Philippine languages

In linguistics, the Philippine languages are a proposal by R. David Paul Zorc (1986) and Robert Blust (1991; 2005) that all the languages of the Philippines and northern Sulawesi—except Sama–Bajaw (languages of the "Sea Gypsies") and a few languages of Palawan—form a subfamily of Austronesian languages.[1][2][3] Although the Philippines is near the center of Austronesian expansion from Formosa, there is little linguistic diversity among the approximately 150 Philippine languages, suggesting that earlier diversity has been erased by the spread of the ancestor of the modern Philippine languages.[4][2]

Linguistic classificationAustronesian
Proto-languageProto-Philippine (disputed)
ISO 639-2 / 5phi
The Philippine languages, per Adelaar and Himmelmann (2005)


History and criticism

One of the very first explicit classifications of a "Philippine" grouping based on genetic affiliation was in 1906 by Frank Blake, who placed them as a subdivision of the "Malay branch" within Malayo-Polynesian (MP), which at that time was considered as a family. Blake however encompasses every language within the geographic boundaries of the Philippine archipelago to be under a single group.[5] Formal arguments in support of a specific "Proto-Philippines" were followed by Matthew Charles in 1974, Teodoro Llamzon in 1966 and 1975, and Llamzon and Teresita Martin in 1976.[6][7][8][9] Blust (1991) two decades later updates this based on Zorc's (1986) inclusion of Yami, and the Sangiric, Minahasan, and Gorontalo groups.[5]

The genetic unity of a Philippines group has been rejected particularly by Lawrence Reid.[10] This arose with problems in reconstructing Philippine subgroups within MP (Pawley, 1999; Ross, 2005).[11][12] In a recent state-of-the art on the classification of Philippine languages, he provides multidisciplinary arguments on the field's methodological and theoretical shortcomings since Conant's description in the early 1900s. This includes Malayo-Polynesian archeology (Spriggs, 2003; 2007; 2011),[13][14][15] and Bayesian phylogenetic analyses (Gray et al., 2009)[16] substantiating the multiplicity of historical diffusion and divergence of languages across the archipelago.[17] He suggests that the primary branches under this widely acknowledged Philippine group should instead be promoted as primary branches under Malayo-Polynesian.[18] Malcolm Ross (2005) earlier also noted that the Batanic languages, constituting Yami, Itbayat, and Ivatan, should in fact be considered as a primary MP branch.[12] In an evaluation of the lexical innovations among the Philippine languages, Alexander Smith (2017) regards the evidence for a Philippine subgroup as weak, and concludes that "they may represent more than one primary subgroup or perhaps an innovation-defined linkage".[19]

Internal classification

The Philippine group is proposed to have originated from Proto-Malayo-Polynesian and ultimately from Proto-Austronesian. There have been several proposals as to the composition within the group, but the most widely accepted groupings today is the consensus classifications by Blust (1991; 2005) and Reid (2017); however, both disagree on the existence of a Philippine group as a single genetic unit.

Zorc (1979)

An earlier classification by Zorc (1979) is presented below. From approximately north to south, a Philippine group according to his analysis of previous reconstructions are divided into two main subgroups, Northern or "Cordilleran" and Southern or "Sulic".[20] Note that the groupings herein no longer reflect widely accepted classifications or naming conventions today. For example South Extension nowadays reflects the widely established Central Luzon, and North Mangyan within Cordilleran is not supported by later reconstructions; the group containing Yami, Ivatan and Itbayat is called "Bashiic" in Zorc (1977) and remains generally accepted.[21]

Blust (1991; 2005)

From approximately north to south, the Philippine languages are divided into 12 subgroups (including unclassified languages):


Comparison chart between several selected Philippine languages spoken from north to south with Proto-Austronesian first for comparison.

English12345personhousedogcoconutdaynewwe (incl.)whatfire
Proto-Austronesian *əsa
Batanic (Bashiic) Yami (Tao) ásadóa (raroa)tílo (tatlo)apat (ápat)limataovahaychitoniyoyarawvayoyatenangoapoy
Ivatan asadadowatatdoapatlimataovahaychitoniyoyarawva-yoyatenangoapoy
Northern Luzon Ilokano maysaduatallouppatlimataobalayasoniogaldawbarositayoaniaapoy
Ibanag taddayduatalluappa'limatolaybalaykituniukaggawbagusittamanniafi
Gaddang antetaddwatalloappatlimatolaybalayatuayogawbawuikkanetamsanenayafuy
Pangasinan sakeydua
Central Luzon Kapampangan métung
Central Philippine Tagalog isadalawatatloapatlimataobahayasoniyogarawbagotayoanoapoy
Central Bikol saroduwatuloupatlimatawoharongayamniyogadlawba-gokitaanokalayo
Rinconada Bikol əsaddarwātolōəpatlimatawōbaləyayamnoyogaldəwbāgokitāonōkalayō
Waray usa
Hiligaynon isaduwatatloapatlimatawobalayidolubiadlawbag-okitaanokalayo
Asi usaruhatuyoupatlimatawobayayironidogadlawbag-okitani-okayado
Romblomanon isaduhatuyoupatlimatawobayayayamniyogadlawbag-okitaanokalayo
Onhan isyadarwatatloap-atlimatawobalayayamniyogadlawbag-okitaanokalayo
Kinaray-a saradarwatatloapatlimatahobalayayamniyogadlawbag-okita
Aklanon isaea
Cebuano usaduhatuloupatlimatawobalayirolubiadlawbag-okitaunsakalayo
Tausug isa
Danao Mëranaw isadowat'lophatlimatawwalayasoneyoggawi'ebagotanotonaaapoy
South Mindanao (Bilic) Tboli sotulewutlufatlimataugunuohulefokdawlomitekuyteduofih
Minahasan Tombulu (Minahasa) esazua
Sangiric Sangirese sembau
Gorontalo-Mongondow Gorontalo tuwewuduluwototoluopatolimotawubele'apulabongodulahubohu'itowolotulu
Mongondow inta'duatoluopatlimaintaubaloiungku'bango'singgaimobagukitaondatulu'

See also

Defunct language regulators


1. ^ Ambiguous relationship with other Northern Philippine groups
2. ^ Ambiguous relationship with other Northern Philippine groups and has possible relationship with South Extension; equivalent to the widely established Batanic or Bashiic branch.


  1. Zorc, R. David Paul. The genetic relationships of Philippine languages. 1986. In Geraghty, P., Carrington, L. and Wurm, S.A. editors, FOCAL II: Papers from the Fourth International Conference on Austronesian Linguistics. C-94:147-173. Pacific Linguistics, The Australian National University, 1986.
  2. Blust, Robert (1991). "The Greater Central Philippines hypothesis". Oceanic Linguistics. 30 (2): 73–129. doi:10.2307/3623084. JSTOR 3623084.
  3. Blust, Robert A. (2005). "The linguistic macrohistory of the Philippines". In Liao, Hsiu-Chuan; Rubino, Carl R.Galvez (eds.). Current issues in Philippine linguistics pangaral kay Lawrence A. Reid. Linguistic Society of the Philippines and SIL Philippines. pp. 31–68.
  4. Adelaar & Himmelmann (2005)
  5. Blust, Robert (1991). "The Greater Central Philippines hypothesis". Oceanic Linguistics. 30 (2): 73–129. doi:10.2307/3623084. JSTOR 3623084.
  6. Llamzon, Teodoro A. "Proto-Philippine Phonology." In: Archipel, volume 9, 1975. pp. 29–42.
  7. Charles, Mathew (1974). "Problems in the Reconstruction of Proto-Philippine Phonology and the Subgrouping of the Philippine Languages". Oceanic Linguistics. 13 (1/2): 457–509. doi:10.2307/3622751. JSTOR 3622751.
  8. Llamzon, Teodoro (1966). "The subgrouping of Philippine languages". Philippine Sociological Review. 14 (3): 145–150. JSTOR 23892050.
  9. Llamzon, Teodoro; Martin, Teresita (1976). "A subgrouping of 100 Philippine languages". South-East Asian Linguistic Studies. 2: 141–172.
  10. Reid, Lawrence. 1982. The demise of Proto-Philippines. In Papers from the Third International Conference on Austronesian Linguistics, Vol. 2: Tracking the travellers, ed. by Amran Halim, Lois Carrington, and Stephen Wurm, 201-216. Pacific Linguistics Series C, No. 75. Canberra: Australian National University.
  11. Pawley, Andrew. Eilzabeth Zeitoun; Paul Jen-kuei Li (eds.). "Chasing rainbows: Implications for the rapid dispersal of Austronesian languages for subgrouping and reconstruction". Selected Papers from the Eighth International Conference on Austronesian Linguistics. Academia Sinica: 95–138.
  12. Ross, Malcolm (2005). "The Batanic Languages in Relation to the Early History of the Malayo-Polynesian Subgroup of Austronesian" (PDF). Journal of Austronesian Studies. 1 (2). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-03-22. Retrieved 2012-10-15.
  13. Spriggs, Matthew (2003). "Chronology of Neolithic transition in Island Southeast Asia and the western Pacific". The Review of Anthropology. 24: 57–80.
  14. Spriggs, Matthew (2007). S. Chiu; C. Sand (eds.). "The Neolithic and Austronesian expansion within Island Southeast Asia and into the Pacific". From Southeast Asia to the Pacific. Archeological Perspectives on the Austronesian Expansion and the Lapita Cultural Complex. Academia Sinica: 104–140.
  15. Spriggs, Matthew (2011). "Archeology and Austronesian expansion: Where are we now?" (PDF). Antiquity. 85 (328): 510–528. doi:10.1017/s0003598x00067910.
  16. Gray, Russell; Drummond, Alexei; Greenhill, Simon (2009). "Language phylogenies reveal expansion pulses and pauses in Pacific settlement". Science. 323 (5913): 479–482. doi:10.1126/science.1166858.
  17. Reid, Lawrence. 2017. Revisiting the position of Philippine languages in the Austronesian family. The Br. Andrew Gonzalez FSC (BAG) Distinguished Professorial Chair Lecture, 2017, De La Salle University, Manila.
  18. Reid, Lawrence A. 2018. "Modeling the linguistic situation in the Philippines." In Let's Talk about Trees, ed. by Ritsuko Kikusawa and Lawrence A. Reid. Osaka: Senri Ethnological Studies, Minpaku. doi:10.15021/00009006
  19. Smith, Alexander D. (2017). "The Western Malayo-Polynesian Problem". Oceanic Linguistics. 56 (2): 435–490. doi:10.1353/ol.2017.0021., p. 479
  20. Zorc, R. David Paul (1979). "On the development of contrastive word accent: Pangasinan, a case in point". South-East Asian Linguistic Studies. 3: 241–258.
  21. 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.
  • K. Alexander Adelaar and Nikolaus Himmelmann, The Austronesian languages of Asia and Madagascar. Routledge, 2005.

Further reading

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