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Chabacano Philippine Creole Spanish. Lindsey Wilson. Contents. The Philippines Historical Background Account of settler groups Characterization of the type of contact setting Sociolinguistic Background Chronology of language contact Sociolinguistic variation

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Chabacano philippine creole spanish

Chabacano Philippine Creole Spanish

Lindsey Wilson


  • The Philippines

  • Historical Background

    • Account of settler groups

    • Characterization of the type of contact setting

  • Sociolinguistic Background

    • Chronology of language contact

    • Sociolinguistic variation

    • Classification of the contact language

  • Linguistic Structure

    • Phonology

    • Lexicon

    • Morphology and Syntax

  • Chabacano Today

  • Bibliography

The philippines
The Philippines

Dominant ethnicities of the philippines by province
Dominant Ethnicities of the Philippines by Province

  • About 180 languages are spoken in the islands.

  • All languages native to the islands are Austronesian except Chabacano.

  • Filipino (a standardized form of Tagalog) and English are the national languages.

  • Spanish was an official language for nearly three centuries.

  • Considerable Arabic (Muslim) presence as well.

Dialects of chabacano
Dialects of Chabacano

  • Tagalog-based dialects (Luzon):

    • Ternateño (Ternate, Cavite)

    • Caviteño (Cavite City)

    • Ermitaño (District of Ermita in Manila. Now extinct).

Dialects of chabacano1
Dialects of Chabacano

  • Cebuano-based dialects (Mindanao):

    • Zamboangueño (Zamboanga City, Basilan Island)

    • Davaoeño (Some areas of Davao)

    • Cotabateño (Cotabato City).

Historical background
Historical Background

Ternateño (XVI)

Ermitaño (1660)

Caviteño (1660)

Zamboagueño (1719)

Davaueño (1900)

Cotabateño (late XIX)

Historical background1
Historical Background

  • In 1574 Spanish settlers from the island of Ternate came to the Manila Bay area.

  • A military garrison was established in 1660.

  • It is thought that families from Ternate resettled in Cavite and Ermita, bringing Chabacano with them.

  • Spanish and Tagalog speakers settled Zamboanga in 1719; it is likely that this included Chabacano speakers from all three Luzon communities.

  • The Chabacano then spread from Zamboanga to form the various Mindanao dialects.

Historical background2
Historical Background

  • An alternate theory for the origins of the Mindanao dialects hypothesizes that Zamboangueño was formed largely by slaves from across the Philippines who were recaptured from Muslim pirates.

  • These slaves were brought to Fort Pilar in Zamboanga and Zamboangueño originated as a pidgin formed from Spanish and the mutually incomprehensible Philippine languages.

  • An importation of a large number of workers from Luzon and Visayas (the majority of which were masons from Cavite) reinforced this mix of languages, and introduced influence from the Manila Bay dialects of Chabacano.

  • Under both these theories, Chabacano can probably best be likened to a Fort Creole.

Sociolinguistic background lexifier
Sociolinguistic BackgroundLexifier

  • Although all dialects of Chabacano are clearly Spanish-lexified, there are questions about whether this was the original lexifier language.

  • Some argue that because of the presence of certain Portuguese grammatical elements, Chabacano started out as the Portuguese-based trade pidgin used in the South Seas at this time.

  • This would not seem altogether surprising nor unlikely, especially considering that Spanish and Portuguese are very closely related, and in the 16th century were even more so.

  • Because the only evidence of Portuguese is found in the grammar, it could be argued that this Portuguese-based pidgin could be counted as one of the substrate languages.

Sociolinguistic background substrates adstrates
Sociolinguistic BackgroundSubstrates/Adstrates

  • This would leave Chabacano with Spanish as its lexifier, and various Philippine languages (mostly Tagalog and Cebuano) and perhaps a Portuguese-based pidgin as substrate languages.

  • Zamboagueño has the most borrowings from other Philippine languages of any dialect, as well as from Italian and some Native American languages (including Quechua and Nahuatl).

  • Ermitaño was spoken by Chinese-Filipinos, and Zamboagueño is spoken by ethnic Muslims in Zamboanga.

  • English has also been an important influence since the start of the American occupation of the Philippines during the Spanish-American War (1898)

Sociolinguistic background variation
Sociolinguistic BackgroundVariation

  • There is fairly considerable variation between the dialects, especially between the Luzon and Mindanao varieties.

  • Zamboangueño is by far the most innovative, both historically and presently.

  • Ternateño is enjoying some renewed scientific interest for being perhaps the most conservative.

  • None of the literature on Chabacano seems to mention Creole continuums at all. There is variation within dialects, but the sociolinguistic causes for it do not seem to have been a major area of study.

Sociolinguistic background classification
Sociolinguistic BackgroundClassification

  • With a strong population of both L1 and L2 speakers in Zamboanga, Chabacano can be classified as a Creole.

  • It is definitely a language distinct from either Spanish or a Philippine language, and so cannot be considered a dialect of either.

  • It has far too many substrate and adstrate components to be considered an intertwined language.

Phonology vowels

  • Vowels: i, u, e, o, a

  • Originally the Philippine languages only had the vowels /i/, /u/, /a/, although /i/ and /u/ had the allophones [e] and [o] respectively in unstressed syllables.

  • Through contact with Spanish and other languages, Tagalog and many other Philippine languages now also have this five-way vowel distinction.

Phonology consonants

Filipino/Spanish FilipinoSpanishEnglish


  • Sound file:

  • Chabacano de Zamboanga:Todo'l magaser humanonace libre e igual en dignidad y maga derecho. Dotado con ellos el razon y conciencia y debe ellos comporta fraternalmente con el maga uno con el maga otro.

  • Chabacano de Cavite:Todo el mgagentiya naci libre y igual na dignidad y derecho. Tieni ilos rason y conciencia y debi ilos trata cun uno y otro comu mga hermano.

  • Translation:Allhuman beingsare born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)


  • 91.77% Spanish, and 2.22% Philippine languages

  • There is also extensive borrowing of Spanish lexical items into the modern forms of the substrate languages:

    • Tagalog: 20.4%

    • Cebuano: 20.5%

  • However, this does not mean that these languages had this influence at the time Chabacano was first developing.

  • Chabacano shows the classic Creole attribute of retaining archaisms of its lexifier language.

  • Lexicon is a very prominent area in which there is variation across dialects.

Morphology syntax word order
Morphology/SyntaxWord Order

  • The standard word order in Spanish is SVO:

    • SP: La madre cocina la comida. the mother cook.3SG the food. ‘The mother is cooking the food.’

  • The most common word order in Tagalog is VOS (Predicate-Subject) or VSO:

    • TG: Nagluluto ng pagkain ang nanay. IMP-cook TOP food FOC mother ‘The mother is cooking the food.’

    • TG: Nagluluto ang nanay ng pagkain. IMP-cook FOC mother TOP food ‘The mother is cooking the food.’

Morphology syntax word order1
Morphology/SyntaxWord Order

  • Like most Creoles, the typical Chabacano word-order is SVO:

    • ZM: cada rama tiene siete plores each branch have seven flower-PLU ‘there are seven flowers on each branch.’

  • But unlike most Creoles, VSO and VOS are possible and in some cases prefered:

    • ZM: Ya-mirá le el páto. PRF-see s/he DET duck ‘He saw the duck.’

    • ER: Ya consolá con ele el cura. CPL comfort to her the priest ‘The priest comforted her.’

Morphology syntax tma markers

  • The unmarked form of the verb is the infinitive of the Spanish without the final ‘r’.

    • SP: mirar > ZM: mirá ‘see’

  • TMA is marked by preverbal particles:

    • ZM: Ya-uyi yo ta-lyura el dalagita. PRF-hear I IMPF-cry DET girl ‘I heard the girl crying.’

    • CV: Di-anda yo na plaza. IRR-go I LOC market/place ‘I will go to the market.’

Current health
Current Health

  • The 1970 census listed 60 of the 66 provinces in the Philippines as having speakers of some dialect of Chabacano. It is also spoken in Sabah, Malaysia.

  • It is the largest Spanish-based creole spoken in the world, and is one of the oldest creoles at 350+ years.

  • There are discrepancies between sources on the number of speakers of each dialect.

    • All agree that Ermitaño is now extinct.

    • Older sources consider all other dialects to be close to extinction, with the exception of Zamboangueño.

    • Newer sources still list these dialects as alive; some have strengthened while others have continued to dwindle.

    • The renewed strength of some of the dialects could be due to a shift in language attitudes towards Chabacano.

Current health zamboangue o
Current HealthZamboangueño

  • Zamboangueño is the main language of Zamboanga. It is used in commerce, culture, politics, the Catholic Church, and education. It is used in radio and TV broadcasts and newspapers alongside English and Filipino.

  • The speaking of Zamboangueño is a source of pride in Zamboanga, and is spoken by educated people.

  • It has undergone many recent (past 50 years) changes in the lexicon to include more Tagalog, English and Visayan (Cebuano) words. Some point to this as a sign of decreolization, but others argue that it is simply the evolution of a living language.

  • The 2000 census listed 607,200 total speakers of Chabacano, although it is possible that the number is higher due to Zamboangueño’s prevalence.


  • Ager, Simon. (2009). Chavacano alphabet, pronunciation and language. Retrieved February 2009 from Omniglot: Writing systems and languages of the world:

  • Arends, J., Muysken, P., & Smith, N. (Eds.). (1995). Pidgins and Creoles: An Introduction. Creole Language Library Vol. 15. Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

  • Barrios, Aireen L. (2006). “Austronesian Elements in Philippine Creole Spanish.” Paper presented at Tenth International conference on Austronesian Linguistics. 17-20 January 2006. Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, Philippines.

  • Chambers, J. & Wee, S., (Ed). (2003). English-Chabacano Dictionary with a simple grammar. Philippines: Ateneo de Zamboanga University Press.

  • Chavacano. (2009). Retrieved February 2009 from Wikipedia: The free encyclopedia:

  • Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (Ed.). (2005). Ethnologue: Languages of the World (15th ed.). Dallas, Tex.: SIL International. Online version:

  • Lipski, John M. (1992). New thoughts on the origins of Zamboangueño. Language Sciences, Vol. 14(3), 197-231. Abstract retrieved from ScienceDirect.

  • Lipski, John M. (2003). Chabacano/Spanish and the Philippine Linguistic Identity. Unpublished manuscript. Retrieved February 2009 from

  • Lorenzino, Gerardo A. (2000). The Morphosyntax of Spanish-lexified Creoles. Muenchen: Lincom Europa.

  • Philippines. (2009). Retrieved Feburary 2009 from Wikipedia: The free encyclopedia:

  • Quilis, Antonio. (1995). “El español en Filipinas”. In Carmen Silva-Corvalán, (Ed) Spanish in Four Continents: Studies in Language Contact and Bilingualism (pp. 293-301). Washington D.C.: Georgetown University Press.

  • Steinkrüger, Patrick O. (2006). “The puzzling case of Chabacano: Creolization, substrate, mixing, and secondary contact.” Paper presented at Tenth International conference on Austronesian Linguistics. 17-20 January 2006. Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, Philippines.