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A genuine need for standardization


(Editor’s Note: The Inquirer is running this series on the correct use of the Filipino language in observance of Buwan ng Wikang Pambansa.)

(Fourth of a series)

Between the writing of the articles of this series many things have happened.

One is that we got a lively variety of responses from readers. There were suggestions of more examples of bad usage for discussion, one dismissed us as a “grammar Nazi,” another insisted that Filipino is just Tagalog, and that the articles were the rantings of an “ivory-tower dwelling purist.”

Another is the ongoing flap, especially in the academe and the social networks, about the push from the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) for a change in spelling in the country’s name from Pilipinas to Filipinas.

Two usage examples referred to us were mananakay and inaasahan.


The latter is used in weather forecasting. “Inaasahang dumating ang bagyo mamayang alas dos” is taken to mean that we are actually “hoping” (from the root word asa) for the storm to come.

To be safe (unintended pun), we consulted the earliest Tagalog dictionary, the one compiled by the priests Noceda and San Lucar. The root, asa, is defined and translated there as esperar as in “to expect” in English. It also happens to have the same root as esperanza (hope).

The weatherman seems to have gotten it right this time.

“Inaasahang dumating ang bagyo” does not mean that we’re hoping for the storm to come, we are just expecting it as predicted (or plotted on the weather maps).

Asa or pag-asa in the sense of hope is not cited in the Noceda-San Lucar dictionary, so it might be a fairly modern development. Or simply another sense.

When our editor referred mananakay to us, she described it as sounding “really nasty.” Vicassan English-Pilipino dictionary only gives sakay (noun) as the translation of the English “passenger,” plus the borrowed and more popular pasahero.

We first heard the word used when some reforms were being implemented by a transport regulation bureau in the past administration.

While akay,  a rather noble word (to guide or rescue), would seem to be one of the roots or related words, mananakay evokes scenes of pillage (e.g. salakay).

The bureaucratic reforms, we thought, were in the right direction, but mananakay was not one of them.

Now these last two examples, plus kaganapan, kung saan, and ng and nang, tubig-baha and bulusok from the previous articles, point to a real need for standardization and language reform.


This is why KWF is so intent on its advocacy of Ortograpiyang Pambansa, even amid opposition.

Ortograpiya is the main basis for the orthographic reform that will make language standardization and development possible. Every evolving language needs one.

Part of the reform is to enable other Philippine languages to participate in the actual formation and evolution of Filipino. KWF terms this as pagkamaugnayin, or inclusiveness.

This concept involves the entry of words from the other Philippine languages into the corpus of the national language. And not just words but the knowledge and experience that come with them.

Incidentally, the word katarungan, from the Visayan tadong or “uprightness,” though long incorporated into Filipino, is an example of this concept.

In turn, this enrichment of the language is symbolized by the inclusion of the eight letters, C, F, J, Ñ, Q, V, X  and Z in the Filipino alpabeto. These represent sounds that naturally occur in other Filipino languages.

Examples of these sounds are safot (spider web) in Ibaloy, masjid and jalan (mosque and path, respectively) in Tausug and Mëranaw, vakul (grass headdress) in Ivatan, and zigattu (east) in Ibanag.

The “new” letters also enable the language to finally include many of our proper names, such as Zuñiga, Juan, Quirino, Vazquez, Felipe and Filipinas.

Erratum. In the eighth paragraph of Language Matters (Part 3), the labeling of the parts of speech was interchanged by the author. It should have read: “The simplest way to know when to use one or the other is that nang (long) always has several meanings like time, manner, measure or intensity (it is both a conjunction and an adverb), while ng (short) is mainly a preposition with the English equivalents of “of,” “by” and “from.”

Marne Kilates is an awardwinning poet and translator from Filipino into English.

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Tags: buwan ng wikang pambansa , Education , Filipino language , Learning

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