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June 18th, 2007

New center to document Philippine dialects

BATAC, ILOCOS NORTE -- Instead of focusing solely on promoting Filipino as the national language, the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) is now looking at the development, propagation and preservation of the country's more than 179 dialects and regional languages.

"The KWF leadership has agreed to establish a center for information, documentation and research on the languages and various literatures of the Philippines," KWF Chair Ricardo Ma. Nolasco said.

Nolasco, who spoke in Filipino, delivered the keynote address at a recent international gathering here of 182 Filipino educators, scholars and writers from the Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, Cordillera, the United States and Japan.

Called "Nakem" (consciousness or maturity in Iloko), the three-day gathering at the Mariano Marcos Memorial State University tackled, besides the Ilocano diaspora, the state of Philippine dialects and languages.

Nolasco said the center, to be established within three years, would create original and model dictionary, grammar and orthography (spelling), scholarly journals and literacy materials and references for teaching various disciplines.

He said the center would be a storehouse of data on various dialects and languages, and would be equipped with audio and video recording of communicative events, including annotations and commentaries.

The project is in line with the policy, "Isang Bansa, Maraming Wika" (One Nation, Many Languages), which is the basis for this year's language theme, "Many Languages, Strong Country," Nolasco said.

English, as one of the country's official languages, will also be enhanced, the KWF chair said.

Dialects a big advantage

The policy has been formulated in keeping with the fact that the Filipino is multilingual and multicultural, and that the country's having more than 170 dialects and regional languages is not a handicap but a big advantage, according to Nolasco.

"It is ordinary for a Filipino to know how to speak two or more languages," he said, citing the case of President Macapagal-Arroyo who can speak Kapampangan, Sinebwano, Iloko, Tagalog, English and Spanish.

The country, however, has a national language, Filipino, that has become a common language for various ethnolinguistic groups.

Although Filipino is not the mother tongue of most Filipinos, it has become their second language, according to Nolasco.

Tagalog syntax, grammar

He acknowledged that Filipino was simply Tagalog in syntax and grammar, with no grammatical element or lexicon coming from Iloko, Sinebwano, Ilonggo and other major Philippine languages.

This is contrary to the intention of Republic Act No. 7104 that requires that the national language be developed and enriched by the lexicon of the country's other dialects and languages.

The KWF is working toward that direction and would conduct research and studies not only on the national language but also on the country's dialects and languages, Nolasco said.

He said the KWF would be strengthening its various programs on Philippine lexicography, grammar, national translation, phonology, phonetics, orthography, language mapping, including literacy projects and language teaching.

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