Philippine Languages

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Philippine Languages


the languages of the indigenous population of the islands of the Philippines, spoken by 41.5 million people (1975, estimate). The Philippine languages constitute a subgroup of the Indonesian (Malayan) group (seeINDONESIAN LANGUAGES), or western branch, of the Malayo-Polynesian (Austronesian) language family (seeMALAYO-POLYNESIAN LANGUAGES).

Of the more than 100 Philippine languages, the principal regional languages are Bisayan, Tagalog, Ilocano, Pampangan, Pangasinan, Bikol, Ibanag, and Sambal. The local dialects of Bisayan, which are often regarded as distinct languages, include Cebuan, or Sugbuhanon, spoken by approximately 25 percent of Filipinos; Panayan, or Hiligaynon; and Samar-Leyte. The principal languages are spoken by approximately 85 percent of the population. Tagalog, spoken by 25 percent of Filipinos, functions as a lingua franca, as does Spanish. Since the early 20th century, English has also come into general use. In 1937, the status of Tagalog was established by law; it was designated the national language and, since 1959, has been called Filipino, or Pilipino.

The morphology of the Philippine languages is agglutinative, with a possessive structure. Nominal form building is not a prominent feature of the language, but form building and word formation through verbal syncretism, as in forms expressing voice and tense, are highly developed. Word order is not rigidly fixed, although a verb in the passive voice usually occurs in initial position. Particles and auxiliary words play an important role. The meanings of root morphemes (primary words) are generalized and in most cases cannot be assigned to grammatical classes; meanings can be made more precise only when the root morpheme appears in a specific context or undergoes word formation. Native Philippine root morphemes are for the most part disyllabic and serve as stems for word formation, which draws on several hundred affixes and their combinations. They are also the basis for word reduplication and compounding, which are accompanied by regular morphophonemic changes.

The principal Philippine languages formerly used original syllabic writing systems based on those of southern India, which derive from Brahmi; they adopted the Latin alphabet in the mid-18th century. Tagalog is the only Philippine language with a highly developed literature; the literatures of the other Philippine languages are represented by fewer works.


Arakin, V. D. Indoneziiskie iazyki. Moscow, 1965.
Makarenko, V. A. “Iazykovaia situatsiia na Filippinakh v proshlom i nastoiashchem.” Narody Azii i Afriki, 1970, no. 5.
Blake, F. R. “Contributions to Comparative Philippine Grammar.” Journal of the American Oriental Society, 1906–07, vols. 27–28.
Blake, F. R. “A Bibliography of the Philippine Languages.” Ibid., 1920, vol. 40, part 1.
Frei, E. J. The Historical Development of the Philippine National Language. Manila, 1959.
Dyen, I. A Lexicostatistical Classification of the Austronesian Languages. Baltimore, 1965.
Ward, J. H. A Bibliography of Philippine Linguistics and Minor Languages. Ithaca, NY., 1971.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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