The Dialectology of Cebuano: Similarities and differences

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4.1 Similarities
All dialects of Cebuano have lengthened vowels, like the Dutch language. This is common to words where the /l/ or /l/ plus an accompanying vowel, is dropped. The lengthening compensates for the loss of the /l/ like in wa [ˈwʌːɁ] ‘none’ (originally, wala [wʌˈlʌɁ]). In tsa ‘tea’, the a is pronounced like the aa in Dutch vaal, as in [ˈtsʌː] and not like the Tagalog [tsʌˈɁʌ]. Another example is the word for ‘yes’. Although it is written as Oo it is pronounced as [ˈɁɔː] and not like the Tagalog [ˈɁɔɁɔ]
All types of Cebuano are full of the og [ˈɁɔg] and ug [ˈɁʊg] sound, although they have different meanings depending on the usage. Og/Ug are polymorphic; they only have one form but they have different meanings. It is also full of the y [j] sound as in wa'y; unya’y, kami’y, siya’y. It is interesting to note that the y here can be used to replace the Tagalog marker ang.
Cebuano speakers have difficulty with non-Cebuano words with an i or e. Thus ‘pink’ is pronounced [ˈpɛnk] and ‘red’ is [ˈrɪd]. ‘Witness’ becomes wetness                 [ˈwɛtnɛs]. This is also the case with o and u. In speaking English or Tagalog, they are distinguished by the hard e and o. This has led to many stereotypes and exaggerations but this only holds true for some, for there are speakers who does not have the gahing dila ‘lit. hard tongue’. This difficulty may have arisen from the original sound system of Cebuano which only includes three vowels.
4.2 Differences in sound
4.2.1 Cebuano- Bohol
Cebuano-Bohol or Binul-anon/Bol-anon is most known for its [ʤ] sound which takes the place of /j/ ‘y’ in syllable-initial position. [ʤ] in orthography is written as ‘j’ and also ‘y’. As discussed in the part on phonology (although it is already part of morphophonemics), when ‘y’ [j] ends a word, it can also become [ʤ] ‘j’ with the addition of a suffix, which would make it syllable-initial as in [ˈbʌːbɔj] à [bʌˈbɔːʤʌ] in the sentence Tamboka anang baboja uy! ‘That pig is very fat’. Other examples are:
Pagkadaku anang baja (balaya) ‘That house is very big’.
Kataas anang kahoja (kahoya). ‘That tree is very tall’
Pinangga jud ko anang nanaja (nanaya). ‘That mother loves me very much.’
With the exception of [ʤ], words are pronounced like that in Cebu City with the     [w]’s than like that of southeastern Cebu with the [l]’s.
Although the affricate is the distinguishing sound of Bol-anon, it does not hold true for the whole province. In some towns facing Cebu City (i.e Tubigon, Clarin, Sagbayan, Calape, Baclayon etc), they do not have it. Tagbilaran, the capital, also uses [j] instead of [ʤ] though there are some who use it, especially the older generations. Those in the northeast (i.e Ubay, Talibon, etc.), in Central Bohol, Eastern Bohol and in the Loon-Maribojoc area use the [ʤ] frequently. These towns are gateways to Southern Leyte where [ʤ] is used throughout the province. Also, if it is of any relation, Mexicans also pronounce the Spanish ‘y’ [j] this way.
The l lost its sound in between two same sounding vowels and become w in between a and o/u and vice-versa. In some towns, [l] can also be replaced with [w] if it ends a word as in kaˈsaw for kaˈsal ‘wedding’, kuˈraw for kuˈral ‘fence’, kaˈnaw for kaˈnal ‘canal’, baˈgow  for baˈgol ‘coconut shell’ , and ˈhabow for ˈhabol ‘blanket’. Whereas, in Dauis on Panglao Island, and in Baclayon, both in southwestern Bohol, if the syllable wo ends a word, it is pronounced as is and not shortened to the letter “w”. Examples: kaˌhibaˈlo or kahiˈbaw ‘know, to know’ is kahibaˈwo;   ˈkalo ’hat’ is ˈka-wo; ˈtawo or ˈtaw ‘human, man’ is ˈta-wo. ˈBaw (Boholano equivalent for ambot ‘I don’t know’) is ˈba-wo.
In Loon and in many centrally located municipalities of Bohol (San Miguel, Catigbian, Danao, Dagohoy, etc.), the u is sometimes pronounced like the u in church. The same u sound is used in the eastern town of Alicia. I posit it as the schwa [ə] sound, same as the e in French le [ˈlə] ‘the’. In these towns, [ə] can be accounted as a phoneme, hence /ə/, since it can cause a difference in meaning, as in the example.
They say gipamulong [gɪpʌˈmʊlɔŋ] or gipamung [gɪpʌˈmʊːŋ] to mean something is uttered but when it is pronounced as gipamung [gɪpʌˈməːŋ], it means someone is in the act of looking for something lost or cannot be found. 
In Tagbilaran, the Cebuano is like that of Cebu City but with a peculiar sing-song (rise-and-fall) sound. Other different-sounding speakers are those from the north (abrupt rise and fall, like that in Inabanga town) and south (gradual rise and fall). Also, an informant noted that from Cortez to Baclayon, the tone is like that of Cebuano in Misamis, with the exception of Barrio Biking in Panglao wherein their Cebuano is somewhat same as that of Siquijor.
However, with respect to the structure of the dialect, it is the same as Sinugbuanon.
4.2.2 Cebuano- Cebu
The main difference between the vernaculars of Cebu involves the segments [w] and [l]. That of Cebu City is full of w's in place of l in words where the l is not dropped; i.e kaˌhibaˈwo instead of kaˌhibaˈlo ‘to know’; uˈwan instead of uˈlan ‘rain’. As described in the phonology part, it also drops the ‘l’ if it is intervocalic position and if the vowels are alike; i.e ˈwaːɁ instead of waˈlaɁ ‘none’; ˈkaːyo instead of kaˈlayo ‘fire’.
On the other hand, Sialo or southeastern Cebuano is full of L's: buˈlombong ‘wall’ instead of ˈbungbong, kaˈlatkat ‘climb’ instead of ˈkatkat, laˈlum ‘deep’ instead of laˈwom.
In the far northeastern part of Cebu, the /l/ becomes a [j] ; i.e [tɪˈŋʌlɪ]à [tɪˈŋʌjɪ] ‘maybe’.
There are also instances where the final –aye is pronounced only as the dipthong /ʌj/ as in babaye [bʌˈbʌjɛ]à [bʌˈbʌːj] ‘female’. Also, final –awo is pronounced only as [ʌw] (i.e tawo [ˈtʌːwɔ]à [ˈtʌːw] ‘human’).
Certain Cebu towns have a peculiar descending pattern towards the end of a statement, like those in the south (i.e Dalaguete, Alcoy and Boljoon). Northern (Bogo-Tabogon-Borbon) and Cebu City has the fastness of tone which is sometimes improperly interpreted as anger. Mid-north (Sogod) has the singsong feature and can also be heard in Southern towns. The variant of Cebu City is used in the metropolitan areas.
4.2.3 Cebuano- Davao
Davao, with respect to my informants, seems to have two types of Cebuano. The first is the one spoken by migrants from the Visayas and their descendants, which would correspond closely with the provinces where they came from. Over time, they tend to standardize into that of Cebu City or southeastern Cebuano. They are the people who use a vocabulary that can be considered ‘deep’, which consists of purely Cebuano words. The second type of Cebuano in Davao is spoken by migrants, rich or poor, from non-Visayan provinces and products of intermarriages and their descendants. Their dialect is a hodge podge of Cebuano, Tagalog and Ilonggo and other languages. Davao-Cebuano has a lot of borrowed words from Tagalog and other languages.
The first type of Cebuano in Davao would sound very similar to that of Cebu. Davaoenos either use the Cebu City variety where ‘l’ is either dropped or replaced with ‘w’ or the Sialo variety where there is a constant presence of ‘l’. My informants use more of the Southeastern Cebuano which is full of [l]’s and also where segments are not often deleted. The second type is a product of the interaction of different people in Davao. This type is often heard in urban areas and the first type among the rural areas. Morevoer, the second type would differ with Cebu and Bohol with regards to syntax and lexicon.
4.3 Lexical Variations
4.3.1 Cebuano-Bohol
In Bohol, especially in Albuquerque, they say ˈbawo instead of ˈambot to mean ‘I don’t know; Tag. aywan/ ewan). Bawo is the short form for Wala ko makahibalo ‘I don’t know.’
Boholanos also use the word ˈdis-a for ˈasa/ diˈin ‘where’ and ˈsani for ˈunsa ‘what’. They say palamuot [pʌlʌˈmʊːɁət] instead of kataw-anan ‘something funny’, which is common in Cebu and Davao.
Some words are exclusive to Bohol These are: danggay ‘humus’, himi ‘dirty’, iti ‘to dry up’ (as in na-iti na ang linung-ag for mihubas na ang gitak-ang ‘The rice has no water already’), and tuktuk  [təkˈtək] ‘to stand motionless’. Also, people from Davao find the word tulijuk [tʊˈlɪʤək] or tujuk [ˈtəjək] ‘to go/turn around’ (tuliyok/tuyok in Cebu, tuyok in Davao), hard to understand.
Yamo is also an exclusive word. It means ‘none’ or wala in most Cebuano dialects. The expression wala yamo is a double negative, equivalent to ‘ain’t nothing,’ and not the opposite of yamo. This word is pronounced as [ˈjʌmɔ] or with the [ʤ] as in [ˈʤʌmɔ] depending on which part of Bohol is it spoken. It can also mean ‘very’ or a superlative particle which is kaayo in most dialects.
For the first person singular genitive pronoun, instead of akoɁ/akoɁa, they say ahoɁ/ ahoɁa. This leads to misconceptions that kà h in Boholano, but this is just one isolated case.  
4.3.2 Cebuano-Cebu
Residents of Cebu City, Mandaue and Mactan usually use contracted words, like stanan for sangatanan ‘all’, gyud or dyud/jud for gayud ‘affirming and stressing particle’, and kaba’w for kahibalo ‘to know’. They also use din-a, dip-a, dis-a, wan-a, and wap-a for dili na ‘not anymore’, dili pa ‘not yet’, diin ‘where’, wala na ‘none’, and wala pa ‘not present yet’, respectively. These variants can be heard in the whole of Cebu City, also in Carcar, Dalaguet, Toledo and Bato.
In Cebu City, the possessive pronoun can be used as a dative, as in para nako ‘for me’, para nimo ‘for you, sg’, para niya ‘for him/her/it’, para nato ‘for us’, para ninyo ‘for you, pl’, and para nila ‘for them’. The possessive is added with the bound morpheme na or n- which is sa in Davao.

In Sialo, the form is a true dative: para kanako, para kanimo, para kaniya, para kanamo, para kaninyo, and para kanila (same glosses as above).

The Sialo variation always uses three forms for ‘where’, which is similar to Russian. They use diin when asking for place of origin or denoting past action, hain when asking for the location of a thing, person or place, or denoting present action, and asa when asking for where people are going or denoting future action. This is also heard in Cebu City and northeastern Cebu, but then, Cebu City is a very cosmopolitan area where one can hear the usage from other places and provinces.
In Argao in southwestern Cebu, they say hae instead of hain and asa instead of diin. They also use ag instead of ang ‘the’ which is similar to some parts of Southern Leyte.
In all vernaculars of Cebu, words for "come here" and "go there", are always collocated and rhyming: ari diri ‘come here (closer)’; anhi dinhi ‘come here’; anha dinha ‘Go there’; and adto didto ‘go yonder’.
4.3.3 Cebuano-Davao
As noted above, Cebuano-Davao has two varieties. The first type does not vary significantly with that of Cebu. Davao, being home to diverse ethnicities, developed a second type of Cebuano which is a merry mix of languages, mostly Cebuano, Tagalog and Hiligaynon.
Dis-a or asa is used in Davao when asking for place of origin, or denoting past action. It is diin in Cebu. Ex. Dis-a man nimo gibutang ang gunting? Asa man nimo gibutang ang gunting? ‘Where did you put the scissors?’
There is less elision or contraction. Thus, ‘call’ is tawaga rather than tawga; ‘cut’ is putulon rather than putlon, ‘soften the meat by boiling well’ is palata-i instead of palat-i.
To mean the superlative, they use the Tagalog pinaka- instead of kina-… -an, i.e pinakadaku instead of kinadak-an ‘biggest’. They use halata instead of makamatikod ‘to notice’. They also use kay instead of kang as a marker for proper nouns; i.e Gipada na naho kay Mr. Sy ‘I already sent it to Mr. Sy’. 
They use Adto diri ‘go here’ to mean ‘come here’ which is said as Anhi dinhi or Ari diri. They also use kadto diri, which according to my informants, is probably a borrowing from Hiligaynon because kadto/mokadto is the Hiligaynon word for ‘come’ or ‘go’ depending on the context i.e kadto diri ‘come here’, and kadto didto ‘go there’. They also use the prefix naga- in almost anything even when speaking in Tagalog, i.e nagakain instead of kumakain ‘eat (progressive)’.
Cebuano verbs may sometimes have a Tagalog ending followed by Tagalog pronouns – Pukawin mo ako ‘Wake me up’;   sumbagin kita ‘I will box/punch you’. The kita in this example is the Tagalog kita (portmanteau of ko + ikaw) and not the Cebuano which means ‘us’.
They sometimes use hindi or dili for negation instead of wala and use the Tagalog conjugation for the verb, i.e hindi pa nakakaon instead of wala pa makakaon ‘have not yet eaten’. If wala is used at all, the syntax is Tagalog or that of a Luzon language, i.e wala nailisdan or wala gi-ilisdan instead of wala ilisdi ‘was not replaced’
Concerning the dative case of the personal pronoun, they use the preposition sa plus the possessive – para sa akoa ‘for me’, para sa imoha ‘for you, sg.’ para sa iyaha ‘for him/her/it’, para sa amoa ‘for us’, para sa inyoha ‘for you pl’, and para sa ilaha ‘for them’. This syntax is similar to Tagalog, Hiligaynon and Sorsoganon. The pronouns themselves are the variant form of the possessive pronouns.
They say Ihatag na sa iya or Ihatag na sa iyaha ‘Give that to him/her’ instead of Ihatag na niya o kaniya. In greetings, they say Maayong buntag sa imo instead of maayong buntag kanimo ‘Good morning to you’. It is common in Davao and my informant later learned that it sounds weird, yet understandable, for someone from Cebu.
The younger generation uses na instead of nga as an article/determiner. Ex. Gimingaw na ko kang Marissa, na (instead of nga) nagsuroy og maruya alas tres sa
 . ‘I am missing Marissa who peddles (sells) maruya at 3pm’.

It can also be observed in this:

 Naghigot ko ug duyan para sa imuha wala ka misakay hadluk ka mahulogkung mutabyog ni ug kusog. Pero nakita nako nisakay ka sa duyan na (instead of ‘nga’) gihigot niya.

‘I tied a cradle for you. You did not ride, you’re afraid to fall if it rocks hard. But I saw you ride in the cradle that he tied.’
As an illustration on how the Davaoeños mix languages, read the following examples. Words which are not Cebuano are in bold letters.
To state a fact, Manileños say, Talagang mabait si Weng. In Davao, it is Mabait bitaw gyud si Weng ‘Weng is really very good/nice’.
Gago kaba diay para maniwala sa kanya ‘Are you a fool to believe him?’
Huwag lagi ba! ‘Don’t/ Don’t, I really mean it’.
Kuyaw lagi  `yan siya! ‘He’s really extraordinary’
Hindi ako makatu-o sa ginawa niya! ‘I can’t believe with what he did’
Alam man nakin `yan ba! ‘I really know that!’ (Note: Nakin is similar to the pronoun ‘ko’)
There are also some reconstructions done to words or conjugations which are not Cebuano like GI+ verb- Gisabi kasi ni Helen na mag-absent si Bernard bukas ‘Helen said that Bernard will be absent tomorrow.’; KA + adjective - Kapayat gyud ni Jason ngayon. ‘Jason is very thin now’; MAKA + verb - Maka-inis talaga si Albert, uy! ‘Albert is really annoying/irritating’; NAG + verb - Nagsabi kasi si Tita Prescy na pupunta daw tayo ng airport ‘Aunt Prescy said that we’ll go to the airport.’