Feature: ‘Amalgamation’ and the road to a tighter nation

The political climate in the Philippines has long been plagued by heated discussions on social issues where no one is ever willing to concede. Many were successful in slicing the nation into half with sharp blades of varying political views. But with all these hurdles in securing unity and healthier communication among Filipinos, the Commission on the Filipino Language or Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) is thinking of a possible aid—and it involves weaving together the characteristics of different regional languages to establish a national language that is more inclusive than ever.

KWF Chairman and National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario likes to call this amalgamation of Philippine languages. The term birthed from the Spanish word amalgamacion which meant “fusion” in chemistry. When put in the context of local languages during the 1960s, the idea had raised eyebrows and sparked a language crisis among experts and academe of said time. However, in his monograph on amalgamation, Almario criticized how no concrete studies and explanation were ever made out of these unsettled debates.

“Malaki ang aking paniwala na lahat ng umatake noon at umaatake hanggang ngayon sa ‘puristang Tagalog’ at nagpapanukala ng ‘amalgamasyon’ ay sadyang mga kaaway ng Wikang Pambansa. [W]ari bang dahil sa malakíng desgusto nila sa Pilipino (at maging sa Filipino) ay lagi nila itong sinisipat bílang ‘purong Tagalog’ habang iginigiit ang ‘amalgamasyon’ bílang isang hakang ideal na landas para sa Wikang Pambansa,” he wrote.

(I firmly believe that those who have been attacking the ‘purist Tagalog’ as well as those pushing for amalgamation are no less than enemies of the national language. Have they, in their strong disgust of Pilipino [even Filipino], been used to dubbing it as ‘pure Tagalog’ while arguing that amalgamation is a fake and impractical way for the national language?)

In an interview, Almario said KWF is planning to come up with a ‘grammar book’ that will string together the rich languages of the country. It would be a long-overdue project to be backed with extensive research and involvement of the very people who speak their own regional languages.

Almario pointed out that amalgamation has been happening among around 131 languages in the Philippines, but has not been made into black and white at least for the past few decades. In fact, not everyone knows that “Tokhang,” one of the most frequently used words today, is a Visayan term for “approach” or “talk.”

“Bakit hindi palawakin ang pag-aaral ng grammar to include ’yung mga katangian ng ibang wika sa Filipinas? Sa aking palagay, iyon ang magbibigay ng katangian sa language na Filipino, hindi ‘Pilipino’ o ‘Tagalog,’” Almario said.

(Why not conduct more studies on the Filipino grammar and include the characteristics of languages of different regions in the Philippines? I think it would inflict identity to the Filipino language, neither ‘Pilipino’ nor ‘Tagalog.’)

For his part, linguist and University of the Philippines professor Galileo Zafra said the dream grammar book aimed to eliminate the “privilege” of Tagalog over other languages, but clarified that the process should be natural and not by force.

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“Kapag pinagsama-sama mo lang ’yung mga characteristics ng mga wika sa Filipinas [sa pagbuo ng aklat ng balarila], ang lilitaw ay artificial. Walang magsasalita niyan,” he said in an interview.

(If you just combine the characteristics of different languages in the Philippines to come up with a grammar book, it would be an artificial process. No one will be able to use it.)

Zafra emphasized that the grammar book would be beyond lexicon and syntax as it would be research-backed and descriptive of the identities of the different regional languages across the country. This way, Filipinos would be able to appreciate certain characteristics not found in the current national language, he added.

Possible challenges

Meanwhile, KWF commissioner for Samar-Leyte languages Jerry Gracio has brought up possible challenges to be faced by the agency on taking a huge leap in developing the national language.

“Hindi naman talaga maiaalis ang mga pagtutol kasi lahat ng mga bago, I guess, may pagtutol talaga,” he said in an interview.

(It is natural for new ideas to attract contradictions.)

For one, Gracio said it could be difficult for some Filipino teachers to adapt and deliver such changes to classrooms. However, he acknowledged that the need to develop the national language as per the Constitution was urgent.

“It’s about time na magkaroon ng inclusive at mapangyakap na national language. Hindi ito dapat static, kundi nagbabago at nade-develop according to the needs of the time,” he said.

(It’s about time to have an inclusive national language. It should not be static, but it has to be developed according to the needs of the time).

Research as main tool to strengthen grammar book

The discussion on amalgamation fits the mold of this year’s Buwan ng Wika celebration. KWF has selected the theme “Filipino: Wika ng Saliksik” to emphasize the need for research in pushing for a more inclusive national language.

To strengthen the research culture in the country, KWF will hold a three-day congress on language titled “Adyenda sa Pagbuo ng Gramatika ng Wikang Pambansa.” The seminar will include a critique of Lope K. Santos’ Balarila ng Wikang Pambansa (1939), the most recent Filipino grammar book which has long called for the need to be revised and updated.

Almario said that this year’s Buwan ng Wika theme is a move toward intellectualization of the Filipino language by inflicting it into the culture of research.

“Ang pangunahing patunay ng intellectualized language ay ang paggamit nitó sa research. Sa mababang antas ng pag-aaral, kailangan mo nang ituro ’yung idea na maging curious [at makibahagi] sa mga talakayan,” he added.

(The primary indication that a language is intellectualized is if it is being used in research. As early as grade school, teachers should encourage students to be curious and participative.)

Teachers, linguists and students are expected to attend the said congress which will be held on August 2 to 4 at the Albertus Magnus Building of the University of Santo Tomas. (WSS-KWF)

Source: PIA Feed