Firth McEachern - Diversity Shock, Part 37
- In the Constitutional Commission Plenary Session of Sept. 1st 1987, Commissioner Blas Ople summarizes the vision of how Filipino should develop: "Yes, it is a Darwinian concept evolution, natural selection. And in the process, if the Pampango language succeeds in contributing a disproportionate volume of words into this evolving Filipino language, then that will be a tribute to the Pampanguenos."
Dr. Neville Alexander (2010), a multilingual advocate and former prisonmate of Nelson Mandela writes, "It is not true that languages simply develop "naturally", as it were. They are formed and manipulated within definite limits to suit the interests of different groups of people. This is very clear in the case of so-called standard languages, as opposed to non-standard varieties (dialects, sociolects). The former are invariably the preferred varieties of the ruling class or ruling strata in any given society. They prevail as the norm because of the economic, political-military, or cultural-symbolic power of the rulers, not because they are "natural" in any meaning of the term. The importance of this proposition derives from the fact that it validates the claim that languages, just like cities or families, can be planned. Indeed, it is a fact that in any modern state, whether or not it is explicitly acknowledged by governments, languages are always planned, in that legislation prescribes, often in great detail, where and how one or more languages are to be used."
Consistent with Dr. Alexander's analysis, let me remind you that the language situation of the Philippines by 1986 was anything but natural. Since 1940, Tagalog had been systematically introduced into schools, its name had been changed to Pilipino, and very little was done to officially incorporate words from other Philippine languages. It had become the lingua franca of the country-- whereas it had never been before--and opened the doors to its mass use by media. And yet, when challenged by Commissioner Davide on why no formal steps had been done to enrich Filipino (that is, make it less like Tagalog), Human Resources Committee Chairman Villacorta made the presumptuous claim: "Madam president, a language is not legislated. It is not evolved primarily through legislation, although legislation can help expedite the development." If a language is not legislated, what about Commonwealth Act 184 that established the National Language Institute, tasked to choose a national language? What about Executive Order 134, declaring Tagalog to be the basis of the national language? What about Commonwealth Act 570, declaring the Filipino National Language? What about Secretary of Public Instruction Department Order No 1, ruling the teaching of this formalized Tagalog language in all schools across the country, and Bureau of Education Circular 26, specifying its insertion in the 4th year of high school? How about Department of Education Order 7, changing the name to Pilipino and ordering its use as the Medium of Instruction (MOI) from Grades 1-4? And the introduction of the Bilingual Policy in 1974, making Pilipino the MOI for all subjects except English, Science, and Math? And Presidential Proclamation 35, which established a National Language Week? Proclamation 186, which moved the Week to August, specifically so that schools would partake in the enforced celebrations? Proclamations 19 and 1041, expanding the period of national language propaganda to one month?
In other words, decades of persistent legislation created the problem in the first place: a national language largely restricted to the speech habits of one part of the country (Manila) and spreading like wildfire so as to gravely threaten the future of other Philippine languages. Only a dedicated, full-blown policy shift could fulfil the Constitutional ambition to develop and enrich Filipino with other Philippine languages. Yet, astonishingly, the consensus of the 1986 Constitutional Commission was to follow the Darwinian approach: in effect, not to do anything that may interrupt the "natural" outcome of a 50-yr-long, one-track language agenda. And supposedly, their justification was because language cannot be "legislated"?!
Had there been concrete steps taken to evolve Filipino, such as the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) purposefully 1) inserting large amounts of vocabulary from other Philippine languages into a new Filipino lexicon; 2) acting upon the academic findings of Dr. Ernesto Constantino, who showed that even syntactical structures of different languages could be combined into one; 3) partnering with all sectors, especially media and education, to ensure that the truly evolved language is used in daily life; and 4) setting up measures to prevent said language from wiping out other native languages, then perhaps we wouldn't be in the situation we are today. The hands-off approach decided upon by the Commissioners and ultimately practiced by the KWF, however, was guaranteed to fail the Constitutional vision for Filipino. Commissioner Ople's musing that Pampango might contribute substantively to the "evolving Filipino language" rings all the more empty considering that, today, Kapampangans are struggling to keep their language intact.
Firth McEachern - Diversity Shock, Part 37 of 37?
- --- 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.