Thursday, August 31, 2006

"NG", Excuse Me, Is NOT a Unique Alphabet Letter, er Digraph

My high school Balarila differentiated the words ng from nang as used in the following examples:

Perlas ng silanganan (Pearl of the orient)

Nang si Jesus ay isinilang (When Jesus was born)

However, I believe ng started as a contraction or abbreviation of nang. Check The Project Gutenberg Ebook of Ibong Adarna, by Anonymous. Out of more than 19,000 words in more than 5,400 lines of this work, “nang” appears 618 times, 3 times in the subtitle:


On the other hand, “ng” appears only once, in the following stanza:

Cun aayao magpa-silla

ang cabayo’i, mag-aarma,

palo’t, dagoc na lahat na

ng gauin mo sa caniya.

Obviously, ng and nang may be used interchangeably. Whether the user wants to use either ng or nang to mean “of” or “when” should be determined by the context in which either word is used. As in other languages, there are words in Filipino that could mean different things under different contexts, e.g., bata for gown, or bata for child. So why the need to go out on a limb to differentiate ng from nang when, as in Ibong Adarna, they are one and the same?

[Coincidentally, “manga” appears 32 times in Ibong Adarna, while “mga” was not used at all. The conclusion is that “mga”, as used in current Tagalog/Filipino discourse, is a contraction or abbreviation of “manga”.]

I don't think, however, that the "NG" in the Filipino alphabet refers to the contracted or abbreviated "NANG". It is the digraph ng. A digraph, by the way, is a pair of letters used to write one sound or a combination of sounds that does not correspond to the letters combined, as in the following example: Ngunit ang tugon niya'y dalangin na walang hanggan (But his answer was a prayer without end).

The digraph "ng", however, is NOT unique to Tagalog or Filipino. It also occurs in English as in the following example: The singer’s raspy voice impinging on one’s bingo concentration.

Yet the digraph ng is not considered a unique phoneme in the English alphabet, or in some other Roman languages that use it simply because they don't have words that start with the digraph, one of three tests that a digraph must pass to be considered as a unique phoneme (the other being that the digraph may occur in the middle of the word or at the end). Some linguistic technicality--which is probably why the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino insists that "language planning... should be a collaborative endeavor of scholars, linguists and practitioners in the study and use of the language." The ordinary language user--you and I--well, we're chopped liver! But then, that's another story.

While it may be difficult to find a "native" English word that starts with ng, the explosion of the Vietnam War into the global consciousness introduced us to non-native words that did so. Some of the words thrown about by the media during that war were proper Vietnamese names, like the Ngo's and the Nguyen's. Then 1976 saw the largescale migration of the Vietnamese--including the Ngo's and the Nguyen's--to the United States. Well, even as proper names starting with Ng may get entrenched in the public consciousness, they may not find their way into the lexicon of the English language to warrant the revision of the English alphabet to include the digraph ng.

I learned from a reliable language authority that the inclusion of ng in the Filipino alphabet is an effort to differentiate ours from others. Well, the Vietnamese have other ideas because they, too, have ng as one of 8 digraphs in their 37-letter alphabet where "A" with varying inflection marks is counted as 3 unique letters!

If we eliminate NG as a separate letter, er digraph, the 2001 revision of the Filipino alphabet is, for all intents and purposes, an adoption of the current 27-letter Spanish alphabet: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, Ñ, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z. In a nation where more than half the population have Spanish names, it certainly is difficult to understand the misguided bent of some of our intellectuals to try to distance you and me and themselves from the Spanish alphabet at some point and then grudgingly re-adopt it anyway.

So the Spanish alphabet is back. Plain and simple. And richer for the Filipino alphabet. In the exact words of the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino: “The promulgation of this Department Order [2001 Revisyon] was regarded as a significant step in promoting more dynamic development of the language. The goal is lexical enrichment of Filipino by liberalizing word borrowings and translations largely from English and Spanish using eight additional letters of the alphabet, namely letters C, F, J, Ñ, Q, V, X, Z.”

In a pragmatic sense, the revised Filipino alphabet is basically what we had before, before the likes of Lope K. Santos (who changed his middle name from Canseco to Kanseco) thought it was the “nationalist” thing to do to rid the letters C, F, J, Ñ, Q, V, X, Z from the Spanish alphabet and proclaim the emaciated 20-letter alphabet (with NG) as the Tagalog ABAKADA, then the official alphabet for the then Wikang Pambansa, which became Wikang Pilipino, which morphed into Wikang Filipino.

The sequence of events from the time Tagalog was declared as the basis for the evolving "national language" just reinforces Alexander Neville’s theory in Language, Class and Power In Post-Apartheid South Africa that a [national] language does not develop “naturally” as it were, but is something planned by those in power either through executive order, decree or legislation. Even as there obviously were some missteps in our language planning and policies.

At any rate, I strongly recommend that “ng” be purged from the current Filipino alphabet as revised in 2001. We are not losing anything that’s worth a hoot, so let's just cut the mustard. Because it has a human-appendix-and-tonsil excuse for being. Purging "ng" certainly won't trigger cataclysmic fissures in the lexical landscape. It won’t diminish informal or formal discourse. From a learner’s standpoint, it’s one less letter (or whatever) to remember. Let the "scholars, linguists and practitioners in the study and use of the language" deal with their momentary grief on the loss of ng--and then let's all move on to meatier stuff. Such as refocusing our efforts in the development and enrichment of Filipino in the face of a runaway train called code-switching.

NG as a unique alphabet digraph, NO; as an ordinary digraph or as a contraction or abbreviation for nang, yes, ABSOLUTELY!


Anonymous Filipinayzd said...

Una sa lahat, ako ay isang manunulat. Malaya. Pangalawa, nais kong sarilihin (muna) ang saloobin at posisyon ko sa ginawang rivizyon ng Filipino ispeling, sa personal na kadahilanan. Ayokong mahusgahan na pumapanig at/o kumokontra sa 2001 Revisyon. Pangatlo, hindi ko kinikleym na eksperto o alam ko ang lahat.

Ang Filipino (sa ay ang nakikita kong klase ng Filipino sa fyutsur kung sakali mang lubusang tanggapin at sundin ng mga Filipino ang 2001 Revisyon.

Hindi ko sinasabi/sinabi na hindi na ayos lang na hiramin ng walang pagbabago sa ispeling ang isang banyagang salita ng salita o hinihiram nang buo ayon sa orihinal nitong anyo. Hindi sakop ng tuntunin ang preferens. At malaya tayong pumili kung papaano natin hihiramin ang isang banyagang salita ayon nang naaayon sa tuntunin.

Hindi ako eksperto, hindi ako Tagalog. Ang simbolo ng tunog ng letrang NG ay parang pinadikit na N at J(walang character nito sa standard keyboard, siguro sa International Phonetic Alphabet meron). Ito lang ang hindi konsistent sa Filipino dahil magkaiba ang letra at simbolo/character ng tunog nito (yung hyphen at kudlit, iba rin, parang question mark na walang tuldok sa ibaba). Ang NG, parang pinaikling "ang" ('ng) gaya ng "ay" at "at" ('y at 't). Dahil siguro sa paglipas ng panahon, nawala na ang ' . Pansinin, ang "ano pa at" ay naging "anupat" na o "bagaman at" ay naging "bagamat" na. Buti at wala tayong salitang T (para sa pinaikling "at"). LOL

Saturday, September 16, 2006 11:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Ernest Tan said...

i agree...but i prefer to use that NG (pinaigsi) than NANG...

Tuesday, September 19, 2006 3:57:00 PM  
Blogger Joe Padre said...

Just learned that the Filipino linguist, Dr. Ernest Constantino of the UP Dept of Linguistics, fought hard for the inclusion of the digraph "ng" in the Filipino alphabet and that the inclusion was seconded by Dean Paz (also of the UP Linguistics Dept).

Also got this clarification from Dr. Jessie Grace U. Rubrico, consultant for Philippine Languages with Language Links Foundation, Inc. ( via email:

"You must remember that in order for a phoneme to be considered one, it must appear in all distributions –initial, medial, and final. Can you please point out "ng" in the initial distribution of English or Spanish morphemes?

In the Philippine languages, /ng/ is a phoneme because

(1) it appears in all three distributions: ngayon, pangalan, sabong

(2) it appears in a consonant cluster that cannot be misconstrued as /n + g/. Example: la-ngaw where the sequencing of phonemes is C-V-C-V-C; if "ng" is not a phoneme, how would you syllabicate "langaw" --lan-gaw? how about langgam?

(3) Tagalog phonotactics does not accept consonant clusters, meaning there has got to be a vowel in between consonants. So we had the tarak (trak < Eng. truck), and tiren (tren < train), etc. If you take "ng" as two phonemes, then there would be a cluster of two consonants which violates the phonological rules of the Tagalog language. (Note: I am not referring to Filipino where phonotactics and alphabet are different from Tagalog)."

Tuesday, September 19, 2006 11:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Filipinayzd said...

Maaari (na) bang gamitin/tanggapin ang /sy/ "sh" sa hulihan ng isang salita o pantig?

SYorts kurapSYon fiSYbol aboliSY

Ang /ts/ "ch" (nga) ay ginagamit sa unahan, gitna at hulihan.

TSok tiTSer riserTS

Maaari (na) bang gamitin/tanggapin ang tatlong magkakatabing katinig sa isang pantig? (SYRimpbol). Ang syoRTS (nga) tanggap.

Maaari (na) bang gamitin/tanggapin ang apat na magkakatabing katinig sa isang pantig? (blaYNDS, saWNDS)

Maaari (na) bang gamitin/tanggapin bilang klaster ang "TH"? (maTHImatiks, THiyori) Natural lang siguro na bigkasin ng "mat-himatiks" o "matihimatiks" na karamihan ito tulad nung bago pa lang ang klaster (kaya "tarak" at "teren" ang bigkas ang "trak" at "tren" PERO natutuhan rin itong bigkasan ng tama).

Wednesday, September 20, 2006 12:06:00 PM  
Blogger alatkenikan said...

bakit kaylangan ng mathimatks , mayron namang matematika. Bakit thiyori, mayron namang teoria.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006 5:29:00 AM  
Blogger Joe Padre said...

To alatkenikan: I do share the same sentiment with you on that because the newfangled words, like "thiyori", somehow force me to give them a second or third look sometimes before I realize what they are. In other words, there is a brief lag, albeit in seconds, in the communication process because of the unfamiliarity of the words to me when I'm reading them. Probably a different story if I'm listening...

Wednesday, December 27, 2006 6:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

bati-a ani oy,,,,,,,ondang pa mo

Tuesday, February 27, 2007 3:48:00 AM  

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