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Tagalog is an Austronesian language spoken as a first language by a quarter of the population of the Philippines and as a second language by the majority. It is the first language of the Philippine region IV (CALABARZON and MIMAROPA), of Bulacan and of Metro Manila. Its standardized form, officially named Filipino, is the national language and one of two official languages of the Philippines, the other being English.
It is related to other Philippine languages such as the Bikol languages, Ilokano, the Visayan languages, and Kapampangan, and more distantly to other Austronesian languages such as Indonesian, Hawaiian and Malagasy.
The naming of the Filipino language has a fascinating history. The Filipino language, previously referred to as Pilipino, is sometimes confused with the Tagalog from which it was derived. The Filipino language was declared the official language of the Philippines in 1987. The Philippine government’s choice to call the national language “Filipino” reflects the complex cultural history associated with the language.
Classification and Vocabulary of the Filipino Language
The Filipino language, based on the Tagalog language, is a member of the Austronesian, or Malayo-Polynesian language family. Filipino, is technically considered to be a variant of Tagalog language. Filipino and Tagalog are essentially the same language, however, Filipino is considered the proper form of the language especially by Filipino-speakers.
As one of the world’s largest language families, the Austronesian language family is split into two groups--Central-Eastern and Western. Filipino belongs to the Western language family as does Malay, Indonesian and Javanese languages.
Filipino and Tagalog are essentially identical in grammar and vocabulary. While the Philippine government declares Filipino the native language of the Philippines, the Tagalog people declare that Tagalog is the native language of the Tagalog people. Tagalog people is a dominant native group of the Philippines. In the 1930s, among this group, it was decided that Tagalog would be the national language of the Philippines; this language was called “Wikang Pambansa” (literally “National Language”).
Early History of the Filipino Language
Relatively little is known about the Tagalog language. Some linguists believe that, like the people of the Central Philippines, the Tagalog people originated along the Northeastern Mindanao or Eastern Visayas.
The first written example of the Tagalog language dates from circa 900 AD. Fragments of Tagalog, Sanskrit, Malay and Javanese appear in the Laguna Copperplate Inscription. The first known book written in the Tagalog language is a Christian Doctrine which dates from the late 16th century, Two Versions of this book was written in both Spanish and Tagalog and in Tagalog the book was written in the Latin alphabet and the other in the Baybayin script. Baybayin is an ancient writing system of the Tagalog language that existed in the Philippines before the arrival of the Spanish.
During the years of Spanish occupation, the development of the written Filipino language progressed lead through the efforts of Spanish missionaries and clergy members who completed manuals and vocabulary guides to Tagalog.
Spanish Influence on the Tagalog Language
In 1565, the first Spanish settlement was established in the Philippines and a period of Spanish colonial rule ensued. Throughout the period of Spanish dominance in the Philippines, the Tagalog language underwent significant evolution. Spanish words were infused into the Tagalog language and it is estimated that today, 40% of informal Tagalog vocabulary used in common speech consists of Spanish loanwords or words derived from Spanish origins.
Up until the Spanish-American war in 1898, Spain continued to rule the Philippines. After the war, the United States took control over the Philippines and iIt was not until 1946 that the Philippines became a fully independent democratic republic.
Filipino as an Official Language
In 1987, the constitution of the Republic of the Philippines designated Filipino as the official national language of the Republic and made provisions for future evolution of the language in accordance with other Philippine languages. Today many Filipino-speakers, especially those who are non-Tagalogs, refer to their language as “Tagalog-based.”
With approximately 14 million members, native Tagalog-speakers make up one of the largest linguistic and cultural groups of the Philippines. Today Filipino serves as the national language of the Philippines and, along with English, is one of the country’s official languages – an impressive feat considering that more than 100 languages exist within the Philippines. Filipino is taught in schools throughout the Philippines and is the official language of education and business.
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