The Prefix HA-

When I wrote this post, I had a suspicion that its not just Bikol that has the prefix ha-, a prefix that is normally added to base words indicating some sort of spatio-temporal dimension. Although I have seen WarayWaray having this prefix as well in some of its adjectives, I never expected that it could be found in other Borneo-Philippine languages as well. I came across this database of Austronesian language words and it seems this is found in a number of other languages, but is slowly losing ground to ma– prefix.

Below is a table of comparison of 10 adjectives, 8 are related to spatio-temporal dimensions and the 2 others are not, for comparison purposes. I took the 11 largest languages in the Philippines, plus some more minority languages that have this prefix in at least a few of these adjectives.

English Gloss Tagalog Sugbuhanon Hiligaynon Kiniray-a Maranao Tausug Kapampangan Ilokano Pangasinan
wide malapad
lapad masaŋkad malapad mabelaŋ malakbaŋ malapad nalawa maawaŋ
narrow makitid hagipчot makitid malipчot masimpit masigpit makiput чakikid mainget
far malayoч layo malayoч rayo mawatan malayuч marayuч чadayu чarawi
near malapit duчol malapit rapit marani masuquk sípiŋ*


long mahabaч taчas kalabaчon labəg malabaч mahabaч makabaч чatiddog чanduquey
short maчikliч, maчiksiч
mubô malipчot lipчot
mababaч mababaq
makúyad, pandak чababa melag
thin manipis nipis maniwaŋ nipis manipis manipis maчimpís
naчiŋpis mabeŋ
thick makapal bagaч malapuyot daməl makapal marakmul makapal napuskol mataba
good mabuti maчáyo maчayo mayád mapia marayaw makayap**
naчimbag ma
bad masamaч daчután panuláy malaчin marataq maŋiq marók dakes maчoges

* according to my Kapampangan friend, malapit is the right word here. ‘siping’ actually ‘katabi’ in Tagalog.

** according to my Kapampangan friend, mayap is the right word here.

Read the rest of this entry »

Bikol and Tagalog as Tenseless Languages, Part 1

It is often mentioned in older grammar outlines of both Bikol and Tagalog that these languages have tenses. Shown below are the conjugation of two verbs in Bikol and Tagalog following these descriptions.

Tagalog Bikol
English Gloss “to hear”
Past narinig nadaŋog
Present naririnig nadadaŋog
Future maririnig madadaŋog
Imperative marinig madaŋog
Base Word dinig daŋog
Tagalog Bikol
English Gloss “to insert”
Past isiniksik чisinuksuk
Present isinisiksik чisinusuksuk
Future isisiksik чisusuksuk
Imperative isiksik чisuksuk
Base Word siksik suksuk

Even Jason Lobel, in his book “An Satuyang Tataramon” published in 2000, mentioned in page 86 that Bikol has 4 tenses: past, present, future and infinitive/imperative. The Wikipedia entry as April 10, 2009 for Tagalog makes a slight improvement by saying that Tagalog verbs do not conjugate for tense. It says there that there are 4 aspects: infinitive/imperative, perfective, imperfective and contemplative. I think both these descriptions are incorrect because (1) neither infinitive nor imperative are tenses, and (2) neither infinitive, imperative or contemplative are aspects. Aspect is what both these languages have and not tense.

A better explanation is given by Paul Kroeger in his book, “Analyzing Grammar, An Introduction” published in 2005. On pages, 162-163, he said and I will quote at length:

“To conclude our discussion of aspect, let us consider some tense-aspect combinations in Tagalog. Each Tagalog verb has three basic finite forms which are often referred to as past tense, present tense, and future tense. But this labelling is misleading. The “present tense” form could be used as a past progressive (“She was singing the Ave Maria when I arrived”) as well as a present progressive (“She is singing the Ave Maria”) or present habitual (“She sings the Ave Maria beautifully”). Similarly, the Tagalog “past tense” form can be used like the English simple past (“She sang”), present perfect (“She has sung”), or past perfect (“She had sung”).

These three forms involve two different affixes: (1) a nasal infix -in- (realized as initial /n/ in active voice formations beginning with mag-); and (2) reduplication (see chapter 16). The infinitival form of the verb lacks both of these, though it is marked for voice. Some examples of these forms are shown in (38): 6


Infinitive “Past” “Present” “Future” English Gloss
bigy-an b[in]igay-an b[in]i-bigy-an bi-bigy-an “to be given”
mag-luto nag-luto nag-lu-luto mag-lu-luto “to cook”
gawa-in g[in]awa g[in]a-gawa ga-gawa-in “to be made, done”

A number of authors have pointed out that this four-way contrast can be analyzed in terms of two fundamental distinctions. The infix -in- marks action as having been begun, which corresponds nicely to the contrast between REALIS vs. IRREALIS tense. CV reduplication marks actions as being non-completed; verbs which lacks this reduplication are in COMPLETIVE aspect, while the reduplicated forms are NON-COMPLETIVE.

The following table shows how these two categories combine to produce the forms in (38). The “past tense forms are those which are both begun and completed, i.e. realis tense and completive aspect. The “present tense” forms are those which are begun but not yet completed, i.e. realis tense and non-completive aspect. The “future tense” forms are those which are neither begun nor completed, i.e. irrealis tense and non-completive aspect. Of course, something which is not begun cannot be completed, so the combination of irrealis tense and completive aspect should be impossible. In fact, this combination, which corresponds to the morphologically unmarked form, is used for “tenseless” categories such as infinitives and imperatives.


Realis (-in) Irrealis (Ø)
Non-completive (REDUP) Present Future
Completive (Ø) Past (Infinitive)

Although Paul Kroeger’s description is better in that it recognizes these as the interplay of 2 distinctions, its not entirely correct as well: (1) Realis and Irrealis are not tenses, (2) the -in- infix does not actually mark action whether its been started, and (3) the aspectual distinction conveyed by reduplication and its absence is not between uncompleted and completed, respectively, thus the terms completive and non-completive are misleading aspect labels here. Talmy Givon, in her book, “Syntax, An Introduction” published in 2001, gives a better explanation of -in- or n- (Kroeger’s nasal infix -in-) as modal distinction, and is quoted in pages 359-360 as follows:

“Austronesian is one language family in which most irrealis clauses share a morphological marker, and can be then further marked for other distinctions, as can also realis clauses. Indeed, the realis-irrealis modal distinction is the major dichotomy in the Austronesian T-A-M system, and all other tense or aspect distinction are secondary elaborations added to it. This pattern may be illustrated with data from Bikol (Philippine), interpreted here as a nominative language.

The main distinction in Bikol verbal prefixes, which conflate grammatical voice and modality, is between realis and irrealis. Both the perfective/past and the progressive/present share the realis prefix nag-. The progressive is then further marked by first-syllable reduplication. Realis subordination clauses display the same nag- prefix as realis main clauses. Thus (M. Factora, i.p.c.):

(37) a. Perfective/past

nag-bakál ‘ang-lalake nin-libro
R/AGT-buy NOM-man ACC-book
‘the man bought a book’

b. Progressive/present

nag-ba-bakál ‘ang-lalake nin-libro
R/AGT-RED-buy NOM-man ACC-book
‘the man is buying a book’

c. Complement of implicative modality-verb

na-tapus ‘ang-lalake na nag-bakál [1] nin-libro
R/PAT-finish NOM-man SUB R/AGT-buy ACC-book
‘the man finished buying a book’

d. Complement of implicative manipulation-verb

nag-pirit ‘ang-lalake sa-babaye na nag-bakál [2] nin-libro
R/AGT-make NOM-man DAT-woman SUB R/AGT-buy ACC-book
‘the man forced the woman to buy a book’

e. Complement of factive cognition-verb

aram kang-lalake na nag-bakál ‘ang-babaye nin-libro
know OBV-man SUB R/AGT-buy NOM-woman ACC-book
‘the man knows that the woman bought a book’

f. Realis Adv-clause

kang nag-digdi ako, nag-karigos ako
when R/AGT-come I R/AGT-swim I
When I came (here), I took a swim’.

In contrast, most irrealis clauses share the prefix mag-. Thus compare:

(38) a. Future

mag-bakál [3] ‘ang-lalake nin-libro
IRR/AGT-buy NOM-man ACC-book
‘the man will buy a book’

b. Subjunctive-imperative (polite)

mag-bakál ka nin-libro
IRR/AGT-buy you ACC-book
‘Buy a book!’

c. Hortative

mag-ba-ra-kal kita manga-libro [4]
IRR/AGT-buy-PL we ACC/PL-book
‘Lets (all) buy books!”

d. Non-implicative modality-verb complement

muya na mag-ba-kal ‘ang-lalake nin-libro
want SUB IRR/AGT-buy NOM-man ACC-book
‘the man wants to buy a book’

e. Non-implicative manipulation-verb complement

nag-sabi ‘ang-lalake sa-babaye na mag-bakal nin-libro
R/AGT-tell NOM-man DAT-woman SUB IRR/AGT-buy ACC-book
‘the man told the woman to buy a book’

f. Non-factive cognition-verb complement

na-‘isip kang-lalake na mag-bakal ‘ang-babaye nin-libro
DAT-think OBV-man SUB IRR/AGT-buy NOM-woman ACC-book
‘the man thought that the woman bought a book’

g. Irrealis Adv-Clause

kung mag-digdi [5] ako, mag-karigos [3] ako
if IRR/AGT-come I IRR/AGT-swim I
If I come (here), I’ll take a swim.

A fairly similar grammatical distribution of a single irrealis marker, also covering the habitual, has been described in another Austronesian language, Fijian (Dixon, 1988). A similarly wide distribution of a single irrealis marker, also covering negative clauses, has been reported for Caddo and Northern Iroquois languages (Chafe 1995). Finally, the entire Mixtecan family in Mexico displays a similar wide distribution of a sigle irrealis prefix, also covering the negative clauses (Bradley and Hollenbach (eds 1988, 1990, 1991, 1992).”

Although I do not agree with her that Bikol is a nominative language, by and large, her description is quite correct. There are a few typographical errors (see the notes I provided below) which I think are mainly due to an oversight.

I will post my own description of Bikol Mood and Aspect in the following days.


[1]  I think the proper verb form here is mag-bakál (IRR/AGT-buy) if the English gloss is to stay. Otherwise, the gloss should read as “the man who bought a book finished…”

[2]  Same here. The proper verb form here is mag-bakál (IRR/AGT-buy) if the English gloss is to stay. Otherwise, the gloss should read as “the man forced the woman who bought a book…”

[3]  The proper verb form form here is “ma-bakál” (IRR/AGT-buy) if the English gloss is to stay. Otherwise, the gloss should read as “the man to buy a book..”

[4]  The right phrase should be “nin-manga-libro” (ACC/PL-book).

[5]  For the same reason stated in note#3, the proper verb form form here is “ma-digdi” (IRR/AGT-come) and “ma-karigos” (IRR/AGT-swim) if the English gloss is to stay. Otherwise, the gloss wouldn’t make any sense “If I to come (here), I to swim..” as the sentence is using a non-finite form for what should be a finite form slot.

Differences between Bikol and Tagalog

I’ve read somewhere that Bikol is the closest language to Tagalog, and it would be easy for Tagalogs to learn Bikol. Well, here I have written a list of differences between Tagalog and Bikol and judge for yourself if Bikol is easy to learn.

Another reason why I’ve written this post is to kindle interest in Bikol as it is far richer than Tagalog in certain respects. There’s been a lot of studies conducted on Tagalog, but not much about Bikol. I think this is due to the relative ease of accessibility to Tagalog materials, it has more speakers, more literature written in it and that it’s the national language.

I will not discuss here vocabulary differences between Bikol or Tagalog, since vocabulary is easy to borrow from language to language, but rather differences in phonology, morphology and syntax. I will use the KWP orthography for Tagalog (or Filipino). I will use my proposed orthography for Bikol here.

These are just the most notable differences. I will update this list as I come accross others.

1. Bikol retains the glottal stop (IPA: ʔ ) in syllable final positions, whether word internally or finally. Tagalog ellides it, resulting in vowel-final syllables.


SWP Orthography Opo, hindi nga po naligo si Gemo.
Words’s pronunciation in isolation (IPA) ʔo:poʔ hindiʔ ŋaʔ po? nali:goʔ si gemoʔ
Natural Speech (IPA) ʔo:poʔ-# hindi ŋa pu naligo si gemoʔ
English Gloss Yes, Gemo indeed did not took a bath (polite speech).

In Bikol, the glottal stops in syllable final positions, whether word internally or finally, are not lost when spoken within a group of words.


Proposed Orthography Ŋanaч naman чiyan kun pirmiŋ baчgoh чan badoч moh чoroчaldaw
Words’s pronunciation in isolation (IPA) ŋanaʔ na man ʔiyan kun pirmiŋ baʔgo ʔan ba:doʔ mo ʔoroʔaldaw
Natural Speech (IPA) ŋanaʔ na man yan kun pirmiŋ baʔgo ʔan ba:doʔ mo ʔoroʔaldaw
English Gloss That’s excessive if your clothes are always new every day.

And since ‘na’, ‘ay’ and ‘at’ are normally unstressed words in Tagalog, their vowels are dropped and consonant component attached to preceeding words ending in vowels or ‘n’.


Detached Attached
maganda na talon magandang talon
dahon na malapad dahong malapad
palibhasa ay palibhasay
sapagka at sapagkat
kaya at kayat
nguni at ngunit
datapwa at datapwat
bagaman at bagamat
subali at subalit

2. This second point is not a difference but I am mentioning it in this section so that some people will not look for it in the other sections. I would like to point out something that is normally classified as prefixation in Tagalog, as if this is another instance of a prefix use. For me that is totally wrong. This is instead an entirely different phenomena: a chroneme change (shift or reversal).


Written Word Verb (IPA) / English Gloss Nominal (IPA) / English Gloss (Occupation)
mag-aaral magʔa:a:ral will study magʔaʔaral student
mag-aasin magʔaʔasin will make salt magʔa:ʔa:sin salt maker/seller
mag-iitlog magʔi:ʔitlog will lay egg magʔiʔitlog egg seller
magbabakya magba:bakyaʔ will use wooden clogs magbabakyaʔ wooden clog maker/seller
magbibigas magbi:bigas will husk rice magbibigas husked rice seller
magpuputo magpu:pu:to will make rice cakes magpuputo rice cake maker/seller
magsasaka magsa:sa:ka will farm magsasaka farmer
manggagamot maŋga:gamot will cure maŋgagamot doctor, quack doctor
manggagantso maŋga:gantso will go defrauding maŋgagantso fraudster, cheater, swindler
mangangaso maŋa:ŋa:so will hunt with dogs maŋaŋa:so hunter
mangangahoy maŋa:ŋa:hoy will gather wood maŋaŋa:hoy lumberjack, logger
mangingisda maŋi:ŋisdaʔ will catch fish maŋiŋisdaʔ fisherman
manananggol mana:naŋgol will defend mananaŋgol lawyer
mamamangka mama:maŋkaʔ will go boating mamamaŋkaʔ boatman
mambabatas mamba:batas will make laws mambaba:tas lawmaker, congressman, senator, legislator, city councilor

Please note that this applies only with Tagalog verbs in the irrealis mood & continuative aspect. Bikol does not do this as it uses ‘para-‘ and ‘taga-‘ affixes to denote occupation. This chroneme change also happens in Bikol, but not for occupation but things, objects, implements, concepts, etc.


Written Word Verb (IPA) English Gloss Nominal (IPA) English Gloss
tataramon ta:taramon ‘something to be spoken’ tatara:mon word
kakanon kakanon to eat something kaka:non food

Tagalog has this as well. Additional examples will be posted later.

Word Formation: Compounding
1. There are a lot more compound words in Tagalog than in Bikol. Compounding is productive in Tagalog.

Tagalog English
asal-hayop (behavior+animal), bestial conduct
bahaghari (g-string+king), rainbow
basag-ulo (break+head), altercation, quarrel
buntong-hininga (heap+that+breath), sigh
dahongpalay (leaf+linker+rice), a green-colored poisonous snake
dalantao (bring+linker+human), pregnant
kapitbahay (adjoin+house), neighbor
hampas-lupa (strike+soil), tramp, bum, good-for-nothing
ingat-yaman (care+wealth), treasurer
pamatid-uhaw (for cutting+thirst), quencher
urong-sulong (go backward+go forward), hesitant, wavering

There is a dearth of compound words in Bikol.

Bikol English
чablondawanih (woven cloth+linker+legendary first woman), rainbow

2. ‘Tala- -an’ is treated as a cimcumfix in Tagalog, but I consider it as a compounded word talaan+word, and the word is inserted between tala- and -an. ‘tala’ means record, plus the word for what is recorded, plus the locative affix -an.

Tagalog English
talátinigan (record+voice+locative suffix), dictionary
taláaklatan (record+book+locative suffix), catalogue of books
taláarawan (record+day+locative suffix), calendar or diary
taláupahan (record+rent+locative suffix), payroll/wages
taláawitan (record+lyrics+locative suffix), book of lyrics
talátugtugan (record+melody+locative suffix), book of melodies

3. ‘sang-‘ is from ‘isa na’ meaning ‘one+linker’. Bikol and Tagalog has both words prefixed before numbers.

Tagalog Bikol English
sangdaan saŋgatos (one+linker+hundreds), One hundred
sanglibo saŋriboh (one+linker+one thousands), One thousand
sampo sampuloч (one+linker+tens), Ten

The difference is that ‘sang’ is more productive in Tagalog:

Tagalog English
sambahayan (one+linker+house+locative affix), household
sambayanan (one+linker+town+locative affix), town’s populace
sambuhat (one+linker+lift), synchronized lifting
sandakot (one+linker+handscoop), a handful
sandali (one+linker+quick), one moment
sandamak (one+linker+handbreadth), a handbreadth
sandangkal (one+linker+handspan), a span from thumb to middle finger
sandipa (one+linker+fathom), a fathom
sanduguan (one+linker+blood+locative affix), blood compact
sanlaksa (one+linker+ten thousands), ten thousand
sanlinggo (one+linker+week), one week
sansala (one+linker+wrong doing), prohibition
sansalita (one+linker+word), one word
sansinukoban (one+linker+cover+locative affix), universe
santambak (one+linker+heap), one big heap/pile
santaon (one+linker+year), one year
santinakpan (one+linker+cover+locative affix), universe
santuka (one+linker+beak), one peck
sang-angaw (one+linker+millions), one million
sang-ayon (one+linker+agree), conformity
sangkalangitan (one+linker+sky+locative affix), heavens, firmament
sangkapuluan (one+linker+archipelago), the whole archipelago
sangkatauhan (one+linker+people), humanity
sangkatutak (one+linker+many), a group of very many/numerous members
sangkaterba (one+linker+many), a group of very many/numerous members
sangkawan (one+linker+flock), a flock, herd, school
sangyuta (one+linker+hundred thousands), one hundred thousand

Bikol have a few words implying agreement or oneness.

Bikol English
saŋhulih (one+linker+last), agreement to buy at half the price and halve the profit with the original seller once resold.
saŋgawad (one+linker+assist), be an assistant
saŋgilid (one+linker+edge), navigation along one of the river banks.
sampaliŋ (one+linker+turn to one side), slap/smack on the face

4. di-‘ is a Tagalog prefix word meaning ‘not’, similar to English ‘in-, im-, non-, un-“. This is absent in Bikol.

Tagalog Bikol English gloss
di-kasal daчih kasal ‘unmarried’
di-karapatdapat daчih nadadapat ‘unworthy’
di-maganda bakoŋ magayon ‘not beautiful
di-magkasundo daчih magkasundoч ‘incompatible’
di-maari daчih pwedeh ‘impossible’
di-akalain daчih akalaчon ‘unexpected’
di-tiyak daчih siguradoh ‘unsure’

Bikol uses 2 words to negate a phrase, bakuч and daчih. Bakuч is preposed before nominals and daчih before verbs.

Word Formation: Affixation – Nominal Morphology
1. It is often indicated that Tagalog has a circumfix ‘papag- -an’ independent of ‘pag- -an’. I don’t agree. ‘papag–an’ is ‘pag- -an’ in imperfective aspect form, where the first CV is repeated or reduplicated. This is not ‘pa-‘ plus ‘pag-‘ prefix.

Tagalog pag–an > IRR: <Redup>pag–an > <pa>pag–an
Bikol pag–an > IRR : pag–an > pa: –an

Since ‘pag-‘ is the nominal form of the verbal prefix ‘mag-‘, ‘pag-‘ prefix will follow how the ‘mag-‘ prefix also is conjugated in Irrealis mood. In Bikol, ‘mag-‘ becomes ‘ma:-‘ in the imperfective aspect, irrealis mood of the verb. With Tagalog ‘mag-‘, the light version of the 1st syllable of the base word is reduplicated. But since ‘pag-‘ affixed word is not a verb, the entire word is treated as a base word.

Tagalog Bikol English
pagsayawan > papagsayawan pagsayawan > pa:sayawan  
pagbayuhan > papagbayuhan pagbabayuhan > pa:babayuhan  
paglutuan > papaglutuan paglutuчan > pa:lutuчan  
pagkulahan > papagkulahan pagkulahan > pa:kulahan  

The same relation applies between the Tagalog circumfixes ‘papag–in’ and ‘pag–in’

Tagalog Bikol English
pag-aralin > papag-aralin pagчadalon > pa: чadalon  
paglakbayin > papaglakbayin pagbaklayon > pa:baklayon  
pag-awayin > papag-awayin pagчiwalon > pa:чiwalon  
paglaruin > papaglaruin pagkawaton > pa:kawaton  
paghiwain > papaghiwain paggirison > pa:girison  
pagtilarin > papagtilarin pagtiladon > pa:tiladon  

‘papag–an’ and ‘papag–in’ have future meaning since its not in the Realis mood. For verbs in realis mood, the Perfective Aspect is has a default past meaning, while the Imperfective  Aspect has present meaning. In Irrealis Mood, the Perfective(non-continuative) aspect has a neutral tense, but the Imperfective (continuative) aspect cannot be present or past since it is not happening now or in the past.

2. Bikol has both para– and taga– prefixes to refer to regular, habitual or professional actions, whereas Tagalog only ‘tagapag-‘ or ‘mang-‘. ‘Mang-‘ is just the Irrealis active verb conjugation with reduplication but nominalized through chroneme shifting (see earlier discussion).

Tagalog Bikol English
mananahi paratahiч seamstress, tailor
manganganta parakantah singer (as a solo profession)
tagapagluto paralutoh cook, chef
magsasaka paraчumah farmer-owner
mangaaway paraчiwal fighter
? parapakiчaram nosy

Taga– means that the doer is limited/restricted to doing the action of the verb, where it involves other persons doing other parts of the processes or steps.

Tagalog Bikol English
tagatahi tagatahiч person doing the sewing only, not cutting of fabrics or washing, etc
tagakanta, tagaawit tagakantah, tagaчawit singer (in a band, other members do the drums, guitar, etc)
tagaluto tagalutoч cook (another is doing the preparation before cooking or serving after cooking)
tagasaka tagaчumah farmer (someone else doing the planting, harvesting, husking, financing, selling, etc.)
tagaaway tagaчiwal fighter (someone else doing the mediation, refereeing, etc in a fight)

‘Tagapag-‘ is derived from ‘taga-‘ (the same affix above) plus ‘-pag-‘ : ‘pag-‘ is the nonfinite form of the verbal affix ‘mag-‘ added to imply a more direct, active role in doing the action. The combined affixes imply a more restricted role in the doing of the nominalized (pag-) action.

What’s the difference between ‘taga-‘, ‘tagapag-‘, ‘tagapa-‘, ‘tagapang-‘? Taga- is the affix as discussed above. -pag-, -pa-, and -pang- are the nonfinite forms of the verbal orientation affixes mag-, ma- and mang-, thus the meaning added is the meaning of those verbal orientation affixes. I will discuss these verbal orientation affixes in another post. Both of these are present in Tagalog and Bikol.


tagalista tagapalista tagapaglista tagapanglista
tagadala tagapadala tagapagdala tagapangdala
tagaulat tagapaulat tagapagulat tagapangulat
tagahukay tagapahukay tagapaghukay tagapanghukay


tagalistah tagapalistah tagapaglistah tagapaŋlistah
tagadarah tagapadarah tagapagdarah tagapaŋdarah
tagaчusip tagapaчusip tagapagчusip tagapaŋчusip
tagakalot tagapakalot tagapagkalot tagapaŋkalot

The persons indicated by these words are different. The tagalista is the same as the tagapaglista, the tagapalista, tagapangllista and tagalista are different persons/role in the action lista.

Although the forms are identical in Bikol, the meanings are not. The Bikol words with ‘tagapag-‘ do not have the same meanings as those with ‘para-‘. Para is intensive, tagapag is semi-intensive.

Thus, both the ‘mang-‘ with reduplication and ‘tagapag-‘ are present in Bikol as well, except that Bikol does not shift the chroneme in ‘mang-‘ to get the ‘profession’ meaning and ‘tagapag-‘ has a restricted meaning compared with ‘para-‘, and very little meaning difference with ‘taga-‘.

It is also to be noted that in Bikol, para- can be combined with <pa> : parakakan, parapakakan, parapangkakan. Parapagkakan is absent since it is already embodied in parakakan.

3. Kag– prefix in Bikol has no Tagalog counterpart. Its signifies the doer or agent of a completed/finished action if a verb, or owner if a noun. To express this in Tagalog, one has to say use may-, which is also present in Bikol. It means ‘with’.

Tagalog Bikol English
maykapal kaglalaŋ/maylalaŋ ‘creator/ person with creation
mayhandog kagdulot/maydulot ‘donor/person with donation
may-bahay* kagharoŋ/mayharoŋ ‘house owner/person with the house’
maylikha kaggiboh/maygiboh ‘manufacturer, maker, composer/person with the works
maysakit *kaghelaŋ/mayhelaŋ xx/person with the sickness, patient

*may-bahay and maybahay are different. Maybahay means ‘housewife’ in Tagalog.

One cannot say in Bikol kaghelang since helang is not a verb; may– is used for general possession or possession of anything while kag– is used for doer of an action or the active agent. Since kag– is absent in Tagalog, Tagalog cannot make such distinction.

4. Bikol has mako– and pako– prefixes, which imply relationship indicated by the rootword. This is absent in Tagalog.

Tagalog Bikol English
pamangking lalaki makoчamaч ‘nephew’
pamangking babae makoчinaч ‘niece’
apo makoчapoч ‘granchild’
amain, tiyuhin pakoчamaчon ‘uncle’
tiyahin pakoчinaчon ‘auntie’

5. Pagkani– prefix in Bikol, meaning “the state of having become (in the past)”, is absent in Tagalog. The –ni– component is the same one present in another Bikol prefix mani– ‘to have become’. The approximate expression in Tagalog would be to say ‘pagkakapaging’ , which is also possible in Bikol.  pagkakapaging  literally means “the state of being been (in the past)”,

Tagalog Bikol English (very literal meaning)
pagkakapaging gwapo pagkanigwapoh / pagkakapagiŋ gwapoh ‘the state of having become/being been handsome’
pagkakapaging tao pagkanitahoh / pagkakapagiŋ tahoh ‘the state of having become/being been human’
pagkakapaging bata pagkaniчakiч / pagkakapagiŋ чakiч ‘the state of having become/being been a child’
pagkakapaging bata pagkanihalaŋkaw / pagkakapagiŋ halaŋkaw ‘the state of having become/being been tall’
pagkakapaging asawa pagkaniчagom / pagkakapagiŋ чagom ‘the state of having become/being been a spouse’
pagkakapaging bayan pagkanibanwaчan / pagkakapagiŋ banwaчan ‘the state of having become/being been a town’
pagkakapaging ina pagkaniчinaч / pagkakapagiŋ чinaч ‘the state of having become/being been a mother’

This is different from pagka– prefix, meaning ‘the state of having’ or from pagiging  ‘the state of being’.

Tagalog Bikol English
pagkagwapo / pagiging gwapo pagkagwapoh / pagigiŋ gwapoh ‘the state of having handsomeness/being handsome’
pagkatao / pagiging tao pagkatahoh / pagigiŋ tahoh ‘the state of having human-ness/being human’
pagkabata / pagiging bata pagkaчakiч / pagigiŋ чakiч ‘the state of having child-ness/being a child’
pagkamataas / pagiging mataas pagkahalaŋkaw / pagigiŋ halaŋkaw ‘the state of having tallness/ being tall’
pagka-asawa / pagiging asawa pagkaчagom / pagigiŋ чagom ‘the state of having spouse-ness/being a spouse’


Word Formation: Affixation – Adjectival Morphology
1. Tagalog has an affix ‘pala-‘ meaning’ habitually’. This is expressed in Bikol as main– or –Vron‘. Technically they’re different meanings. Both are absent from each other. Note that ‘pala-‘ is only affixed to verbs.

Tagalog Bikol English
paladasal maminiчbiч ‘habitually prays’
palabiro masinubah ‘habitually jokes’
palaimpok matinimos ‘habitually saves’
palalinis (?)malininig ‘habitually cleans’
palangiti mahinuyom ‘habitually smiles’

‘mapa-‘, ‘mapag-‘ and ‘mapang-‘ are used for both nominal words and verb to have the same ‘habitual’ meaning.

Tagalog Bikol English
mapagmura maminuda ‘habitually curses’
mapagbiro masinuba ‘habitually jokes’
mapag-irap mainirap ‘habitually sneers’
mapaglakad malinakaw ‘habitually walks’
mapagtawa manginisi ‘habitually laughs’
mapang-away parapaki-iwal ‘habitually quarrel with someone’
mapang-inis   ‘habitually annoy someone’
mapambato   ‘habitually stone someone’
mapanira   ‘habitually destroys’
mapanuro matinukdo ‘habitually point someone out’

‘mapa-‘, ‘mapag-‘ and ‘mapang-‘ all imply ’cause the subject to do’ something, whether involuntarity agent subject (mapa-), voluntary agent subject (mapag-, implies habitual action also), or agent subject induces another agent (mapang-).

Tagalog ‘mapa-‘, ‘mapag-‘ and ‘mapang-‘ are not exact semantic equivalents of Bikol para– or Tagalog ‘pala-‘. ‘mapa-‘, ‘mapag-‘ and ‘mapang-‘ are combinations of ‘ma-‘ adjectival prefix meaning ‘full of’ plus the non-finite forms of the verb. Bikol main-‘ has also this same ‘ma-‘ adjectival prefix but does not mean the same as ‘ma(pa-,pag-,pang-)’. Bikol para-‘ is purely a verb prefix. I am unsure if Tagalog ‘pala-‘ shifted in meaning/use from verbal to adjectival.

2. Bikol has ha– as prefix for a special class of adjectives, with the rest of adjectives using ‘ma-. Ha– is affixed only to bases indicating spatio-temporal dimensions. Tagalog has only ma– for all adjectives.

Tagalog Bikol English
mataas halaŋkaw ‘tall’
mababa hababaч ‘low’
malalim hararom ‘deep’
mababaw hababaw ‘shallow’
mahaba halabaч ‘long (spatial)’
matagal halawig ‘long (temporal)’
maiksi haliчpot ‘short (spatial & temporal)’
malayo harayoч ‘far’
malapit haranih ‘near’
makipot hayakpit ‘narrow’
malapad halakbaŋ ‘wide’

There are the only exceptions, which follow the other adjectives:

Tagalog Bikol English
makapal mahiчbog ‘thick’
manipis mahimpis ‘thin’

3. Bikol has a –non suffix, meaning ‘in the nature of’. This is absent in Tagalog.

Tagalog Bikol English
x Bikolnon ‘Bikol+nature, ‘Bikolish’
x Diyosnon ‘God+nature, godly/divine’
x dagatnon ‘sea+nature, marine’
x laŋitnon ‘sky+nature, heavenly’
x turognon ‘sleep+nature, sleepy/always sleeping,

One cannot say in Bikol tagaturog or tagadiyos, thus –non and taga– are different. When taga– is prefixed to a noun, it denotes a place or spatial location, with the resulting meaning of a person or people residing from or native of a place.

Tagalog Bikol English
taga-Bikol tagaBikol ‘Bikol native/resident’
taga-Manila tagaManilaч ‘Manila native/resident’

Syntax and Function Words
1. Tagalog has the topic marker ‘ay’, Bikol has ‘чiyoh’ as internal topic marker in equational sentences only but this is not obligatory, for a pause or even nothing can replace it. The pause is the only possible external topic marker.


Tagalog Ang mga bata ay naglalaro ng taguan sa aming bahay.
Bikol Чan maŋah чakiч *(чiyoh/no pause) nagkakawat nin taraguчan sah samoŋ baloy
English The children are playing hide and seek at our house.

The asterisk (*) in *iyo means its either unattested or ungrammatical to say with ‘iyo’, while ‘/’ means another possibility.

Tagalog Sa aming bahay ay naglalaro ang mga bata ng taguan.
Bikol Sah samoŋ baloy *чiyoh/(pause) nagkakarawat чan maŋah чakiч nin taraguчan.
English At our house, the children are playing hide and seek.

Iyo as topic marker in equational sentence:

Tagalog Siya ay ang maganda.
Bikol Siyah чiyoh/(no pause) чan magayon.
English She is the beautiful one.

In descriptive sentence, iyo is not obligatory:

Tagalog Siya ay maganda.
Bikol Siyah *чiyoh/(no pause) magayon.
English She is beautiful.

I would depart from Hirano who called ‘ay’ a Topic marker and call ‘ay’ instead as a Focus marker in a thematic equative sentence. It is not a Topic marker, unlike ‘wa’ in Japanese, since all markers in Tagalog (ang, ng, sa, si, sina, ni, nina, kay, kina, etc) are prepositions (placed before) unlike Japanese (ga, o, de, ni, etc) which are postpositions (placed after). Also, it does not appear with the topic if the topic is not word initial. It can’t even be called a Topic-Focus linker since ‘ay’, unlike ‘na’ in Tagalog, cannot appear if the words or phrases being linked is reversed.


NOM na ADJ saging na matamis
ADJ na NOM matamis na saging
English Gloss sweet banana
TOP ay FOC siya ay maganda
FOC ay TOP *maganda ay siya.
English Gloss She is pretty

‘ay’ then is more a Focus marker, if it appears after the topic. In normal sentences, there is no need to mark the focus since it is at the start of the sentence (VSO or VOS sentence pattern).

2. Bikol have no demonstrative equivalent to ‘ire’ in Tagalog, although in Tagalog, that is rarely used lately. With ire’s continued loss, ito is shifting meaning to mean just ‘close to speaker’.

Tagalog ire ito iyan iyon/yoon
Bikol *чidih чinih чiyan чitoh/чidtoh
English this/these (near me), this/these (near you and me), that/those (near you), that/those (far from you and me)

*чidih is a hypothetical form not found in Bikol.

Tagalog yoon and Bikol чidtoh can mean ‘it’ and refer to things that are not visible.

3. Tagalog has comparative and existential demonstrative forms which are absent in Bikol, but can be expressed using 2 words.


Tagalog nandine nandito/narito nandiyan/nariyan nandoon/naroon
English in here (near me) in here (near you and me) in there (near you) in there yonder (far from you and me)


Tagalog ganire ganito ganiyan ganoon
English like this (near me) like this (near you and me) like that (near you) like that yonder (far from you and me)

For Bikol to do that would require 2 words:

Existential = uya + locative:

Bikol x чuyah digdih чuyah diyan чuyah duman
Tagalog *nasa dine *nasa dito *nasa ayan *nasa iyon

Comparative = arog + genitive:

Bikol x чarog kaчinih чarog kaчiyan чarog kaчitoh/katoh
Tagalog gaya nire gaya nito gaya niyan gaya niyon

4. Tagalog has additional personal pronouns ‘kata, nita and kanita’ although they are rarely used now. These are lacking in Bikol.


Person / Clusivity Nominative Genitive Oblique
Tagalog Bikol Tagalog Bikol Tagalog Bikol
1st-Excl ako чakoh ko koh, niyakoч akin sakuyaч, sakoч
1st-Incl kata x nita x kanita x
2nd ikaw,ka чikah,kah mo moh iyo saчimoh
3rd siya siyah niya niyah kanya saчiyah


Person / Clusivity Nominative Genitive Oblique
Tagalog Bikol Tagalog Bikol Tagalog Bikol
1st-Excl kami kamih namin mih, niyamoч amin samoч, samuyaч
1st-Incl tayo kitah natin tah, niyatoч atin satoч, satuyaч
2nd kayo kamoh ninyo nindoh inyo saчindoh
3rd sila sindah nila nindah kanila saчindah

It is not right to call the minimal series as singular since the 1st-inclusive is actually dual in meaning. Bikol lacks 1st Inclusive minimal series ‘kata, nita and kanita’.

Tagalog and Bikol has 1 more pronoun each not in the above list. Tagalog ‘kita’ and Bikol taka are portmanteau personal pronouns, being a combined 1st-Exclusive genitive ‘ko’ and 2nd person nominative ‘ikaw’/ka’ or чikah/ka.

Tagalog Tinanong kita.
Bikol Hinapot takah.
English I asked you.
Tagalog Mahal kita.
Bikol Namomoчtan takah.
English I love you.

Word Formation: Affixation – Verbal Morphology
1. Magpati– prefix is rarer in Tagalog than in Bikol. The prefix means ‘to let/allow oneself to, without resistance, passively’

magpatihulog to allow oneself to fall (from a tree, building, other high place)
magpatianod to allow oneself to drift (in a current or river)

Tagalog ‘magpatiwakal’ ‘to kill oneself’ is most likely not an instance of ‘magpati-‘ affix, but of ‘magpa-‘ affix, since (1) the base word is most likely tiwakal, and (2) Magpatiwakal has an active meaning and not passive. There exists no base word ‘wakal ‘ in Tagalog now and if ‘wakal’ is the root word, wakal could be related to ‘wakas’ ‘end’, or to Bikol ‘wakay’ meaning ‘(1) to scatter or spread, (2) to eviscerate, disembowel’. Magpatiwakal could mean then ‘to allow oneself to be scattered/spread, by cutting oneself’. Or it can refer to a suicide method, but as of now we plainly do not know.

Instances of magpati– in Bikol includes:

magpatihulog to allow oneself to fall (from a tree, building, other high place)
magpatiчanod to allow oneself to drift (in a current or river)
magpatibasaŋ to leave oneself to chance
magpatiwaraч to allow one’s possession go to nothing
magpatilagbaч to let itself become elongated

And since magpati– is in active voice, there is also a passive voice:
чipati-, pati– –on, pati– –an.

Versative Orientation Lative Orientation Essive Orientation
чipinatihulog pinatihulog pinatihulogan
чipinatiчanod pinatiчanod pinatiчanodan
чipinatibasaŋ pinatibasaŋ pinatibasaŋan
чipinatiwaraч pinatiwaraч pinatiwaraчan
чipinatilagbaч pinatilagbaч pinatilagbaчan

2. Bikol can express plural verbs through –Vr– infix in all moods, transitivity, iterativity, aspects, voices, and focus, while Tagalog has a limited plural affix ‘-si-‘, productive only with ‘mag’ ( > magsi-) and mangag ( > mangagsi-). These Tagalog forms are very seldom used. Tagalog has no plural forms for ‘ma-‘, ‘mang-‘, ‘-in’, ‘-an’, ‘-um’ and ‘i-‘, thus Tagalog ‘si-‘ prefix may not have a plural meaning originally. We will compare ‘magsi-‘ with Visayan prefix ‘masig-‘ in another post.


Tagalog Naglalaro ang bata.
Bikol Nagkakawat чan чakiч.
English The child is playing.


Tagalog Nagsisilaro ang mga bata, or frequently, Naglalaro ang mga bata.
Bikol Nagkakarawat чan maŋah чakiч.
English The children are playing.

This –Vr– infix appears in all verb conjugations in Bikol. This infix appears also in nouns and adjectives with plural connotations as well:

pagbaraŋaчbaŋaч division
pagpurustahan betting game (plural actors)
pagчiribah company (plural actors)
pagkaчaramigoh friendship (plural person)
kapagчarakiчan generation
harababaч short (plural form)
mararah dry (plural form)

This cannot be used to mean plural nouns. Maŋah is used for that.

pagbaraŋaчbaŋaч maŋah pagbaraŋaчbaŋaч
pagpurustahan maŋah pagpurustahan
pagчiribah maŋah pagчiribah
pagkaчaramigoh maŋah pagkaчaramigoh
kapagчarakiчan maŋah kapagчarakiчan
harababaч maŋah harababaч
mararah maŋah mararah

Maŋag– prefix in Tagalog is not a plural affix, its a collective affix meaning ‘to (do) together with, or in company with’, which is also present in Bikol. This is different from abilitative affix (-ka-). Although fully productive, collective affixes are infrequently used, especially in Bikol. Maŋag– affix is not a comitative/sociative/associative affix since its subject has to be a group including the subject, not someone with whom the subject did the action.

Tagalog Nangagsisilaro ang mga bata, or frequently, Nangaglaro ang mga bata.
Bikol Naŋaŋagkarawat чan maŋah чakiч, or Naŋaŋagkawat чan maŋah чakiч.
English The children (as a group) are playing

Note that Bikol and Tagalog reduplicates different syllables.

The affix nag– –an has reciprocal meaning “to (do) to each other” and is not a plural suffix. This is present in both Bikol and Tagalog. –an suffix has reciprocal meaning only if affix together with nag-, if used alone, it has a locative meaning, unless there is a chroneme shift.

Tagalog Nagsisuntukan sila, or frequently, Nagsuntukan sila.
Bikol Nagsuruntukan sindah.
English They punched each other.

Reciprocal and collective meaning can go together as naŋag– –an. This implies 2+ participants, since there has to be person who can do it to each other and together.

Tagalog Nangagsisisuntukan sila, or frequently, Nangagsusuntukan sila.
Bikol Naŋaŋagsuruntukan sindah or Naŋaŋagsuntukan sindah.
English They punching each other and with each other. (a free for all punching)

Verbs with reciprocal affix co-occur with the subjects in the plural (Bikol & Tagalog) and the verbs may or may not be in the plural (Bikol). This is due to number agreement. Collective affix in Bikol is preferrable without the plural infix, but is possible if several groups.

3. Bikol can express action iterativity, making 3 distinctions, Tagalog cannot. In Bikol, action iterativity distinctions are: non-iterative (no affix), occasional iterative (taga– prefix) and continuous iterative (para– prefix). In Tagalog, the continuous iterative is done by repeating the verb, as shown below.


Tagalog Naglalaro ang bata.
Bikol Nagkakawat чan чakiч. (Non-iterative)
English The child is playing (one complete action).
Tagalog x
Bikol Nagtatagakawat чan чakiч. (Occasional Iterative)
English The child is playing every now and then (with significant interval).
Tagalog Naglalaro nang naglalaro ang bata.
Bikol Nagpaparakawat чan чakiч. (Continuous Iterative)
English The child is playing again and again (non-stop or insignificant interval ).


Tagalog Nagsisilaro ang mga bata.
Bikol Nagkakarawat чan maŋah чakiч. (Non-iterative)
English The childen are playing (one complete action).
Tagalog x
Bikol Nagtatagakarawat чan maŋah чakiч.(Occasional Iterative)
English The children are playing every now and then (with significant interval).
Tagalog Nagsisilaro nang nagsisilaro ang mga bata.
Bikol Nagpaparakarawat чan maŋah чakiч.(Continuous Iterative)
English The children are playing again and again (non-stop or insignificant interval ).

This is fully productive in all verb conjugations even with collective and reciprocal meanings, and even in nonfinite forms of the verb.


4. Standard Bikol has imperative mood apart from indicative mood through the suffixes –ih and –ah, Standard Tagalog has not. Tagalog dialects close to Bikol and Bisayan languages have, like Quezon Tagalog and Marindoque Tagalog. I do not know if Mindoro Tagalog and Batangas Tagalog dialects have them as well.

Tagalog Bigyan mo ako ng kanin.
Bikol Taчuhan moh чakoh nin malutoч or Taчuhih чakoh nin malutoч.
English Give me (cooked) rice.
Tagalog Kainin mo ang kanin.
Bikol Kakanon moh чan malutoч or Kakanah чan malutoч.
English Eat the (cooked) rice.

5. Both Tagalog and Bikol has active affixes (mag-, ma-, maŋ-, maŋag– and mani-(Bikol only)/magiŋ-) and passive affixes (-in, –an, чi– and –um-). But in Tagalog, majority of verbs either conjugates for –um– or mag– only. In Bikol, both conjugations are possible.

Others have called this a verbal case system, but I think this is not correct, as ‘case’ normally is applied to verb arguments, not the verb itself, and that Tagalog & Bikol has real case markers, called prepositions. Verb Orientation system would be a better term.

Tagalog Umiyak (*Nagiyak) ang bata.
Bikol Huminibiч (Naghibiч) чan чakiч.
English The child cried.
Tagalog Umupo (*Nagupo) ang bisita.
Bikol Tuminokaw (Nagtukaw) чan bisitah.
English The guest/visitor sat down.
Tagalog Dumating (*Nagdating) kami kahapon.
Bikol Чuminabot (Nagчabot) kamih kasuhapon.
English We arrived yesterday.
Tagalog Nagtanim (*tumanim) ako ng saging.
Bikol Nagtanom (Tuminanom) чakoh nin batag.
English We planted a banana.
Tagalog Nagtanong (*tumanong) siya sa guro.
Bikol Naghapot (Huminapot) siyah sah paratukdoч.
English He/she asked the teacher.

* indicates that this form is unattested and/or ungrammatical.

Both –um– and mag– are fully productive in Bikol, although the irrealis imperfective forms are the same in both. Here is an example for the verb ‘tanom’ ‘to plant’.

Mag- -um-
Irrealis Perfective magtanom tumanom
Imperfective matanom matanom
Realis Mood Perfective nagtanom tuminanom
Imperfective nagtatanom minatanom

There is syncretism in the irrealis imperfective forms of mag– and –um-. The mag– irrealis imperfective conjugation is irregular and should have been *magtatanom. Such pattern or rule exists in Tagalog (magtatanim). The –um– irrealis imperfective and realis imperfective conjugations are irregular and should have been *tumatanom and *tuminatanom. The correct irrealis imperfective conjugation exists in Tagalog (tumatanim) but as –um– realis imperfective conjugation.

What is the distinction between mag– and –um-? Mag– is active voice, –um– is deponent passive voice, that is, it is active in meaning (syntax) but has a passive form (morphology). Passive voice is indicated in Bikol and Tagalog by morphology and never by syntax. In Tagalog, there is only very limited verbs that can be conjugated for both, but it is fully productive in Bikol.

Both Bikol and Tagalog doesn’t have dedicated reflexive affix or dedicated comitative affixes. Abilitative affix –ka– and –ki– affix can have comitative meanings, but that is not their primary meaning.

6. Bikol has the prefix mani– ‘to become’, which is unproductive and almost absent in Tagalog, if only for the sole occurence of ‘manibago’.

Tagalog Bikol English
maging tao manitahoh ‘become a man’
maging ina maniчinaч ‘become a mother’
maging anak maniчakiч ‘become a child’
maging bayan manibanwaчan ‘become a town’
maging bago manibaчgoh ‘become new, feel new’

“Maging bago” is also manibago in Tagalog. That’s the only word with mani– prefix in Tagalog. Bikol also uses the verbal auxilliary magiŋ.

This prefix is related to pagkani– (pagkanibaчgoh) and pani– (panibaчgoh). See above discussion of pagkani-.

7. Bikol has an alternative affix for –in– (realis mood), which is pig– for passive verbs. Tagalog does not have that.

Kuminakan > *Pigkumakan (not possible)
Kinakan > Pigkakan
Чikinakan > Чipigkakan
Kinakanan > Pigkakanan

Register or Speech Level
Bikol has a a speech level or register not found in any Philippine language. Its called “angry register” by Jason Lobel but is a misnomer since one does not have to be angry to use it. One can use it if irritated, or wants to intimidate, antagonize, shock, to illicit laughter, to spice up a conversation, or to put people down or outside their normal place. I would call it Palanit, and the other register Palumhok. Palanit register can also use words that imply vulgar, unpolished behavior, or apply words normally descriptive of animals. Both palanit and palumhok describe the speaker’s attitude towards the thing, or emotions at that moment. The following are just a few of the examples in Bikol.

Palumhok Palanit English
чakiч buldaŋ child, kid
чalinawnaw malsuk eye center (iris & pupil)
чapon daklag, batikal, tapok throw
чayam,dayoч damayoч, gamadyaч dog
bagas lamasgas husked rice
bagyoh, чuran bagrak, bagwak rain, typhoon
batay tuчmak step on something
bitis samiŋkil legs
kakan gutok, sibaч, lamon eat
kamot kamulmog hand
kurahaw kagrat, kagsiŋ shout
kuyamad kusmad, kuspad lice eggs
kwartah samagtak, sagtak, sagrak money
dagaч bugaчgaч land
daplaч sukamaŋ fall flat on the face
guraŋ gusgus old person
gutom guslok hungry
halas lasulas snake
haliч lantuчag, lantot go away, leave
haroŋ biray house
hibiч ŋuraŋaw cry
higdaч чulmoŋ lie down
higdaчan чulmoŋan bed
чintsik tugalsik Chinese
laчag bugtak put, place
lakawlakaw baraybasay walk
laboy lapuk mud
lubot lusabot behind, ass
maчan, mansay чagimadmad  
matah чamamatak eye
mataŋaч gabsok midnight
muroч guramoy fingers, toes
ŋipon ŋisloч teeth
ŋisih ŋakŋak, pusŋak laugh
ŋusoч buŋaŋaч, ŋuraspak, ŋurapak mouth
ŋuyaч sakabsakab chew
чorig tukaчrig pig
padiч lamasdiч priest
sukah sukalkag vomit
taliŋah taliŋogŋog ear
taram yamutam, yamyam talk
tugaŋ kabugtoч brother/sister
tukaw lapigaч sit
turog tiplaч, tupsok, tuspok sleep
чuran dunag, bagwak rain
чutak чalimantak mind, brain
burat lusrat, lasŋaw drunk, intoxicated
kawat hamlaч play
buŋog lusŋog deaf
nasuloч natuprod burnt

Paŋsahayop are words normally applied to animals but could be applied to humans. These words hit harder when used.

Paŋtahoh Paŋhayop English
kagat taчkab bite
чinom raчraч drink
kakan habhab eat
kukoh kukud nail
duŋoч чuŋos nose
barayboh balukag body hair
giчtil kirag flirt
darah lalay, tabag carry
taram чuŋaч talk
ba:gaч hasaŋ lungs
ŋabil tukaч lips
matabaч lumbalumbah, чorig fat
maniwaŋ чatitiчras, tabilih thin
kublit чanit skin
чagisis kagiskis, kiskis dry, scaly skin
kakanon bahog food
sabaw sagmaw soup
taramtaram purakputak  

Palanit is different than vulgar language or ‘rapsak’. The following are rapsak words and are mostly tabooed so I am indicating their respective replacement words “Panaŋliч”.

Palumhok (Rapsak) Palanit (Rapsak) English Gloss Panaŋliч
pipiч, pitaч, buray, putay lamasdak vagina kinabuhay
pisot, pikoy, butoч himutoч penis kinabuhay
lapit, bayag lamaчyag testicles sugok
kitoч sagbat fuck durog
laчtog x erect tanos
bulbul x pubic hair buhok, barayboh

Palanit words are not cuss words since cuss words are called ‘raway’ or ‘mudah’. I will not list curse words here.

Bikol speech register is the opposite of the 9 register levels in Basa Jawa (Javanese) which are more oriented towards politeness & respect: krama inggil (honorific – talking to people of higher status), krama madya (intermediate – talking to people of same social status/age) & ngoko (ordinary – talking to people of lower status, or familiar/related people). The 9 levels in descending order are mudha-krama, kramantara, wreda-krama, madya-krama, madyantara, madya-ngoko, basa-antya, antya-basa, ngoko-lugu.

Because of these, it can be said that Bikol is far richer, more expressive than Tagalog in verbal, adjectival, and nominal morphology and speech levels. But Tagalog is richer in compounding, topic/comment markings, and function words. But those Tagalog characteristics are easy to borrow, being words. Tagalog will have a harder time borrowing those Bikol features, even the speech register which need a whole lot of words. Tagalog is Bikol lite, Bikol is Tagalog plus.

These differences say a lot about their common protolanguage, Meso-Philippine. Next we will investigate features in Visayan languages which are absent in Bikol, and note if they are absent in Tagalog as well. Visayan languages are another set of languages belonging to Meso-Philippines.

New Bikol Orthography – Part 3

This page is under construction, a rough draft. Comments is disabled for the moment. Please do not quote yet as the phrasing will definitely change..

This part will discuss handling loan words or borrowed words from any language, which is very important as Bikol has substantial borrowings from Castellano and English, and more is to come from other influential languages.

Loanword phonology for the borrowing language has 2 issues: (1) what phonemes it will accept and adopt and (2) what sequences and combinations these phonemes must take.

Allowed Phonemes

As of now, the following phonemes are contrastive in the onset and coda of Bikol syllables: 16 consonants: m, n, ŋ, p, b, t, d, k, g, ч, s, h (not contrastive in coda), l, r, w, y ( plus 1 more consonant for Buhinon and Viracnon: ƥ / λ ) and 3 vowels: a, e/i, o/u ( plus 1 more vowel for Central Bikol: ɷ). The vowels e and i and o and u are constrative in borrowed words only. There are many more phonemes contrasted in other possible language donors than these 21 phonemes and any one of them could find their way into Bikol through borrowings. In the coming globalized world, these donor languages could possibly include those languages with large populations and unique cultures, as well as the other indigenous languages of the Philippines (Tagalog, Sugbuhanon, etc.) and other Austronesian languages (Javanese, Malay, etc). These could also include the dead languages Latin, Ancient Greek, Sanskrit and Pali. Please refer to the table below for the possible word donor languages to Bikol with large populations. Apart from what Bikol already has, what other phonemes are we going to allow into the Bikol phoneme inventory? The answer of course would depend on a lot of factors and on personal preferences, or make that social preferences. I will hazard here my very own personal preferences. I want to identify first what should not be allowed. Most of my choices will be arbitrary of course.

In current phonetics, airstream mechanism for all sounds are either pulmonic egressive, glottalic egressive, lingual ingressive or glottalic ingressive. I will only recognize 2 airstream mechanism: Ingressive and Egressive. My opinion of glottalic egressive is a combination of egressive and one of phonation types: closed phonation. Since the glottis blocks the airstream from the chest, the glottis alternates to produce the airstream. Closed phonation nonsonorants are normally called ejectives and closed phonation sonorants are called glottalized consonants. Ejectives and glottalized consonants are mostly found in smallish languages in Western North America with a few in Asia & Pacific (like Ubykh), South America and Africa. Only egressive phonemes will be admitted into Bikol and ingressive will be converted to their egressive counterparts. Phonation will be limited to closed ( “ч” ), modal/voiced ( “ɦ” ) and voiceless ( “h” ) so breathy, slack, stiff, creaky, plus the laryngeal states harsh and faucalized phonation should not be imported into the language as phonemic modification. Advance tongue root and retracted tongue root, being laryngeal modifications, will not be imported into Bikol sound system. Breathy and slack will be subsumed under voiceless ( “h” ) as an allophone and stiff and creaky to voiced ( “ɦ” originally a murmured symbol) in the same way. Closed phonation, either as ejectives or glottalized consonants, will be permitted, like that of Vietnamese. Aspiration will be treated as consonant cluster with ‘h’. This is found in Mandarin, Hindustani, English, Bengali and Hokkien. In German dialects, this is treated as a consonant cluster. Pre-aspirated stops ʰp, ʰt, ʰk are found in Icelandic and are treated as clusters as well. Susurration (the use of murmured phonation instead of open phonation in aspiration) will be treated as consonant clusters and occurs in Hindustani and Bengali.

For the complex or co-articulated consonants, my view is that any borrowing of these will be treated as a consonant cluster much like secondary articulation and double articulation. Secondary articulation is co-articulation of a weaker consonant and in a different manner.

  1. Labialization – treated as consonant cluster with “w”. Example: Scottish English “wh” or ʍ like that of “which” will be written as “hw”. Eastern Arrernte or Ikngerripenhe has labialization at all places and manner of articulation as explained in Wikipedia.
  2. Palatalization – treated as consonant cluster with “j”. Found in Russian as soft consonants and other Slavic languages. Palatalized alveolar will include ʑ > zj and ɕ > sj as well.
  3. Velarization – treat as consonant cluster with “ƥ” or “x”. Found in Russian as hard consonants. Irish makes distinctions between velarized and palatalized consonants. ɫ is treated as velarized alveolar, so written as lƥ.
  4. Pharyngealization – treated as consonant cluster with ʕ. Found in Arabic as emphatic consonants. Ubykh distinguishes labialized and palatalized consonants as well as pharyngealized consonants.

Doubly articulated consonants will be treated as consonant clusters as well if borrowed. Other ways of releasing plosives are also treated as consonant clusters: lateral release (treat as consonant cluster with the corresponding voiced/voiceless lateral on the point of articulation), nasal release (treat as consonant cluster with voiced/voiceless nasal of similar place of articulation) and fricative release (treat as consonant cluster with voiced/voiceless fricative/sibilant of similar place of articulation). Affricates will be treated as consonant clusters as well. Rhoticity will be treated as a cluster with retroflex consonant, like English ɝ and ɚ. Rhoticity in vowels I think is a co-articulated vowel and retroflex consonant.

Nasals may be imported like Burmese voiceless nasals. Taps will be subsumed under flaps since there is no language that distinguish them, and trills will be subsumed and converted to flaps in each point of articulation (ʙ, ʋ/ѵ, ʀ, ɹ/r/ɾ). All trills will be treated as consonant clusters, like Spanish trilled r as a consonant cluster of several tap or flap r’s (long r). All geminate consonants will be treated as consonant clusters. There will be no distinction between approximants and fricatives. Lingoulabials will not be imported into Bikol. Lateral will be distinguised from nonlateral consonants, with both having nasal, plosive, fricative, flap and glides. Lateral nasal, lateral glides, lateral plosives, lateral fricatives, lateral flaps may be imported but only as a possibility in the future. All places of articulation may be distinguished like other nonlateral consonants.

Bilabial, alveolar, retroflex, palatal, velar, uvular can be used for nasal and oral plosives and fricatives. Labiodental, interdental and palato-alveolar will be restricted to fricatives/sibilants. All sounds produced at pharyngeal and epiglottal and epiglotto-pharyngeal areas will be combined and not distinguished at all. Bikol already has 2 glottal sounds which will be maintained.

So here is the list of the same languages with their individual consonant phonemes not found in Bikol and how to treat them (not exhaustive). Their consonant clusters will be treated as such but modified in accordance with the table below.

Languages Native Speakers Single Phonemes Phonemes treated here as Clusters
Mandarin 843M ɥ, f, x, ʂ, ɻ ts, tʂ, tɕ, ph, th, kh, tʂh, tɕh
Hindustani 366M f, z, ʃ, ɦ, ʈ, ɖ tʃ, dʒ, ph, th, ʈh, kh, tʃh, bɦ, dɦ, ɖɦ, gɦ, dʒɦ, lɦ, rɦ, mɦ, nɦ
Spanish 358M ɲ, ʎ, f, β, ð, ɣ, θ, x tʃ, rr
English 341M f, v, θ, ð, z, ʃ, ʒ tʃ, dʒ, ph, th, kh
Arabic 206M q, f, θ, ð, z, ʃ, x, ɣ, ħ, ʕ tʕ, dʕ, sʕ, ðʕ, lʕ
Portuguese 178M ɲ, ʎ, f, v, z, ʃ, ʒ, x
Bengali 171M f, z, ʃ, ʈ, ɖ, ɽ tʃ, dʒ, ph, th, ʈh, kh, tʃh, bɦ, dɦ, ɖɦ, gɦ, dʒɦ
Russian 170M f, v, z, x, ʂ, ʐ ts, tɕ, mj, nj, pj, bj, tj, dj, kj, gj, fj, vj, sj, zj, xj, rj, lj
Japanese 122M ɸ, f, z, ʃ, ɕ ts, dz, tɕ, dɕ
German 100M f, v, z, ʃ, ʒ, ç, x, ʁ, pf, ts, tʃ, dʒ
French 80M ɲ, ɥ, f, v, z, ʃ, ʒ, ʁ
Javanese 76M ɲ, ʈ, ɖ tʃ, dʒ
Korean 74M tɕ, ph, th, kh, tɕh
Vietnamese 68M c, ɲ, f, v, z, x, ɣ, b’, d’ th
Tamil 66M ɳ, ʈ,, ɻ,, ɭ ʈʃ
Italian 62M ɲ, ʎ, f, v, z, ʃ ts, dz, tʃ, dʒ
Turkish 61M c, ɟ, ɫ, f, v, z, ʃ, ʒ, ɣ tʃ, dʒ
Hokkien 47M ʑ, ɕ ts, dz, tɕ, ph, th, kh, tsh, tɕh
Persian 40M ɢ, f, v, z, ʃ, ʒ, x, ɣ tʃ, dʒ
Malay 40M ɲ, f, v, z, ʃ tʃ, dʒ
Burmese 32M θ, z, ʃ, ɬ, voiceless m̥, n̥, ɲ & ŋ̊ ph, th, sh, tʃh, kh, tʃ, dʒ
Hausa 25M
Amharic 18M ɲ, f, z, ʃ, ʒ, p’, t’, k’ ts’, tʃ’, tʃ, dʒ
Hebrew 10M f, v, z, ʃ, ʒ, χ, ʁ ts, tʃ, dʒ

To summarize, these will be the list of additional phonemes: Stops ( voiceless m̥, n̥, ɲ, ŋ̊, voiced ɲ, c, ɟ, q, ɢ), glides (ɥ), laterals (ɬ, ʎ), fricatives (ɸ, β, f, v, θ, ð, z, ʃ, ʒ,ç, x,ɣ, χ, ʁ, ħ, ʕ, ɦ), retroflex ( ɳ, ʈ, ɖ, ʂ, ʐ, ɻ, ɽ, ɭ ), ejectives (p’, t’, k’ ) and glottalized (b’,d’). Other consonants are found in smallish languages (e.g.: ɴ, ʡ, ʝ, ɮ, ʟ), so would take time to be influential in Bikol. Here is a tabular graph of all the simple consonants that will be allowed into Bikol:

<> will insert table here later <>

For the vowels, we can allow other vowels but not with too many distinctions. So 3 distinctions in height (Close, Mid, Open), 3 in backness (front, central, back) and 2 in labialization (spread, rounded, with compressed merged with rounded). Nasalization may be imported later. Phonation distinction on vowels may also be imported but should be restricted to voiced, unvoiced and glottalized only. There is no need to include too much distinctions, such that certain phonemes need to merge into 1 phoneme if borrowed, although they can remain as allophones: The following are all oral voiced vowels indicating what other vowels will be subsumed into what: i/ɪ › i , e › e , ɛ/æ › æ , y/ʏ › y , ø › ø , œ/ɶ › œ , u/ʊ › u , o › o , ɔ/ɒ › ɒ , ɯ › ɯ , ɤ › ɤ , ʌ/ɑ › ʌ , ɨ › ɨ , ɘ/ə › ə , ɜ/a/ɐ › a , ʉ › ʉ , ɵ › ɵ , ɞ › ɞ. Each of these vowels may have nasal voiced, oral glottalized and oral voiceless counterparts.

Vowel clusters will be limited to succession of syllables without intervening consonants (long vowels or with a very slight transitional glide) similar to Squamish which appears to have vowel clusters consisting of distinct vowels with apparently neither glottal insertion nor diphthongization of vowels to break up the hiatus. Semivowels in diphthongs and triphthongs are treated in Bikol as glide consonants, so will not be considered a vowel cluster. The following Castellano dipththongs and triphthongs will be converted to a vowel+consonant or consonant+vowel sequence: ai › ay, ei › ey, oi › oy, au › aw, eu › ew, ou › ow, ia › ya, ie › ye, io › yo, iu › yu or iw, ui › wi or uy, ua › wa, ue › we, uo › wo, iai › yay, iei › yey, uai › way and uei › wey. Centering diphthongs in English will be treated as vowel sequence, but both vowels needs to be clearly articulated.

Here’s the list for each language of vowels after conversion to the various allowed vowels (not exhaustive):

Languages Single Phonemes
Mandarin i › i , e › e , ɛ › æ , y › y , œ › œ , u/ʊ › u , o › o , ɔ › ɒ , ɤ › ɤ , ɑ › ʌ , ə › ə , a › a
Hindustani i/ɪ › i , e › e , ɛ/æ › æ , u/ʊ › u , o › o , ɔ › ɒ , ɑ › ʌ , ə › ə
Spanish i › i , e › e , u › u , o › o , a › a
English i/ɪ › i , e › e , ɛ/æ › æ , u/ʊ › u , o › o , ɔ/ɒ › ɒ , ʌ/ɑ › ʌ , ə › ə , ɜ/a/ɐ › a
Arabic i › i , u › u , a › a
Portuguese i › i , e › e , ɛ › æ , u › u , o › o , ɔ › ɒ , ɯ › ɯ , a/ɐ › a , ĩ, ẽ, ũ, õ, nasal ɐ
Bengali i › i , e › e , æ › æ , u › u , o › o , ɔ › ɒ , a › a , ĩ, ẽ, ũ, õ, ã, nasal æ, nasal ɔ
Russian i › i , e › e , u › u , o › o , ɨ › ɨ , ə › ə , a › a
Japanese i › i , e › e , o › o , ɯ › ɯ , a › a
German i/i:/ɪ › i , e/e: › e , ɛ/ɛ: › æ , y/y:/ʏ › y , ø/ø: › ø , œ › œ , u/u:/ʊ › u , o/o: › o , ɔ › ɒ , ə › ə , a/a:/ɐ › a
French i › i , e › e , ɛ/ɛ: › æ , y › y , ø › ø , œ › œ , u › u , o › o , ɔ › ɒ , ɑ › ʌ , ə › ə , a › a , nasal ɛ, nasal œ, nasal ɔ, nasal ɑ
Javanese i › i , e › e , ɛ › æ , u › u , o › o , ɔ › ɒ , ə › ə , a › a
Korean i/i: › i , e/e: › e , ɛ/ɛ: › æ , ø/ø: › ø , u/u: › u , o/o: › o , ɯ/ɯ: › ɯ , ʌ/ʌ: › ʌ , a/a: › a
Vietnamese i › i , e › e , ɛ › æ , u › u , o › o , ɔ › ɒ , ɨ › ɨ , ə: › ə , ɜ/a/a: › a
Tamil i/i: › i , e/e: › e , u/u: › u , o/o: › o , a/a: › a
Italian i › i , e › e , ɛ › æ , u › u , o › o , ɔ › ɒ , a › a
Turkish i › i , e › e , y › y , ø › ø , u › u , o › o , ɯ › ɯ , a/ɐ › a
Hokkien/Minnan i › i , e › e , ɛ › æ , y › y , u › u , o › o , ɔ › ɒ , ɤ › ɤ , ɨ › ɨ , ə › ə , a/ɐ › a
Persian i › i , e › e , æ › æ , u › u , o › o , ɒ › ɒ
Malay i › i , e › e , ɛ › æ , u › u , o › o , ɔ › ɒ , ɑ › ʌ , ə › ə , a › a
Burmese i › i , e › e , ɛ › æ , u › u , o › o , ɔ › ɒ , ə › ə , a › a
Hausa i/i: › i , e/e: › e , u/u: › u , o/o: › o , a/a: › a
Amharic i/ɪ › i , e › e , ɛ › æ , u/ʊ › u , o › o , ɔ › ɒ , ɨ › ɨ , ə › ə , a › a
Hebrew i › i , e › e , u › u , o › o , a › a

The full vowel phoneme inventory could result in the following 17 phonemes (IPA symbols):
Front Unrounded : i, e, æ
Front-central Rounded : y, ø, œ
Back Rounded : u, o, ɒ
Back-central Unrounded : ɯ, ɤ, ʌ
Central Unrounded : ɨ, ə, a
Central Rounded : ʉ, ɵ, ɞ
Counting their nasal voiced, oral glottalized and oral voiceless counterparts, we have a total of 68 vowels.

Level tones, contour tones, registers and stress (whether primary or secondary) is not to be imported as a phoneme. Bikol has no stress but has a chroneme or phonemic length, I suppose.


Since these phonemes do not exist in isolation but are combined in different ways to form syllables and words, we must also define permitted syllable structures, consonant clusters and vowel clusters. The syllabic structure of native Bikol base words, if disyllabic, is CVC’CVC. The values of the coda C of the first syllable can be consonants but can also be a chroneme and the coda C of the last syllable is obligatory but could evaluate to null if “h”. My view is that onset C is not optional for the initial syllable since the glottal stop is an obligatory default onset on base words that are traditionally written with vowel initials. I will explain my view further in a future post.

There is no consonant cluster whether initial or final within syllables in native Bikol words, only in syllable boundaries. Internally, all sorts of consonant combination is possible, except geminations. The question would be, should we allow consonant clusters into Bikol? Before answering that question, there is minor constraint against consonant clusters and a major one for vowel clusters in Bikol. There is no vowel clusters as w and y are treated as consonants and not as semivowels or parts of diphthongic sequence vowel+semivowel. If a glide is eliminated, a glottal consonant ‘ч’ or ‘h’ will appear thus treated as separate syllables.

Bikol: uang › чuчaŋ ‘bettle’, not *waŋ
Bikol: abaana › чabaчanah ‘too much’, not *чaba:nah

For consonant clusters, its presence is a source of irregularity for partial reduplication, at least in word initial position:

Castellano borrowing: planchar › plantʃah › nagplaplantʃah or nagpaplantʃah?
English borrowing: practice › praktis › nagprapraktis or nagpapraktis?

Either we standardize how to deal with partial reduplication or we avoid borrowing words with clusters and replace those already borrowed. If possible, I suggest the first recourse would be to borrow another word from another language with no consonant clusters. If we must borrow words with clusters, then my preferred reduplication would be the just the 1st consonant of the consonant cluster and not the entire cluster, or the 2nd alternative shown above. This is also after considering how -um- is infixed (see below).

In syllable final position, consonant clusters are not a problem at all, so we can borrow to our hearts content:

Castellano borrowing: extra › чekstrah › nagчeчekstrah
English borrowing: golf › golf › naggogolf , gogolfan

Glide+vowel combination in the initial syllable would not be a problem even with an infix -Vr- since it will just copy the vowel and semivowels are treated as consonants. The same applies with the infix -in-.

Castellano borrowing: piano › pyanoh › pyaranohon and not *paryanohon nor *piryanohon
Castellano borrowing: toalla › twaʎah › twaraʎahan and not *tarwaʎahan nor *turwaʎahan
Castellano borrowing: toalla › twaʎah › twinaʎahan (twinatwaʎahan), not *tinwaʎahan (tinwatwaʎahan)
Castellano borrowing: piano › pyanoh › pyinanohan (pyinapyanohan), not *pinyanohan (pinyapyanohan)

But with infix -um-, there seems to be a different rule: the infix is inserted after the first consonant and not after the glide of the cluster.

Castellano borrowing: piano › pyanoh › pumyanoh, not *pyumanoh
Castellano borrowing: toalla › twaʎah › tumwaʎah, not *twumaʎah

It is not just Castellano, English, Nihonggo or Mandarin with clusters, so words borrowed from these other languages must be accepted as well, as I find no reason to exclude them. Initial two-consonant clusters that are very common in Austronesian languages are initial geminates (Chuukese, Pohnpeian, Dobel, Sa’ban, Taba, etc). Dobel has these geminates: //bb dd tt ɸɸ ss mm nn ŋŋ ll rr ww jj чч//. Taba allows 11 different geminates in initial positions: /bb dd gg tt kk mm nn ŋŋ ll hh ww/ plus many other combinations. For a full list of possible consonant clusters in Taba, Leti and Roma, click here . Here are examples from Taba, an Austronesian language in Indonesia.

wwe ‘leg’
hhan ‘you (pl.) go’.
ddoba ‘earth’
rsuri ‘they pour’.

Geminates not in word initial positions would not be a problem so we can import them from Japanese, Italian, Arabic, Russian and even Ilokano and Bontok. There are also Austronesian languages that have preploded & postploded nasal clusters and prenasalized stops like mb, nd, ɲdʒ, ng. And some languages have prestopped nasals.

If we must borrow words with clusters, then should there be a minimum number of consonant series in a cluster that we can take in? Georgian can have up to 8 initial consonant clusters. Georgian brt’q’eli (flat) has 4 consonants, English glimpsed has 4 consonants word finally. Or take Russian zdravstvujtye ‘hello’ and vzglyat ‘opinion’ or the Polish initial consonant clusters here. Personally, I would like to limit consonant clusters to a series of 2 consonants only in syllable initial positions but 3-4 consonants in syllable final positions.

Words without vowels should not be allowed into Bikol, like Nuxalk xłp̓x̣ʷłtłpłłskʷc̓ ‘he had had a bunchberry plant’ or Tashlhiyt Berber tftktstt ‘you sprained it’. Also we should not allow words words with syllabic consonants, like Slovak žblnknutie. These vowelless consonant series should be inserted with vowels if to be borrowed. These example words are taken from Wikipedia.

Form of Borrowed Word
Apart from the sounds of the words to be naturalized in the borrowing language, there is another issue at hand with borrowed words: whether the words to be borrowed are just base words, or base words with inflections. The disadvantage of borrowing a fully inflected word is that it will force a change in the syntax of the borrowing language, by either bringing in new affixes (if there are a lot of borrowed words with such affix), the old affixes can not be used together with the borrowed word if of the same meaning thus rendering them obsolete, and forcing changes in word orders as well. Because of these, I am more inclined to borrow just the base words.

This page is under construction, a rough draft. Comments is disabled for the moment. Please do not quote yet as the phrasing will definitely change..

New Bikol Orthography – Part 2

In this part, I would like to show how to implement the new orthography within the Bikol macrolanguage. Let’s clarify first why Bikol is classified as a macrolanguage in ISO. Is it not a dialect? How about a language? What are the differences anyway?


ISO 639 [1] governs the classification of language varieties if they are dialects, individual languages, macrolanguages or collections of languages. It acknowledges that there is no uniform definition of language that is acceptable to all language speakers and linguistic experts suited for all purposes. But it did outline a set of criteria in their classification of languages deemed fit for the intended range of application of that standard. Whatever range of applications is contemplated, that is not mentioned in the website.

Based on how I understood ISO 639, the dominant criterion used to classify a language variety is ethnolinguistic identity – if both language varieties share a common, well-established ethnolinguistic identity, both are treated as varieties of the same language (a dialect in short) even if intelligibility is marginal. There is intelligibility if speakers of both variety have inherent understanding of each other at a functional level, without the need to learn the other variety. In ISO 639, if each linguistic variety has a distinct ethnolinguistic identity, even if sufficiently intelligible to each other, they are treated as distinct languages. Problem for this standard is, it did not define what is an ethnolinguistic identity. Although unstated, I would suppose that shared ethnolinguistic identity means having (a) a common literature or culture and (b) a central language variety intelligible to the varieties in question. In ISO, an individual language encompasses a defined range in spatial, temporal and social spectrum of its linguistic varieties, whether spoken and written, including its standardised variety.

It also used the terms “Macrolanguage” and “collections of languages”. Individual languages are members of a macrolanguage if they all have (a) close linguistic relations and (b) common linguistic identity (due to a single written form or a standard spoken language used in wider commnication among the speakers of such closely related languages) in at least one domain. Language collections are groups of languages which are never deemed a single language in any context.

But I find that even with the term macrolanguage, we are still incapable of distinguishing language varieties that are (1) mutually intelligible yet ethnolinguistically distinct, from (2) mutually marginally intelligible or unintelligible yet ethnolinguistically integrated. I think it would be better if additional terms are invented, like ‘apolanguage’ (‘apo’ away from, detached) for (1) and invent ‘arthrolanguage’ (‘arthro’ joint) for (2), while at the same time using ‘isolanguage’ (‘iso’ equal, like) for an individual language where varieties have matching boundaries in terms of intelligibility and ethnolinguistic identity. And also call each variety within an arthrolanguage or apolanguage as an ‘ethnolect’. I believe that ISO 639 definition of language is a good step forward but there is still room for improvement of traditional definitions.

The largest macrolanguage in terms of speakers is Chinese with over 1 billion speakers and 13 individual languages under it. Next is Arabic, spoken by roughly 422 million and covering 30 languages. In terms of number of individual member languages, Zapotec has the most member with 57 languages and Quechua with 44 languages. In the Austronesian language family, there are only 3 macrolanguages: Malay, Malagasy and Bikol. Malay has 184 million speakers (41 million native, 143 million nonnative) for its 13 languages; Malagasy has 17 million speakers of its 10 individual languages, and Bikol has 4.5 million speakers of the 5 languages.


When I use the word dialect here, I am referring to spatial/geographic language varieties only. I would use the term sociolect if I am referring to language varieties that are different among hierarchically arranged social groups. So, how are the different ethnolects and dialects of this arthrolanguage Bikol interrelated? Ethnologue [2] has made a superb identification and classification of these language varieties, so the following table of dialects, languages and their subgroupings were taken from their website.

Ethnolect** Language (or dialect groups) Dialects Population (2000)
Coastal Bikol
Central Bikol 2,500,000
Southern Catanduanes Bikol 85,000
Mt Iraya Agta 150
Mt Isarog Agta 5 to 6
Inland Bikol
Albay Bikol 1,900,907
Iriga Bikolano 234,361
Riconada Bikol
Mt Iriga Agta 1,500
Northern Catanduanes Bikol 122,035

**These are my grouping of the language varieties into 3 groups.

Although in Ethnologue the 3 Agta languages are part of the Bikol language subgroup, it is not considered under ISO as part of the macrolanguage since they have different ethnolinguistic identity, being nomadic and non-Christian, I suppose. Central Bikol, Southern Catanduanes, Mt Iraya Agta and Mt Isarog Agta to me are dialect groups of a single ethnolect, so I will depart from the Ethnologue treatment here and group them under Coastal Bikol as I have indicated above. Albay Bikol, Iriga Bikolano and Mt Iriga Agta are also for me dialect groups of a single ethnolect that we can call Inland Bikol. And since Inland Bikol and Coastal Bikol are English terms, I would like to give them Bikol equivalents, Bikol Iraya and Bikol Ilahud, respectively. Let’s call the arthrolanguage simply as Bikol.


Being a macrolanguage, there should be 1 domain where all the language varieties are viewed as 1 single language or an arthrolanguage. In this regard, to facilitate usage of Bikol in that domain, I am here proposing the rules of orthography for this macrolanguage.

So here’s the principle: Cognate words with identical meanings between the individual Bikol ethnolects/dialects will be written in their reconstructed form using comparative linguistics to arrive at a hypothetical proto-Bikol form. Cognate words that have shifted in meaning (false friends) will also be written in its reconstructed form, unless their pronunciation have diverged so much from the protoform, in which case they should be written in the attested forms in the individual ethnolects/dialects. Cognate words in the same ethnolect/dialect (etymological twins) will also be written in the attested forms. Non-cognate words like false cognates and loanwords (identified through contact linguistics) will be spelled as attested in the ethnolect/dialect.

The reasons:

  1. To highlight the fact that individual Bikol languages are once dialects of one protolanguage.
  2. To show to speakers of each individual Bikol language how their languages are related, by formally showing the exact point of the divergence.
  3. To provide an alternative model on how to modernize the Bikol language for future consideration and teaching.
  4. To use this as springboard to trial another idea, that of replacing Tagalog as the basis of Filipino and instead use reconstructed proto-Austronesian forms, a true representative of all Philippine languages. This proto-Austronesian forms, once official, can even be shared with Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Timor Leste, Malagasy and Pacific Island countries (Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Vanuatu) as a common official language in an Organization of Austronesian Speaking Countries, much like how French (Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie), English (Commonwealth of Nations) & Portuguese (Comunidade dos Paises de Lingua) connect the various countries and colonies that speak such languages. And even countries with indigenious minority Austronesian speakers like Papua New Guinea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, New Zealand, USA (Hawaii, Guam), France (French Polynesia) could join in such an organization promoting such “world language”.

    To visualize how this will be implemented in the Bikol macrolanguage, I will give examples from Spanish [3] where consonants have changed the most: the ll in caballo ‘horse”, ‘j’ in jamon ‘ham’, and ‘z’ in zapatos ‘shoes’ have variable pronunciation among various Castellano dialects. Although /ʎ/ has merged with /y/ in most dialects and has become /ʒ/ in Argentina and Uruguay, Castellano has not revised the spelling at all to *cabayo or *cabazho. Likewise, /x/ has merged with /h/ for j and /θ/ has merged with /s/ for z for many dialects, yet standard Castellano spelling for them remains, and not *hamon or *sapatos. Even /f/ is /ɸ/ in Ecuador and /tʃ/ is /ʃ/ in Panama, yet spelling continues to be facil and ocho, for example, to this day, and not *ɸasil or *oʃo. By retaining the original spellings and teaching it and exposing people to the various dialects, speakers of other Castellano dialects who do not pronounced it similarly as the original knows what the original Castellano pronunciation had been, even without an existing parallel writing system in their own dialects. [Please refer here [4] for the significance of the symbols.]

    The same can be said of the English words, where vowels have changed most. Please refer to this website [5] for a comparison of vowels among the different native English pronunciation. Spanish and English spellings are called etymological spelling for their dialects as these dialects are not written in phonemic spellings [6].

    Going back to Bikol, what I am advocating for the arthrolanguage is an etymological ethnophonemic spelling while for the ethnolects and dialects a pure phonemic spelling. There will be no confusion at all since the ethnolects/dialects will be written as pronounced but the arthrolanguage in reconstructed form as pronounced back in time. We are representing here the words as they are pronounced long ago, say in the 7th to 13th century (I’m not really sure). Taking the examples that I have shown in Part 1, here are the comparative representation for each ethnolect/dialect and the arthrolanguage.

    English Gloss Bikol Bikol Ilahud Bikol Iraya
    Naga Virac Iriga Buhi
    life bu•hay bu•hay buay
    tree ka•hoy ka•hoy kaoy
    body ha•wak ha•wak чa•wak
    see hiliŋ hiliŋ чiliŋ
    youngest child ŋuhud ŋuhud ŋu•d
    study чa•daƥ чa•dal чa•daλ
    buy bakaƥ bakal bakaλ
    bring daƥah darah daλah
    run daƥa•gan dala•gan daλa•gan
    tall haƥaŋkaw halaŋkaw haλaŋkaw
    fight чi•waƥ чi•wal чi•waλ
    man laƥa•kih lala•kih laλa•kih
    walk ƥakaw lakaw λakaw
    one saƥɷч saroч saλoч
    talk taƥam taram taλam
    three tɷƥoh tuloh tuλoh
    cockpit buƥaŋan bulaŋan buλaŋan
    rice bɷgas bagas bɷgas
    blade tarɷm tarum tarɷm
    rice plant pa•rɷy paroy pa•rɷy
    black чitɷm чitum чitɷm
    itch gatɷƥ gatol gatɷƥ
    long duration haƥɷy haloy чaƥɷy
    repent sɷƥsɷƥ solsol sɷƥsɷƥ
    wait hɷƥat halat haλat чɷƥat
    sour чaƥsɷm чalsom чaλsom чaƥsɷm
    snake ha•ƥas halas чa•ƥas
    worry handaƥ handal чandaƥ
    floor saƥɷg salog salɷg saƥɷg
    house baƥɷy balay, haroŋ balɷy baƥɷy
    sour чaƥsɷm чalsom чalsɷm чaƥsɷm
    hear dɷŋɷg daŋog rɷŋɷg rɷŋɷg

    These data were taken from several websites so I still need to confirm if the rendering of Bikol Iraya is really phonemic. I am not a trained linguist, so please take my data with caution. The reconstructed forms here are tentative, once I come accross the proper reconstructed forms of these words, I will put them here. The reason I put those tentative protoforms above as such are based on my assumptions that:

    1. The protophoneme *h was retained in Bikol Ilahud but was lost in Bikol Iraya.
    2. The protophoneme *ƥ was retained in Buhi, became λ in Virac, and l or r in Naga and Iriga.
    3. The protophoneme *ɷ (schwa) was retained in Iriga and Buhi but became a or o in Naga, depending on its position inside the word.

    Although I have tried to show how the words were to be represented, I have not shown the arthrolanguage’s grammar. That would come in the future.


    [1] For a complete list of macrolanguages, go to






    New Bikol Orthography – Part 1

    I am currently working on a new orthography that can be used for both Coastal Bikol and Inland Bikol. My intent is to use this for the macro-language as well as the individual languages themselves and their dialects. All my works on these languages will use this new orthography.

    What is are the features of this new orthography? The most important feature, which I will show in this Part 1, is the principle of regular 1-to-1 correspondence between the letters of the alphabet and each phonemic sounds.

    1. The following symbols will remain in use and unchanged: m n p b t d k g s h l r w y a e i o u.
    2. The digraph “ng” will be replaced by the IPA symbol “ŋ”.
    3. Phonemes not currently represented by any letter will be provided with one. The glottal stop by “ч” and word stress, which is phonemic, by a raised dot “•”.
    4. The glottal stop will be represented in word initial and intervocalic positions. H will be represented in word final position.
    5. Other member languages of the Bikol macrolanguage can use this as well. I have added the lateral “λ” for the Southern Catanduanes dialect of Coastal Bikol, and the schwa (represented as “ɷ”) for Iriga, Buhi and Miraya dialects and the velar fricative “ƥ” for Buhi dialect, all dialects of Inland Bikol.


    Coastal Bikol (all dialects)

    English Current Proposed
    Meaning Orthography Orthography
    name ngaran ŋa•ran
    wrong sala salaч
    head payo payoh
    dirt on face musing muчsiŋ
    wave alon чa•lon

    Coastal Bikol, Southern Catanduanes dialect

    English Current Proposed
    Meaning Orthography Orthography
    study adal чa•daλ
    sour alsom чaλsom
    buy bakal bakaλ
    bring dara daλah
    run dalagan daλa•gan
    tall halangkaw haλaŋkaw
    wait halat haλat
    fight iwal чi•waλ
    man lalaki laλa•kih
    walk lakaw λakaw
    one saro saλoч
    talk taram taλam
    three tulo tuλoh
    cockpit bulangan buλaŋan

    Inland Bikol, Iriga & Miraya dialects

    English Current Proposed
    Meaning Orthography Orthography
    rice bugas bɷgas
    blade tarum tarɷm
    rice plant paroy pa•rɷy
    black itum чitɷm

    Inland Bikol, Buhi dialect

    English Current Proposed
    Meaning Orthography Orthography
    itch gatol gatɷƥ
    long duration aloy чaƥɷy
    repent solsol sɷƥsɷƥ
    wait ulat чɷƥat
    sour alsom чaƥsɷm
    snake alas чa•ƥas
    worry andal чandaƥ

    This is in essence my proposed orthography, when rendering native words in each of the dialects and individual languages of the Bikol macrolanguage. I will be posting samples of Bikol songs, poetry, and other literature written in this new orthography in the future to exemplify its usage.

    If there is any wrong word, spelling or stress for some of the dialects’ words, I would welcome any corrections. I welcome other words which you might want to contribute showing the same sounds too.

    The other features of this new orthography I will explain in succeeding posts. Part 2 of my proposal will deal with the orthography of the Bikol macrolanguage, not the dialects and individual member languages, which was discussed here. Part 3 will discuss handling loan words or borrowed words from any language. This part is very important as Bikol has substantial borrowings from Castellano and English. Part 4 will be about obligatory word edge phonemes as well as stress. Part 5 will be about pronunciation and order of all the letters and origin of the new ones and any other sundry items depending on what questions and clarifications will be raised through comments. Cheers.