Tagalog or Filipino? Explaining The Philippine Language

Andreea Dobrin Dinu, Studio SUMMERKID /
Andreea Dobrin Dinu, Studio SUMMERKID / | © Culture Trip

Tagalog or Filipino — which of the two is the Philippine language that Filipinos use in their everyday conversations? Or, is there even a difference between the two? While the Philippine Constitution of 1987 declared Filipino as the country’s national language, there’s still a confusing answer when you ask a local if they’re speaking in Tagalog or Filipino.

Brief History of the Philippine Language

The Filipino language, also known as Filipino or Tagalog, has a rich history that reflects the cultural and linguistic evolution of the Philippines. Here is a brief overview of its history:

Precolonial Era: Before the arrival of Spanish colonizers in the 16th century, the Philippines was home to a variety of indigenous languages and dialects. Among these, Tagalog emerged as one of the most prominent languages in the central part of the archipelago.Spanish Colonial Period (1521-1898): Spanish explorers arrived in the Philippines in 1521, and Spanish colonization began in earnest in the 1560s. During this period, the Spanish language, along with Christianity, had a significant impact on the Philippines. Spanish became the language of administration, education, and religious instruction, and it heavily influenced the vocabulary and grammar of Tagalog.Emergence of Filipino Nationalism: Towards the end of the 19th century, a growing sense of Filipino nationalism arose, influenced by Enlightenment ideals and nationalist movements around the world. Filipino intellectuals and reformists sought to promote the use of the native languages and championed the idea of a national language that would unify the diverse Filipino people.

The Language of Revolution:

In 1896, the Philippine Revolution against Spanish colonial rule began. During this period, Tagalog played a crucial role as a language of resistance and unity. Prominent figures like Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Aguinaldo utilized Tagalog to communicate their revolutionary ideas.American Period (1898-1946): The United States gained control of the Philippines following the Spanish-American War. English became the medium of instruction in schools, and efforts were made to marginalize the use of native languages, including Tagalog. However, the influence of English on Tagalog vocabulary continued to grow.

Development of Pilipino and Filipino

In the 1930s, the Commonwealth government, under the leadership of President Manuel L. Quezon, initiated efforts to develop a national language based on Tagalog. In 1937, the National Language Institute was established to promote and standardize the language, which was then called Pilipino. Over time, Pilipino evolved and incorporated words from other Philippine languages.Renaming and Modernization: In 1959, Pilipino was renamed Filipino to emphasize its inclusivity and the aspirations of a national language that would represent the entire Philippines. Filipino, which retained its roots in Tagalog, was declared the national language of the Philippines in the 1987 Constitution. It continues to be the official language alongside English.

Today, Filipino is spoken by the majority of Filipinos and serves as a lingua franca that bridges the gap between various Philippine languages. It continues to evolve and adapt to contemporary needs, reflecting the ongoing linguistic and cultural developments in the Philippines.

The History of the Philipine language

Dates back to the 1930s when the Commonwealth government insisted that there was a need for a national language, given the variety of languages spoken across the archipelago. Since Tagalog was the primary language spoken in Metro Manila and nearby provinces, it became a leading candidate. However, some representatives opposed it, as they believed that not all Filipinos at that time knew how to speak in Tagalog. Hence, the constitution only recommended the need for a national language in the future and to consider incorporating the spoken languages from the entire country.

During the 1970s, former dictator, President Ferdinand Marcos, focused on creating a “new society” for the Philippines. As such, nationalist academics took the opportunity to advance their efforts in developing the national language called Pilipino at the time. They worked on enriching the Philippines’ vocabulary by incorporating and modifying words from other languages such as English, Spanish, Malay, and Chinese. They also replaced unsound Tagalog words with words from other languages to make it more pleasing to the ear; for instance, they suggested using the Spanish-derived word silya to refer to a chair, instead of using salumpuwit,which Tagalog purists would use.

During former President Cory Aquino’s term, the constitution finally labeled Filipino as the country’s national language. By that time, the majority of Filipinos were using the language in daily conversations. In addition to deriving words from other languages, the letters f, j, c, x, and z were also added to the Filipino alphabet.

Tagalog vs Filipino

To answer the question posed earlier, Tagalog is a part of the evolution process of the Filipino language. Apart from native Tagalog words, the Filipino language also includes the modified or nativized words from the English and Spanish languages, for instance.

Moreover, the Filipino language also recognizes the use of transliteration, or how a local spells a word, based on how he or she pronounces it. For example, in Filipino, it is acceptable for driver to be spelled as drayber. The same goes for computer, where you’ll read Filipino texts spelling it as kompyuter.

To simply differentiate Filipino from Tagalog, think of it this way: Filipino is the “leveled up” or upgraded version of the Tagalog language.

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