The Metamorphosis of Filipino as National Language (...continued)

by Jessie Grace U. Rubrico

Towards a Theory of Filipino

What do academicians say about Filipino? Dr. Ernesto A. Constantino, a distinguished Filipino linguist says: "Ang pinili naming wika na idedebelop bilang wikang pambansa natin, ang tinawag naming linggwa prangka o Filipino." [We chose to develop as national language Filipino, that which we refer to as the lingua franca]  (Constantino, 1996:p.180). Atienza (1996) describes it as "isang wikang kompromiso, o lingua franca." Flores(1996) points out that Filipino is the language of the "kulturang popular na nagmula sa Metro Manila at pinapalaganap sa buong kapuluan." Another view is that of Isagani  R. Cruz of DLSU who states that for him Filipino is the English-Tagalog code switch. On the other hand, Alegre (1989) expresses that "contemporary Manila Tagalog is the basis of Filipino." He claims that Tagalog is developing into the national language as it is the lingua franca of the non-Tagalog provinces.

Is the Tagalog-based Pilipino really Filipino? Dr. Constantino cites the differences between Pilipino and Filipino, to wit: Filipino (1) has more phonemes;  (2) has a different system of orthography; (3) manifests a heavy borrowing from English; (4) has a different grammatical construction. Based on the trend of development of Filipino as manifested in the data presented in this study, as well as the actual usage by the linguistic trendsetters in Philippine society --newscasters (both in radio and television), Filipino writers and some academicians, showbiz personalities--it would appear that his theory is closest to reality.

There is a consensus, however, among the academicians above that Filipino is the lingua franca in MetroManila which is inexorably pervading the regional centers through  the print and broadcast media, through the songs that the local bands sing, through intellectual discussions among academicians, etc. It is the language through which a prominent Filipino linguist communicates (Exhibit D), as well as the medium of expression among academicians (Exhibit A), and of the "caretakers" or "authority" of national language development in the University of the Philippines System, namely, the writers and editors in the Sentro ng Wikang Filipino(Exhibit B).

Even the leading Cebuano weekly, Bisaya (which has been around for the past 68 years) has now printed in its pages loan words from English which, more often than not, retain their original spelling despite their being subjected to the Cebuano rules of grammar.   One can safely say that Cebuano, like Tagalog, is undergoing linguistic change through lexical borrowing from English. Right now the Cebuanos adopt two alternate forms --the original spelling and the modified. Soon only one form will be retained, by theory of simplification as embodied in the universals of language.

At the moment, it is very clear that English borrowing has a dominant and pervading influence in the shaping of the lingua franca which is the penultimate form of Filipino, the national language. But will this trend continue? Language is dynamic. This researcher is of the opinion that as long as English remains the official language of commerce, science,and technology the trend will continue.

Unfortunately, there isn't much borrowing from other Philippine languages. Maceda (1996) introduces some Cebuano words and phrases in her discourse. So natural was the insertion, the reader can contextualize the meaning. Atienza, in the same book included in his text "pakikipag- lakipan," the rootword of which. "lakip", is also found in the Cebuano  lexicon. At the UP campus, one sees Cebuano signs like "Balay Kalinaw" and "Ugnayan sa Pahinungod." Would a little bit more adoption of words from other Philippine languages foster goodwill and unity among the etnolinguistic groups in the country in the future? Being a Cebuano, the researcher feels proud that some Cebuno terms are now significant in the national context. Probably members of disparate ethnolinguistic groups would most likely feel the same.

On the other hand, there are expressed illusory hindrances to the concept of a unifying language, to wit: (1) it is impossible to develop a national language from one of the country's 100-plus languages; (2) the emergence of a national language will wither the other languages; (3) it is equally impossible to develop a national language based on two or more languages; (4) regionalistic pride prevails over nationalistic aspiration --like the Cebuano who insists on using his own language over Pilipino.

But considering the rapid linguistic development of both Cebuano and the Metro Manila Filipino, there seems to be hope for Filipino. And this is manifested in the perceived convergence of Pilipino and Cebuano through their respective borrowings from English. A few examples are given below:

 English Terms    Pilipino Form Cebuano Form        Filipino      (convergence)
abroad abroad abroad abroad
advertisement adbertisment adbertisment adbertisment
announcer anawnser anawonser anawnser
category kategorya kategorya kategorya
effect epekto epekto epekto

One is confident that the converging process will continue, not only for Pilipino and Cebuano but likewise for other Philippine languages like Hiligaynon,Bikol, Ilokano, Waray, Kapampangan, and so on. Language change is, however, gradual and it will probably take several years before a substantive convergence can occur.What is apparent for now is that the convergence is already taking place.

Meanwhile, Almario (1997, p.9) gives an update on Filipino:

"Nasa kalooban ngayon ng Filipino ang paglinang sa "sanyata" at "ranggay" ng Iloko sa "uswag" at "bihud" ng Bisaya, sa "santing" ng Kapampangan,"laum" at "magayon" ng Bikol at kahit sa "buntian" ng Butanon at "suyad" ng Manobo. Samantalay hindi ito hadlang sa madaliang pagpasok ng "shawarma" "shashimi," "glasnost," "perestroika," "shabu," "megabytes." "odd-even," at iba ang idadagsa ng satelayt at FAX sa globalisasyon."

What does one make out of this assertion? Are we now to believe that the process of borrowing from other Philippine and foreign languages is now a linguistic reality? Judging from the data gathered and presented here, perhaps this is only partially true. That is, borrowing is almost exclusively from the English language. And why is this so? It is difficult to give a substantive answer to this particular question, given the limited scope of this study. Perhaps one indication why there is a lot of borrowing fro English compared to other Philippine languages is the facility and appropriateness or applicability of English terms to modern day-to-day living of the average urban Filipino. More so because the urbanized Filipino is constantly exposed to the trappings --high technology, media, etc.-- of modern society which adopts English as its medium of communication, commerce, and education. As for Filipinos living in rural communities, the far-reaching radio and television broadcasts bring to them the linguistic trend emanating from the urban centers.

Thus is the metamorphosis of our national language, Filipino. Quick to adapt and change with the times and the demands of its speakers' culture and politics, it had initially lain quiescent beneath the controversies and debates over its birth and composition. But now, thanks to globalization and the rising quality of life of the average Filipino, it has, like the moth, grown uncomfortable inside its cocoon prison and longed for freedom of expression. Much may yet have to be done, but Filipino as national language of unity has arrived.


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