eK! is electronic Kabalen, a web-exclusive Kapampangan journal of ideas

jason paul c. laxamana
jason paul c laxamana IN CELEBRATION of Pampanga Day last Saturday, the Holy Angel University Center for Kapampangan Studies organized a special lecture on the Kapampangan language conducted by expert linguist Anicia Del Corro, PhD. Just as we study biology to acquire scientific understanding of organic life, those who wish to have the same kind of understanding of languages should obtain a sense of linguistics—something which, I believe, is lacking among Kapampangan language advocators in the province.

Below are some of the points from the lecture which I would like to echo and elaborate on, because they are the major points that conservative Kapampangan language advocators tend to ignore—or worse, deny. Hence, rendering their attempts to promote the Kapampangan language either superficial or just plain futile.

Kapampangan, like all other languages, is dynamic

In a larger point of view, languages mix with one another and evolve throughout time. Because of rising global interconnectivity, thanks to the wonders of communication technology, mutation and evolution of languages happen faster.

Such phenomenon is the root of the fear of many Kapampangan language advocators, because they feel that Kapampangan might drown in this developing ocean of ideas dominated by the more widely used languages like English and Tagalog (Filipino). However, it is the denial of this natural phenomenon that cripples the judgment of advocators.

As Del Corro said, if we want to "protect" Kapampangan from being influenced by other languages, we should build great walls around the Kapampangan-speaking region and cut off any form of connection with the outside world. Even the Internet should be banned if we want to do that. Then we can ensure the "safety" of the Kapampangan language. Quite an unpractical and immature move, if you ask me, but some advocators seem to take a liking to the idea.

No such thing as corrupted language

In connection with what we discussed above, using a scientific perspective, it is logical to conclude that there's no such thing as a corrupted language or a bastardized language.

Conservative advocators would say that the Kapampangan of the youth is corrupted because of frequent borrowing from English and Tagalog, like the expressions "di ba" (they say it should be "e wari" or "ale"), "sorry" ("panupaya"), "sabe-sabe" ("agnan-agnan"), and other words of non-Kapampangan origin. It is a fact that the words mentioned have Tagalog or English origin, but diction alone does not make a language. As Del Corro stressed, to judge a language based on word choice is superficial, as even though the sentence "Mig-check kung papil" has an English word (check) and an indigenized foreign word (papil), the structure is still Kapampangan. Hence, it's still Kapampangan.

To say that it is corrupted is to go against the fact that languages are dynamic. Advocators would often frown at these "salitang dayu a malilili king kekatamung pamanyalita," but they tend to accept indigenized Spanish words like "sugarul," "burarul," "presku," "Dios," "lamesa," "taranta," "makualta," "almusal," and "kabayu;" and unnoticed indigenized words like "alaya" (a Buddhist concept), "mantala" (mantra), "kalma" (karma), "damla" (dharma), "sangla" (Chinese), "atsi" (Chinese), "lau" (eclipse), and "bolang" (Chinese).

Advocators would argue: Why borrow foreign words when we have our own? Why use the Tagalog "tuluy" when we have "sundu" or "balaus"? Why use "mayaman" when we have "mabandi"? Why use "animal" when we have "lasip"? Well, why not? If the use of those words is more convenient for their speakers, who are we to impose what we otherwise consider "more convenient"? Why is American English not deemed less English when speakers occasionally use "pronto," when they already have "quickly"?

A classic example is the language of Zamboanga—Chavacano. At first hearing, you'd think it's a dialect of Spanish because there are a lot of Spanish-sounding words in their sentences. But actually, it's not mutually intelligible with Spanish, so it's officially a language in its own right. It is a fact though that its birth is heavily influenced by the Spanish language during the Hispanic occupation. Should Chavacano speakers then forever be perceived as "speakers of a corrupted language"?

In fact, Spanish is itself a mixture of Latin, Arabic, and other influential languages in the past. But why is it not branded a bastard language by the advocators? It's because they tend to ignore facts, even deny them.

A standard Kapampangan language

It is natural for a language like Kapampangan to have dialects, or variants. However, among these dialects, one usually stands out as the more prestigious from which speakers usually derive their pride and honor upon using. This is what linguists call the standard language. Now, is there such a thing as a standard Kapampangan language? I haven't yet researched on it thoroughly, but based on observation, there isn't yet.

Conservative advocators would say that it's the Bakulud dialect, which was what was employed by the great writers of the past. But honestly speaking, do the Kapampangan masses draw their pride from speaking the Bakulud dialect, whatever that is? Is standard English like Shakespeare English?

Speaking in behalf of my generation (teenagers and adolescents), we don't really look up to the Bakulud dialect (we don't even know it). In fact, we are proud of our race even by using the conversational Kapampangan that we are using—that which is branded inferior, dirty, and incorrect by the conservative elders, who mostly think that their brand of Kapampangan is the perfect Kapampangan, denying the scientific fact that even their Kapampangan is way different from their ancestors'.

Language is but a slave to the speaker

Language is part of culture, and culture is the work of humans. Conservatives often perceive language as a godly being with no alpha and omega; as a thing that shouldn't be manipulated by puny humans because its perceived original form has always been sacred until modern people began tainting it; and as an unchanging collection of spoken symbols to which natives should bow down.

The fact is, language is at the disposal of its speakers. Technically speaking, no person has the right to brand another person's speech wrong, because we all have the right to control language. What counts as real is convention, where speakers subscribe to concepts and styles for the sake of conformity. One example of this is academic grammar.

It's a war of conventions

But in society, it's a fact that norms and conventions change through time. These changes are either intentionally fought for by men or are just merely happening, like the movement of the tectonic plates.

This should be a clear message to conservative advocators: if you want, say, the Bakulud dialect to be the standard Kapampangan, then you should work on making it the convention. Have it penetrate the very influential pop culture, where pop is a contraction of the word popular. Are academic institutions promoters of convention? In my opinion, they are effective in indoctrinating young children, but for teenagers, formal education is decentralized and the whole world, thanks to global media, becomes a diverse reference. Psychologically, the teenagers would prefer to conform to that which makes them socially hip, even at the subconscious level.

This is the same for Kapampangan advocators vis-a-vis the imperial Tagalog language. Don't focus too much on "susyal" fields like formal literature, serious theater, and artsy-fartsy works. For every single serious, poetic Kapampangan piece that you successfully get people to read, about twenty to thirty Tagalog tabloids, comic books, records, and TV shows have already been consumed by the same people. Sure, they'd praise serious works and even claim they draw pride from them, but deep inside, they will still go for the Sexbomb dancers, their favorite rock bands, and gorgeous movie stars. Believe it.

Also, advocators should be clear to themselves about their priority. Do they want to reverse language shift—that familiar phenomenon where Kapampangan parents raise their children as Tagalog native speakers—or do they want to elevate the social value of Kapampangan to its native speakers, who usually use Kapampangan at home but are shy to use it in the upperworld?

So, the question now is: who or what institutions are most likely to create convincing conventions for the Kapampangan language? Using Neo-Marxist thought, it will be those who have ISAs, or Ideological State Apparatuses, which are usually possessed by the wealthy. In my opinion, and I'm precise Del Corro would agree, mass media are the best candidates. Whoever controls or influences mass media has the edge in putting linguistic conventions under his whim.

To elaborate this concept, I'd like to discuss the thesis of an upperclassman at the University of the Philippines Diliman College of Mass Communication titled "Media as Kingmaker," but this article is becoming lengthy. Basically, the hypothesis is that mass media have the power to raise the social status of an individual and the social value of objects. Shouldn't we harness this power to upgrade the social value of our dear Amanung Sisuan?

Del Corro is still to return to HAU for a second session, as her lecture last Saturday was not finished (only two of about twenty slides where discussed). However, the date is not yet definite.

[About the author. Jason Paul C. Laxamana, 20, is producer of RocKapampangan, an album of Kapampangan songs remade by local rock bands to allow Kapampangan to penetrate the consciousness of the urban Kapampangan youth. He is an independent cultural worker seeking to empower Kapampangan by bringing it (and attempt to make it dominant) in pop culture. He operates an English-Kapampangan blogzine "The Prodigal Kamaru" at http://kamaru.blogspot.com, and a blog for his Kapampangan literary works "Kulang King Yumu" at http://sisigman.blogspot.com. Please email reactions to sisig_man@yahoo.com.ph]

-Posted: 7:35 AM 12/11/08 | More of this author on eK!

Abel D. Soto (of Bacolor, Pampanga, Philippines) writes...


Sana apaquibatan mo rening macatuquing cutang cu nung sacaling apanaunan mu lang paquibatan:

1. Nanung balu mu tungcul qng amanung Capampangan? Macananu calauac ing beluan mu tungcul caniting amanu?
2. Macasulat cang matino qng amanung Capampangan aguia mang ing baiung ortograpiya ing gamitan mo? Nung ali ca, nucarin ca cucuang sican a lub at tepangan para itanggui me ing Baculud Capampangan bilang "standard Capampangan" nung e ca man macasulat qng amanu mung sisuan? Nung macasulat na ca man, apagmaragul me caiang tutung Capampangan?
3. Nung e me quiquilalanan ing Baculud Capampangan anting "standard Capampangan," anti ning sinabi mu qng quecang sinulat, sanu ing Capampangan ing quiquilalanan mu? Ing quecayung Capampangan ngening casalucuyan a panaun?
4. Macananu calauac ing beluan mu tungcul qng amlat na ning Balen Baculud?
5. Macananu meng atanggui, o nung sacali, apagmaragul, ing metung a amanung e mu man lubus a caquilala?
6. Macananu meng asulung at apaglualu ing metung a bagueng dimut ca beluan?
7. Nung e me balu ing amlat na ning quecang amanung sisuan, at ing balu mu mu ya pin ing bayung klasing Capampangan, nucarin ca cucuang sican a lub at tepangan ban itanggui me ing metung a amanu bilang "standard" a amanu?

Sana pacaisipan mu pa mu ing susulat mu baiu me ilimbag uling lulto tamung mulala at macatula anting talasulat nung cabud ta na mu susulat ing atiu qng caisipan at pilubluban tamu bista man a e la man linabas qng pamigunam at pamamnialicsic ring quecatamung susulat bayu ta la pa man isulat deni.

-Posted/Via Email: 2009-05-14 02:04:26 PDT

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