A Brief Review of Some Cebuano Dictionaries

by Jessie Grace U. Rubrico

This paper reviews briefly, some lexical works produced during the three periods of Philippine linguistics: the Spanish Period (1521 to 1899); the American Regime (1900 to 1950); the Contemporary Period (1951 to the present): Encarnacion (1885);Rafferty (1928); Hermosisima (1966), Wolff (1972 and Trosdal (1990; and Guerrero, et.al. (1970). Five of these works are bilingual dictionaries with Cebuano lexical items as main entries--. Encarnacion, Rafferty, Hermosisima, Wolff, and Trosdal; Guerrero, et.al. on the other hand, is a four language dictionary using English as object language and Filipino, Cebuano, and Hiligaynon as languages of description. This paper will look into the format of these dictionaries, as well as their degree of adequacy, simplicity, and economy as these may determine their usefulness to their target users --and, in effect the attainment of their objectives.

Spanish Period

I. Juan Felix Encarnacion; O.R.S.A. 1885. Diccionario Bisaya-Español, 3a ed. (Aumentada con mas de tres mil voces por Jose Sanchez y la cooperacion de varios padres Recoletos). Manila: Tipografia de Amigos del Pais. 2 and 349 pp.

Juan Felix Encarnacion; O.R.S.A. compiled Diccionario Bisaya-Español and Diccionario Español-Bisaya in 1851 and 1852 respectively (Manila: Impr. de los Amigos del Pais). In 1866, his Diccionario Bisaya-Español y Español-Bisaya, 2a ed. was published in two volumes (Manila: Imp. de M. Sanchez). The third edition of his 2-volume lexical work, Diccionario Bisaya-Español (Vol.1) and Diccionario Español-Bisaya (Vol.2) came out in 1885 (Manila: Tipog. de Amigos del Pais).

The main entries of Diccionario Bisaya-Español (1885) are generally in Cebuano, although lexical items from the islands of Romblon, Sibuyan, Panay, Leyte, Samar, Bohol, Negros (all in the Visayas), and Mindanao are also included. The entries are grouped alphabetically under two-letter headwords. For example, AB, AL, AM, etc. (The Cebuano alphabet used by the Spanish friars was composed of the consonants [b, c, d, g, h, j, l, m, n, ,p, q, r, s, t, u, v, y, ] and the vowels [a, e, i, o, u]).

The format of this dictionary is simple. The Visayan entry in capital letters followed by a period (.); the Spanish gloss and/or description of the entry; sentences in Visayan illustrating the entry’s usage; Spanish translation of the sentences. There are also instances when, instead of the Spanish gloss or description, a Visayan synonym or two is given.

For example, the entry "ALOCO" is glossed "V. Talidhay;" and the entry "ALOG-OG is defined as "V.Calos. V. Sag-ob"

Still, there are cases where the Visayan synonyms are indicated after the Spanish gloss and/or description and the illustrative sentences and their respective Spanish translations, as seen in this entry:

"ALINGASA. Calor sofocante, bochorno. *Incomodar con griterias y ruidos, ó con súplicas pesadas é impertinentes, y con juegos y chanzas. *V. Alindaga, Alindanga y Alingaot."

Main entries are basically root words. However, the following are also treated as main entries: reduplicated roots-- e.g., "ama," "ama-ama"(these two lexical items have different senses); variants of the roots --where instead of the Spanish gloss, a Visayan term is given as cross-reference; derivations --"ambacanan" is entered as main entry immediately following "ambac"; and expressions. Entries are not classified according to their lexical categories --i.e., noun, verb, adjective, etc. (An earlier compilation by Mateo Sanchez; S.J, (1711) also adopts the same format: (1) the main entries in Cebuano or Waray; (2) Spanish gloss or explanation; (3) illustrative sentences in Cebuano and Waray; (4) Spanish translations of the Visayan sentences.)

This compilation was for the Spanish friars who came to the Philippines to Christianize the natives during the 1800s. They wanted to learn the native tongue of the people they would minister to in order to be more effective in spreading their religious doctrines.

The dictionary is easy to use. The descriptions are more or less accurate, concise, adequate and easy to understand. The presentation is simple, clear, and economical. The illustrative sentences enhance the understanding of the learner, especially because of the contextual treatment in the translation. In addition, collocation is more or less apparent in these sentences. For serious learners of Cebuano who speak the Spanish language, this dictionary can be beneficial. Although, it must be noted that some of the entries here may be archaic already, or have changed into simpler forms. This can be a handicap for those who are learning the contemporary CebuanoFor this reason, this dictionary is not recommended for modern day Cebuano learners.

However, this dictionary can be a very good tool for historical linguists interested in the evolution of some lexical items or the extinction of others in the Cebuano lexicon. Furthermore, it affords anthropological linguists a glimpse into the attitude of the friars toward the natives as reflected in the lexical entries. The value of this work in the contemporary period may be seen in the data it can furnish present-day scholars in Cebuano or, even, in Philippine linguistics.

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