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Some Notes on the Modernization of Ilokano (Third part)

The principle for relevance of the the praxis of language is its ability to express the mind-set/s, world-view/s, and perspective/s of the current users and not the way some people two or more generations ago thought of how the language ought to look like and to be written. Appropriation is the key: we borrow, take it as our own, and do not, not ever, return.

(Aurelio S. Agcaoili, PhD, teaches at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa and coordinates the Ilokano and Philippine Drama and Film Program of the Department of Hawaiian and Indo-Pacific Languages and Literatures. You can email him at: [email protected] or log on to his website: asagcaoili.blogspot.com for other articles on Ilokano life, culture, and society.  – Ed)

The principle for relevance of the the praxis of language is its ability to express the mind-set/s, world-view/s, and perspective/s of the current users and not the way some people two or more generations ago thought of how the language ought to look like and to be written. Appropriation is the key: we borrow, take it as our own, and do not, not ever, return.

One thing that ought to govern us all in the collective attempt to ‘modernize’ Ilokano, oh well, call it Iluko, if you wish (but this is another point to ponder), is to figure out a way to economize the way that language expresses itself and not to be extravagant. With the stereotype about Ilokanos being spendthrift and tightwad, why put in ‘qu’ when you can use ‘k’ instead, and more direct at that?

Modernizing language is making it short, simple, and to the point, stupid (as the saying goes, and pardon the expression).

Old languages tended to be represented in long ways and forms. They can even be reduplicative, verbose, ornate, florid, snaking unnecessarily towards hills and valleys and plains instead of following the route straight ahead.

Newer ones tend to economize their expression.

Think of text/texting as a form of language. Insist on the young your ‘old/undefiled’ way of texting and let us see.

BTW—read up here, purists!—and this means, simply, by the way, written in three letters and not your long three-word phrase, this texting is a form of modernising language, right?

Somebody will please study how our Ilokano youth, in using text, have appropriated our language. I am curious; I would like to see how they do it. They are going back to the requisites of kur-itan/kurditan, I suppose.

This is also the principle of good writing, which opens to us a new way of looking at the literary. The ‘Qu’ is unpoetic; ‘k’ is.

For one, poetry seems to be more exciting because it follows this rule on economy of expression. The prosaic, well, it is simply put, prosaic.

That is why it remains true to say that: (a) a good short story should have the kernel of a poem first, and then, a novel second, but all told, still a short story (paging, paging, the critics of short story writing in Ilokano).

We all are crying foul why we have not so far developed short story writing so much.

The reason is simple: we have published only one form—the prosaic form. the form that alludes to the jurassic ‘Qu’ and we have not allowed to open our minds into the vast possibilities of other forms, such as your ‘k’.

Those experimenting, for instance, do not have any place in the publications and they never win.

And we tend to be too extravagant with our short stories.

The cue and clue here is: economize, stupid!

One example I could tell right off is Roy Aragon’s “Indong Kagit”.

That is one perfect short story: poetic, and containing your novel’s seed of creation and construction; his could have been one chapter of a good novel that indicts our society’s injustices. (Paging Roy Aragon, please work on this.)

The stories that are coming out, for instance, are not in accord with the notions of ‘modernizing language’ but following the prosaic excursions of the ‘scientific world’ that tries to explain everything even if some things need no explaining anyway.

Or we revisit the classic Johnny Hidalgo piece—classic because it is a pillar in short story writing — “Bituen ti Rosales.” Read up on the grammar, the semantic promises, and the vast semiotic possibilities of that piece and you will see that here is an aesthetic landmark whose meaning/s escape/s us all. (I have probed JSP’s art and it escapes me. I have written about his poetic project in his poems and in his paintings and both escape me—the poetic in the painting and the painting in the poetic.)

Ha, this is called belaboring the obvious. Why tell? What to do instead? Paint a picture, the way Aragon does, the way Hidalgo does.

And the ‘quen’ and ‘quet’?

Baloney—useless, inutile, impotent, one extra letter in a word we could have said in three.

So why write four instead of three? Beats me.

Here, it is not a question of going through the ‘motions of Bannawag ortography’ and allowing it, before our very eyes, its collective act of ‘defiling’ our language. Bannawag has its own interests to protect. To accuse it of defilement is not according to form.

Here, we see Nid Anima’s impossible—impossible because it is ahistorical—concept of ‘defilement’.

We account the subtexts here: (a) a pure Ilokano language; (b) an undefiled Ilokano language; (c) a pristine Ilokano language, untouched by human hands, colonization, pollution, diffusion, cross-cultural encounter and exchange. Tell me about the Ilokano/Tagalog word ‘arak/alak’ and let us see whether the illusions of grandeur about a pristine and pure and primeval Ilokano language holds water.

Sorry, but this does not hold. It cannot hold water, never, not in any way.

The conclusion: Drop the Q in quen and quet (we have to pity the trees and the ink and the ina a nakaparsuaan here, if you see the connections — and there are many the thinking mind should be able to see. Do we ever recall why in the documents the “Qu” form of your linker and conjuctive marker had become cumbersome, until probably the 60s and so the documents would shorten them, writing them as simply ‘Qn’ and ‘Qt’? Think of linguistic economy here.

Why bother going back to the Doctrina Christiana’s imperialist and colonizing agenda when we do not need it in this respect? Unmask the empire and the colony—and in extensu, the imperialist and colonizer in sheep’s clothing—in the Ilokano language. It is high time that we did this. If we do not do it now, when are we going to do it? Remember this revolutionary catechism? So we say: No saan nga ita, kaano? No saan a datayo, sinno?

We take only what we need along the way as we march on, together with our Ilokano language, to the beating of the drums of Ilokano language modernization and development.