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Definition: Tagalog from Britannica Concise Encyclopedia

Any member of the largest cultural-linguistic group in the Philippines. They are the dominant population of Manila and of several provinces near the city. Most are Roman Catholic, and most are farmers; their main cash crops are sugarcane and coconuts. Manila’s dominance has given the urban Tagalog economic leadership in the Philippines. The Tagalog language is the basis of Pilipino, the national language.

Event: Tagalog

Keywords: Tagalog

Summary Article: TAGALOG
from Dictionary of Languages
10,500,000 SPEAKERS


Among the AUSTRONESIAN LANGUAGES of the Philippines. Tagalog happened to be the one that was spoken in the Manila region of southern Luzon. It was also the language of the early manifestos of the resistance against Spain and the United States. As early as 1897 came the proposal that Tagalog should be the national language of the independent Philippines. When independence was in sight, Tagalog was indeed declared the basis of the new ‘national language’, and it has been taught as such in schools from 1940 onwards, though in some provinces opposition to it remains. By now nearly three—quarters of the population can use Tagalog – a remarkable advance for what was, a century ago, a regional language with no official recognition at all.

Tagalog is said to mean ‘river people’, from taga- ‘place of origin’ and ilog ‘river’. For the national language the name Tagalog has been officially replaced by Pilipino. This, incidentally, is a local form of the name of the islands, a name commemorating Philip II, who was King of Spain when the islands came under Spanish rule in 1565. In theory, Pilipino is to be replaced in due course by Filipino (see box).

The Philippine archipelago was ruled by Spain until 1898. Spanish is not now a major language of the Philippines, but the inheritance of Spanish culture, and of Catholic Christianity spread by Spanish missionaries, is to be traced everywhere. The typical barrio fiesta (Spanish loanwords: ‘village festival’) of the Philippines is celebrated annually in Holland Park, London, by Filipinos in Britain. It has been argued that the complex system of polite address forms in Tagalog is borrowed from or modelled on that of Spanish.

After an abortive declaration of independence American rule followed in 1898–1946 (interrupted by Japanese occupation), and American military bases remain. English is thus a major language of the Philippines still. Education was officially bilingual from 1957, combining Tagalog with a local language. Since 1974 trilingual education is the general practice, in a local language for the first years, in Tagalog and English later. This has influenced Tagalog pervasively. English loanwords occur frequently in everyday speech and in journalism. ‘Taglish’ is the name given to a mixed jargon fashionable among young people.

Tagalog was already a language of written culture at the Spanish invasion. A 1593 bilingual publication in Spanish and Tagalog, Doctrina christiana, prints the Tagalog in an Indic—type script, not unlike that still used for makasar. However, no historical records survive from that period or before. It is only clear that Tagalog, and the other Philippine languages to which it is related, had gradually spread over the islands in the preceding three or four thousand years, having originally been introduced in a migration from Taiwan, the presumed origin of all the Austronesian languages.

The script soon fell out of use. In the Spanish period, publishing in Tagalog and the other regional languages was largely religious in inspiration – yet it can be seen, from the beginning, to incorporate Tagalog poetic forms. Spanish in origin, the corrido, metrical romance, pasyon, Christian passion play, and komedya, theatrical ‘comedy’ of Christian–Muslim warfare, all three became lively and fully naturalised forms of Tagalog literature. Manila has now a flourishing press both in Tagalog and in English.

In recent decades Tagalog has spread from its original location both as a second language and as the language of migrants, who have settled widely in Luzon and in coastal parts of Mindoro and Palawan. It is much heard in cities all over the Philippines and on the proliferating broadcast media. Large Tagalog—speaking communities exist in the United States, and migrant workers are to be found in many countries of the world.

‘National language’ and ‘regional language of southern Luzon’ are simply two ways of looking at the same language, Tagalog. There has been a movement to replace Spanish and English loanwords with native coinages: salumpuwit for the Spanish loanword silya ‘seat’; banyuhay for the English loanword metamorposis. But it is clear that Tagalog, as a lingua franca, will naturally draw on the vocabulary of Spanish, English and the other regional languages of the Philippines. Some sounds (such as the f of Filipino) occur only in loanwords.

The linguist Leonard Bloomfield produced a grammar of Tagalog as one of his earliest pieces of research, in 1917. He broke away from the Latin and Spanish tradition of Tagalog grammar, analysing the language afresh and bringing out its contrasts with European languages and their grammar. For a table of numerals see BIKOL.

Examples from R. David Zorc, ‘Tagalog’ in Comparative Austronesian dictionary: an introduction to Austronesian studies, ed. Darrell T. Tryon (Berlin: Mouton De Gruyter, 1995–) pt 1 pp. 335–41

Filipino: language of the future

In its 1973 constitution the Philippine government looked forward to a new language, Filipino, declaring: ‘The National Assembly shall take steps towards the development and formal adoption of a common national language to be known as Filipino …Until otherwise provided by law, English and Pilipino shall be the official languages’ (1973 Constitution of the Philippines, article xv, section 3, paras 2–3).

To forestall regional opposition to Tagalog—Pilipino, the plan was to invent a truly inclusive national language, with a grammar and vocabulary based somehow on all the regional languages. Some work has been done since 1973, but language planning of this kind usually fails. Redesigned Filipino is not likely to progress far: instead, ‘Filipino’ may gradually replace ‘Pilipino’ as a name for Tagalog viewed as the national language.

Tagalog and its regional rivals

The eight ‘major languages’ of the Philippines are Tagalog, Ilocano, Pangasinan, Kapampangan, Bikol, and the three Bisayan languages, Cebuano, Hiligaynon and Waray—Waray: for the last three see map at CEBUANO. Together these eight are the mother tongues of nearly 90 per cent of the population of the Philippines.

Tagalog dominates in Greater Manila, Bataan, Batangas, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Marinduque, Nueva Ecija, Mindoro Occidental, Mindoro Oriental, Quezon and Rizal. It is becoming the lingua franca of many cities and towns throughout the Philippines. Standard Filipino is based on the Tagalog dialect of Manila. Tagalog and Filipino are now used, as lingua franca, throughout the Philippines, even where they are no one's mother tongue.

BIKOL is the major language of southern Luzon: Albay, Camarines Sur, Catanduanas, Sorsogon, and parts of Camarines Norte and Masbate.

ILOCANO, the language of north—western Luzon, is dominant in the provinces of La Union, Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte and Abra. It is also widely spoken further to the south—west in Tarlac, Pangasinan and Zambales, and in parts of Mindoro island. It is also spoken in far—off Cotabato on the island of Mindanao.

PANGASINAN is the language of the central part of Pangasinan province in north central Luzon.

KAPAMPANGAN is spoken in Pampanga province, north—west of Manila, as well as in four cities of Tarlac (Bamban, Concepcion, Tarlac itself and Capas) and two cities of Bataan (Dinalupihan and Hermosa) near the western borders of Pampanga.

Dictionary of Languages © 1998 + 2004

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