Firth McEachern - Diversity Shock, Part 33
- The late Brother Andrew Gonzales, former Secretary of Education, well-known linguist, and De La Salle University professor, wrote in the Journal for Multilingual and Multicultural Development in 1999, "The national language of the Philippines is Filipino, a language in the process of modernisation; it is based on the Manila lingua franca which is fast spreading across the Philippines and is used in urban centres in the country. De jure, it is named in the 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines as a language that will be enriched with elements (largely vocabulary) from the other Philippine languages and non-local languages used in the Philippines. De facto, the structural base of Filipino is Tagalog."
So there you have it. One of the ardent supporters of Filipino as the national language admitting that, while Filipino is officially supposed to be enriched by many Philippine languages, it in practice closely reflects the Tagalog language as spoken in Manila. And to get a sense of how much this lingua franca has assimilated words from other Philippine languages, we take note of the introduction of Zorc and Miguel's Tagalog Slang Dictionary published in 1990. As a friend of mine pointed out, slang is much more receptive to borrowings than formal registers of a language, yet even in the most informal speech of Manileños, Zorc states that no more than 3% of all the words are from non-Tagalog Philippine languages. The vast majority of the vocabulary is Tagalog, English, or Spanish in origin. That's a pretty poor record of Philippine language enrichment!
A letter of Dr. Constantino sent to the Constitutional Commission in 1986, stating that Filipino "is based on the speech of the various Philippine ethnic groups," thus seems shockingly out of touch with reality. This claim, for which they gave no data or even anecdotal evidence, was regurgitated by several members of the Commission to highlight the existence of "Filipino", and its alleged differences with Tagalog. Commissioner Villacorta, for example, stated in a Plenary Session on Sept. 1st, 1986: "We consulted many language experts on this matter, and they said that even before the 1973 Constitution was promulgated, there was already a language evolving which we can rightfully call Filipino a lingua franca that incorporates different words from several Philippine languages." Commissioner Davide astutely pointed out that, if Filipino already existed way back in 1973, why did the 1973 Constitution say that a language known as Filipino WILL be developed and formally adopted as a common national language? If it already existed, surely the Commissioners of 1971 and their invited linguistic experts would have known about it before devising a plan to create it?! "It was clearly an indication that as [of then] there was no such language known as Filipino," Davide stated.
Villacorta's counter was that Filipino already existed as a lingua franca in the 70's, it's just that people didn't call it that. [Of course, they called it Tagalog, as they have sensibly done for as long as historical records]. Davide cuts straight to the point. "What was the name of the lingua franca?" he asks. This time Commissioner Bennagen responds, equally evasive. "It was referred to by some linguists as Filipino, others as Pilipino, and others just simply as national lingua franca." Ha! Even now, 25 years after the formal adoption of the term, few people refer to Tagalog as Filipino. I have a hard time believing people used it back in 1971, or in 1986 when these Commissioners were arguing. Even more absurd is the pretense that people called it "national lingua franca." The blunt truth of the matter is that the vast majority of people call the national lingua franca Tagalog, and Mr. Bennagen and Mr. Villacorta's refusal to speak the word suggests a self-conscious recognition of the truth. They are aware that people know how virtually indistinguishable Tagalog and the national lingua franca are, and hence nervously try to avoid bringing up the association.
Regardless, Davide finally forces an admission from them. He asks where they get the idea that Filipino exists and is different from Tagalog. Bennagen refers him to the letters submitted by Dr. Constantino et al. Davide points out that one of these letters, supposedly written in `Filipino', does not have a single word unique to a Philippine language besides Tagalog! At which point Commissioner Gascon parrots a sentence in Constantino's letter: "At this stage of the development of Filipino, this language bears more similarities with Tagalog than with any other Philippine language." No kidding. Constantino and Co. thus had no business peddling Filipino as a new language "based on the speech of the various Philippine ethnic groups." Read their own `Filipino' letter over again, and good luck finding representations of the other Philippine languages!
Firth McEachern - Diversity Shock, Part 33
- --- 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.