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Some Notes on the Modernization of Ilokano (Tenth part)

The equation being proposed is that “reintellectualization is equal to retaining the spelling of the borrowed word as much as you can”, an equation clearly proposed by Manuel, following Hidalgo, and in some light, by Joe Padre, one of the better exiles in Los Angeles who think thoughts in clear terms about what and who we are as a people with a language worth our loving wherever we are. Aragon takes up this proposal, and Agpalo as well, and both experiment with their works.

(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 equation being proposed is that “reintellectualization is equal to retaining the spelling of the borrowed word as much as you can”, an equation clearly proposed by Manuel, following Hidalgo, and in some light, by Joe Padre, one of the better exiles in Los Angeles who think thoughts in clear terms about what and who we are as a people with a language worth our loving wherever we are. Aragon takes up this proposal, and Agpalo as well, and both experiment with their works.

The equation lacks conceptual validity: what Manuel is doing is not “reintellectualizing” but allowing the Ilokano language to open to the possibilities of appropriating words that we do not have to account our new experiences.

And this is not peculiar to Ilokano language alone, as this is being done by all languages, and they do not call this ‘reintellectualization”, a demeaning word, subservient, colonial and colonizing, and carries with it the burden of allowing oneself to become an appendage of another linguistic and cultural empire. In the end, we have allowed this new hegemony, cultural and linguistic, to come take hold of our minds, our intelligence, as if our Ilokano language does not and cannot reveal a mind and intelligence.

 I could be accused here of nominalism, that philosophical position as ancient as ancient Greece, that position that holds, among others, that the “name/nomen, counts, and is the only thing that counts, to account reality.

Then again, I am holding my ground: what Hidalgo, Manuel, Agpalo, Aragon, and Padre are doing and proposing is not intellectualizing but appropriating, that phenomenon in which borrowing is necessary, even expedient and urgent for the “contemporizing” language, speech, concepts in order to account contemporary experience by borrowing words, terms, and concepts, and making them your own, and not returning it.

Wrong diction there by the “reintellectualization” group of philosophers. Theirs follows a Sibayan empty boast of the need to intellectualize and reintellectualize Tagalog. That is Sibayan’s conceptual problem which we should have not picked up and repeated. Let Sibayan’s Tagalog/Pilipino/Filipino commit all the blunder there is in evolving a truly Filipino language from a false rhetoric of what ought to constitute a “national language”.

 In appropriating, we do not have to be subservient to the language we are borrowing the terms from and not returning but claiming it as our own.

We need to be careful here with the registers of the terms we are using, as these registers carry with them the weight that is not only linguistic but extra-linguistic as well: historical, cultural, economic, political, and philosophical. No, we do not allow this to happen again.

But let us see some merits in Manuel’s procedures for appropriating, and I have been doing the same thing myself, in a number of my writings, both in Ilokano and Filipino (not Sibayan’s impossible Tagalog/Pilipino): n (enye, how do you write this Roy Aragon, using my Dell laptop with a battery that heats up after one hour of use?), x, f, z, ll.

But you have a problem here: you cannot use them all in all instances when their sounds do not allow for a complete entry into the phonetic system of the Ilokano language.

The first duty is to be faithful to the existing phonetic system and what that system can allow. And when, in the pragmatics of our speech and language, when that sound that we are introducing is not really there but needs to be there, then that is the only time for us to introduce a new “phone”, a new sound, but always, always, always, in keeping with other linguistic and extra-linguistic variables.

The clue here is an intelligent, critical scrutiny, and not some borrowing that is not well thought out just to respect the term/word of the language where that term/word was borrowed. In appropriation, there is more to just respecting the original term/word without taking into account the phonetic system of the borrowing language and its structure of accounting sense and meaning.

As well pointed out by previous critics of the Tagalog language being passed off as Pilipino/Filipino, the problem with the Tagalog imperialists and advocates of hegemony is that they forgot the history and the political imagination present in the word “Filipino” to account both the nation and the people, and thus, the national language, such that, in their ignorance of the dynamics of such a history and political imagination, they rammed into our throats their term “Pilipino” to account for the language and “Filipino” for the people (or is it the reverse now?).

If you look at the “Filipino language” program of many universities in the Philippines and abroad, such as the University of Hawaii and the University of California (Los Angeles, Berkeley), we see clearly a schizophrenic program run and managed by people who have no clear notions on what linguistic imperialism and hegemony are all about and what constitutes linguistic democracy. And these are the Tagalog “imperialists” passing off new notions of “linguistic and cultural empire” without intending to but doing it just the same anyway.

We are crying foul about linguistic empires and emperors and here, in our own midst, are the new linguistic emperors and their linguistic empire. We do not want to repeat the same mistakes even if we want to dream of a richer Ilokano language, with vaster possibilities for the future generations.

It is easier when you do not have the sound and you include that sound in the current phonetic system as is the case of x and z. I use both to account the Ilokano examen, examinasion, text, texto, textual, zero, zeta, zigzag.

The reason is simple: we do not have the x sound, and the “ks” combinatory might account it but it is not it and here again, you are using two letters instead of one, a real waste of ink, energy, and mind. And trees and nature and natural resources, if you get the drift. The clue here is: economize, economize.

And the z? Oh, put in there, please.

But does this work with the other sounds, with all the sounds we are borrowing. No. Our duty is not to betray what the Ilokano language offers. Our duty is to make it richer, fuller with meaning, and more open to the vast possibilities of the present and the future.

Next, I will discuss the phonetic problems in appropriation to answer some of the key points raised by the “reintellectualization” philosophers of our language.

(To be continued)

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