Kapampangan/Introduction

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This book offers you the possibility to learn the Filipino language called Kapampangan.

Who should read this book?[edit]

To our knowledge, there is no such book available in print, it will therefore be the first of its kind. This book is intended for those who wish to learn Kapampangan at a conversational and written level. It requires you to have a good knowledge of English, but does not require any knowledge of Tagalog: we will only refer to Tagalog to indicate borrowings of the Kapampangan language from its mighty neighbour.

The pronunciation of Kapampangan is reasonably straightforward, and we will not require you to understand the full International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) system to be able to pronounce the words we describe (although IPA sounds are indicated in the first lesson for those who prefer it).

We do recommend, however, a basic understanding of grammatical words like subject, object, agent, transitive, pronoun etc.

The vocabulary and pronunciation presented here is the one of the two biggest cities of Pampanga: Angeles and San Fernando. We will not discuss the rural variations or local town accents, since their speakers can all understand the main dialect.

Here is a brief introduction on the language history and geography before our first lesson.

The Kapampangan language[edit]

Map of the provinces where Kapampangan is most popular. This also shows the locations of the main cities of Pampanga, from which we base our vocabulary and pronunciation

Kapampangan is a language of the Philippines spoken as mother tongue by roughly two million people in Central Luzon. Most speakers live in the province of Pampanga and Tarlac, although there are a few speakers in the provinces of Nueva Ecija, Bulacan, Bataan and Zambales . The map below shows the extent of the language cover.

Most of the Kapampangan people are tri-lingual: Kapampangan, Tagalog and English, since the education system is English and Tagalog, nearly all master these languages well enough to get around. However, when together with other Kapampangan people, they will prefer to use their mother tongue over the other two. Very little books have been written in Kapampangan, as the language is not considered “formal” enough for the purpose of written documents. This is a biased but common view from a people whose education system is not in their own mother tongue.

For those of you that are linguists, you may want to know that Kapampangan is, generally classified in the central Luzon branch of languages of the Malayo-Polynesian branch of Austronesian family. It is also an an ergative-absolutive language, so there is a little difficulty in the grammar that will appear early in the learning process for those who know only English and other nominative-accusative languages.

A bit of history of the Kapampangan language[edit]

The first modern people to arrive in Luzon are the people sometimes called Negrito, Ayta, Aeta, or Atis which were probably related to the aboriginals of New Guinea and Australia. Their original language is today extinct, but may have influenced Kapampangan at some point since a reasonable number of them still live in the mountain area around Pampanga. The majority of today’s Kapampangans descend from the second wave of population: the Austronesian people that immigrated from Taiwan around 2500 B.C.E. and which settled in the whole of the Philippines within 1000 years. In Luzon, it is unclear why the various languages separated from each other into separate languages, but time caused them to drift apart, since there were already many languages in Luzon when the Spanish arrived in 1521. The Philippines have been under Spanish influence from 1521 until 1898 A.D. and this has caused Kapampangan to import a large number of words from Spanish, like the days of the week, the days of the months, a lot of religious words, and words from cooking. Then in 1898, the United States took over power from the Spanish, and later made the Philippines a colony. They established an education system entirely in English throughout the country. The Philippines were made independent in 1946, but English is still now one of the 2 official languages in the country, and therefore Kapampangan has been, since 1898, heavily borrowing words from it.

Current extent of the Kapampagan language in the island of Luzon. Click to enlarge.

The Kapampangan people are surrounded by other languages of the Philippines and therefore you should expect influences from these neighbours to influence the vocabulary over time. Tagalog has now got the advantage of also being the national language, and the language of Manila, the capital of the Philippines, and therefore Kapampangan has a large number of words borrowed from Tagalog.

Modern Kapampangan[edit]

Kapampangan is still very much alive in the barrios, although not taught at school, even the youngest children use it among themselves and it is not in danger of being extinct.

More and more frequently, some Kapampangan speakers replace, in their every day language, the Kapampangan words and phrases by their English equivalent, although keeping most of the sentence structure in Kapampangan. This mixed language is referred to as Kapanglish (in the same way that Taglish refers to Tagalog mixed with English words and phrases). We will avoid describing Kapanglish here, since you will naturally understand, and even practice if required, Kapanglish once your knowledge of Kapampangan is sufficient.

Modern Kapanpangan is exclusively written in the Latin alphabet, therefore you will not have to learn a different writing system. The old Spanish-like spelling is being abandoned (e.g. Capampañgan), and the modern Tagalog-like spelling has widely taken over, which is the spelling we use here.



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