display | more...

The Spanish arrived in the Philippine Islands in 1521, and in 1571 the islands were incorporated into the then-grand Spanish Empire. Although the Philippines were a part of the empire, the hispanization was in large part superficial, by no means as complete as say, Mexico, Argentina, or even Peru. The Spanish could not govern the islands directly, and until the opening of the Suez Canal, the Phillipines were governed via Mexico. Spanish was only the language of administration, culture, and the upper class

In 1898, when Spain lost the Philippines to The United States, Spanish was spoken by 10 percent of the population. Naturally, the US did not try too hard to promote the use of Spanish, choosing to teach English in schools and government instead. When the Philippines gained their independence, Spanish was an official language, along with Tagalog and English, but in the past century the use of Spanish in the Philippines has seriously declined. In 1987, with the new Philippine constitution, Spanish lost its official status. Today there are more or less 2 million Spanish-speakers in a nation of 85 million.

However, Spanish is still alive and well in the Philippines today, with about 2 million speakers, though this number constantly diminishes. The dialect is very similar to the dialects of Latin America, but with certain peculiarities that and innovations that are distinctively Philippine. There are also many creoles of Spanish and indigenous languages, the most popular being Chabacano and Palenquero, with about a million speakers of the two (and others) combined. Spanish is very present in the Philippines, especially in the names of many people and places, even though most Philippine people do not speak Spanish


The Spanish of the Philippines has many features of very old Spanish, but with innovations that are typical of the native languages of the islands:

  • The phoneme /s/ never does not get aspirated or elided, as it often does in Andalusian and Latin American Spanish.
  • The Philippines are seseante, that is, they pronounce 'z' and 'c' as /s/, and not /θ/, as it is in most Castillian Spanish
  • Phillipine Spanish lleísta, meaning the dounle 'll' is pronounced as the much older palatal liquid /λ/ (/lj/), and not the palatal approximant /j/ that is found in Latin American and Andalusian Spanish. This sound /λ/ is a lot like the sound in 'million'
  • The 'h,' which in most cases evolved form the Latin 'f,' is still pronounced as /h/. This is not done in Spain or Latin America, and is a relic of the variety of Spanish spoken at the time The Philippines became a Spanish colony.
  • The phoneme /x/, which is spelled 'j' and sometimes 'g' or 'x' in Spanish, is pronounced much more weakly, as the glottal fricative /h/ and not as the velar fricative /x/.
  • Sometimes, the flap /r/ is pronounced as the lateral /l/ at the end of a word
  • /f/ does not exist. It either becomes bilabial fricative /φ/, or it becomes the bilabial stop /p/, so that filipino is pronounced as /pilipino/. This is because none of the native languages of the Philippines has the sound /f/.
  • The mid-vowels /e/ and /o/ are frequently raised to /i/ and /u/, respectively, especially when they carry stress. So, méxicano is pronounced like /mihicano/, and mover like /muber/.
  • The glottal stop /?/ often occurs when a stressed vowel begins a syllable. País 'country' is pronounced /pa?is/.
  • Alveolars become palatized before the sound /j/. Radio, tierra 'land,' unión, and sucio become /rradžo/, /tšerra/, /uñon/, and /sušo/.
  • 'll' is pronounced as /l/ at the beginning of words. Llamar 'to call' is pronounced /lamar/.
  • Lo is used instead of él as a personal pronoun. This is called loísmo.

Philippine vocabulary is full of many non-standard words. Some are of Latin American origin, some are native to the Philippines, and some are archaic and regional uses or words. Some examples are vapor for barco 'boat,' candela for vela 'candle.' castilo for español 'Spanish (language),' and bolo as a type of machete.

I've written a webpage as a project for the Tulane University Spanish Linguistics department, at http://www.tulane.edu/~spanling/Filipinas/Espanol_en_Filipinas.html. It's all in Spanish, but it contains many more examples of Philippine Spanish vocabulary.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.