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Why it’s difficult to learn Pangasinan

By Gabriel Cardinoza
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:10:00 06/17/2009

Filed Under: Language, history, Culture (general), Education

EVER wondered why it's difficult to learn the Pangasinan language if you were not born in a Pangasinan-speaking community? It?s because in the family tree of Philippine languages, Pangasinan has no relative.

Pangasinan is one of the 13 indigenous languages in the country with at least a million native speakers. These include Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilokano, Hiligaynon, Waray-Waray, Kapampangan, Bikol, Albay Bikol, Maranao, Maguindanao, Kinaray-a and Tausug.

?Linguists don?t really know where to put the Pangasinan language, on which branch [in the family tree],? said Edgardo Quiros, a division chief at the National Library who has been doing research on the Pangasinan language for his doctoral dissertation at the University of the Philippines.

He said that even the Sentro ng Wikang Pambansa had aired this concern when he consulted the office.

Quiros, a Pangasinense, said the theory was that if two languages belong to the same family tree and a person was born with the first one, it will be easier for him or her to learn the language in the same branch.

?For example, Ilocano is your first language and you try to learn Pangasinan. It will take you longer to learn Pangasinan than if you were born in a Pangasinan-speaking environment,? he said.

?But if you were born an Ilocano and you try to learn Tagalog, it will be a lot easier for you to learn it than Pangasinan.?

Linguists baffled

Why the Pangasinan language is the way it is today continues to baffle linguists, Quiros said.

?Until now, there are no proofs or documents that could tell why the Pangasinan language is the way it is today although we have archeological evidence and some cultural distinctions that could point to something,? he said.

For example, he said, the Chinese have been trading in Pangasinan even before the Spaniards came. And there are families in Pangasinan, he said, that have in their possession artifacts proving that their families had been in Pangasinan when it was trading with China in the pre-Hispanic era.

?But there has been no formal studies on Pangasinan language,? he said.

Asked if he was aware that in the history of Dagupan City, the early settlers were believed to have come from the Flores Islands in Indonesia, where the language was said to be similar, Quiros said it was possible.

?But you can never tell. That community already existed like us then. So, maybe, we should confirm the similarity of our languages,? he said.

Quiros also said the closest language to Pangasinan was Ibaloi.

?During one of my field research activities in the barrios and sitios along the Agno River, in the upstream of the San Roque Dam, we validated the idea that the Ibaloi were actually from Pangasinan,? he said.

He said people he interviewed had told him that their ancestors were located in Pangasinan. ?So, Ibaloi and Pangasinan are the same because they came from Pangasinan. There?s no debate about it,? he said.

Five dialects

So far, Quiros said, the only definite about Pangasinan language was that it has five dialects.

?It?s easy to distinguish, for example, the Pangasinan that is spoken in the central part of the province. It?s very distinct,? he said.

?However, if you talk about Pangasinan spoken somewhere in the areas of Camiling [Tarlac] and Mangatarem towns, and compare it to the Pangasinan in the coastal areas, such as Dagupan, then compare it to those spoken in places like San Carlos City, you?ll easily spot the difference,? Quiros said.

He said Pangasinenses in central Pangasinan have more detailed words to describe specific phenomena.

?One good example is the rain. Rain is associated with adjectives, like maksil [strong] or makapuy [weak] in other places. But in central Pangasinan, there are many terms for rain. It can be maya-maya [drizzle], tayaketek [light rain] or ambusabos [heavy rain],? Quiros said.

Fully developed

This shows, he said, that in central Pangasinan, the language has been fully developed because these were also the oldest places in the province.

He said anthropologist and UP professor Jerome Bailen, a Pangasinense, had proposed to conduct diggings around Mangabul Lake in Bayambang town to find archaeological evidence to prove that Pangasinan already existed even before the Spanish period, but he was not able to get funding.

?Mangabul is a very good place to go. If there?s a big lake or there?s a big river, the communities during the pre-Hispanic period were there. So, it?s there where you can find a good study of the language,? Quiros said.

He said he pursued the study of Pangasinan language ?more on of interest rather than a necessity.?

?Language is an accumulation of experience of a society. Language, in itself, is history. And I find it as a sense of fulfillment to know more about a culture of a place where I am supposed to come from and yet I know little about,? he said.

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