A Case Study of Lexical Borrowing Between Two Language Families in the Southern Philippines

Scott L. Burton

Date of publication:

June 30, 2003


The primary aim of this study is to investigate two adjacent language
communities, the Sarangani Manobo and the Tagakaulo, each belonging to a different language family, to determine contributing factors to the high percentage (more than 50%) of shared vocabulary as compared with less than 20% of shared vocabulary between Tagakaulo and its other adjacent neighbor, Blaan. These three languages are all distantly related, being members of the Maylayo-Polynesian subfamily of Austronesian languages. I present the hypothesis that shared terms between Tagakaulo and Sarangani Manobo cannot be assumed to be cognates inherited from a common distant ancestor. Rather, some of these terms are the result of lexical borrowing that has occurred because of (1) their geographical proximity to each other and (2) the continual contact of their respective language families over a long period of time. The earliest contact introduced terms from a Manobo source into Proto-East Mindanao and its subfamily, Proto-South East Mindanao, many of which are retained in Mansaka and Tagakaulo. I use two approaches to determine underlying reasons for the high percentage of shared vocabulary between Tagakaulo and Sarangani
llanobo. The first approach is one which I develop in this study to retrace
the history of each of these languages, designating specific reference points to represent both a period in time and the geographical location of each language family at that time. The purpose of this is to separate genetically cognate lexical items originating with a distant common ancestor and those that may have been borrowed from each other.
The second approach is the use of semantic domains to isolate aspects of culture in which a higher percentage of lexical borrowing might occur. I incorporate both approaches as a strategy for this case study and present this strategy as a method of systematic study of lexical borrowing.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter