|Spoken in|| Philippines,
|Total speakers||7.7 million, 2.3 million 2nd language = 10 million total; 3rd most spoken native language in the Philippines|
|Writing system||Latin (Ilokano or Filipino variant);
Historically written in Baybayin
|Official language in||Regional language in the Philippines|
|Regulated by||Commission on the Filipino Language|
|Note: This page may contain IPA phonetic symbols in Unicode.|
Ilokano (Ti Pagsasao nga Iloko) (also called Ilocano, Iluko, Iloco, Iloko, Ylocano, and Yloco) is the third most-spoken language of the Republic of the Philippines.
An Austronesian language, it is related to such languages as Indonesian, Malay, Fijian, Maori (of New Zealand), Hawaiian, Malagasy (of Madagascar), Samoan, Tahitian, Chamorro (of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands), Tetum (of East Timor), and Paiwan (of Taiwan).
Ilocanos are descendants of Austronesian-speaking people from southern China via Borneo. Families and clans arrived by viray or bilog, meaning "boat". The term Ilokano, as commonly accepted, originates from i-, "from", and looc, "cove or bay", thus "people of the bay." But some modern scholars, however, argue that as taking into consideration the Ilocano tradition of giving names to their place of residency is concerned, the i + looc etymology is not of local origin. These scholars suggest that the term Ilocano comes from "i-", "from", and "lukong", "the flat lands" or "the lowlands". Ilokanos also refer to themselves as Samtoy, a contraction from the Ilokano phrase sao mi atoy, "our language here".
Ilocano comprises its own branch in the Philippine Cordilleran family of languages. It is spoken as a native language by eight million people.
A lingua franca of the northern region, it is spoken as a secondary language by more than two million people who are native speakers of Pangasinan, Ibanag, Ivatan, and other languages in Northern Luzon.
Ilocanos occupy the narrow, barren strip of land in the northwestern tip of Luzon, squeezed in between the inhospitable Cordillera mountain range to the east and the South China Sea to the west. This harsh geography molded a people known for their clannishness, tenacious industry and frugality, traits that were vital for survival. It also induced Ilokanos to become a migratory people, always in search for better opportunities and for land to build a life on. Although their homeland constitutes the provinces of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union and Abra, their population has spread east and south of their original territorial borders.
Ilocano pioneers flocked to the more fertile Cagayan Valley, Apayao mountains and the Pangasinan plains during the 18th and 19th centuries and now constitute a majority in many of these areas. In the 20th century, many Ilokano families moved to Metro Manila and further south to Mindanao. They became the first Filipino ethnic group to immigrate en masse to North America (the so-called Manong generation), forming sizable communities in the American states of Hawaii, California, Washington and Alaska. Ilokano is the native language of most of the original Filipino immigrants in the United States, but Tagalog is used by more Filipino-Americans because it is the basis for Filipino, the national language of the people of the Philippines.
Pre-colonial Ilocanos of all classes wrote in a syllabic system prior to European arrival. They used a system that is termed as an abugida, or an alphasyllabary. It was similar to the Tagalog and Pangasinan scripts, where each character represented a consonant-vowel, or CV, sequence. The Ilokano version, however, was the first to designate coda consonants with a diacritic mark - a cross or virama - shown in the Doctrina Cristiana of 1621, one of the earliest surviving Ilokano publications. Before the addition of the virama, writers had no way to designate coda consonants. The reader, on the other hand, had to guess whether the vowel was read or not.
In recent times, there have been two systems in use: The "Spanish" system and the "Tagalog" system. In the Spanish system words of Spanish origin kept their spellings. Native words, on the other hand, conformed to the Spanish rules of spelling. Nowadays, only the older generation of Ilocanos use the Spanish system.
The system based on that of Tagalog is more phonetic. Each letter receives one phonetic value, and better reflects the actual pronunciation of the word. The letters ng, however, constitute a digraph and counts as a single letter, following n in alphabetization. As a result, numo humility appears before ngalngal to chew in newer dictionaries. Words of foreign origin, most notably those from Spanish, need to be changed in spelling to better reflect Ilokano phonology. The weekly magazine Bannawag is known to use this system.
The following are two versions of the Lord's Prayer. The one on the left is written using the Spanish-based orthography, while the one on the right uses the Tagalog-based system.
With the implementation of the Bilingual Education System of 1897, Ilocano, together with the other seven major languages (those that have at least a million speakers), was allowed to be used as a medium of instruction until the second grade. It is recognized by the Commission on the Filipino Language as one of the major languages of the Philippines. Constitutionally, Ilocano is an auxiliary official language in the regions where it is spoken and serves as auxiliary media of instruction therein.
In recent years, a movement in both the Lower and the Upper House of the Congress pressed for the usage of the mother tongue as a medium of instruction until the sixth grade.
Ilocano animistic past offers a rich background in folklore, mythology and superstition (see Religion in the Philippines). There are many stories of good and malevolent spirits and beings. Its creation mythology centers on the giants Aran and her husband Angngalo, and Namarsua (the Creator).
The epic story Biag ni Lam-ang (The Life of Lam-ang) is undoubtedly one of the few indigenous stories from the Philippines that survived colonialism, although much of it is now acculturated and shows many foreign elements in the retelling. It reflects values important to traditional Ilokano society; it is a hero’s journey steeped in courage, loyalty, pragmatism, honor, and ancestral and familial bonds.
Ilocano culture revolves around life rituals, festivities and oral history. These were celebrated in songs (kankanta), dances (sala), poems (daniw), riddles (burburtia), proverbs (pagsasao), literary verbal jousts called bucanegan (named after the writer Pedro Bucaneg, and is the equivalent of the Balagtasan of the Tagalogs) and epic stories.
Modern Ilocano has two dialects, which are differentiated only by the way the letter e is pronounced. In the Amianan (Northern) Dialect, there exist only five vowels while the Abagatan (Southern) Dialect employs six.
The letter in bold is the graphic (written) representation of the vowel.
|Close||i /i/||e /ɯ/, u/o /u/|
|Mid||e /ɛ/||o /o/|
For a better rendition of vowel distribution, please refer to the IPA Vowel Chart.
Unstressed /a/ is pronounced [ɐ] in all positions except final syllables, like madí [mɐˈdi] (cannot be) but ngiwat (mouth) is pronounced [ˈŋiwat].
Although the modern (Tagalog) writing system is largely phonetic, there are some notable conventions.
Example: Root: luto cook agluto to cook lutuen to cook (something)
Instances such as masapulmonto, You will manage to find it, to need it, are still consistent. Note that masapulmonto is, in fact, three morphemes: masapul (verb base), -mo (pronoun) and -(n)to (future particle). An exception to this rule, however, is laud /la.ʔud/ (west). Also, u in final stressed syllables can be pronounced [o], like [dɐ.ˈnom] for danum (water).
That said, the two vowels are not highly differentiated in native words, due to fact that /o/ was an allophone of /u/ in the history of the language. In words of foreign origin, notably Spanish, they are phonemic.
Example: uso use oso bear
Unlike u and o, i and e are not allophones, but i in final stressed syllables in words ending in consonants can be [ɛ], like ubíng [ʊ.ˈbɛŋ] (child).
Example: kuarta /kwaɾ.ta/ money paria /paɾ.ja/ bitter melon
Unstressed /i/ and /u/ are pronounced [ɪ] and [ʊ] except in final syllables, like pintás (beauty) [pɪn.ˈtas] and buténg (fear) [bʊ.ˈtɛŋ] but bangir (other side) and parabur (grace) are pronounced [ˈba.ŋiɾ] and [pɐ.ˈɾa.buɾ].
The letter e represent two vowels in the Abagatan (Southern) dialect, /ɛ/ in words of foreign origin and /ɯ/ in native words, and only one in the Amianan (Northern) dialect, /ɛ/.
|Word||Gloss||Origin||Amianan Dialect||Abagatan Dialect|
Diphthongs are combination of a vowel and /i/ or /u/. In the orthography, the secondary vowels (underlying /i/ or /u/) are written with their corresponding glide, y or w, respectively. Of all the possible combinations, only /ai/ or /ei/, /iu/, /ai/ and /ui/ occur. In the orthography, vowels in sequence such as uo and ai, do not coelesce into a diphthong, rather, they are pronounced with an intervening glottal stop, for example, buok hair /bʊ.ʔuk/ and dait sew /da.ʔit/.
|/iu/||iw||iliw "home sick"|
|/ei/||ey||idiey "there" (Regional variant. Standard: "idiay")|
|/oi/, /ui/||oy, uy||baboy "pig"|
The diphthong [ei] is a variant of [ai] in native words. Other occurrences are in words of Spanish and English origin. Examples are reyna [ˈɾei.na] (from Spanish reina, queen) and treyner [ˈtɾei.nɛɾ] (trainer). The diphthongs [oi] and [ui] may be interchanged since [o] is an allophone of [u] in final syllables. Thus, apúy (fire) may be pronounced [ɐ.ˈpoi] and baboy (pig) may be pronounced [ˈba.bui].
|Affricates||Voiceless||(ts, tiV) [tʃ]|
|Nasals||m||n||(niV) [nj]||ng [ŋ]|
|Semivowels||(w, CuV) w||(y, CiV) [j]|
All consonantal phonemes except are /h, ʔ/ may be a syllable onset or coda. The phoneme /h/ is a borrowed sound and rarely occurs in coda position. Although, the Spanish word, reloj, clock, would have been heard as [re.loh], the final /h/ is dropped resulting in /re.lo/. However, this word also may have entered the Ilokano lexicon at early enough a time that the word was still pronounced /re.loʒ/, with the j pronounced as in French, resulting in /re.los/ in Ilokano. As a result, both /re.lo/ and /re.los/ occur.
The glottal stop /ʔ/ is not permissible as coda; it can only occur as onset. Even as an onset, the glottal stop disappears in affixation. Take for example the root aramat, use. When prefixed with ag-, the expected form is *ag-aramat /ʔɐɡ.ʔɐ.ra.mat/. But, the actual form is, in fact, agaramat /ʔɐ.ɡɐ.ra.mat/; the glottal stop disappears. In a reduplicated form, the glottal stop returns and participates in the template, CVC, agar-aramat /ʔɐ.ɡar.ʔɐ.ra.mat/.
Stops are pronounced without aspiration. When they occur as coda, they are not released, for example, sungbat [sʊŋ.bat̚] answer, response.
Ilokano is one of the Philippine languages which is excluded from [ɾ]-[d] allophony, as /r/ in many cases is derived from a Proto-Austonesian */G/, compare dugô (Tagalog) and dara (Ilokano) blood.
The language marginally has a trill [r] which was spelled as “rr”, for example, serrek [sɛ.ˈrɛk] to enter. But it is different in proper names of foreign origin, mostly Spanish, like Serrano, which is correctly pronounced [sɛ.ˈrano]. Some speakers, however, pronounce Serrano as [sɛ.ˈɾano].
Stress is phonemic or lexical in Ilokano. This results in minimal pairs such as káyo (wood) and kayó (you (plural or polite)) or kíta (class, type, kind) and kitá (see). In written Ilokano, stress is not indicated, thus kayo and kita. Regardless of that fact, phonemic patterns can be found that give a good indication how to determine the primary stress of a given root.
Primary stressed syllables are lower in pitch compared to the rest of the prosodic word.
Ilokano is typified by a predicate-initial structure. Verbs and adjectives occur in the first position of the sentence, then the rest of the sentence follows.
Ilokano uses a highly complex list of affixes (prefixes, suffixes, infixes and enclitics) and reduplications to indicate a wide array of grammatical categories. Learning simple root words and corresponding affixes goes a long way in forming cohesive sentences.
|Word||Source||Original Meaning||Ilokano meaning|
|arak||Persian||drink similar to sake||generic alcoholic drink|
|karma||Sanskrit||deed (see Buddhism)||spirit|
|sanglay||Hokkien||to deliver goods||to deliver/Chinese merchant|
|agbuldos||English||to bulldoze||to bulldoze|
|kuarta||Spanish||cuarta ("quarter", a kind of copper coin)||money|
|kumusta||Spanish||greeting: ¿Cómo está? ("How are you?")||how are you|
|How are you?||Kumusta ka?
Kumusta kayo? (polite and plural)
|Good day||Naimbag nga aldawmo.
Naimbag nga aldawyo. (polite and plural)
|Good morning||Naimbag a bigatmo.
Naimbag a bigatyo. (polite and plural)
|Good afternoon||Naimbag a malemmo.
Naimbag a malemyo. (polite and plural)
|Good evening||Naimbag a rabiim.
Naimbag a rabiiyo. (polite and plural)
|What is your name?||Ania ti naganmo? (often contracted to Aniat' naganmo? or Ana't naganmo)
Ania ti naganyo?
|Where's the bathroom?||Ayanna ti banio?|
|I cannot understand||Diak matarusan/maawatan.
Saanko maawatan (or Saanko nga maawatan).
|I love you||Ay-ayatenka.
Kastan/Kasta pay. (Till then)
Ilokano uses two number systems, one native and the other derived from Spanish.
awan (lit. none)
sero (English zero)
itlog (slang egg)
|10||sangapulo (lit. a group of ten)||dies|
|11||sangapulo ket maysa||onse|
|100||sangagasut (lit. a group of one hundred)||sien, siento|
|1,000||sangaribo (lit. a group of one thousand)||mil|
|10,000||sangalaksa (lit. a group of ten thousand)||dies mil|
|1,000,000||sangariwriw (lit. a group of one million)||milion|
|1,000,000,000||sangabilion (American English, billion)||bilion|
Ilokano uses a mixture of native and Spanish numbers. Traditionally Ilokano numbers are used for quantities and Spanish numbers for time or days and references. Examples:
Days of the week are directly borrowed from Spanish.
Like the days of the week, the names of the months are taken from Spanish.
The names of the units of time are either native or are derived from Spanish. The first entries in the following table are native; the second entries are Spanish derived.
dominggo (lit. Sunday)
To mention time, Ilokanos use a mixture of Spanish and Ilokano:
Ilocano or Iloco (also Iluko) is the main language of the Northern Philippines. According to the 2005 Census, there are about 8 million people who speak Ilocano as a mother tongue (locally called kabakketan a dildila) and still another 2 million who speak it as a second language. Although it has no official status in the country, those who use it often call it the National Language of the North. From their traditional homeland (the Ilocandia), Ilocanos have migrated southward, now forming large communities in Central Luzon, Metropolitan Manila and even in the main Urban centres of General Santos City and Zamboanga City in the Island of Mindanao.
There are also a sizable number of Ilocano speakers in the United States, especially in Hawaii, California, Alaska and Washington, as the Ilocanos were the first Filipinos to migrate en masse to the US. Speakers of this language are also found in Canada, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and Australia.
Belonging to the Austronesian family of languages, it is related to all the other languages in the Philippines like the larger Tagalog and Cebuano. It is also distantly related to Malagasy, Malay, Tetum, Hawaiian and other Polynesian languages.
Ilocano is an agglutinative language. Meaning, it employs a number of affixes to signify changes in meaning. If you are having a hard time looking for a word in the dictionary, try dropping the following suffixes:
Like all its sister languages, Ilocano is fairly easy to pronounce. And although there are two orthographic systems that are in common use, the one based on Tagalog is more commonly found in publications. The general rule is one sound for each letter. However, the language, like all the Borneo-Philippine Languages, employ the digraph ng to represent an initial velar nasal consonant (the ng in English sing).
Accents are very unpredictable and must be learnt while learning the new word. Although books about the language will show these signs, they are often not found in publications like newspapers.
The Ilocano language has either five or six vowels, depending on what dialect you choose to speak. The language is generally divided into the Amianan (Northern) and Abagatan (Southern) Dialects. The only difference however between these two dialects is the way they pronounce the letter 'E'. In the Abagatan Dialect, only five vowels are present and they are pronounced as follows:
On the other hand, the Amianan Dialect has another vowel for the symbol 'e'. For the speakers of the Abagatan Dialect, the 'e' that was given above is used for words of foreign origin (e.g. elepante from Spanish). For native words, the sound of a close back unrounded vowel is used. There is no equivalent for this sound in English so some dictionaries use the IPA symbol for the schwa sign. But the proper symbol must be:
Historically, Ilocano has only 3 vowels and this reality is still evident until today as the sounds of e and i and o and u' often merges.
When the letter i precedes another letter, its sound will glide resulting to the sound of [j]. This happens also to the letter u where it glides into the sound of [w].
Spanish cities such as Vigan were in contact with Spanish, hence, the additional open-mid front unrounded vowel "e".
In modern written Ilocano (based on Tagalog Ortography), there are 16 symbols for the consonnts but there are more than 16 consonant sounds in the language. Here, we include the other letters that may likely occur in some prints.
Some consonants change their sounds when followed by a vowel. The the following sounds are produced:
As mentioned above the digraph ng represents the sound of the same digraph in Singer. However, unlike in English, this sound may be used as initial.
The inital glotal stop is not written. Thus, it appears as if the word commences with a vowel. When it occurs at the middle of the word, a hypen (-) is inserted to represent the sound.
There are only three commonly used dipthongs in the Ilocano language. They are as follows:
Other dipthongs are also likely to occur but they are generally from loaned words. They are usually pronounced as they are foreign.
There exist two names for the numbers in Ilocano. The native Ilocano and the Spanish names. Generally, Ilocanos use the Spanish terms if they are talking about time of very large quantities. You will however see the native terms if you would read literary books. If you are going on a shopping, prices of small values are given in this form.
Telling the time is rather complicated in Ilocano. People use a combination of the Spanish system and the native style of telling time. However, even the Spanish system has changed that those who has learnt how to tell time in Spanish may not understant it quite easily. Here are some phrases:
Ilocanos use the 12hr clock. So, no more to learn Spanish number beyond that (for time only).
To say half-past an hour or a quarter of an hour, we may use the Spanish system or:
Days of the Week (Adlaw iti Lawas) follow their corresponding Spanish counterparts:
Months of the year (dagiti Bulan iti Tawen) follows the names of their Spanish counterparts:
Once we have leart how to say time and date, writting them is very simple. In writing the date, one genreally gives the day first, followed by the month and the year. If we have to indicate the time, it follows ifter the date.
Note: As adjectives may be places at either sides of the noun, one must not forget the ligature nga (if the next word begins with a vowel) or a (if the next word begins with a consonant) to establish the connection.
Sample: yellow dress may be rendered as bado a duyaw or duyaw a bado.
Like the rest of the Philippines, busses and taxis are not the primary mode of transportation in Ilocandia (i.e. the Northern Philippines). For short distances, the tricycles remain to be the most available form of transportation. For average distance travels, the modified Filipino jeep will be the best way to navigate the area. Indeed, these jeepneys dominate the streets of the Philippines that they are often called The King of the Streets throughout the archipelago. Busses and trains are only used for very long distances.
Note: As Ilocano enjoys no official status in the Philippines, no street sign is written in the language. Street signs and even public notices are posted in English.