The Dialectology of Cebuano: Standard Cebuano

litogo's picture
Out of all the dialects of Cebuano, with three given a description here, what can be considered as the standard for the language?
As mentioned above, the Sialo vernacular of Cebu (Carcar-Dalaguet or Southeastern Cebu) was and is the de facto standard used by the Catholic Church. It may be said that for written Cebuano, the de facto standard is the Sialo or Carcar-Dalaguet vernacular. This is further attested by informants who were asked to translate some sentences into their dialect that in writing they use the Sialo-Carcar variety. It can be said that spelling is separate from the phonetics and phonemics of the language. The Bohol variety may have the [dʒ] sound, but it is written as ‘y’. The schwa in some parts of Bohol is written as ‘u’. In dialects where the /l/ is dropped, they are still written with /l/. The exception may be for the /w/ that replaces /l/. It is not written as ‘l’ but as ‘w’. Currently, there is still no orthography that can be considered standard by all. It is still in the works.
With the awakened interest in the language and the flowering of writers' groups like LUDABI (Lubas sa Dagang Bisaya - Core of Visayan Writers), BATHALAD (Bathalan-ong Halad sa Dagang - Godly Gift of the Quill), the Dagang Foundation, Inc., Kaliwat sa Karyapa of Bohol, Davao Writers' Guild, rivalry arose among the different dialects. The Sialo venacular dominates Catholic materials. The vernaculars of Cebu City, Iligan, Cagayan de Oro and Davao are gaining a stronghold because of their respective economic power, presence of universities, active writers' groups, and mass media (TV, radio, and print media). The dialects of Bohol and Southern Leyte are strong in their homelands. 
There is no standard orthography but there are groups trying to set up one. Bisaya Magasin of the Manila Bulletin, the SunStar publications in the Cebuano language - SunStar Super Balita-Cebu, SunStar Super Balita-Cagayan de Oro, and SunStar Super Balita- Davao, the Banat News of the Philippine Star/Freeman and Bantay Balita of Bohol, have their own guidelines on spelling, syntax, morphology, style and usage (Atty. Faelnar, p.c). As an example, Bisaya Magasin retains the e and o in borrowed words, i.e bentana instead of bintana ‘window’; polis instead of pulis ‘police’. This is somewhat akin to the English-speaking countries where style and usage is determined by the large publishing houses and universities and not by the government. Also writers from Cebu City have started a trend of writing Cebuano as it is spoken in Cebu City. Others adhere to the Sialo-Carcar variety or to that of whatever magazine they are writing for.
With regards to spoken Cebuano, for some, the Sialo vernacular is also the standard although it is regarded with reservation with respect to words which retained the /l/ in intervocalic position, between two like vowels because in this position, the /l/ is usually dropped. Examples are dalagan ‘run’ , balagtok, kalamunggay ‘malunggay’ , and kalatkat ‘climb’ instead of dagan, bagtok, kamunggay and katkat. This is not widely used elsewhere with the exception of Dumaguete and some towns in Negros Oriental. There are also words that retain the /l/ in the aforementioned position yet are as popularly spoken without it. Examples are wala ‘left’, balay ‘house’ and kalayo ‘fire’ (for wa, bay and kayo). The vernacular Bible is the best example for what can be considered as standard Cebuano, as well as public speeches. In Bohol, this variant of Cebuano is used for meetings, electoral campaigns and formal occasions instead of Binol-anon. It is also used in their balak (drama/community theater).

But all in all, there is yet no standard for spoken Cebuano. Having a standard language is a matter of power, acceptability and extensive usage. In each of the respective territories of Cebuano, there is a dominant variety, i.e those in their economic and educational centers.


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