The Bisayan languages or the Visayan languages are a subgroup of the Austronesian languages spoken in the Philippines. They are most closely related to Tagalog and the Bikol languages, all of which are part of the Central Philippine languages. Most Bisayan languages are spoken in the whole Visayas section of the country, but they are also spoken in the southern part of the Bicol Region (particularly in Masbate), islands south of Luzon, such as those that make up Romblon, most of the areas of Mindanao and the province of Sulu located southwest of Mindanao. Some residents of Metro Manila also speak one of the Bisayan languages.
|Visayas, most parts of Mindanao, Masbate, and Mimaropa in the Philippines, Sabah in Malaysia and immigrant communities|
Geographic extent of Bisayan languages based on Ethnologue and the National Statistics Office 2000 Census of Population and Housing
Widespread/L2 use of Cebuano
Widespread/L2 use of Hiligaynon
Over 30 languages constitute the Bisayan language family. The Bisayan language with the most speakers is Cebuano, spoken by 20 million people as a native language in Central Visayas, parts of Eastern Visayas, and most of Mindanao. Two other well-known and widespread Bisayan languages are Hiligaynon (Ilonggo), spoken by 10 million in most of Western Visayas and SOCCSKSARGEN; and Waray-Waray, spoken by 3 million in Eastern Visayas. Prior to colonization, the script and calligraphy of most of the Visayan peoples was the badlit, distinct from the Tagalog baybayin.
Native speakers of most Bisayan languages, especially Cebuano, Hiligaynon and Waray, not only refer to their language by their local name, but also by Bisaya or Binisaya, meaning Bisayan language. This is misleading or may lead to confusion as different languages may be called Bisaya by their respective speakers despite their languages being mutually unintelligible. However, languages that are classified within the Bisayan language family but spoken natively in places outside of the Visayas do not use the self-reference Bisaya or Binisaya. To speakers of Cuyonon, Surigaonon, Butuanon and Tausug, the term Visayan usually refers to either Cebuano or Hiligaynon.
There have been no proven accounts to verify the origins of Bisaya. However, there is an ethnic group in Malaysia and Brunei who call themselves with the same name. However, these ethnic groups in the Philippines must not be confused with those in Borneo.
David Zorc gives the following internal classification for the Bisayan languages (Zorc 1977:32). The five primary branches are South, Cebuan, Central, Banton, and West. However, Zorc notes that the Bisayan language family is more like a dialect continuum rather than a set of readily distinguishable languages. The South Bisayan languages are considered to have diverged first, followed by Cebuan and then the rest of the three branches. Also, in the Visayas section, the province of Romblon has the most linguistic diversity, as languages from three primary Bisayan branches are spoken there aside from the indigenous Romblomanon and Banton.
A total of 36 varieties are listed below. Individual languages are marked by italics.
- 1. South (spoken on the northeastern coast of Mindanao)
- 2. Cebuan (spoken in Cebu, Bohol, Siquijor, Eastern Negros, western Leyte and northern, southeastern and northwestern parts of Mindanao)
- 3. Central (spoken across most of the Visayan region)
- Warayan (spoken in eastern Leyte, Biliran and Samar)
- Romblon (also the name of the province)
- 4. Asi (spoken in northwestern Romblon Province)
- 5. West
- Aklan (spoken in northwestern Panay)
- North-Central (spoken on Tablas Island and the southern tip of Mindoro)
- Inonhan (language related to Karayan)
- Kuyan (spoken in the archipelagos west of Panay and Romblon as well as the southern tip of Mindoro)
The auxiliary language of Eskayan is grammatically Bisayan, but has essentially no Bisayan (or Philippine) vocabulary.
Ethnologue classifies the 25 Bisayan languages into five subgroups:
|Language family||No. of Languages||Languages|
|Peripheral||5||Ati, Capiznon, Hiligaynon, Masbateño, Porohanon|
|Warayan||3||Baybayanon, Kabalian, Northern Sorsoganon|
|South Bisayan||2||Surigaonon, Tandaganon|
Names and locations
|Banton||Banton||Banton Island, Romblon|
|Banton||Sibale||Banton||Sibale (Maestre de Campo) Island, Romblon|
|Banton||Odionganon||Corcuera Island dialect||Odiongan area, Tablas Island, Romblon|
|Western||Alcantaranon||Alcantara, Tablas Island, Romblon|
|Western||Dispoholnon||San Andres (Despujols), Tablas Island|
|Western||Looknon||Inunhan||Look and Santa Fe, Tablas Island|
|Western||Datagnon||Ratagnun, Latagnun||Ilin Island and Magsaysay, Occidental Mindoro|
|Western||Santa Teresa||Barrio Santa Teresa of Magsaysay, Occidental Mindoro|
|Western||Bulalakawnon||Bulalacao (San Pedro), southern Oriental Mindoro|
|Western||Semirara||Semirara Island Group|
|Western||Cuyonon||Cuyuno||Cuyo Island, except Agutaya; coastal area around Puerto Princesa, Palawan; Culion and Busuanga Islands|
|Western||Aklanon||Akeanon, Aklano, Aklan||Aklan and northern Capiz, Panay Island|
|Western||Pandan||Pandan area, Antique, including the Buruanga, Aklan area of Panay|
|Western||Kinaray-a||Antiqueño, Hinaray-a, Sulud, Panayano||most of Antique, Panay Island; most inland areas of Iloilo and Capiz; southern Guimaras Island off of Iloilo|
|Western||Gimaras||Guimaras Island, Iloilo|
|Central||Romblomanon||Romblon and Sibuyan Island; San Agustin area, Tablas Island|
|Central||Capiznon||Capiz and northeastern Iloilo, Panay Island|
|Central||Hiligaynon||Ilonggo||most of Iloilo, Panay Island; western Guimaras and Negros Occidental|
|Central||Kawayan||Cauayan, Negros Occidental|
|Central||Masbate||Masbate||Masbate and Ticao Island|
|Central||Camotes||Camotes Island, between Cebu and Leyte|
|Central||Northern Samar||Samareño, Waray-Waray||northern Samar|
|Central||Samar-Leyte||Samareño, Waray-Waray, Sinamar||central Samar; northern half of Leyte|
|Central||Waray||Samareño, Waray-Waray, Binisayâ||southern Samar Island, Eastern Samar|
|Central||Sorsogon||Sorsogonon, Bikol||northern Sorsogon, Bikol|
|Central||Gubat||Sorsogonon||southern Sorsogon, Bikol (including Gubat)|
|Cebuan||Cebuano||Sugbuanon, Sugbuhanon, Cebuan, Sebuano||Cebu Island; Negros Oriental; eastern Visayas and the coastal areas of northern and eastern Mindanao|
|Cebuan||Leyte||Kanâ, Leyteño||central western Leyte; immigrants to Dinagat Island|
|Southern||Butuanon||Butuan City, Agusan del Norte area|
|Southern||Surigaonon||Jaun Bisayâ||Surigao del Norte|
|Southern||Jaun-Jaun||Siargaonon||Siargao Island, Surigao del Norte|
|Southern||Kantilan||Cantilan and Madrid, Surigao del Sur|
|Southern||Naturalis||Tandag and Tago, Surigao del Sur|
|Southern||Tausug||Moro, Taw Sug||Jolo Island; southern and western Palawan|
David Zorc's reconstruction of Proto-Bisayan had 15 consonants and 4 vowels (Zorc 1977:201). Vowel length, primary stress (penultimate and ultimate), and secondary stress (pre-penultimate) are also reconstructed by Zorc.
|Close||i /i/||u /u/|
- Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Bisayan". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
- Adelaar, Alexander (2005). "The Austronesian languages of Asia and Madagascar: a historical perspective". In Adelaar, Alexander; Himmelamnn, Nikolaus (eds.). The Austronesian languages of Asia and Madagascar. London: Routledge. pp. 1–42., page 16.
- Zorc, David Paul (1977). The Bisayan Dialects of the Philippines: Subgrouping and Reconstruction. Canberra, Australia: Dept. of Linguistics, Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University. doi:10.15144/PL-C44. ISBN 0858831570.
- Lobel, Jason (2009). Concise Encyclopedia of Languages of the World. Oxford: Elsevier. pp. 914–917.
- Lobel, Jason William. 2013. Philippine and North Bornean languages: issues in description, subgrouping, and reconstruction. Ph.D. dissertation. Manoa: University of Hawai'i at Manoa.
|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Bisaya phrasebook.|