Some Notes on the Modernization of Ilokano (Fourth part)

I COULD have titled this piece as: “Or why Nid Anima’s position on the Ilokano language does not offer a plausible perspective on how we are to view the language and how are we to develop it.” His position is as flawed as anyone arguing from the basis of ad ignorantiam.

(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: for other articles on Ilokano life, culture, and society.  – Ed)

I COULD have titled this piece as: “Or why Nid Anima’s position on the Ilokano language does not offer a plausible perspective on how we are to view the language and how are we to develop it.” His position is as flawed as anyone arguing from the basis of ad ignorantiam.

There are certain things that we have to look into here.

One, his guerilla methodology or his lack of method in pursuing the logic of his cause, if he has any—or in pursuing both his logic’s end and his cause.

Two, his position lacks a neat and nifty understanding of what scholarship ought to look like such that we can hardly believe him when he tells us things that are not backed up by solid research but by impressionistic impressions.

Let me point out the facts from the paper he read at the 2002 GUMIL Filipinas-GUMIL Oahu Conference held in Honolulu, Hawai‘i and which was reissued by Jim Agpalo in his blog,

1. On the Jose Villa Panganiban directive, he says: “A directive by the then Director of the Institute of National Language, Jose Villa Panganiban, brought about the cause of protest. This possibly occurred in the late 50’s or early 60’s.”

Here we see a classic Anima way of putting ideas together in a manner and fashion that is truly convoluted.

If we go back to the meat of the two sentences, we do not know exactly what is being referred to.

Is he referring to the Panganiban directive or to the protest that came after or both?

Why, for heaven’s sake, did he use the phrase “possibly occurred in the late 50’s or early 60’s”? How are we to believe him if he cannot even tell us exactly where he is getting his facts? “Possibly” has a lame reference, it has empty claims. It is at best impotent in the context it is used by Anima.

2. On the scope of that directive, he says: “The scope of that directive embraced as well as encompassed all local languages and dialects, including Ilocano. (JVP) theorized that the local dialects derived their origins from Bahasa Indonesia, which uses the letter k, and thus must conform, for authenticity’s sake.”

Here we go again.

We see here a confused mind and a confused reasoning.

Does Anima really know what he is talking about?

Does he know the basic difference between a language and a dialect?

In the first instance, he talks about the Panganiban directive “(embracing) as well as (encompassing) all local languages and dialects, including Ilocano.”

In the next instance, he talks about “the local languages (deriving) their origins from Bahasa Indonesia.”

We cannot argue along fuzzy lines. End of story here. At best, this is bad scholarship.

3. I am skipping his vengeful afterthought on Bannawag. The Bannawag people can defend themselves.

4. He then talks about the genesis of the Iluco language, which he inconsistently referred to in the first part of his argument as “Ilocano”.

He talks about the flaws of the Panganiban directive, thus: “One, the Iluco as much as Tagalog language did not derive from Bahasa. Rather, they came of their own. They thrived, grew and flourished under Hispanic influence. Two, if the Iluco dialect must be subject to influence at all might it not be better if the influence is wielded by a superior language and not an inferior one? Between Bahasa and Spanish or English, there is no doubt as to which is more superior: it is quite obvious.”

Anima is confused about the Ilokano language “coming of its own” like Tagalog. Here, we see an Anima illusion of grandeur: that once there was a pristine and primeval language we call “Iluco,” his own term.

In the next breath, he speaks of “Iluco dialect.” Here, we see clearly a confused reasoning, sans logic, sans a solid understanding of the concepts of Linguistics 101 which any Tom, Dick and Harry could take in college. He cannot distinguish clearly between “language” and “dialect”.

In another breath, he speaks of “superior language” such as Spanish and/or English and an “inferior one” such as “Bahasa”.

What are his standards for saying that a language is more superior to the other, or conversely, more inferior to the other?

Here we see a neo-colonial mind and mindset in operation, and without that mind and mindset knowing that it has been colonized.

And then, what “Bahasa” is he referring to? Does he understand the very concept of “Bahasa”? Does he know that “Bahasa” is not only for Indonesia?

5. He talks about the “English language” growing by accretion, and then the dynamic of this accretion such that “the word coiners arrived at the exact term required.”

And he contrasts this with word coiners of the Iluco language, saying that “their counterparts in Iluco does it through sound association and arrive at something absurd and ridiculous. For instance, they adopted football into putbol. There is nothing in this word that denotes and/or connotes with foot and ball. Ditto with birth certificate locally represented as bert sirtipikit.”

Anima is clearly confused here, mistaking “accretion” for fidelity to the character and behavior of the word being borrowed such that it ought to have that character and behavior as in the original. No change, no manipulation, no linguistic intervention is ever allowed here.

The formation of affixes, the coining of new words via word combination, and the invention of new ones are a product of the times; they are needed which was why they have to be thought out and put out before language users to use, or even to dismiss. To account sound association as ridiculous is to miss a fundamental point in “appropriation” as the key element in the concentric development and progress of a particular language.

Appropriating, also called borrowing and then owning it without returning to the source, makes sense only when what is borrowed is made to act and behave in the way the borrowing language acts and behaves.

Think of the borrowed words of English here.

Did they completely and totally and fully retain their spelling and pronunciation? Some, but many did not. What was more important is that all of these borrowed words had to conform to the acceptable sound system of the English language.

Anima, in his confusion, denies this same thing to Ilokano. Think of a bundle of contradictions here and we see in the twisted logic of the Anima conference paper that purports to teach us a lesson or two on the “defiling” of the Ilokano language.

What about his claim about football and its rendering into Ilokano as putbol? And that bert sirtipikit? I say: why not? His notion of connotation and denotation totally misses the point on appropriating. Do the Japanese have a concept of computer? The answer is, Yes, they have. The Japanese term for “computer” has been derived from the English “computer”; it has been rendered in the way the Japanese language is sounded off. Who determines whether “bert sirtipikit” will not work? Oh, well, the community of Ilokano speakers. If they will consider this as something that will make sense to them, they will keep it. Otherwise, it will go the way of words rendered obsolete.

6. Towards the end, of course, Anima’s way of writing, with orthography all his own, is being offered as the salving and redeeming in Ilokano language and writing. Anima says: “I have taken the first step by writing my first book in Iluco, Tartaraudi ni Bucaneg, in the only manner it should be written. If you adopted the same in the writing of your own books, I strongly believe you and I can restore Iluco to its proper place.”

The huge problem with Anima is the huge ego in his huge project with no regard for the diachronia of the Ilokano language.

He has forgotten many things including the fact that in the attempt to offer something redeeming and salving, dictatorship has no place. What he does is to dictate to us the “correct and proper way” to write in Ilokano, and this “correct and proper way” is arrogantly passed off as the Anima way. And he says, “This is the only way to do it.” He invokes Bucaneg, of course, forgetting that Ilokano scholarship is not even too certain of Pedro Bucaneg.

In fine, he invokes Allah. But this does not make his argument divine and coming from the heavens of his cloudy thought.

[ To be continued ]