Language of the Philippines
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Chavacano (as a proper noun and a derivative of the Spanish adjective "chabacano" and as it is generally accepted in literature, the broadcast media, and Zamboangueños) or Chabacano (from the Spanish adjective) is a creole language or more precisely, the common name for the six dialects of the Philippine Creole Spanish spoken in the Philippines. The word chabacano—which the name Chavacano is derived from—is Spanish for "poor taste," "vulgar," "common," "of low quality," "tacky," or "coarse".
The Chavacano language is the only Spanish-based creole in Asia. It has survived for more than 400 years, making it one of the oldest creole languages in the world. It is the only language to have developed in the Philippines (a member of Philippine languages) which does not belong to the family of Austronesian languages, although it shows a characteristic common to the sub-classification of Malayo-Polynesian languages: the reduplication.
There are six dialects of this creole and their classification is based on their substrate languages and the regions where they are commonly spoken. The three known varieties of Chabacano which have Tagalog as their substrate language are the Luzon-based creoles of which are Caviteño (spoken in Cavite City), Ternateño (spoken in Ternate, Cavite), and Ermiteño (once spoken in the old district of Ermita in Manila and is now extinct). The other varieties of Chavacano which have, primarily, Cebuano as their substrate language are the Mindanao-based creoles of which are Zamboangueño (spoken in Zamboanga City), Davaoeño (spoken in some areas of Davao), and Cotabateño (spoken in Cotabato City).
Much of the words in the Chavacano vocabulary are mostly derived from the Spanish language, while its grammar is mostly based on other Philippine languages primarily, Tagalog and Cebuano. Its vocabulary, especially the Zamboangueño variety, has some minor influences from the Italian language, Portuguese and several Native American languages. The vocabulary of the Ternateño variety, in particular, has a major influence from the Portuguese language.
In contrast with the Luzon-based creoles, the Zamboangueño dialect has the most borrowings from other Philippine languages including Hiligaynon, Subanen/Subanon, Sama-Banguingui, Tausug, Yakan, Tagalog, and Ilocano. Portuguese, Italian and some words of Nahuatl, Quechua, Mexican-Indian and Taino origin are present in Zamboangueño.
The highest number of Chavacano speakers are found in Zamboanga City and in the island province of Basilan. A significant number of Chabacano speakers are found in Cavite City and Ternate. There are also speakers in some areas in the provinces of Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga del Norte, Davao, and in Cotabato City. According to the official 2000 Philippine census, there were altogether 607,200 Chavacano speakers in the Philippines in that same year. The exact figure could be higher as the 2000 population of Zamboanga City, whose main language is Chavacano, far exceeded that census figure. Also, the figure does not include Chavacano speakers of the Filipino diaspora. Notwithstanding, Zamboangueño is the variety with the most number of speakers, being the main language of Zamboanga City whose population is now believed to be over a million.
Speakers can also be found in the town of Semporna in the eastern coast of Sabah, Malaysia—not surprisingly—because this northern part of Borneo is close to the Sulu islands and the Zamboanga Peninsula. This region was once part of Spanish Philippines until the late 19th century.
Some people of the Muslim ethnic tribes of Zamboanga such as the Tausugs, the Samals, and of Basilan such as the Yakans also speak the language. In the close provinces of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi areas, there are Muslim speakers of the Chavacano de Zamboanga.
Chavacano has been primarily and practically a spoken language. In the past, its use in literature was limited and chiefly local to the geographical location where the particular variety of the language was spoken. Its use as a spoken language far exceeds than its use in literary work in comparison to the use of Spanish in the Philippines which was more successful as a written language than a spoken language. In recent years, there have been efforts to encourage the use of Chavacano as a written language, but the attempts were mostly minor attempts in folklore and religious literature and few pieces of written materials by the print media. In Zamboanga City, while the language is used by the mass media, the Catholic Church, education, and the local government, there have been few literary work written in Zamboangueño and access to these resources by the general public is not readily available.
While the Luzon-based creoles, Davaoeño, and Cotabateño are believed to be in danger of extinction, the Zamboangueño variety has been constantly evolving especially during half of the past century until the present. Zamboangueño has been experiencing an infusion of English and more Tagalog words in its vocabulary and there have been debates and discussions among older Chavacano speakers, new generation of Chavacano speakers, scholars, linguists, sociologists, historians, and educators regarding its preservation, cultivation, standardization, and its future as a Spanish-based creole. In 2000, The Instituto Cervantes in Manila hosted a conference entitled "Shedding Light on the Chabacano Language" at the Ateneo de Manila University.
Because of the grammatical structures, Castillian usage, and archaic Spanish words and phrases that Chavacano (especially Zamboangueño) uses, between speakers of both contemporary Spanish and Chavacano who are uninitiated, both languages appear to be non-intelligible to a large extent. For the initiated speakers, Chavacano can be intelligible to some Spanish speakers, and while most Spanish words can easily be understood by Chavacano speakers, many would struggle to understand a complete Spanish sentence.
Today, Chavacano in Zamboanga City is gradually becoming to be both a spoken and written language. It is used in local government, education, print media, television, radio, film, visual media, the Catholic Church and in popular music.
"Chavacano language." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 15 Mar 2009
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