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Grammar notes on the national language Prof. Ricardo M.D. Nolasco, Ph.D.

1. Introduction

Filipino, as used in this dictionary, refers to the national language of the Philippines. It is the language spoken in Metro Manila but its use as a second language has spread to other parts of the country. Because of this, it has become possible for Filipinos speaking different first languages to communicate with each other. This is why Filipino is called the national lingua franca. Also known as “Tagalog” and “Pilipino”, the Metro-Manila speech variety has the most prestige and is in fact considered the standard of the national language. Its grammar is unmistakably Tagalog, but its vocabulary has been enriched by adoptions from Philippine languages and borrowings from English, Spanish and other languages.

2. Sound system and orthography

The national language has an alphabet consisting of twenty-eight (28) letters: 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. It also uses the following non-letters: the grave mark (`) and hyphen (-) to symbolize the glottal stop; the grave accent (´) for stress, and the circumflex (ˆ) for the simultaneous occurrence of the glottal stop and stress.

The glottal stop between vowels or at the start of a word is pronounced but is not written. Thus, any written word starting with a vowel is understood to have a glottal stop before that vowel (e.g. aklát < [?ak. lat] ‘book’). Similarly, two adjacent vowels appearing in a word is interpreted and pronounced as having a glottal stop between them (e.g. táo [ ta .?o] ‘person’). The glottal stop is represented by a hyphen when it occurs between a consonant and a vowel, as in the word pag-asa [pag. ? a .sa] ‘hope’.

Stress can be primary or secondary. Primary stress is found either in the word’s last syllable as in aklát ‘book’ or in the second to the last syllable as in táo ‘person’. Secondary stress or stresses can be found elsewhere. The third to the last syllable in the word úulán has secondary stress.

Stressed syllables compared to unstressed ones are longer, higher in pitch, and louder. When stressed, open syllables (or syllables which end in a vowel) in non-final position are long, as in bátà [ ba .ta?]. Stressed final syllables, both open or closed, have higher pitch and are louder, but are not long, as in iná [?i. na].

Stress is phonemic, meaning that it can distinguish one word that is said from any other word that may be said because of the difference in stress. For instance, gútom [ gu .tom], meaning `hunger’ is distinguished from gutóm [gu. tom] meaning `hungry’, on the basis of stress. The same is true for búhay [ bu .hay] `life’ vs buháy [bu. hay] `alive.’

Notwithstanding this fact, we only mark stress here for certain pairs or sets of analogous words listed in an attachment. As for other forms, it has been assumed that users would be knowledgeable enough to pick out their intended meaning from the context. In the examples contained in the attachment, note that all stressed syllables have been marked, including those occurring at the penultimate position (or second to the last). The practice in the old orthography of not marking penultimate stress is not followed in this dictionary.

In spelling common words from Tagalog, the original letters of the old ABAKADA are used, namely: a b k d e g h i l m n ng o p r s t u w y, where the k comes before d, and not before l. Each of these letters represents one sound and is pronounced “according to how it is spelled.”

Tagalog/Filipino syllable structure is: CV and CVC, where the C stands for a consonant and V for

a vowel. The sound h and the glottal stop have not been found to occur at the end of a non-final syllable.

Contrary to earlier spelling guides, there is no syllable which begins with a vowel. As explained earlier, a syllable which appears to begin with a vowel in written form (as in the first syllable in ása ‘hope’ or the second syllable in táo ‘person’) contains a preceding glottal stop. Just because the glottal stop is not written in word initial position and in-between vowels does not mean that it isn’t there.

Adoptions from non-Tagalog languages are written according to the orthography of the original language. For instance, the word for ‘peace pact’ in the Cordilleras is fochóng in some parts and beddéng in others. The rule in this dictionary is to retain the original spelling and not to respell them according to the Tagalog system as has been the practice before.

Borrowings are also governed by certain rules. The first rule is: Don’t borrow. If there is an appropriate term in the national language for the concept, then the dictionary uses that term.

Second, if the concept is an indigenous concept, the term is adopted according to the pronunciation and spelling conventions of the source language and culture, as mentioned above.

Third, borrowing is resorted to in the following cases: (a) the concept does not have an appropriate or exact equivalent in Philippine languages, (b) the borrowed term is understood more, and (c) the term is considered more exact than the native term.

The spelling of Spanish and English loans, excepting proper names, is dealt with in two ways.

In the case of Spanish borrowings, the term will appear in this dictionary in its respelled form under the Tagalog system. The reason is historical usage, meaning language users are presumed to have accepted, or have gotten used to, the Tagalog respelling.

If the borrowing is from English, the rule is to retain the original spelling of the word, unless it

has acquired a different meaning or pronunciation. For instance, the word istambay unemployed’ clearly originates from the English phrase ‘(to) stand by’ but justifies its respelling from evolving a

separate meaning and pronunciation.

narrative to narativ as practiced by some writers is easily struck down by users as unacceptable and a case of wrong spelling as this conflicts and competes with the more familiar English spelling. The rule “spell a word as you pronounce it” doesn’t apply as this violates a constraint on word final v in any Philippine language.

On the other hand, changing the spelling of the word

The original and historical spelling of place names, proper names, scientific names and technical terms, are likewise retained in this dictionary.

3. Clause structure

When people communicate, they usually do so through a series of propositions, commonly known as sentences or clauses. A clause is the basic unit in discourse for accomplishing the ends of communication (i.e. exchanging ideas, showing emotion, making friends, asserting identity, etc.).

Clauses express two kinds of ideas: first, ideas of states and activities; and second, ideas of entities or referents that participate in those states and activities. Entities that we want to talk about are expressed by noun or noun structures. Those that name states and activities are

expressed by verb or verb structures. Other word classes, like determiners, numerals, and clitic particles enhance the basic predication or parts thereof.

The basic word order in Philippine languages is predicate-first in contrast with English, which is predicate-medial. There are special circumstances, however, where nominal phrases may precede the predicate in Tagalog constructions.

Clauses may be unmarked or pragmatically-marked. Unmarked clauses are simple declarative clauses which do not perform any specialized function other than to state an idea or transmit information. Pragmatically-marked clauses are used in more specialized contexts. They may exhibit variance in intonation (as in questions), in word order (as in focus or cleft constructions), and in clause structure (as in relative clauses).

In the discussion that follows, the organization of simple and unmarked clauses shall be dealt with first.

4. Nouns

Nouns refer to places, persons, things, concepts, and entities we want to talk about. Noun referents are sometimes described as time-stable which means that they do not change appreciably over time. This means that in discourse, like the story about the monkey and the turtle, expressions referring to matsing will invariably refer to the same monkey, and those for pagong will always refer to the same turtle.

Nouns are easily identifiable because they are usually accompanied by grammatical markers, called determiners. If it is a common noun, the determiners ang, ng or sa precede them. If it is a proper name referring to a person, alone or in a group, the markers si/sina, ni/nina and kay/kina are used. The following illustrate:

(1) Kinagat ng aso si Ben.

‘The dog bit Ben.’

(2) Ibinigay ni Aling Sinang ang damit kay Maria.

‘Aling Sinang gave the clothes to Maria.’

(3) Lumangoy sina Juan sa ilog.

‘Juan and his companions went swimming in the river.’

(4) Naawa si Miguel sa pulubi.

‘Miguel took pity on the beggar.’

In these sentences, aso, laruan, ilog, pulubi, and tao are specified by their determiners as common nouns, while Ben, Aling Sinang, Maria, and Juan are marked by theirs as proper nouns.

Nouns also distinguish themselves from other parts of speech because of the various semantic roles that they take in syntax. Semantic roles or relations (like agent, patient, beneficiary, and location) pertain to functions that noun referents perform in relation to an activity, action or state.

For instance, the aso in (1) plays the role of an agent or doer of the biting action, while Ben plays the patient or victim role. In (2), Aling Sinang is agent, damit is the object or theme (which gets moved from source to goal) and Maria is recipient or goal. In (3), Juan (and his companions) is

agent while ilog is the location of the swimming activity. In (4), Miguel is the experiencer while pulubi is the cause or stimulus.

There is a deeper level of structure called grammatical relations or macro-relations which nouns are associated with. Grammatical relations are more general than semantic roles or relations. Semantic roles specify the kinds-of-who and the kinds-of-what involved in the state and activity indicated in the predicate. Grammatical relations simply identify who or what are involved in a predicate. Grammatical relations in Philippine languages are represented by the heuristic symbols “S”, “A”, and “O”. (See below for fuller discussion.)

5. Verbs

The basic function of verbs is to predicate, which means to name the events in which entities (or nouns) participate. Verbs are sometimes described as non-time stable expressions because they refer to events or states which have duration. or to processes which have phases, like a beginning or initiation, a continuation and a conclusion or end.

There are two features of the Philippine verb which make it stand out from the verbs of other languages like English. The first is voice (called “focus” in most references). The second is aspect. Voice and aspect interact, and this makes it hard sometimes to tease them apart.

Voice (or “focus) is that feature of the clause where a special noun is co-indexed to an affix in the verb identifying it as the most affected entity. Picking out the favored nominal is facilitated because it is preceded by the determiner ang or si. The following examples are illustrative:

(5) Humawak ang matanda sa kamay ko (para hindi siya matumba).

‘The old man held onto my hand (so he won’t fall).’

(6) Hinawakan ng matanda ang kamay ko (para hindi ako makagalaw.)

‘The old man grabbed my hand (so that I couldn’t move).’

These two clauses contain two participants each, the matanda (the old man) and the kamay ko (my hands). In (5), the most affected entity is matanda as evidenced by co-indexation to the affix –um- in humawak and by ang marking. The phrase sa kamay ko is not a completely affected entity because it is marked only by sa, and not by ang. In terms of meaning, what the agent merely does in (5) is to hold onto my hand for support. In (6), the agent acts deliberately and purposely to keep ang kamay ko in a particular position so as to prevent it from moving. To signify that kamay is indeed the most affected entity in the clause, it is co-indexed to the affix – an in the verb and preceded by ang.

The basis for choosing one construction over the other is the modality of the action, more commonly known as transitivity. Transitivity in Philippine languages is different from its traditional definition. The mere presence of an object is not enough to determine transitivity in the clause. The more crucial features to consider are related to how effectively the effects of an action are transferred from the agent-like entity to a patient-like one.

In this regard, the complete set of questions that need to be answered are: Is there a doer or agent of the action and some kind of receiver, object, or patient of that action? Is the agent acting consciously and deliberately? Does the verb denote some form of action and activity, or does it merely express a state or condition? Is the action effortful or effortless? Is the action directed against an exclusive patient or object, or is it directed by the agent onto itself? Does the action completely affect the object? Is the patient specific? Does the action have a closure or ending? Is the activity carried out swiftly?

If many of these questions are answered by a yes, then you are probably dealing with a

transitive construction. If not, you are dealing with an intransitive one. The features in each question actually co-vary. This means that the presence of one feature (for instance, more effort) will probably imply the presence of another (like complete affectedness of the patient). Conversely, the absence of one feature (like being effortless) will correlate with the absence of another feature (non-complete or partial affectedness of the object).

The concepts of source of the action and the most affected entity define clause transitivity in Philippine languages. When the source of the action and the most affected entity reside in the same entity (called the S), then that clause is intransitive. When the source of the action (A) is distinct or separate from the most affected entity (O), then that clause is transitive. In short, intransitive constructions have an S, while transitive constructions have an A and an O. Transitives cannot have an S. Neither can intransitives have an A or O.

You can tell transitives from intransitives from the form of the verb and its constituents. Intransitive clauses are those whose verbs take the –um- or m- affix which is co-indexed to an S. This S is preceded by the determiner ang or si. Transitive clauses have one of the –in, i- and –an affixes, which co-indexes an O. This O is marked by the determiner ang or si, while its A is marked by a different marker, ng or ni.

In the examples above, (6) is intransitive and (7) is transitive. The S in (6) is matanda, which is co-indexed to the –um- affix and marked by the ang determiner. In this sentence, the source of the action is ang matanda, and the most affected entity is also ang matanda. In (7), the A is ng matanda while the O is ang kamay ko. The O is co-indexed to the –an affix in the verb and marked by ang. The A however is marked by a different marker (ng).

An entity in the clause which is not an S, A, or O is referred to as an oblique. Obliques are identified through the determiners they keep or go with. Obliques that refer to proper names take the determiner kay. Those which refer to common nouns take ng or sa. The primary

function of oblique phrases is to express the setting of an activity or event, like location, time, purpose, direction, manner, and the like. This semantic function is what distinguishes it from the

A which also takes the ng or ni determiner.

There is also another ng- phrase which is considered here as an oblique. This is the patient-like entity which goes with “actor-focus” verbs like the one in (7):

(7) a. Nagbabasa siya ng libro.

‘He is reading a book./He’s into book reading.’

b. Binabasa niya ang libro.

‘He is intently reading the book.’

In this work, (7a) is still considered intransitive because the patient-like entity is neither specific nor completely effected. Therefore, it is marked by ng and not by ang. It is in (7b) where the patient-like entitiy “libro” is marked by ang. (8a) therefore is the real transitive. What is being asserted in (7a) is the perfunctory activity of book reading by a third person. The depiction in (7b) is that someone is purposely doing something to the book, and that is, he is intently reading it.

Earlier studies used to describe the Philippine voice system in terms of the active-passive, and of the notion of “subject”. Recent studies have shown that that the two systems are

incommensurable to each other, and that the subject relation does not exist in Philippine languages.

In English, it is the starting point relation (or what is known as the subject) which is embedded into the grammar. Consider the following:

(8) a. The pilot flew the plane to safety. b. The plane was flown to safety.

(9) a. The policeman caught the criminal. b. The criminal was caught red-handed.

(8a) and (9a) are the prototypes of the active sentence in English, where the subject or the starting point is mentioned first, then the verb (which is in active voice), then the object. (8b) and (9b) represent the prototypical passive, where the non-agent or object becomes the starting point and the verb assumes the passive form.

Speakers of English rarely use the passive, but when they do, they usually omit the agent of the action because it is either unidentifiable or unimportant to the discourse. For instance, in (8b), only the fate of the plane is talked about and no mention is made of whoever flew it. In (9b), only what happens to the criminal is described without any reference at all to the agent.

Philippine transitive constructions which contain the affixes –in, -an, and i- are not passive constructions. They do not suppress the agent like a true passive does. In fact, they express more transitive concepts than the so-called actor-focus verbs, like deliberateness and complete affectedness. The primacy of the affected entity or patient is one of the keys to understanding how Philippine languages work.

The second distinguishing characteristic of the Philippine verb is aspect. Aspect signals at what stage or phase the action or activity is (i.e. whether the activity has begun or not begun, is continuing or has finished; is about to start or has recently started; and the like).

The more common aspectual forms are: infinitive or neutral, perfective, imperfective, contemplative, and recent perfective.

Table 1. Aspectual forms of some intransitive and transitive verbs












‘to walk’






‘to read’






‘to write’

hawakan ‘to hold ‘





isaing ‘to cook rice’





Aspect is different from tense. In tense, the verb varies its forms according to the temporal relation of the action relative to the moment of speaking.

The following examples are instructive:

(10) Christina eats lugaw for breakfast.

In (10), the present tense of the predicate “eats” gives the interpretation that the eating activity


taking place at a time which includes the moment of speaking.


the activity happened yesterday, then the verb has to be changed into its past form, as in:

(11) Christina ate lugaw for breakfast yesterday.

This means that the eating activity took place before the moment of speaking.

The English verb can also show tense with aspect as in the next examples.

(12) a. Christina is eating lugaw now. b. Christina was eating yesterday when we arrived.

In (12a), the verb is in the present tense, progressive aspect. In (12b), the verb is in the past form, progressive aspect.

This is where Filipino diverges from English. The form kumakain can be used not only to describe

a continuing activity at the moment of speaking but also a continuing activity which is located in the past or even in the future, as seen in the following examples:

(13) Kumakain si Christina ng lugaw.

‘Christina eats rice porridge./Christina is eating rice porridge.’


Kumakain si Christina ng lugaw ngayon.

‘Christina is eating rice porridge now.’


Kumakain si Christina ng lugaw kahapon noong dumating kami.

‘Christina was eating rice porridge yesterday when we arrived.’


Bukas ng umaga, makikita mo si Christina sa canteen, kumakain ng lugaw.

‘Tomorrow morning, you will/can find Christina at the canteen, eating rice porridge.

The Philippine system does not require a change in the form of the verb because what is important to its speakers is not the temporal relation of the activity to the moment of speaking, but the internal stages of the activity (whether it has been completed, non-completed, continuing, etc.).

6. Determiners

Determiners in Philippine language are very much unlike English determiners whose role is restricted to indicating whether an entity is definite (e.g. the ball) or indefinite (e.g. a ball).

Philippine determiners function to instantiate (or make an instance of) nouns and establish them as referential. The following examples are instructive:

(17) Titser si Maria.

‘Maria is a teacher.’

(18) Magaling ang titser ko.

‘My teacher teaches well./My teacher is a good teacher.’

(19) Maria ang pangalan ng titser ko.

‘My teacher’s name is Maria.’

In (17), Maria is referential as indicated by the determiner si. The predicate titser here is non- referential. No real teacher is being talked about. The clause just states that Maria belongs to a class of people, with teacher characteristics. In (18), the titser here refers to a concrete person. It is therefore referential. In (19), Maria here can only refer to the label or name “Maria” and not to the person.

Table 2. Determiners



NG (A)



ang (mga)

Ng (mga)

Sa (mga)


si, sina

ni, nina

kay, kina

More importantly, determiners indicate grammatical relations. S, A, and O are a kind of grammatical relations, because they neutralize the particular functions that entities perform in clauses and categorizes them into either an S, A, O or oblique. For instance:

(20) Tumaba si Maria.

‘Maria gained weight.’

(21) Nadapa si Pedro.

‘Pedro fell down.’

(22) Nagbabasa si Buddy.

‘Buddy is reading.’

In these intransitive constructions, the grammar generalizes the particular roles of Maria as weight-gainer in (20); of Pedro as accidental victim in (21); and of Buddy as reader in (22). The grammar recognizes these entities as the S in their respective clauses and marks them with si indiscriminately.

In transitive constructions, the A and the O are also identified by determiners.

(23) Kinain ng bata ang mangga.

‘The boy ate the mango.’

(24) Ikinatuwa ni Diane ang pagdating mo.

‘Diane was pleased because you came.’

(25) Pinanood ni Juan ang pelikula mo.

‘Juan watched your movie.’

In (23), the boy plays the role of agent and causes the mango, the patient, to change internally. In (24), Diane becomes pleased due to someone’s arrival. In (25), Juan watches someone’s movie; he doesn’t buy it, or sets fire to it, much like someone acting like a conscious agent

would. All of these doer roles like agent, experiencer, and perceiver are lumped together by the grammar as the source of the action (A) and marks them accordingly with ng or ni. On the other hand, the entities who do not act but get acted upon are treated uniformly as the most affected entity (O). Like the S, they get marked by the ang.

7. Pronouns

Pronouns take the place of full noun phrases in discourse. They don’t stand in place of nouns in most expressions (e.g. ang bata > siya, not ang siya), but they do so in oblique phrases (e.g. sa bata ‘to the child’ > sa kanya ‘to him/her.’) As noun phrases, they also assume the grammatical roles of S, A, O or oblique.

There are five important types of pronouns in Philippine languages: personal pronouns, interrogative pronouns, demonstrative pronouns, reflexive pronouns, and indefinite pronouns.

Personal pronouns refer to entities already mentioned in the discourse or known to the hearer. They are classified according to person, case and number.

Table 3: Personal pronouns



NG (A)








(sa) akin



+ 2








(sa) iyo





(sa) kanya






(sa) amin



+ 2








(sa) inyo





(sa) kanila


Legend: 1 = 1 st person; 1 + 2 = dual person (e.g. you and me); 2 = 2 nd person; 3 = third person.

Interrogatives are used when a concept is being questioned or to elicit information so that an item can be identified. The interrogative pronouns are: ano ~ anu-ano (pl.) ‘what’, sino ~ sinu- sino (pl.) ‘who’, kailan ‘when’, saan ~ saan-saan (pl.) ‘where’, alin ~ alin-alin (pl.) ‘which’, paano ‘how’, ilan ~ ilan-ilan (pl.) ‘how many’ and magkano ~ magka-magkano (pl.) ‘how much’.

Demonstrative pronouns or deictics refer to entities in relation to distance and space, and also to their location on a time line.

Table 4. Demonstrative pronouns

Spatial Orientation


NG (A)


near speaker near hearer far from both



dito, nito







Reflexive pronouns are special words which refer to the same referent in a construction. It is made up of the word sarili plus the relevant pronoun, as in the phrase sa sarili niya or sa

kanyang sarili.

Indefinite pronouns refer to entities, persons, places, or times which cannot be clearly established. The indefinite pronouns have the same form as the interrogatives plus the particle

man: anuman (or anu’t anuman) ‘whatever’; sinuman ‘whoever’, kailanman ‘whenever’, saanman

‘wherever’, alinman ‘whichever’, paanuman ‘however’, gaanuman ‘however much’, and ilanman ‘however many’.

Pronouns exhibit clitic behavior in that they follow the first full word of the clause. Clitic order will be discussed under particles.

8. Numerals

Numerals are listed here as a separate category because of the special word formation and combinations they can undergo, as well as the peculiar meanings that the resulting constructions express. They typically go with nouns to specify the number of items talked about but they can also modify verbs and other predicates to indicate degree and quantity of action.

The types of numerals are:


cardinals. Examples: isa ‘one’, dalawa ‘two’, sampu ‘ten’, labing-isa ‘eleven’, tatlundaan ‘three hundred’;


ordinals, which consist of the ika- series and the pang- series. Examples: una ‘first’,

ikalawa ‘second’; pang-sampu ‘10 th ’, pantatlumpu ‘30 th ’. You say: ikalawa ng umaga

‘at 2 in the morning’ and ika-15 ng Disyembre ‘the 15 th of December’, but never

pangalawa ng umaga or pang-15 ng Disyembre.


frequency numerals, which specify the number of times an event occurs. Examples:

makaapat ‘four times’, makaanim ‘six times’ and makasiyam ‘nine times’.


restrictives, which specify quantity limits. Examples: iisa ‘one only’, lilima ‘five only’, and pipito ‘seven only’.


distributives, which specify how much or how many each. Examples: tig-isa ‘one apiece’, tigalawa ‘two apiece’, tigwalo ‘eight apiece’. The forms can be pluralized by partial reduplication. Examples: tig-iisa, tigdala-dalawa ‘two each’, tigwawalo ‘eight each’.


distributive-collectives or multiplicatives, which specify how many at a time. Examples: isa-isa ‘one by one’, dala-dalawa ‘two by two’, sampu-sampu ‘ten by ten’


unitary collectives, which specify how much apiece. Examples: mamera ‘one centavo each’, mamulo ‘ten pesos each’, manglibo ‘one thousand pesos each.’

9. Modifiers

School grammar tells us that words that describe nouns are called adjectives and those that modify verbs and non-nouns are adverbs. In English, there may be formal reasons for separating

these two word classes. For instance, adjectives inflect for degree (e.g. big, bigger, biggest), while adverbs are noted for their –ly affix.

In Philippine languages, “adjectives” and “adverbs”, except for the clitic particles, are similar in form. No reason exists to separate them into two word classes. Consider the following sentences:

(26) Mabilis ang lakad niya.

‘His walking is fast./He walks fast.’

(27) Lumakad siya nang mabilis.

‘He walked fast.’

Traditionally, mabilis in (26) will be considered an adjective, while in (27), it will probably be analyzed as an adverb. All these forms however can be inflected for degree as seen in:

(28) Mas mabilis ang lakad niya.

‘His walking is faster./ He walks faster.’

(29) Lumakad siya nang mas mabilis.

‘He walked in a faster manner.’

There is another reason for collapsing the two classes into one category. Philippine adjectives have a special form expressing intensity and this is illustrated in (30):

(30) a. Ang galing niya. ‘(S)he is very skilful.’

b. Ang lakas niya. ‘(S)he is very strong.’

c. Ang bilis niya. ‘(S)he is very fast.’

These special forms can also modify verbs:

(31) a. Ang galing niyang magbasketbol.

‘(S)he is good in basketball.’

b. Ang lakas niyang magbuhat.

‘(S)he is good at lifting weights.’

c. Ang bilis niyang kumilos.

‘(S)he moves fast.’

Adjectives usually have two construction types: predicative, when it is used as a predicate; and attributive when it modifies a noun. The predicate use of the “adjective” is shown in (26), while its attributive use is shown in (32).

(32) Walang makakatalo sa mabilis niyang lakad

‘No one can beat him, if he walks that fast.’

But an attributive adjective can also modify a verb, as seen in (33).

(33) Siya ay mabilis na lumakad para hindi mahuli sa klase.

‘He walked fast so he wont be late for class.’

The same form can also be used as a predicate, as seen in (34).

(34) Kung lumakad siya ay mabilis.

‘He’s fast when it comes to walking.’

Since there are no persuasive reasons for separating the modifiers of verbs and non-verbs, the analysis followed here is to treat them as one word class which we will simply call modifiers.

10. Clitic particles

Clitic particles constitute a rather mixed group with respect to the meanings they can add to the predicate or parts of the sentence. Together with the pronouns, they all show clitic behavior in following the first full word in the sentence.

The clitic particles can be grouped according to the order of appearance in the clause, according to the table below. Their approximate meanings have also been included.

Table 5: Order classes of clitic particles

Class 1

na ‘already’

pa ‘still’;

Class 2

man ‘even

Class 3 (a)

ba ‘interrogative marker’ din ‘too’ kasi ‘because’ ho ‘politeness marker’ po ‘politeness marker’ lamang ‘only’ nga ‘really’


daw ‘reportedly’ muna ‘for a while’ naman ‘instead’

Class 4

kaya ‘speculation marker’ pala ‘surprise marker’ sana ‘optative marker’ tuloy ‘as a result’ yata ‘uncertainty marker’


Clitic order is governed by the following hierarchy:

(35) a. one-syllable pronouns > clitic particles > two-syllable pronouns b. class 1 clitics > class 2, 3, and 4 c. class 3a > class 4

(35a) means that one-syllable pronouns always precede clitic particles, which in turn precede two-syllable pronouns. (35b) says that class 1 clitic particles always precede classes 2, 3, and 4. (35c) says that class 3a always precede class 4 clitics. The following sentence is illustrative.

(36) Hindi ko na naman yata makikita si Maria.

‘It looks like that I’m not going to see Maria once more.’

Here, we have a one-syllable pronoun (ko) following the first full word hindi. Immediately following is na, which is a class 1 clitic. Then next comes naman, a class 3 clitic. And finally yata, which is a class 4 clitic.


Linkers or connectives

Linkers are particles which connect or join words, phrases, and sentences to each other to form larger constructions. The linkers, in decreasing order of frequency and importance, are: na attributive and/or complement linker’, ay `focus or preposing marker’, at `and, because, as a result, expressive of purpose, temporal succession’, bago `before’, kung `if, whenever, expressing time of repeated occurrences’; kung `expressing indirect question,’ nang `adverbial conjunction’; kaya `so, therefore, expressive of result’, o `or’, ngunit `but’; pero `but’’; upang `so that’; kahit `although’, para `so that’; habang `, while, no matter what’, (sa)pagkat `because’, (ka)pag `when’; samantala(ng) `meanwhile’’; subalit `but’ , ni `not even, nor’, bagamat `although’, maski `even if’, and datapuwat `adversative conjunction.’

12. Word formation and analysis

A word in Philippine languages may consist of: (a) a root; (b) a root plus one or more affixes; or

(c) a particle.

A root is any unanalyzable form capable of taking an affix. The form takbo cannot be further

analyzed because it cannot be broken down further into smaller meaningful units. It has the ability of combining with one or more affixes, as in tumakbo or tumatakbo. Particles like na ‘already’, pa ‘still’ and daw ‘reportedly’ are not roots because they always occur without an affix.

Roots may combine with affixes to form words. Words combine with other words to form larger constructions. Parts-of-speech membership is much clearer when we see the roots in action (i.e. when they have their affixes or their use in phrases and sentences). In this sense, one might say that roots are neutral or pre-categorial.

Ganda ‘beauty, abstract’ is a root which can express a property or state, as seen in: Maganda siya. ‘She’s pretty.’ But the same form can combine with certain affixes to form a process verb in:

Gumaganda siya. ‘She’s getting prettier.’ It can also combine with the determiner ang to form a noun in this context: Pang-Miss Universe ang ganda niya. ‘Her beauty compares with that of a Miss Universe winner.’ It is also possible to combine ganda with a different ang to form a modifier “adjective”: Ang ganda niya! ‘How pretty (s)he is!’

Bahay is a root, which can be deployed as a noun in its bare form in: Malaki ang bahay nila. ‘Their house is big.’ But that form can also exist with certain affixes as a verb in: Binahayan ng langgam ang sapatos ko. ‘The ants nested inside my shoe.’ In addition, there is also its instrumental use in: Pambahay ko lang itong baro’t saya ko. ‘I wear my baro’t saya only as house wear.’

There are semantic reasons for saying that takbo is a verb, as can be seen in the command form:

Takbo! ‘Run!’. But the form functions like a noun in: Mabilis ang takbo niya. ‘His running is fast’./‘He runs fast.’) or a predicate attribute closer to an adjective in: “Pátakbúhin ang laruan mo.” ‘Your toy was of inferior quality.’

The concept of a stem is useful in successfully understanding how words are formed and analyzed in Philippine languages.

The stem is defined as the form to which the last affix is added. For instance, in English, the word beautifully may be analyzed as being made up of the word beautiful and the adverbial affix,

-ly. The word beautiful itself has a stem, beauty, to which the last affix –ful was attached. Words therefore have layered structures.

The stem-based analysis of word formation predicts that that a word with multiple affixes will have a layered structure. For instance, the word pinaglaruan can be analyzed as consisting of the stem paglaruan plus the past affix –in- for the first layer. The stem paglaruan can be further broken down into the stem paglaro and the verbal affix –an for the second layer. The stem paglaro can be further broken down into laro plus the pag- nominalizing affix for the last layer.

In the past, the word pinaglaruan ‘played with something, past’ used to be analyzed as consisting of the root laro and the discontinuous affix, pinag-…-an. Clearly, this analysis is root-based, where the root is first separated, and everything else that is left is considered the affix. We are breaking away from this tradition.

The stem-based analysis is a neater approach to word formation and word analysis, because it can show us the formal and functional relationship between words with the same base root. Let’s go back to the stem paglaro. With this single stem, one can form the following words: paglaruan,

paglalaro, and maglaro. You get paglaruan by adding –an to the stem. You get paglalaro, by

reduplicating la of the root. And finally, you get maglaro, by replacing the p- of the stem with m-. In short, you can generalize in formal fashion the relation between the three words by claiming that they all came from the same stem. That is not possible under a traditional root-based approach.

The stem-based approach was introduced first in the 1970’s to demonstrate how the layered structure of the Philippine verb can contribute to a much simpler but more incisive and explanatory analysis. Time was when the voice or focus affixes were analyzed as numbering more than a hundred. For instance, the actor-focus affixes alone included: -um-, mag-, mang-, maki- maka-, makipag-, makipag-…-an, ma-, etc. The stem-based analysis has reduced the intransitive affix (or actor focus affix) into only one, -um- of which m- is a variant. Conversely, the transitive affixes in Tagalog/Filipino have been found to be only three (3): -in, -an and i-.

13. Non-verbal or “predicate nominal” clauses

Non-verbal constructions are simple clauses whose predicates are not verbs. The predicates of

these verbs function to describe the existence, state, condition, or location of the entity/entities being talked about. They are a type of intransitive clause because they only have an S which can

only be accompanied by oblique phrases

while they are intransitive, they do not have an S.

Existential constructions are exceptional because

Non-verbal constructions may be classified into: (a) proper inclusion clauses; (b) equative clauses; (c) attributive clauses; (d) locative clauses; (e) existential clauses; and (e) possessive clauses.

Proper inclusion clauses assert that the entity talked about belongs to a class of items specified in the predicate.

(37) Magsasaka si Juan.

‘Juan is a farmer.’

Equative clauses assert that the entity talked about is identical to the entity specified in the predicate.

(38) Tatay ko si Juan.

‘Juan is my father.’

Attributive clauses assert that the attribute contained in the predicate applies to the entity talked about.

(39) Masipag ang janitor sa eskuwela namin.

‘The janitor in our school is industrious.’

Locative expressions assert that the entity talked about is in a certain location, state or condition.

(40) Nasa mesa ang libro.

‘The book is on the table.

(41) Nakay Miguel ang libro.

‘The book is with Miguel.’

Existential clauses assert the existence of some person or thing that is new to the discourse. For instance, many stories begin with existential clauses similar to (42).

(42) Isang araw, may mag-asawang nakatira sa paanan ng bundok.

‘Once upon a time, there was a couple who lived at the foot of the mountain.’

Here, the couple in the story is introduced for the first time with may, the existential predicate. The entity mag-asawa ‘couple’ is treated here like an oblique. Notice that there is no ang phrase in the existential clause.

Possessive clauses are clauses whose predicate asserts the possession of a thing or things by another. There are two types of possessive clauses: the standard type and the predicate nominal type.

The standard type looks like an existential construction, except that it has an ang or si phrase denoting the possessor. Here, either may or mayroon functions as the existential predicate. Examples of the standard type are (43) – (46).

(43) May kotse sina Juan.

‘Juan (and his family) has/own a car.’

(44) Mayroon yatang kotse si Juan.

‘Juan (and his family) reportedly has/own a car.’

(45) Mayroon sila ng kotse./Mayroon silang kotse.

‘They have/own a car.’

(46) May kotse ba sina Juan? Mayroon.

‘Does John’s family have/own a car? They do.’

The use of may and mayroon depends on what word follows it. Mayroon is used when it is followed by a clitic particle (43), by a clitic pronoun (44), or by nothing (46). May is used elsewhere.

The predicate nominal type of possessive clause has an oblique sa/kay phrase as predicate denoting the possessor and an ang phrase representing the possessed item as shown in (47) and


(47) Kay Michael ang libro.

‘The book is Michael’s.’

(48) (Sa) Iyo ang Tondo, (sa) akin ang Cavite.

‘Tondo is yours, Cavite is mine.’

14. Pragmatically marked constructions

Pragmatically-marked constructions include the following: (a) exclamatory clauses; (b) questions;


relative clauses; (d) imperative clauses; (e) complement clauses; (f) focus constructions; and


negation clauses.

Exclamatory clauses, like in (49), are used to express extreme emotions, like surprise or dejection. In writing, this sentence type is marked by an exclamation point at the end.

(49)Mahuhulog ang bata!

‘The child is about to fall.’

Questions are of two types: (a) yes-no questions; and (b) question-word questions. In conversation, both types use rising intonation to indicate that they are questions. In writing, they are marked at the end by a question mark.

Yes-no questions are used to determine whether something is true or not. There are at least three (3) ways of forming them: one, by using rising intonation alone as shown in (50a); two, by using an interrogative particle, ba, as shown in (50b); and three, by using tags to confirm information, as shown in (51).

(50) a. Pupunta ka?

‘Will you go?”

b. Pupunta ka ba?

‘Will you be going?”

(51) a. Pupunta ka, hindi ba?

‘You’re going, aren’t you?’

b. Pupunta ka, ano?

‘You’re going, right?’

Interrogative pronouns, like ano ‘what’, saan ‘where’, and kailan ‘when’, are used to stand for possible answers in question-word questions as in (52) to (54).

(52) Sino ang tatay mo?

‘Who is your father?’

(53) Ano ang kailangan mo?

‘What do you need?’

(54) Saan pupunta si Nanay?

‘Where is Nanay going?”

Questions of this type are very similar to focus constructions in that the interrogatives are fronted in the clause. The fronted question word may be regarded as the focused element. The following

part (ang tatay mo, ang kailangan mo, and pupunta si Nanay) describes or assigns a value to the

focused element.

However, echo questions (55-57) look like simple clauses based on their word order. Like tags, they function to confirm or verify whether information earlier given is in fact true or not.

(55) Tatay mo sino?

‘Your father is who?”

(56) Kailangan mo ng ano?

‘You need what?”

(57) Pupunta si Nanay saan?

‘Nanay is going where?”

Relative clauses are clauses that modify nominals. This pragmatic clause type is similar to attributive modifiers. The only difference is that the nominal modifier is not a word, but an entire clause. These examples are illustrative:

(58) Makakatulong ang perang (ibinigay ko sa iyo 0.)

‘The money I gave you can help (you).’

(59) Bumili siya ng mga gamit na (kakailanganin niya 0.)

‘He bought things that he will be needing.’

The enclosed portions in (58) and (59) are relative clauses. In (58), “ibinigay ko” modifies the head “ang pera” and restricts its meaning to “the money I gave,” and not to any other money. In (59), “kakailangan niya” also modifies its head “ng mga gamit” and restricts its meaning to “the things he needs.”

The symbol 0 represents the gap in each clause which refers to the same modified nominal. The zeros in (58) and (59) represent “ang pera” and “(a)ng mga gamit” respectively. The linker na/- ng is called the relativizer that sets off the clause as a relative clause but also links it to its head.

Relative clauses can have heads, as in (58) and (59), but they can be “headless” too, as shown in (60) - (62).

(60 ) Saan ako kukuha ng (ibabayad ko sa espesyalista)?

‘Where will I get (the money) to pay the doctor.’

(61) ‘Fe!’ Hinanap niya ang (tumawag sa kanya.)

‘Fe! She looked for the one who called her.’

(62)Sige. Tutuloy na ako sa (pinagtatrabahuan ko.)

‘Okay. I’ll be on my way to where I work.’

The enclosed portions in (60) – (62) are relative clauses which have been joined to their determiners. Philippine grammar allows this because the determiner is what gives nominal phrases specificity (which means it exists in the real word) and instantiation (which means it is an

instance of something). As a result, the entire relative clause becomes a referential expression, meanin “something which I am going to pay the doctor”, “the one who called her” and “where I work.” However referential, these expressions remains indefinite and indeterminate.

Imperative clauses are used to make a command or a request.

Commands have a special grammar in that the verb is in the neutral tense-aspect form (lumapit and lapitan) and the S or A is in the second person form (ka and mo), as shown in (63) and (64).

(63)Lumapit ka sa kanya.

‘Go near him.’

(64)Lapitan mo siya.

‘Approach him.’

A good test for a command is to negate it and turn it into a prohibitive. If the clause can take the

particle huwag ‘don’t’, then it’s an imperative clause. (e.g. Huwag kang lumapit sa kanya./Huwag

mo siyang lapitan.)

Requests also have special grammar, because (a) the clause has rising intonation similar to questions; and (b) the verb may contain the operator maaari and/or the stem-forming polite affix paki-. Other particles may also be present like nga and po.

(65) a. Maaari po bang pakihinaan ng radio?

‘Can you please turn down the radio?’

b. Pakihinaan po ng radio?

‘Please turn down the radio?’

(66) Makikiraan nga po?

‘May I please pass?’

(67) Pakiabot nga po ng bag?

‘Could you get my bag please?’

A complement clause refers to a clause which serves as one of the arguments of a complement-

taking predicate. Examples of complement taking predicates are verbs of cognition and speaking, like think, say, assert, and believe. Consider the following examples:

(68) Nagpaalam siya na (aalis na sila bukas).’

‘(S)he said that they were going to leave tomorrow.’

(69) Sinabi ng teacher ko na ( magaling ako sa Math.)

‘My teacher said that I am good in Math.’

In (68), the complement clause “aalis na sila bukas” functions like an oblique of the complement taking intransitive verb nagpaalam. In (69), the “magaling ako sa Math” functions as the O of the complement taking transitive verb sinabi. In each case, the complement is joined to the main predication by the linker na.

Focus constructions are clauses where one of the participants of a state or activity is moved to the front of the clause. Focus constructions come in two types: contrastive focus and ay-focus.

Contrastive focus clauses can be divided into two parts. The first part is the focused element or topic. The second part is a determiner-headed relative construction which describes, assigns a value to, or identifies the first part. Question-word questions, as explained earlier, are a type of contrastive focus clause. Consider the following:

(70) (Ang kamay ko) (ang hinawakan ng matanda.)

‘It was my hand that the old woman held.’

(71) (Si Maria) (ang pinakasalan ko.)

‘It was Maria whom I married.’

(72) (Ito) (ang ibinigay ng bata sa kanya.)

‘This is what the child gave to him.’

The first bracketed portion in each sentence is the focused element. The second bracketed portion describes, identifies or assigns a value to it.

The functions of “focus” constructions are to signal exclusivity or to express contrast. By saying (70), the speaker refers to his hand, and not to any other hand that was held by the old woman. By saying (71), the inference is that there were other possible women the speaker could marry, but that he finally chose Maria. By saying (72), the speaker isolates one particular thing, from many other things, and says that this is what the child gave to someone.

Contrastive focus clauses are similar to English cleft clauses like (73).

(73) It is mangoes that I like. I don’t like cherries.

Here the focused element is mangoes which is restricted by a relative clause (that I like). Left dislocation clauses can also express contrast where the object can be moved ahead of the subject, as shown in (74):

(74) Mangoes, I like. But, cherries, I hate them.

The second type of focus constructions is called ay-focus. It is so-called because the fronted or focused element is set off from the rest of the sentence by the linker ay or a pause, as shown in (75) to (78).

The functions of the ay-constructions are:


to introduce new themes, as in (75) when Maria is first introduced in the story;

(75) Si Maria ay isang madre.

‘Maria is a nun.’


reaction to a break-out of a fire.

to signal selective focus, as in (76), where Pedro is compared to another person in their

(76) Si Pedro ay hindi nagdalawang-isip.

‘Pedro didn’t hesitate.’

(c) to signal a change of scene or theme, as in (77), where the setting shifted to Monday,

(77) Noong Lunes, pumunta kami sa Batangas.

‘Last Monday, we went to Batangas province.’

And (d) to signal contrast, as in (78), to emphasize the fact that unlike Western full names, Chinese surnames come first, instead of last.

(78) Ang apelyido ng Intsik, nauuna.

‘The surname of a Chinese person comes first.’

Negation clauses assert that some event, state, condition, or situation does not hold. Simple clauses are negated by attaching the negative particle hindi to the affirmative clauses and making it the first word in the sentence.

(78) Hindi tamad si Juan.

‘Juan is not lazy.’

(79) Hindi sumikat ang araw ngayon.’

‘The sun didn’t shine today.’

(80) Hindi kinain ni Juan ang mangga.

‘Juan didn’t eat the mango.’

Existential constructions, locative constructions, and prohibitives have special negative forms. Existential and locative constructions use the particle wala in place of may, mayroon, and na(sa)/


(81) a. May libro sa mesa.

‘The book is on the table.’

b. Walang libro sa mesa.

‘There is no book on the table.’

(82) a. May kumain ng mangga ko.

‘Someone ate my mango.’

b. Walang kumain ng mangga ko.

‘Noone ate my mango.’

(83) a. Nasa kanya ang libro ko.

‘(S)he has my book./My book is with him/her.’

b. Wala sa kanya ang libro ko.’

‘(S)he does’nt have my book./My book isn’t with him/her.’

Imperatives, when attached with huwag, become prohibitives.

(84) a. Tumakbo ka.

‘(You) run!”

b. Huwag kang tumakbo.

‘Don’t run.’

(85) a. Magtapon kayo ng basura dito.

‘Throw your garbage here,’

b. Huwag kayong magtapon ng basura dito.

‘Don’t throw your garbage here.’

15. Concluding remarks

There is no attempt to pass this for a complete grammar of the national language. Neither does this work provide the last word in its analysis. But I would like to believe that this short piece already answers many of the questions besetting learners and teachers of the language on what Philippine languages can do and how they are different from other languages. This provides more than a good starting point for further studies.


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