (TGL & HIL), shrimp paste (bagoong [CEB & TAG]).
- ilog: river (TGL), grab against the will (CEB), copy/cheat/cheating (HIL).
- irog: loved one (TGL), move over (CEB).
- ibon: ‘ebun’-egg (Kp), bird (TGL).
- hubad: translate (CEB), naked (TGL), unknot/untie (HIL).
- kadyot: copulate (TGL), a moment (CEB).
- karon: later (HIL), now (CEB).
- katok: knock a door (TGL), silly/senseless (CEB & HIL).
- kayat: want (ILO), copulate (CEB).
- kumot: blanket (TGL), to crumple (CEB & WRY)
- laban: against/opposed to (TGL), in support of (CEB), greater/more of (HIL)
- lagay: put (TGL), male genitals (HIL , SUR & CEB), mud (WRY)
- langgam: ant (TGL), bird (CEB).
- libang: do leisurely things (TGL& WRY), defecate (CEB), to baby-sit or to entertain (HIL)
- libog: lust (TGL), to be confused (CEB & HIL).
- lingin: round (CEB), dizzy (HIL)
- lipong: dizzy (CEB), fainted (HIL)
- paa: foot (TGL), leg (CEB & HIL).
- pagod: tired (TGL & HIL), burnt/scorched (CEB).
- palit: change/exchange (TGL), buy (CEB).
- pagong: turtle (TGL), frog (HIL).
- pating: shark (TGL & CEB), dove (HIL)
- sabot: pubic hair (HIL), to understand (CEB).
- sili: chili (TGL & CEB), penis (WRY), eel (HIL).
- tapak: to step on (TGL & HIL), to patch a hole (CEB).
- tete: bridge (PMP), Mammary glands (TGL).
- titi: penis (TGL), breasts (HIL, ILO & CEB)
- tulo: drip (TGL & HIL), Syphilis (TGL & HIL), three (CEB & WRY).
- usa: deer (TGL & HIL), one (CEB & WRY).
- usap : to talk (TGL), to chew (CEB & HIL).
- utong: nipple (TGL), to hold one’s breath (CEB), string beans (ILO)
- wala : nothing (TGL, HIL, & CEB), there is (PANG), left side (HIL & CEB)
- Lagi : always (TGL) AGREED (CEB)
- upa : rent (TGL) mating (CEB)
- buhat: to lift (TGL) to make (CEB)
- lipat: to transfer (TGL) mislook (CEB) forget (HIL)
 Philippine Languages Comparison Chart
Below is a chart of Philippine languages. While there has been misunderstandings on which ones should be classified as language and which ones should be classified as dialect, this chart confirms that most have similarities but are not mutually comprehensible with each other. These languages are arranged according to the regions they are natively spoken (from north to south, then east to west).
|Kinaray-a||sara||darwa||tatlo||apat||taho||balay||ayam||niyog||adlaw||bag-o||kita, taten||ano, iwan|
There is a language spoken by the Tao people (also known as Yami) of Orchid Island of Taiwan which is not included in the language of the Philippines. Their language, Tao (or Yami) is part of the Batanic languages which includes Ivatan, Babuyan, and Itbayat of the Batanes.
|Tao||ása||dóa (raroa)||tílo (tatlo)||ápat||tao||vahay||araw||vayo|
 List of Speakers per Language
Below are population estimates from the 2000 Philippine census by National Statistics Office of the Philippines on the number of Filipinos who speak the following 18 languages as a native language.
|Number of native speakers|
 Major Foreign Languages
In 1593, the first printing press was founded. In the 17th century Spanish religious orders fonded the first universites in the Philippines, some of which are considered the oldest in Asia. During colonial rule, Spanish was the language of education, trade, politics and religion, and by the 19th century it became the country’s lingua franca. In 1863 a Spanish decree introduced a system of public education creating free public schooling in Spanish. In the 1890’s the Philippines had a prominent group of Spanish-speaking scholars called the Ilustrados such as Jose Rizal. Some of these scholars participated in the Philippine Revolution and later in the struggle against American occupation. In 1899 the short-lived First Philippine Republic established Spanish as the country’s official language, and the first Philippine Constitution and National Anthem were written in Spanish. By the early 20th century a majority of Filipinos spoke Spanish as a first, secod or third language, and a majority of business, public affairs, and journalism continued to use the Spanish language.
Today a great portion of the history of the Philippines is written in Spanish. Many land titles, contracts, newspapers and literature are still written in the Spanish language. There are thousands of Spanish loanwords in Tagalog, Cebuano, and other languages. Spanish numbers are usually used with dates, times, measurements, and other occasions.
The use of Spanish began to decline after Spain ceded the islands to the United States in 1898. Under U.S. rule, English began to be promoted instead of Spanish. After the country’s independence (in 1946) and during the Marcos administration, many of the old Spanish-speaking families in Philippines migrated to Spain and Latin America. There were six million Spanish speakers in the Philippines in 1940. The 1950 Census stated that hispanophone Filipinos made up 6% of the population. In 1990, the census reported that the number had dwindled to just 2,500.
Spanish ceased to be an official language in 1973 and a college requirement in 1987 during the Aquino administration. However, the language is still spoken today by Filipino-Spanish mestizos and Spanish families, who are mainly concentrated in Metro Manila, IloIlo and Cebu. It remains a required subject in many universities, such as the University of Santo Tomás of Manila and the University of San Carlos in Cebu.
- Chavacanos of Luzon:
- Chavacanos of Mindanao:
The first exposure to English occurred in 1762, when the British invaded Manila. However, use of English in that era was minimal and had no lasting influence. English is an official language the Philippines today.
Today, English is the dominant language in business, government, the legal system, medicine, the sciences and education. Filipinos tend to want their textbooks for subjects like calculus, physics, chemistry, biology, etc., written in English rather than Filipino. By way of contrast, the native languages are often heard in colloquial settings, and in the home, with family and friends, most people use their vernaculars. The use of English may be thought to carry an air of formality, given its use in school, government and various ceremonies. A large percentage of the media such as television, newspapers, and entertainment are also in English; the major television networks are shifting to Tagalog. English proficiency sustains a significant call center industry for American companies. It is also a valuable asset for overseas workers.
A large influx of English words has been assimilated into Tagalog and the other native languages called Taglish. There is a debate, however, on whether there is diglossia or bilingualism, or even semilingualism, between Filipino and English. Filipinos would use Filipino both in formal and informal situations, while, save for a very few, English will only be used for formal gatherings such as education and governance. Though the masses would prefer to speak in Filipino, government officials tend to speak in English when they do their government duties. Until now, there is still resistance in the use of Filipino in courts and the drafting of national statutes.
On August 22, 2007, three Malolos City regional trial courts in Bulacan decided to use Filipino, instead of English, in order to promote the national language. Twelve stenographers from Branches 6, 80 and 81, as model courts, had undergone training at Marcelo H. del Pilar College of Law of Bulacan State University College of Law following a directive from the Supreme Court of the Philippines. De la Rama said it was the dream of Chief Justice Reynato Puno to implement the program in other areas such as Laguna, Cavite, Quezon, Nueva Ecija, Batangas, Rizal and Metro Manila.
Advocates of English say that it is the wave of the future, with science, world trade and the Internet become more important every decade. However, Philippine-language advocates respond that although the growing influence of English may be unstoppable, English is an exogenous language that is difficult for the mass of Filipinos to acquire fluently, while tens of millions are acquiring the lingua franca and using it extensively on a daily basis. English will remain a second language, as in Finland or the Netherlands, while the endogenous Austronesian languages will come to play a more important role in both speech and writing. National census results show that there are very few native speakers of English in the Philippines, a few percent from a small stratum of wealthy and highly educated families, and this is not increasing very rapidly. On the other hand, Filipino, Cebuano, and Ilocano continue to grow vigorously, as lingua francas, second languages, and as first languages as well.
The islanders have been trading with China and Japan since the early 10th or 11th century. Mandarin Chinese is the medium of instruction in Chinese schools and lingua franca of the mainland and overseas Chinese. The Lan-nang variant of the Hokkien (Min Nan) is the language of the majority the Chinese in the Philippines, who immigrated from the Fujian (pronounced locally as Fukien or Hokkien) province in China. Another Chinese language, Cantonese, is spoken among the Chinese in the Philippines who are descendants of people from Guangdong province in China.
Arabic is used by some members of the Muslim population. It is used in religious instruction in madrasahs (Muslim schools) and, more rarely, for official events among Muslim peoples. Historically, Arabic, along with Malay, was used as a lingua franca in the Malay Archipelago among Muslim traders and the Muslim Malay aristocracy throughout the Archipelago. Arabic is taught for free and promoted in some Islamic centers and used for Islamic activities. According to the 1987 Constitution, Arabic, along with Spanish, is to be promoted on a voluntary basis.
The Japanese first came to the Philippines in the 1200s A.D., the first country they immigrated to, as well as in waves in the 1400s, 1600s, late eighteen hundreds, 1900s, 30s, 40s. There is a small Japanese community and a school for Japanese in Metro Manila due to the number of Japanese companies. Also there is a large community of Japanese and Japanese descendants in Laguna province, Baguio city, and in the Davao region. Davao City is a home to a large population of Japanese descendants. Japanese laborers were hired by American companies like the National Fiber Company (NAFCO) in the first decades of the 20th century to work in abaca plantations. Japanese were known for their hard work and industry. During the World War II, Japanese schools were present in Davao City.
Spoken among Muslim peoples in the southern Philippines.
Old Malay and Indonesian cultures and civilizations in ancient Sumatra and Java have had a large influence on the history, lifestyles, and culture of various Philippine peoples, Old Malay has also had an immense influence on many if not most of the languages spoken in the Philippines. Roughly a third of all commonly used verbs and nouns used in the Philippines are of Old Malay origin.
When the Spanish had first arrived in the Philippines in the 16th century, Old Malay was spoken among the aristocracy.
It is believed that Ferdinand Magellan’s Moluccan slave Enrique could converse with local leaders in Cebu island, confirming to Magellan his arrival in Southeast Asia. An example of Old Malay and Javanese languages spoken in Philippine history can be seen in the language of the Laguna Copperplate Inscription.
 South Asian languages
Since pre-Spanish times, there have been small Indian communities in the Philippines. Indians tend to be able to speak Tagalog and the other native languages, and are often fluent in English. Among themselves, Sindhi and Punjabi are used. Urdu is spoken among the Pakistani community. Only few South Asians, such as Pakistani, as well as the recent newcomers like the Marathi, Nepali, and Tamil retain their own native languages.