Bikol and Samarnon Subgrouping

From Proto-Philippine Phonology by Teodoro Llamzon, I reproduced the reflexes of Tagalog, Sugbuhanon, Hiligaynon, Bikol and Samarnon for the PAN and Proto-Philippine phonemes.

PAN Pph Tagalog Sugbuhanon Hiligaynon Samarnon Bikol  
a a a a a a a  
i i i i i i i  
u u u/o u u u u  


i u,


u u,




p p p p p p p  
t,T t t t t t t  
k k k k k k k  
b b b b b b b  
d-,D-,Z-,z- d- d- d- d- d- d-  
-d- -d- -r- -r- -d- -d- -d- %
-D- -D- -l- -l- -l- -r- -l- &
-d,-D -d -d -d -d -d -d  
z- -z- -r- -r- -r- -d- -d-


-Z -Z -l -l -l -r -r


j- j- d- d- d- d- d-  
-j- -j- -l- -l- -l- -r- -r-


-j -j -d -d -d -d -d  
g-,R2-,R4 -g g- g- g- g- g-  
-g- -g- -g- -g- -g- -g- -g-  
-g, -R2 -g -g -g -g -g -g  
R1 R1 g- g- g- g- g-  
-R1-,-R2 -R1 -g- -g- -g- -g- -g-  
-R1,-R4 -R1 -g -g -g -g -g  
R3 R3 g- g- g- g- g-  
-R3 -R3 -g- -g- -g- -g- -g-  
-R3 -R3 -g -g -g -g -g  
-R4 -R4 -g- -g- -g- -g- -g-  
r- r- l- l- l- r- r-


-r- -r- -l- -l- -l- -r- -r-


-r -l -l -l -l -l -l  
l l l l l l l  
m m m m m m m  
n n n n n n n  


n n n n n n  








s s s s s s s  
c s s s s s s  
h- h- h- h- h- h- h-  
-h- -h- -h- -h- -h- -h- -h-  
-h -h  
W ?-  
x1-3 ?-  
q- ?-  
-q- -?- -?- -?-  
-q -? -? -? -? -? -?  
w w w w w w w  
-aw -aw -aw -aw -aw -aw -aw  
-w -w -aw -aw -aw -aw -aw  
-iw -iw -uy -uy -uy -uy -uy  
-y- -y- -y- -y- -y- -y- -y-  
-ay, -y -ay -ay -ay -ay -ay -ay  
-uy -uy -oy -uy -uy -uy -uy  


From the above chart, we can note that Samarnon and Bikol share the same reflexes on –z- > d ; –Z, –j-, r-, –r- > r while Tagalog, Sugbuhanon and Hiligaynon also share the same reflexes r and l respectively. (Marked as #)

For –d-, Samarnon and Bikol also share the same reflex, and Hiligaynon also shows the same reflex of –d- instead of Tagalog and Sugbuhanon –r-.

For the –D- proto-phoneme where Bikol reflex is –l- and Samarnon is –r-, the basis shown (*kuDug ‘thunder’) is only coming from one sample. But Bikol also accepts the Samarnon word as an alternative accepted word, so one word basis for the above chart is not definitive.

From this, it is possible to interpret that Tagalog, Sugbuhanon and Hiligaynon all made the changes like this way:


The changes in /l/ are not complete in Tagalog and Sugbuhanon, just like the changes in the  schwa (ǝ) in Bikol, Sugbuhanon and Samarnon.

In Sugbuhanon, the dialects that changed middle /l/ to  /Ø/ are Northern Kana, Cebu City and Bohol. Bohol also changes final /l/  >  /Ø/. The Mindanao dialects of Sugbuhanon mostly retains the /l/ and the same in Southeastern Cebu province. Tagalog has sporadic loss of middle and final /l/.

The question is, is it enough to subgroup them on this basis, or the changes in the schwa (ǝ) the better subgrouping basis? The schwa might not be the better basis for the following reasons:

  1. Not all of the dialects of the languages (Sugbuhanon, Bikol, Samarnon) participated in this change. Eastern Samar dialect of Samarnon retained the schwa, as well as the Boholano dialect of Sugbuhanon. Inland Bikol also retained the schwa sound.
    • If some of the dialects did not change, are they now to be classified as different languages from the standard languages? Are they to be ignored?
    • This might be a more recent sound change than the others since not all dialects reflect this change.
  2. Samarnon’s change (ǝ > u)  is influenced by Sugbuhanon.

Edit (20/07/2014):  I just came across this review by Andrew Wolff of Llamzon’s A Subgrouping of Nine Philippine Languages. Wolff wrote:

“The other features which the author takes as evidence for further sub-classification turn out to melt away on inspection. For example, an shown in [this] chart, Llamzon subgroups Bikol, Cebuano, and Hiligaynon as opposed to Tagalog (whereas Dyen subgroups Tagalog, imageCebuano, and Hiligaynon as opposed to Bikol). Llamzon’s evidence consists of two assertions: first, in Cebuano, Hiligaynon, and Bikol Proto-Philippine •u and •e merge to /u/, whereas in Tagalog this merger does not take plate. Actually, however, this merger did not take place in all positions in Bikol, nor did it take place in all dialects of all these languages. The merger of •u and •e is only just beginning to appear in Samar-Leyte (and there are probably no dialects in which this merger is complete), and this merger is evidently under influence of Cebuano as spoken in Cebu City (Wolff, 1968). to Cebuano, also, it is mainly in the Cebu City dialect that the merger has occurred. Thus, the merger •e and •u is something which has spread from language to language or has occurred independently and in no way can be counted as a shared innovation. The other fact which Llamzon takes to indicate sub-grouping of Bikol with Cebuano, Hiligaynon, and Samar-Leyte as opposed to Tagalog is the number of lexical items shared by these languages which do not occur in Tagalog. Since the items quoted by Llamzon are not of the sort which are unlikely to spread by borrowing (in fact many of them are flora. fauna, names of tools, names of sicknesses, and the like -i.e. of a type that tend to move rapidly- from language to language), and since in any case it is practically impossible to determine that a given lexical item is an innovation and not an inheritance, the number of cognate lexical items can be no basis for subgrouping.”

Bikol and Samarnon might not subgroup but they did not participate in the sound changes happening in Tagalog, Sugbuhanon and Hiligaynon.

The exception for –d- where no change happened in all languages is if its preceded by a consonant like dapdap, dusdus, isda, tuldo, dugdug, apdu, pildit, aldaw, higda; or following by a schwa udog, dai. But note ngidam, hidop, asudán, ungol.

Some example words:

English Proto Samarnon Bikol Tagalog Sugbuhanon Hiligaynon
maiden *dadaRa daraga daraga dalaga dalaga dalaga
old, matured *Rudaŋ gurang gurang gulang gulang gulang
interior *daya iraya iraya ilaya ilaya ilaya
last *udehi urhi huri huli ulhi udi
slave *qudipen uripon uripon alipin ulipon ulipon
intertwine *bidíbid   biribid bilibid bilibid  
crush with thumbnail *tedis   tadus tiris    
not be/have *wada-i waray   walaʔ walay  
leak, drip *tuduq turoʔ turoʔ tuloʔ tuluʔ tuluʔ
locust *dudun   duron   dulon  
two people *da-duha     dalawa    
soul, spirit *ka-du-duhá     kaluluwa    
sleep *tuduR turog turog tulog tulog tulog
borrow *hezam huram hadam hiram hulam hulam
rain *quzan uran uran ulan ulan ulan
pinch *kuzut   kudot kurot    
pick up *pu(n)zut purot purot pulot    
name *ŋajan ngaran ngaran ngalan   ngalan
how much/many *pija pira pira (ilan) pila pila
foam, bubble *bujeq buraʔ burak
bulaʔ bulaʔ bulaʔ
kiss *hajek harok hadok halik haluk haluk
charcoal *qujiŋ uring uring uling uling uling
eyebrow *kiray kiray kiray kilay kilay kilay
kind of large boat *baraŋay barangay barangay balangay balangay balangay
speckled *burik   burikbutik bulik    
incision *geret   gurut gilit gulut  
rub, massage *haprus hapros haplos   haplus
way *zalan dalan dalan daan dalan dalan
ten *sa-ŋa-puluq napulo sampulo sampo    
house *balay balay balay bahay baay balay

And Masbatenyo, Sorsoganon and Gubatnon also exhibit this pattern but I don’t know for the other  Warayan languages like Baybayanon/Utodnon and Kinabalian or even Porohanon.

Finally, a reminder from a comment by Florian Blaschke here is worth repeating: “The big problem with the attempt at establishing subgrouping with this kind of newfangled methods is that it relies on lexicon, which is a deadly sin in historical linguistics. Subgrouping is established on the grounds of shared innovations, preferrably morphological, nothing else. By relying on lexical similarities, the classification is misled and marred by secondary convergencies like Sprachbund phenomena or shared retention far too easily.”

And this as well to counter the above: “Faarlund says that `[e]ven though a massive number of new words are on their way into a language, it nevertheless retains its own grammar. This is almost a universal law….It is highly irregular to borrow the syntax and structure from one language and use it in another language.’ He’s mistaken in his belief that languages in contact can be counted on to retain their own grammar: there are hundreds of convincing examples of structural diffusion — including phonological, morphological, syntactic, semantic, and discourse features — in contact situations all over the world….In short, there’s a whole world of language contact phenomena out there. People borrow structures as well as words from their neighbors’ languages, and people who give up their native language and shift to someone else’s language make “learners’ errors” that introduce foreign structural features into the target language.”

Read this book for a study of what structural features can be borrowed, and stating that connectors or conjunctions are by far the most borrowed.This also states that syntax can be borrowed even if no lexicon is borrowed, with code-switching as a facilitating mechanism. Methodologies to identify syntactic structures that were borrowed include: (a) Irregular correspondences with sister languages, (b) Syntax associated with items known to be loans, (c) Similarities to surrounding languages, where not closely-related languages share parallel structures where more closely related languages share something different, (d) Exotic constructions and exceptions to the rule in the borrowing language

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