Language facts: Tagalog

Sep 30, 2016

Tagalog (also known as Filipino or the native Pilipino) is one of the two official languages of the Philippines, the other being English. Tagalog is an Austronesian language and as such related to Malay, Javanese and Hawaiian. Tagalog is the first language of one third of the Philippines with about 21.5 million speakers, and the second language of the remaining two thirds (approximately 70 million speakers) who use other regional languages such as Ilocano, Cebuano, Waray, Bikolano, Bisaya, etc. The language is also spoken by many ethnic minorities (including 1.5 million diaspora in the United States).

Mysterious language ruled by the Spanish

Very little is known about Tagalog that most likely has its origins in Mindanao (the second largest island in the Philipines). Literally Tagalog means “river dweller”. It was declared the official language by the Philippines’ first constitution in 1897. Today, Tagalog is concentrated to the central and southern parts of Luzon, but is also spoken on many other islands.

Tagalog's first written record dates back to 900 AD, while the first book known to be written in Tagalog – the Doctrina Christiana – came to light by the end of 16th century (1593) and used also Spanish alongside Tagalog.

The Spanish colonists and the strong Christian culture they brought upon the islands heavily influenced evolution of (not just) the languages of the Phillipines. It was, after all, Spanish monk Pedro de San Buenaverture, who wrote the first dictionary of Tagalog. Interestingly, another and much more substantial dictionary (Vocabulario de la lengua tagala) was written by Czech Jesuit, Paul Klein, who published several other books in Tagalog.

Alphabet

Until 1987, Tagalog was based on a writing system consisting of 20 Latin letters, the so called ABAKADA alphabet. Today it adopts 28 letters under the official name Filipino.

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N Ñ NG O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

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