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The Need To Standardize Chabacano Spelling and Grammar


Chabacano has always been an oral language.  Few pieces have been written in Chabacano and  noticeably, there has been no consistency in the spelling and usage of the language since the words  were written as spoken.

Indeed, Chabacano is a delightful blend of Spanish and Tagalog.  Many of its words are Spanish in origin and its grammatical structures are mostly Tagalog. Perhaps , we can all it ‘Spanlog’ in  modern terminology.

Many have been asking/curious about issues and concerns of the language and through this column, we will try to clarify points and observations.

The Case of Asao

There is a small restaurant in Caridad named Asao pronounced [a-SAW] and not [a-sa-O]. That is truly a Chabacano word meaning a roast or roasted. It comes from the Spanish word asado with  the same meaning. But, how did asado become asao. Most  likely,the change happened when we  adopted the Mexican way of dropping the d from words ending in ado. Hence, we have abogao from abogado, mechao
from mechado, cuñao
from cuñado, pescao
from pescado, tarantao
from tarantado, champurao
from champurado, etc.

Similarly, market is mercado in Spanish but mercao in Chabacano (native speakers also use plaza  and palenque, a Mexican word).

The Holiday Greetings

A number of greetings  on tarpaulins were posted around the city and a few attempted to do so in  Chabacano.

Merry Christmas was presented as Felices Pascua. This is not right in Spanish. Pascua here is singular while Felices is plural. The Spanish greeting will be either Felices Pascuas (both adjective  and noun are plural) or Feliz Pascua (both are singular) since Spanish grammar dictates that noun  and adjectives must be of one gender and number.

The word feliz or felices is rarely used in Chabacano. More often, the word alegre is used to  convey happiness or merriment so Alegre Pascua would sound more Chabacano than Spanish.

Año Nuevo is the Spanish word for New Year but Añonuevo written as one word is the surname of  someone.


Adoptations in Chabacano

Chabacano , as long as it keeps adopting new words, will be a living language unlike Latin with all  its rigid rules ’died’. However, if a word is not bound in the language  but can be derived from the  original source, be it Spanish, Tagalog or English), such can be used. If it is even possible to coin  new words to fit in the language, so much the better. Since there is no word for congratulations in  Chabacano, native speakers use the Spanish enhorabuena or the English congratulations.

In the case of the word welcome, the Spanish term in bien venida. Inasmuch as the native speaker does not use venida but llegada (meaning arrival). Also, buen is used oftener than bien, thus it  could be better to use buen llegada for welcoming someone. Similarly, very few Chabacano  speakers know what a biblioteca is (Spanish for library). Why not use casa/cuarto de libros  house/room of books) instead? This would be much easier to be understood.


page 4. Platica nisos Chabacano por  Ñol Iking Vol. 10 blg. 28 ENERO 13-19, 2013



...To be continued



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