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Firth McEachern - Diversity Shock, Part 30

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  • DILA-owner@yahoogroups.com
    In linguistics terms, a language is defined as being MUTUALLY UNINTELLIGIBLE with another language. That is, speakers of two different languages will not be
    Message 1 of 32 , Apr 27, 2011
      In linguistics terms, a language is defined as being MUTUALLY UNINTELLIGIBLE with another language. That is, speakers of two different languages will not be able to understand each other if they talk in their respective tongues. If they mostly understand each other, they share---by definition---the same language.

      Many people erroneously think Tagalog, Pilipino, and Filipino are different languages. I encourage you all to conduct your own tests of this hypothesis. Arrange 3 random adult Filipinos to speak together in one room about any topic for 1 minute. Beforehand, tell one of them that he shall speak Tagalog. Tell the other to speak `Pilipino.' And arrange for the third person to speak `Filipino.' Do not tell them what the purpose of the exercise is. Furthermore, they are not allowed to tell each other which `language' they have been directed to speak.

      I predict two results from such an experiment. If you asked each participant in private what language the other two were speaking, he would not correctly identify the `languages' of the other speakers. He will likely say they were all speaking the same language. Even if you gave each participant a multiple-choice question containing 3 possible names---Tagalog, `Pilipino,' and `Filipino'---I bet there would be no consistency in the language names chosen by the 3 participants. Secondly, if asked to summarize the conversation that the 3 people had, each would be able to. And just to make sure that an inability to summarize the conversation is not a result of memory loss, record the conversation with a tape, play it to each participant separately, and then re-ask them to summarize it. You will find that all three will be able to explain the gist of the conversation, and likely each sentence too. And if for some reason one person was incapable of understanding the others, repeat the experiment 100, 1000, 10000 times if necessary, with different sets of random Filipinos, and you will find in the vast majority of cases, the results will conform to my predictions.

      The results described above would demonstrate that A) In practice, no one has a clue what the difference between Tagalog, Pilipino, and Filipino are; and B) They are all mutually intelligible. And what does it mean for speech varieties to be mutually understood? THEY ARE THE SAME LANGUAGE.

      Despite this fact, a Professor of Linguistics from the University of the Philippines, one Dr. Ernesto Constantino, submitted a letter to the 1986 Constitutional Commission asserting:

      "The term Filipino refers to the Philippine national lingua franca, i.e. the language used all over the country as a medium of communicationÂ…. Filipino is different from Pilipino which in accordance with the 1935 Constitution is based on only one language, Tagalog. Filipino, on the other hand, is based on the language usage, similarities, and peculiarities of the different Philippine ethnic groups."

      The claim that Filipino existed, and was different from Pilipino/Tagalog, was repeated in another letter sent to the Con-Com, entitled "Proposal para sa ConCom: Probisyon para sa pambansang wika." This was coauthored by Dr. Constantino, a couple other UP Philippines colleagues, and the President of Pambansang Samahan sa Wika. But going back to the definition of a language, we know that Filipino cannot be classified as a different language from Tagalog, because they are mutually intelligible. That is, if a person speaks Tagalog to a person who is speaking Filipino, they will both understand each other. It is impossible to believe that Constantino and his UP colleagues, who were linguists, would not have known this most fundamental of language definitions. Of course they knew it. That is why Constantino never explicitly claimed Filipino as a different language, but instead resorted to the vague statement, "Filipino is different from Pilipino." How different, may I ask? None of the members of the Con-Com were linguists, and the subtle phrasing had the desired effect on them. Without making a direct statement like "Filipino is a different language from Pilipino," which would have amounted to academic dishonesty, the UP professors left the Commissioners with the impression that Filipino was in fact a distinct language from Tagalog/Pilipino. This misinterpretation is one of the reasons the Con-Com was swayed into thinking it was appropriate to declare Filipino as the national language in Article XIV of the 1986 Constitution.

      As the Con-Com used Dr. Constantino and other UP professors to shed light on language issues, I would have hoped the experts would have been absolutely frank about the status of Filipino, Pilipino, and Tagalog as a single language. But they didn't. In fact, there are equally misleading claims they made. We shall explore these, and possible reasons for them, in due time.

      Firth McEachern - Diversity Shock, Part 30
    • dphilfinc
      ... Since the development and propagation of such a Frankenstein language has not met success throughout human history, Filipino would certainly remain a pipe
      Message 32 of 32 , May 6, 2011
        --- In DILA@yahoogroups.com, Firth wrote:
        > I would only tolerate the premise of a national language---regardless of its nature or how it came to be---were it accompanied with balanced and sincere language planning that ensured the continuing, complementary flourishing of other native languages.

        Since the development and propagation of such a Frankenstein language has not met success throughout human history, Filipino would certainly remain a pipe dream orchestrated by Tagalog supremacists for the benefit of our naive countrymen. Firth is to be roundly commended for his honest research and impartial treatment of language politics in our country, this ought to come out as a printed volume.

        I found the portion on the 1986 ConCom particularly impressive in its detail. The proponents got into a number of confrontations with me and I had always considered Villacorta to be in cahoots with Salazar et al. Everything was planned beforehand and in the end they had completely outwitted and fooled Davide. An added bonus for them was that the Aquino constitution would turn out to be intrinsically unamendable.

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