Thursday, 1 August 2013

Buwán ng Wikà

The Philippines this month celebrates its Buwán ng Wikà. Being a multilingual country, let’s segue first into translating this proper noun into English as Language Month, into Spanish mes del idioma, and into Latin as mensis sermonis. We will skip the specifics lest we fall into the usual diatribe against a national language that is ethnolinguistically closer to the Tagalogs.

We often heard mgá hirám na salitâ (loanwords) when we were in our elementary years, but there was never an in-depth discussion on the topic, probably because we live with them every day. The best we would get from our Filipino teachers is an assignment or a project on the topic, somehow a footnote to larger projects on the alamát (legend), the sanaysáy (essay), the tulâ (poetry), the patambís na salitâ (idiom), the salawikaín (aphorism), the tayutay (figure of speech), and the mandatory balagtasan (metred or poetic debate), along the lines of magpasa ng 100 hirám na salitâ (submit 100 loanwords). Pupils and students would comply to this yearly injunction, usually around August, with varying degrees of concern whether they really understood those words and how they persisted in our vocabulary.

It’s clear these assignments or projects failed to cultivate context.

That is why we shall be examining some of these loanwords here.

Let’s begin with something that is not easily detected as a loanword: sangkaterba.

Fil. katerba > Sp. caterva > Lat. caterva

It’s a compound word of isá and katerba, which came from the Spanish caterva, meaning multitude. It’s usage in both Spanish and Filipino is virtually the same. You can say una caterva de damas in the language of Cervantes and say sangkaterbang mgá babae in the language of Balagtás, and they would point out to the same meaning of a multitude of women. One should note, however, that in Spanish, caterva is a noun, whereas in Filipino, sangkaterba is an adjective. The Spanish caterva directly came from the Latin caterva.

Now, let’s go to fruits. To citruses, in particular, many words for which are not native to the Philippines. We have dalanghità, which came from the Spanish naranjita, diminutive of naranja, meaning orange, itself descended from Arabic.

Fil. dalanghità > Sp. naranjita dim. naranja > Ar. naranj

We have a related term, sinturis, which also came from citrones, plural of citrón, which means lemon. For dalandán, we are not sure if it came from naranja (orange), or naranjón (large orange), or naranjal (orange grove). Another Filipino word for orange is kahel. This came from the Spanish name for an orange variety, the naranja cajel, which means Seville orange, a bittersweet variety of orange.

We veer slightly towards sibuyas or onion. It came from the Spanish cebollas, plural of cebolla, which came from the Latin cepulla, diminutive of cepa, which itself is onion.

Fil. sibuyas > Sp. cebollas pl. cebolla > Lat. cepulla dim. cepa

Next we have mustasa, from the Spanish mostaza. If you listen to the Gospel on the Sixth Sunday after Epiphany, you will hear the word granum synapis, which means mustard seed. The Spanish word came from the Latin mustaceus. No, it does not mean mustache. It means having the quality of mustum, which refers to partially fermented grape wine. When mustard seeds were mixed with grape wine, the resulting mustum was called mustum ardens, the origin of the word mustard. To cap our Bahay kubò excursion, let’s have kamatis, which came from tomates, plural of Spanish tomate. This word came from the Classic Nahuatl diminutive tomatl (little tomato) for xitomatl (tomato).

While we are in the subject of food, let’s touch on adobo, which in Spanish refers to the marinade rather than to the dish.

Fil. adobo > Sp. adobo fr. v. adobar > Fr. adouber (?)

Allegedly, the etymology of the word is the French adouber, which means to dub, arm, or prepare. Another would be menudo, which in this case came through Mexico, where it is a spicy soup with tripe. The word menudo, came from the Latin minutus, meaning small or short duration. Perhaps, the menudo was thus named because it did not take too long to cook or the ingredients were chopped small, which is probably the case since menudo also refers to retail in the Visayas, where the dish menudo is also called ginamáy (from gamáy, meaning small or tiny).

In this topic, we have an interesting loanword: almusal.

Fil. almusal > Sp. almorzar fr. almuerzo > Lat. admorsus fr. admordere

It came from the Spanish almorzar, from almuerzo, itself from the Latin admorsus, from admordere, meaning to bite. In Spanish, almorzar means to eat lunch. However, almusal in Filipino means to eat breakfast, which in Spanish is desayunar, from desayuno, meaning, literally, breaking from fast. It is known that Filipinos, contrary to the Spanish black propaganda labelling our ancestors as indolent, are industrious, getting up early in the morning for work. When the Spaniards would wake up, the Filipinos were already preparing for noon break. By the time the Spaniards were eating their first meal (their desayuno), Filipinos were already eating their second meal (their almuerzo). It probably happened that Filipinos began referencing their meals against that of the Spanish landlords, and called their first meal almusal to note that this coincided with the Spaniards’ second meal.

Now, let’s go to horticulture. Many of the flowers we have possess Spanish names. We have curious names for our flowers, some poetic such as the dama de noche (literally, lady of the night; the night-blooming cestrum), and some patriotic such as the bandera española (literally, Spanish banner; Eng. The canna lily). Let’s focus on one: the national flower, the eternal sampaguita. Since childhood we were taught that this came from sumpâ kitá, which roughly means I pledge to you, or more romantically, To thee I plight my troth.

Fil. sampaguita > Sp. dim. Fil. sampaga > Ar. zanbaq

But this is misleading, since sampaguita is merely a Spanish diminution of the flower sampaga, which refers to any jasmine shrub, including the Arabian jasmine (Jasminium sambac), known in the Philippines as, well, sampaguita.

We now tackle money. In Spanish, this is dinero. The Filipino kwarta came from the Spanish cuarta, or quarter, which is a modismo or idiom for money.

Fil. kwarta > Sp. idiom. cuarta > Lat. quarta

Our currency piso, came from the Spanish peso which literally means weight. It became associated with money in a time when transactions were made with actual silver and gold, which had to be weighed. The Tagalog pera has a curious etymology hinged on mediocre minting. Money during the Spanish era bore a lion, which due to aforesaid minting problems, looked like a bitch, a female dog. A bitch, both the pejorative and the proper noun, is called perra. Hence, the Filipino pera. Now, when you vilify someone as mukhang pera (greedy; literally, money-faced), you’ll have insulted that person twice: (1) he is greedy; (2) he looks like a bitch.

Matters ecclesiastical come next. We have first parì, which naturally comes from the Spanish padre.

Fil. parì > Sp. padre > Lat. pater

In relation to the priest, we have the mano, which is an apheresis of the practice of besamanos, literally forelock touching as a form of salutation. Sculpted images in the Philippines, such as those found in monuments, and more commonly sculpted saints, are called rebulto, which came from the last two words of the phrase santos de bulto, meaning bulk or full-bodied images, as opposed to the santos de bastidor, literally framework images. Next we have kalmén, which means scapular. The word probably came from escapulario del Carmen or scapular of Carmel. Next we have limós, which came from the Spanish limosna, itself from the Latin eleemosyna. Lastly, we have ayuno, which came from the Spanish ayuno, itself from the Latin ieiunium.

Before we close this topic, let us examine some patterns in loaning words from Spanish. First, we observe /r/ becoming /l/, being both phones interchangeable in Philippine languages. We have many examples for this: asukal from azúcar, lugal from lugar, nunal from lunar, kasal from casar(se), and dasal from rezar (which also shows the shift from /r/ to /d/). We also observe /x/ becoming /s/, such as from jugar to sugal¸ and from jabón to sabón. Finally, we have metathesis, where phonemes are altered in the word. Our example for this is pader, which came from pared (which can also be interpreted as the shift from /r/ to /d/), and sinturis, which came from citrones.

We present this not to make tracing the etymon of our loanwords easy but to inspire serious students of etymology and linguistics to trace them. True, we have our own Austronesian lexis to study etymology with, but it would be helpful to understand the origins of our current vocabulary, and to somehow predict what might be included in it in the centuries to come.