Grammar differences for some Philippine languages, Part 1

Constantino has produced a table of comparison for Philippine languages in his “Sentence Patterns Of the Ten Major Philippine Languages”. From these sentences, we can see the differences between some of these languages.

I have tried to list down here some of these differences, based on the sample sentences only. It is quite possible that these languages can form sentences other than the one exhibited here.

1. The infix <um>

Affix Form

  Tagalog Waray Sebuano Tausug Ilokano Ibanag Pangasinan Kapampangan
Infinitive / Imperative <um>
-, mu>
Sentence# 107,103
Irrealis Mood or Future Tense CV> ma:> ma:> <um> maC> <um> mu>
Sentence# 95,100 95,100 95,100 95,100 95,100 95,100 95,100
Perfective Aspect, Realis Mood <um> <inm>
<imm> <imin>
<imm> me>,<in>,min>
Sentence # 1,2,3,
5,6,10, 57,58, 67,68, 97,101, 104
5, 6,10,




Progressive Aspect, Realis Mood C<um>V> na:>   <imm>,



Sentence # 75,76,77, ,78,79,80, 108 75,76,77,
79,80   76,77,
  Tagalog Waray Sebuano Tausug Ilokano Ibanag Pangasinan Kapampangan


  1. The languages that retained the use of the infix are Tagalog, Waray, Sebuano, Pangasinan and Kapampangan; while Tausug, Ilokano and Ibanag still use this but not uniformly or with some restrictions on use of <um> compared with other languages.
  2. The form “mangan” used in #103 used by Ilokano, Pangasinan and Kapampangan is difficult to say if using <um> or mag> or mang> affix. Same with Ibanag “miney” “went” in #6. In #103, Ilokano, Kapampangan and Pangasinan seemed to use mang> or mag>. Kapampangan word for “arrived” seemed not be be conjugated in <um> in #104. For #107, I do not know enough for the Ibanag and Kapampangan forms.
  3. In the Infinitive form, Cebuano and Kapampangan have similar form mu> while others have <um>. Tausug use of “my-” or <mi> in #6 instead of <im> could be related.
  4. Tagalog in the Perfective Aspect Realis Mood, in #4, used mag> with bigay, which does not combine with <um> with the meaning “give”.
  5. Waray used nag><CV> in the Progressive Aspect Realis Mood in #97. This is the only form that does not use <um> in Waray, so possibly there is an <um> form.
  6. Kapampangan exception in the Progressive Aspect Realis Mood is only #80, where it used ma><Ci>.
  7. Pangasinan in the Progressive Aspect Realis Mood only exception is the use of mang> in #108 and unaffixed stative verb in #75. In the Perfective Aspect Realis Mood, it seemed to use ang> in #2, #3, #58 and #68, and nan< in #4,#5.
  8. Ilokano used ag> in the Infinitive form in #107, in the Imperative form in #95, in the Irrealis Mood in #95 and #100, in the Perfective Aspect Realis Mood in #1 and nag> in #97. It also used it in the Progressive Aspect Realis Mood in #75,#76,#77,#78 in the form >ag<CVC> although there is another affix <um>base<in used in #79,#80 and just CVC> in #108. It used na> in #2, #6, and nang> in #4, #101.
  9. Ibanag forms for the Imperative Mood in #95 seemed to use the maC> affix, which has the naC> form in the Perfective Aspect Realis Mood in #1, #5, #10, #57,#67,#97. Ibanag seemed to use mang> in the form nang> in #4. In the Progressive Aspect Realis Mood, it uses either mag><CVC> in #75,#76,#77, or maC> in #78, #80, or CVC> in #108.
  10. Cebuano used nag><a> affix or its short form ga> for #75,#76,#77,#78,#79,#80 which are all weather/meteorological verbs. But also used ga> in #108. In the Perfective Aspect Realis Mood, it used nang> in #10.
  11. Tausug seemed to use na> in #3 and mang> in #4 in the Perfective Aspect Realis Mood. It used nag> in #97 and in the Progressive Aspect Realis Mood  nag><CV> in #78, unaffixed stative verbs in #75,#77, and na><CV> in #108. The form <imm> in #76 looks to me like a Perfective Aspect, not Progressive Aspect form, as well as the <im> form in #80.
  12. Bikol and Hiligaynon both used nag> prefix in all of the sentences above. Although in Bikol and Hiligaynon, there are Spanish grammars indicating that they used to employ <um> as well.
  13. Formation from the Imperative and Infinitive of the Perfective Aspect Realis Mood  is not uniform for all languages. Tagalog has the same forms (<um> / <um> ). Sebuano (mu> / ni>), Tausug (<um> / <im> ), Kapampangan (mu> / me>) seem to have vowel alternation. Waray (<um> / <inm>), Ilokano (<um> / <imm>), Pangasinan (<um> / <imm>) and Ibanag (<um> / <imin>) seem to indicate that the <in> and <um> are combined, but are in different order, with Ibanag infixing <um> after <in> unlike the rest. This Ibanag form <imin> actually matches the Bikol form <umin>.
  14. The formation from the Irrealis Mood of the Progressive Aspect Realis Mood is not uniform. Tausug (<um> / <um>) makes no distinction between the two. Cebuano (ma:> / none) and Ibanag (maC> / none) has no Progressive Aspect Realis Mood form. Ilokano ( none / <um><in>) makes no distinction on the Irrealis Mood. Waray (ma:> / na:>) changes the consonant.  Pangasinan (<um> / <un><CV>) has consonant and reduplication. Tagalog (CV> / C<um>V>) differentiates using <um>. And Kapampangan (mu>/ CV>) from prefixation to reduplication.
  15. Formation from the Perfective Aspect Realis Mood of the Progressive Aspect Realis Mood is not uniform. Sebuano (ni>/ none), Ibanag (<imin>/ none) have no Progressive Realis Mood forms. Tausug (<im> /<um> ) change in vowel. Waray (<inm> / na:>), Ilokano (<imm>/<um>base<in>) seemed to have split/combined the affixes. Tagalog (<um> / C<um>V>), Pangasinan (<imm>/<un><CV>) , Kapampangan( me> / CV>) all used CV> for the Progressive.
  16. Distinction between Infinitive and Irrealis Mood forms are not uniform as well. Ilokano( <um> / none) has no Irrealis Mood form. Tausug( <um> / <um>), Pangasinan( <um> / <um>), Kapampangan(mu> / mu>)make no distinction. Waray (<um> / ma:>), Sebuano( mu> /ma:>), Ibanag( <um> / maC>) seem to be related in the use of ma>. Tagalog(<um> / CV>) is the only one using reduplication.

Phrase Markers used

Phrase markers used with thematic relations in INTRANSITIVE (#1 agent – initiator of some action, capable of acting with volition), TRANSITIVE PATIENT (#2, #5 patient- entity undergoing the effect of some action, often undergoing some change of state; or theme – entity which is moved by an action, or whose location is described), TRANSITIVE RECIPIENT (#4 GOAL involved in actions describing changes of possession), TRANSITIVE LOCATION (#6 place in which something is situated or takes place ), WEATHER/METEOROLOGICAL VERBS (#75, #76, #77,#78, #79, #80, #104) , TRANSITIVE  with POSSESSOR (#10), TRANSITIVE REASON OR PURPOSE (#103), TRANSITIVE BENEFICIARY(#3 the entity for whose benefit the action was performed).  Beneficiary is a subtype of Reason or Purpose. Sample Verb below in Perfective Aspect Realis Mood.

    Genitive : P/P (PATIENT or POSSESSOR) Nominative Oblique
Tagalog v<um>erb nang P/P (def. & indef.) ang ACTOR (def. & indef.) sa RECIPIENT , LOCATION
para sa
Bikol nag>verb nin P/P (indef.)
kan P/P (def.)
an ACTOR (def. & indef.)
para sa
Waray v<inm>erb hin P/P (indef.)
han P/P (def.)
an ACTOR (def.)
in ACTOR (indef.)
para han
Sebuano ni>verb sa P/P (def.)
ug POSSESSOR (#3) (indef.)
ang ACTOR (def. & indef.) sa RECIPIENT , LOCATION
Hiligaynon nag>verb sang P/P (def.)
sing P/P (indef.)
ang ACTOR (def. & indef.) sa RECIPIENT , LOCATION
Tausug v<im>erb (#2) – P/P
sin P/P
Kapampangan me>verb ya -ng/ning P/P (indef.?)
(yang P/P def.? )
bangkanita REASON
Ilokano v<imm>erb (#3) ti P/P (def. & indef.) dyay ACTOR
kadaydyay na RECIPIENT
idyay/iti LOCATION
tapnu REASON
para kadaydyay BENEFICIARY
Ibanag v<imin>erb (#3) tu PATIENT
tapenu REASON
para taC
Pangasinan v<imm>erb (#1) (na) P/P (#3)
na P/P
may ACTOR (#6)
tapyan REASON
Filipino v<inum>erb(?) or
nang P/P (def.)
ning P/P (indef.)
(like Romblomanon)
nu (distal, like Southern Bikol)
— –Nominative
sang ACTOR (def.) 
(like Bontok, Kankanay)
sing ACTOR (indef.)

su (distal, like Bikol)
ang ACTOR (def.) 
ing ACTOR (indef.)

(like Waray)
kang RECIPIENT (def.)
king RECIPIENT (indef.)
para kang/king BENEFICIARY
(like Bikol/Kapampangan)

ta REASON (like Bikol)
su TIME (past)
nu TIME (future)

Notes on Phrase Markers used:

  1. The genitive marker indicates that both the verb and the noun can have arguments, it shows as argument of either the noun or the verb. 
  2. Phrase markers for the beneficiary seems to be “para” + LOCATION marker. I believe “para” is a borrowing from Spanish. Waray beneficiary phrase marker is different than the others as it uses “para han” (“para” + PATIENT) instead of the expected “para ha” (“para” + LOCATION ) which all the others use. It’s like Tagalog using “para nang” instead of “para sa” in the following sample sentence: “Bumili ng bulaklak ang binata para *nang (sa) dalaga. ”
  3. Is “sa” originally from “san”? I got into this thinking because of the Cebuano data and the Waray data. In Cebuano, “sa” + PATIENT is counterpart to Hiligaynon “sang” + PATIENT. In Waray, the “para han” is maybe a para + RECIPIENT/LOCATION after all, so its possible that the original LOCATION common marker is “sang”, applied as well with RECIPIENT, then changed to become a PATIENT marker in the Bisayan languages, with Cebuano dropping the ending. Dropping of ending frequently happens in Waray, for example akon > ak (my/mine), lang> la (only). In Cebuano itself, the prefix gin> has become gi>. I would like to think the “sa” is a prefix in personal pronouns and “sang” is the marker particle.
  4. Tausug “in”, Kapampangan “ying/ing” and Ibanag “i” (y) seems to be cognate with Old Bikol/Waray “in” which is common indefinite nominative marker. Pangasinan “su/say” seems to be related to Bikol “su/si” for those that have previously been mentioned or specified in the conversation, (I termed distal above or common definite nominative distal marker), unlike “ang” which is proximal. Ilokano “dyay” I don’t know how to relate to other markers.
  5. Bikol “nin” , Waray “hin”, Sebuano “ug” are indefinite genitive markers. Sebuano “ug” might be related to Subanen “og” or “nog”. A similar process as what happened in Maranaw could have happened where Genitive form “nu/ni” has become “u/i”, so prior form nog > og in Sebuano. It seems that the right form in Sebuano is “og”, not “ug”.  Although Hiligaynon has “sang” vs “sing” distinction, it has fallen into disuse and encountered mostly in formal, traditional or conservative translations of the Bible. I am not sure of  Ibanag “tu” and Kapampangan “yang” if definite or indefinite.  
  6. Bikol “kan” “usually .. refer to something that was already mentioned” as the counterpart of “si/su”, thus can be used instead of “nin si/su”.
  7. For POSSESSOR marker, Kapampangan used “na ning”, and Ibanag used “na”, which is different from the PATIENT marker.
  8. Tausug and Pangasinan did not use any PATIENT marker.  Tausug use of “sin” for POSSESSOR may be a remnant of the old use of “sin” for PATIENT. In other examples, this language does not use a marker for its genitive. Same with Pangasinan which used “na” in the POSSESSOR.
  9. Ibanag form for nominative marker “i” (y), seems to have a coda of the initial consonant of the following word, like the other markers.
  10. Pangasinan has a different marker “may” for nominative (#6), and Kapampangan has “ya yin”.
  11. Phrase marker for Location and Recipient seemed to have merged, from the original Location marker.

Middle Voice

This is just a description of the <um> affix to differentiate it with mag>, ma> and mang>. Here I follow Maldonado’s conception of middle in his work, where the middle voice “tends to occur can be characterized in more general terms: motion (translational, non-translational and change in body posture), change of mental state (cognition, emotive speech and emotion), spontaneous events and self-directed actions (direct and indirect body care). Of all these categories the one that fluctuates between middle and reflexive marking across languages is self directed actions. Sample verbs in Tagalog, with definition from Nagaya:

  1. Translational Motion – “actions involving motion of an animate entity under its own power through space”, a motion of an agent. Ex:  umakyat (climb up), umalis (go away, leave), pumunta (went), tumakas (run away).
  2. Nontranslational motion – “those which denote actions of motor manipulation of the body”, an agent
    makes such a motion. Ex: umikot (turn oneself), umunat (stretch one’s body) [mag-unat is reflexive], lumiko (turn), yumuko (bow).
  3. Change in Body Posture –  forms of verbs of change in body posture indicate a situation where an agent changes its own body posture. Ex: lumuhod (kneel), umupo (sit down), Kumandong (sit on the lap)
  4. Change of State (inchoative) – an agent undergoes a change of state within its personal sphere, and the agent itself is affected by the process. Ex: tumigil (stop), sumara (close), lumaki (became big).
  5. Cognition Middle – umisip () (vs. mag-isip)
  6. Emotive speech acts –dumaing(whine), tumangis (lament)
  7. Spontaneous Events –  tumigil (stop oneself), umusok (produce smoke),
  8. Meteorological events – bumagyo, umulan, humangin, etc.
  9. Indirect Middle – no example.
  10. Grooming or bodily care – magdamit (get dressed), maghilamos (wash face), nagbihis (dressed), nagpulbo (put powder), nagsombrero (put on a hat)
  11. Emotion Middle – nagalit (got angry), natakot (got a fright), nabigla (got a shock)

Following Maldonado said, Grooming or bodily care is not using <um> but mag> instead, showing presence of control over the action, and is reflexive. Emotion middle as well uses ma> for those that are externally caused showing lack of control.

His Yucatec Maya observations seem to hold to these languages as well: “In reflexive constructions the subject acts volitionally and with control on the self inducing some change. In contrast, middles highlight the affectedness undergone by the subject as a consequence of some change which s/he undergoes. In the middle construction the change-of-state is not volitionally controlled by the subject. Thus the reflexive construction in (3b) designates the subject’s act of using some medicine to get better, while in (3c) the subject’s health simply improves with no particular effort.”  In Tagalog the verbs for that would be nagpagaling /pinagaling (transitive/reflexive cure) vs. gumaling (middle cure).

“An outstanding feature of middles in YM is that they always depict an absolute event, one in which energy is not profiled. The event is thus seen as neutral or spontaneous. In (4) the decrease in energy is observed as we go from the transitive (4a), to the reflexive in (4b) where the cat stretches out, to the middle construction in (4c) where the clothes simply sag.” In Tagalog that would be inunat (transitive) vs. mag-unat (reflexive) vs. umunat (middle).

What is interesting about the middle system in YM is that it shows notable irregularities from general tendencies of middle marking. First, grooming actions take reflexive not middle marking as is evident from the ungrammaticality of the middle construction in (5b).” . Tagalog equivalent would be maghugas (reflexive) vs. *humugas (middle) for “wash oneself”.

Second, in cases of motion, again it is the reflexive, not the middle, the construction employed to signal that the subject controls his movements. In the first story (6a) the subject’s change of position is a routine action as expressed by the intransitive verb. In the second story (6b), the reflexive encodes a fast action that the main character of the story does to avoid being seen by the fox. The middle construction is precluded from both situations. “ Tagalog equivalent would be lumuhod (middle) vs. nagluhod (transitive/reflexive).

Third, in cases of change of state again the reflexive contrasts with the intransitive form. In the reflexive construction (7b) the subject makes himself sick in order to avoid going to work. The absolute intransitive is a spontaneous uncontrolled event.” This can’t be applied in Tagalog since both uses mag> : magkasakit vs. magsakitsakitan. 

“Moreover, in cases where both the reflexive and the middle construction can be used, the reflexive implies a reading of unexpectedness as in (8a). Crucially, the middle construction in (8b) would be chosen to depict natural occurrences like a firecracker bursting in the town festivities.” Tagalog equivalents would be nagputok (reflexive) vs pumutok (middle).

The YM voice system is quite sensitive to the degree of control imposed by the subject. The examples so far offered suggest that the contrast between reflexives and middles precisely resides in the notion of control. While both develop from transitive roots, the reflexive is a case where the subject maintains control of his self-directed actions. In contrast, the middle develops absolute events with no subject control. In fact the middle aligns with the nuclear properties of intransitive verbs and contrast with reflexives in exactly the same manner. …….In fact the middle develops from transitive to contrast drastically with the reflexive construction. In YM the middle is a derived construction independent from the reflexive.”  Tagalog et al’s middle is not derived from the transitive, as Maldonado’s other statement applies: “In a variety of languages the middle is a basic, non-derivative form and it constitutes the basis to derive either reflexive or transitive constructions.”. This seems to hold in Philippine languages since it is reconstructed that mag> and ma> is derived from <um>.

In Nagaya’s work, she used the term middle with 3 meanings:  middle (miiddle a), reflexive (middle b and middle c) [see illustration]. She said: “There is more than one affix for Actor Focus, -um- and mag- being the most productive. AF verb forms express non-active voice categories, representing the antipassive voice with extroverted verbs and the middle voice with introverted verbs, respectively.” Here she showed a verb form using <um> but with antipassive use: “Pumatay si Juan ng aso.” since the action is externally directed. “Bumili” seems to be of this type as well.

The concept of introverted and extroverted verbs is useful in mag> and ma> for determining if they are reflexive or reciprocal/other transitive. “the distinction between “introverted verbs” and “extroverted verbs”. Introverted verbs “refer to actions which one generally performs upon one’s self” (ibid.:803); extroverted verbs “describe actions which the subject usually performs toward others” (ibid.:803). This contrast between extroverted and introverted verbs, we argue, plays an important role in the Tagalog middle voice as well. On the one hand, AF verb forms of extroverted verbs cannot express middle situations but only antipassive situations as in (57) and (58). Indeed, all the examples of antipassive constructions we have discussed are AF clauses with extroverted verbs: kumain ‘eat’ (15), pumatay ‘kill’ (16), uminom ‘drink’ (19), and mangagat ‘bite’ (20). On the other hand, introverted verbs can realize middle situations, but not antipassive situations, with AF verb forms like (59) and (60). In fact, the AF verb forms we have looked at in Section 4 are those with introverted verbs such as verbs of grooming and of change in body posture. ”  Mag>/ma> with introverted verbs are reflexive. Mag>/ma> with extroverted verbs either are transitive reciprocal or plain active.

Nagaya further said that “To express a middle meaning with extroverted verbs, which is an unpredictable situation, it is necessary to employ the sarili reflexive construction. The situations the sarili reflexive construction realizes are middle situations in the sense that the development of an action is confined within the agent’s personal sphere and the agent him- or herself is affected (cf. English reflexives in 12). But they are “unusual” middle situations, where extroverted verbs have a middle meaning contrary to expectations, being distinguished from “usual” middle situations expressed by AF clauses like (59) and (60).”. I think this is a reflexive in NAF focus.

She said that mag> is a middle voice affix: “Certain verbs of grooming (Section 4) can have a specific body part as a patient. For example, the AF verb form magsabon ‘wash (with soap)’ means that the agent washes her own whole body as in (25a). But it can also be used to mean that the agent washes her specific body part kamay ‘hand’ as in (25b). In this case, the body part has to be interpreted to belong to the agent; the interpretation that the agent washed someone else’s body part is not possible. Note that the body part patient here is interpreted as part of the agent and within her personal sphere, and is different from a “distinct patient” involved in active situations.” Following Maldonado, mag> is actually not a middle affix but reflexive in her example.

She further said : “Another example of transitive AF middle clauses is a “causative middle”. Let us compare (27a) and (27b). Both of them mean that the speaker was kissed by Kathleen, but are different in terms of who benefits from the action. The AF causative middle clause in (27a) [Nagpahalik ako kay Kathleen] denotes that the action of kissing was carried out for the benefit of the speaker/agent.” This actually looks like a “causative reflexive” to me, as also noted by Nagaya in Lyons’ work. Other examples in here are: nagpagupit (had a haircut), nagpaluto (had cooked for oneself), nagpasama (had accompanied).

In Nagaya’s work, mag> also has a naturally reciprocal meaning for certain verbs (where multiple participants act on each other, are also realized by an AF verb form) as well. Ex: Nag-away (quarrelled with each other), nag-usap (talked with each other), naghiwalay (separate), and nagtalik (copulate).

So I have recasted Nagaya’s table here as :

Verb Type Affix Actor Focus
Introverted Verbs <um> Middle Voice
Extroverted Verbs <um> ??
Introverted Verbs mag> Reflexive Voice
Extroverted Verbs magpa> Causative Reflexive
Extroverted Verbs mag><an Reciprocal Voice
Extroverted Verbs mag> Active Voice
Extroverted Verbs magpa> Causative Active

Although Nagaya classified of one  <um> use as antipassive, this might be difficult, just as it is in Tongan: “For one thing, as mentioned earlier in this chapter, morphological evidence argues against the antipassive analysis: it is not likely that a middle verb is derived from a transitive verb. Rather, it seems that the transitive verb is derived from a middle verb by affixing -‘i. This morphological fact argues against the antipassive analysis of the Tongan middle.” Aldridge offers reasons why this is an antipassive, although <um> is not derived from a transitive verb.