10 January 2016

Those Annoying Loanwords News Reporters Love to Use as Filipino

Image captured from video on Iwantv.

Readers who are my contemporaries and who were in high school up to the early eighties will likely have noticed how reporters of the evening news keep using supposed Filipino words which were simply not used at all back in the day.

I am a TV Patrol regular and have compiled a sampling of such words that the news reporters love to use: sumite (submit), akusa (accuse), ditene (detain), organisa (organise), kundina (condemn), kansela (cancel), resolba (resolve), prepara (prepare), beripika (verify), responde (respond), paralisa (paralyse), deklara (declare), apela (appeal) and kunsidera (consider).

In the context of linguistics, these are examples of what are known as lexical borrowings or more commonly as loanwords. These are words native to one language but are borrowed for use by speakers of another language.

Loanwords are nothing new, even to my generation. Back in the day, however, the technical usage of these words was more straightforward. For instance, instead of saying isumite as reporters love to do these days, we would have just said i-submit.

This was perfectly acceptable in the Pilipino that we were taught back in high school. I suppose it is because of this that I find the forced ‘Filipinisation’ of such words not only ridiculous but also annoying.

Hence, in conversational Tagalog, I still prefer to use i-submit rather than isumite – and i-cancel, i-resolve, i-declare and so on. Herein lays the rub, however. I use the word Tagalog because it used to be the basis of the Pilipino language that was taught nationwide in my generation.

There is a bit of politics involved in the development of a national language. Tagalog became the basis for Pilipino since the seat of government has always been in the Tagalog-speaking region. Statistically, however, there are more native speakers of the language sub-family Bisayâ.

Hence, no less than the 1987 constitution mandated a national language commission to enrich the national language with words from the nation’s more than 100 endemic languages. Note my use of the word ‘languages’ rather than the erroneous ‘dialects’ perpetuated by Social Science textbooks.

This has not really happened; and linguistics experts are of the opinion that the enrichment of what is now referred to as ‘Filipino’ rather than ‘Pilipino’ has mostly been with lexical borrowings or loanwords from English. Let me get back to this later.

For those who are confused about the difference between the two, let me cite an excerpt from an excellent paper written by Jessie Grace U. Rubrico entitled ‘The Metamorphosis of the Filipino Language’ where she cites an explanation from the famous linguist Ernesto A. Constantino:

“Filipino (1) has more phonemes; (2) has a different system of orthography; (3) manifests a heavy borrowing from English; (4) has a different grammatical construction.”

Do not be intimidated by the technical terms. Phonemes are sounds such as vowels and consonants; and orthography refers to symbols that represent them such as an alphabet.

To be more specific, the Filipino alphabet now includes letters which were erstwhile not present in the ABAKADA. These are F, Ñ, V, X and Z. This is what makes it now correct to say Filipino rather than the old Pilipino. Similarly, in the old days we would have spelled Batangenyo instead of the currently acceptable and correct Batangueño.

To get back to the matter of loanwords, it is perhaps not surprising that the enrichment of the Filipino language has been more with those borrowed from English and probably even Spanish considering this nation’s long association with the former European colonial master.

For instance, among the examples that I gave from TV Patrol reporters, most can as easily be said to have been borrowed from Spanish as well as English: acusar, detener, organizar, condenar, cancelar, resolver and so on.

At the end of the day, the source of the loanword is irrelevant. What seems to be is its neutrality or that it was not borrowed from any local language. Because of the regional nature of the Filipino, this is sometimes seen as a reason for acceptability.

Acceptability is why I have such a personal issue with these words that news reporters love to use. While they are universally understood because they are approximate enough to the original English or Spanish and are used frequently enough by bureaucrats as well, they do not really find their way to the streets.

In the late fifties and sixties, language purists coined words such as salipawpaw (aeroplane), salumpuwit (chair) and Sipnayan (Mathematics) [Rubrico]. None of these words really rose above cult status or as the butt of jokes. Therefore, if words do not really find their way into popular usage, what is the point?

On the other hand, I know better than to underestimate the impact of national media. While around me, I do not really hear these loanwords reporters love to use, I am pragmatic enough to understand that I am in the Tagalog region and that these days, Tagalog and Filipino are not similar in the way they used to be back in the day.

For all I know, non-Tagalog speakers around the nation are more accepting of these words and are more prepared to use them in conversation.




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