Pagsorolaten i’ Cuyonon

copyright 2008 Ester Ponce De Leon Timbancaya Elphick
And Virginia Howard Sohn

Various attempts have been made over the years to establish an orthography for Cuyonon, most important the orthography used in the 1982 edition of the New Testament. None of these spelling systems have met with general acceptance among Cuyonons, and each has manifested problems.

At the outset of their dictionary project, Elphick and Sohn devised a new orthography (in Roman script) in lengthy consultations with the late Leonard Newell, an eminent lexicographer-linguist of Philippine languages. The new orthography has been discussed extensively with the advisory panel in the Philippines and with many other Cuyonon speakers. Its clarity, accuracy, consistency, and ease of learning have been confirmed by its successful use in the transcription of the tapes and translation of the Bible. While it is likely that small modifications will be needed in the future, the Cuyonon Language and Culture Project (CLCP) is confident that it is closing in on a definitive solution to a longstanding problem. The orthography is the first concrete result of CLCP’s labors.

The sounds in the Cuyonon language can, for the most part, be written quite simply, and (in contrast to the English language!) in ways that are easy to read. Here is a start at describing this system. We recognize that there will be areas we have not addressed, and so we solicit your questions and comments. Remember that we are writing our own language, Cuyonon, not Tagalog, or English, or Hiligaynon, or Spanish. So we must think in terms of the Cuyonon language itself, and not utilize patterns we have seen in other languages unless they fit the structure and sound system of Cuyonon.

The Cuyonon alphabet has 20 letters:
a, b, d, e, g, h, i, k, l, m, n, ng, o, p, r, s, t, w, y and ‘ (glottal stop written as an apostrophe).
Please note that ng is a single sound.
CONSONANTS – Here are the 16 consonants, with examples:
b – baboy, babai, boawi, lobiok, koyab, boi
d – doto, kadkad, doadoa, Dios, dadi
g – gosto, dagat, goapo, bagiaw, libag
h – irihis, kahil, bihon, sotanghon
k – kawayan, bakawan, koago, bakia, apok
l – lalaki, balay, loaw-loaw, lieg, kodal
m – maslit, aromasit, malam, amianan, ilam
n – nana, ana, nanay, noibi, ponios, dan
ng – ngirit, boringisen, bong (ng is one sound and equals one consonant)
p- paray, apat, teptep, poas, mapiet, akep
r – rabotrabot, rokrok, tanggar, riabriab, barot, piar
s – sarok, boslit, ta’bas, soay, siansi, baras
t – todlo, litson, litsi, toak, tian, paret, toad
w – way, way-way, bo’wa, kawil, kawil-kawil, karabaw
y – yaya, ayamo, patay
’ glottal stop (see notes below) – be’ras, be’na, te’me, to’bol

VOWELS – Here are the 4 vowels, with examples:
a – mal, abaga
e – beken, em, pet-pet, beleg, e’en
i – sit, bitbit, siki, isip
o – kot-kot, onod, bok, oto
VOWEL CLUSTERS – There are also clusters of vowels, that is, two vowels found together.
aa – (this is only found in affixed forms, affix is defined later) nagaadal
ae – kaen, baeg, bael, laem
ai – babai, bait
ao – laod, bao, daon, kaoy, baog
ea – (only in affixed forms) – karakean, te’mean
ia – siak, biak, bagiaw, liabi
ie – piet, lieg, sied
io – tio, limpio, liolio
oa – boat, loa, boawi
oi – dispois, noibi, koilio, doindi, boin

When a root word starting with a vowel, for example, ayad, is given a prefix ending in the same vowel, such as ma-, ka-, pa-, the first and second vowels are written as in maayad, kaayadan, paayaden, and in many other words as in kaapon, (yesterday, as opposed to kapon, which is capon in English, referring to a castrated animal). in speech, the two identical vowels (aa) are pronounced as one long vowel.

Types of Cuyonon Words
As in all languages, we find in Cuyonon action words (verbs), object and instrument words (nouns), actor words (nouns, pronouns,), descriptives (adjectives, adverbs), etc.
Verbs tend to be made up of root words (for example, balik) and affixes that precede the verb (prefixes), follow the verb (suffixes), or are inserted within it (infixes). For example, nagabalik has the prefix naga-; balikan has the suffix -an; and baralik has the infix -ar-.
Many nouns are made up the same way. For example, pagbaraliken has the prefix pag-, the infix ar-, and the suffix -en. The affixes are always attached to the root word, not written separately. Sometimes, too, the root is reduplicated, as in nagabalik-balik or agabalik-balik.

How do I know which to use an O or a W? An I or a Y?
The choice between O and W, and between I and Y, depends on where they occur in a word. W and Y are called semi-vowels, because sometimes they serve as consonants: (e.g., wala, to the left, left-handed; yaya, nanny). Moreover, at the edges of syllables these sounds also act like consonants and are therefore also spelled with W and Y e.g., karabaw, bakaw, tatay, engey. In the middle of syllables the sounds are vowels and are therefore spelled with O and I e.g., rokrok, bitbit

There are also many Cuyonon words in which the O or I sound follows a consonant, and is then followed by another vowel. In these cases they are neither on the edges of syllables nor are they in the middle. These are called glides because they slide off the first consonant, and they are spelled with O (as in boi, boin) and with I (as in sipilio, siansi).

To understand why O and I should be used in these situations, form the future of the verbs boat and siak: you will see that Cuyonons duplicate the first consonant and the first vowel and boat becomes boboaten, and siak becomes sisiaken. If we were to use the W or Y, the future forms would be bwabwaten and syasyaken, which are not Cuyonon words.

Glottal stop (‘)
This is a catch in the throat common in Cuyonon, causing a short break in the flow of speech. Cuyonon speakers are often unaware of the glottal stop but they must become aware if they want to write their language accurately. It can appear in the beginning of words that start with a vowel, in the middle of words, and at the end of words after a vowel or a combination of vowels.

When the glottal stop is indicated by a written symbol, that symbol is the apostrophe (‘). In isolation (that is, not in a phrase or sentence), the glottal stop before the initial vowel is pronounced, but in the middle of a phrase it often is not. For example, the initial glottal stop is pronounced when the word ambeng is used alone, but in the phrase ang ambeng digi sa balay the glottal stop is frequently dropped.

Therefore, the initial glottal stop is never written. In the middle of words, the glottal stop usually occurs after a vowel and before a consonant or another vowel. For example, be’ras, e’en.
Sometimes the glottal stop substitutes for t or d in the middle of a word or phrase. For instance, itlog becomes i’log, betken becomes be’ken, tolad i’ dia becomes tola’ dia, or even toa’ dia.
In this in-between position the glottal stop must be written; e.g., te’me, kira’bot. At the end of words, glottal stops frequently occur; e.g., bai’, great-grandmother, one banana. Note, however, that when the ligature ng is added to such words, as in the phrase Baing Maria, the glottal stop disappears. It also disappears in the first half of a reduplication, as when bata, child becomes bata-bata, doll.

Thus, as with glottal stops at the beginning of words, glottal stops at the end of words appear and disappear. Therefore we never write glottal stops at the end of words. (However, for purposes of illustration we have written such stops in the previous and following paragraphs.)

Note, too, that Y and W never precede a final glottal stop but are replaced by I and O respectively. If, however, there is no final glottal stop, W and Y are used. Thus, sipilio, bao, baw, bariawbariaw, babai, boi, engey, Nanay. (Remember that these glottal stops would not normally be written.) However, there is another important use of the glottal stop which must be discussed separately, as follows:
Glottal stop (‘) in the I’ ANG construction.
It is hard to explain this without getting into the grammar of Cuyonon a bit, but to simplify what we mean here, we are referring to the combination i’ ang. This is roughly the equivalent of ng in Tagalog, but unlike ng it appears in different forms. As a speaker of Cuyonon you will observe that there are three variations of this construction:
To indicate the agent of an action when the agent is not in focus:
Ingbabakal i’ ang bata ang sapatos.
(Ang sapatos is in focus and i’ ang bata is not.)
To indicate the object of an action when the object is not in focus.
Here, i’ appears without ang.
Nagbakal ang malam i’ sapatos. (i’ sapatos is not in
To indicate possession:
Ang balay i’ ang manggaden mabael
Sometimes i’ ang is contracted. The i is dropped and the glottal stop is saved and attached to the following ang, which is written as ‘ang; for example, when indicating possession, ang pangamoyo ‘ang Gino. (Note that we might have said, ang pangamoyo i’ ang Gino: the i was left out, but the glottal stop is retained.)
The ang is also absent in certain circumstances. We have already noted this above, for example, in reference to an object not in focus. The ang is also absent before an infinitive or gerund (that is, a verb used as a noun); for example: manga tao agimpisa ren i’ karaen, or Akatapos sanda ren i’ saraot.

In summary, this combination of particles is spelled i’ ang. While in some circumstances i or ang is absent, the glottal stop is never dropped and must be written as an apostrophe (‘). Manga – This word should be spelled out (not spelled mga as in Tagalog).
Writing verb tenses:
Root beginning with consonant Root beginning with vowel
Infinitive – magbakal magadal
Imperative – pagbakal, pagadal
Completed – nagbakal or agbakal nagadal or agadal
Continuous – nagabakal or agabakal, nagaadal or agaadal
Anticipated – magabakal or mabakal, magaadal or maadal

Words with final vowels
Many Cuyonon words end in a vowel followed by a glottal stop, such as: bata’, ara’, tio’. We don’t write the glottal stop.
Some words, however, end in vowels without the glottal stop in both spoken and written form. Some examples:
Question words -kano, inoro, ano, samaoro, marasano, sino
Demonstratives – digi, didi, daya, dan, doto, dotia, dia, dato
Conjunctions – aimoro, piro
Links – ka, (apat ka. . . ), ra, da
Pronouns – ako, ikaw, tana, kita, sanda, kami,
ko, mo, na, kanimo, kanana,
Markers – sa, ni or i, si
Prepositions – sa
Possessives – imo, ana, indo, anda
Words borrowed from other languages: Paragua, radio, goapo, noibi, poira
Other words – o, doro, kono, dadi
Proper names: These tend to retain their Spanish or English spelling, including the Spanish and English pronunciation of the letter e which in Cuyonon, of course, has a different sound. Examples: Angel, Felipe, Carmen, Padilla, Peter, Maria, De la Torre, Gomez, Smith.

Duplication: when to use a hyphen or no hyphen:
When an unduplicated syllable or syllables can stand alone as a word, then a hyphen is used in the duplicated form. For example: panaw, to walk, compared to panaw-panaw, to pace back and forth; gorang, to sit, older, mature, compared to gorang-gorang, elders, parents.

When the unduplicated syllable or syllables cannot stand alone as a word, the duplicated form should not have a hyphen. For example, bitbit, to carry something in one’s hand, because there is no word bit; and bariawbariaw, a kind of seaweed, because there is no word bariaw.

Various constructions
Sometimes it is hard to know whether a construction is one word, two words, or three words. The following are examples:
1. Ka as a link following a two-syllable word, such as apat,
the ka will stand alone. The word saka is a contraction of isara ka, and should be spelled as one word: apat ka tao, saka tao, saka bilog, sitinta ka manga mimbro, sampolo mi darwa ka manga bata
2. Ka as an intensifier. This is written as a separate word: dorong ka tinlo, ang ka postora
3. Ka- as a prefix in combination with the -an suffix must be written as one word: katinloan, kabaelan, kapostoran, katasan, karimoan, kaorian, kalibayenan, kamalaman, kamanggadan, kalisedan
4. Mara- We attach this to the following root: marasano, maratingway
5. Ni or i should be written as they are spoken.The ni or i is written separately: ang istoria ni lola, ang istoria i lola
6. Manig- this should be attached: manigobra, manigpangisda, manigbata
7. Masig- this is a prefix, as follows: masigkatao, masigkaen, masigtimes, masigbonak, masigbantay, masigpananem
8. Pagka- prefix (after), pagkatapos; pagka-Cuyonon (noun) of being a Cuyonon)
9. Pari-, para- reflexive prefixes (something one does to or for oneself) must be attached to the verb: parimokos, parigos, paribanaw, paramos
10. Tag- attach tag- to the following word, unless followed by a modifier: tagmamaintek, tagororan, tagpapantek, tagbalay, tag saka sintabos, tag saka bilog
11. Taga: separate the word taga from the following word, except when it is part of the name of something: taga digi, taga bokid, taga o’bong, taga Canipo, tagalongon – poisonous crab (one word)
12. Months, days of the week: there are no native words but these Spanish loan words should be written according to Cuyonon pronunciation: Lonis Martis Mirkolis Hoibis Birnis Sabado Domingo, Iniro Pibriro Marso Abril Mayo Honio Holio AgostoSiptimbri, Oktobri, Nobimbri Disimbri
13. Numbers (Spanish loan words in Cuyonon spelling):
ono, dos, tris, koatro, singko, sais, syiti, otso, noibi, dyis, onsi, dosi, trisi, katorsi, kinsi, disisais, disisyiti, disiotso, disinoibi bainti, trainta, traintay ono, traintay dos, traintay tres, traintay singko, traintay sais, traintay syiti, koarinta, koarintay ono, koarintay dos, koarintay tris, koarintay singko, koarintay sais, singkointa, singkointay ono, saisinta, saisintay ono, sitinta, sitintay ono, sitintay dos, otsinta otsintay ono nobinta nobintay ono, syinto, mil, milion, billion
14. Numbers (Cuyonon):
isara, darwa, tatlo, apat, lima, anem, pito, walo, siam,
sampolo, sampolo ig isara, sampolo ig darwa, sampolo ig tatlo, sampolo ig apat, sampolo ig lima, sampolo ig anem, sampolo ig pito, sampolo ig walo, sampolo ig siam, darwampolo, darwampolo ig lima; tatlompolo, tatlong polo ig anem, apat nga/ka polo, apat ka polo ig lima, limampolo, limampolo ig lima, anem ka polo, anem ka polo ig siam, pitompolo pitompolo, ig isara, walompolo, walompolo ig isara, siam ka polo, siam ka polo ig isara
sanggatos/saka gatos, sanggatos ig/mi isara
darwa ka gatos, tatlo ka gatos, apat ka gatos lima ka gatos
anem ka gatos, pito ka gatos, walo ka gatos siam ka gatos
saka ribo saka ribo ig/mi isara, saka milion, saka bilion
(Note: ig, mi, and asta all mean and; and can all be used in numbers)
apiriran – n. star fruit (Avererhoa carambola Linn.)
atep – n. roof
bogtitinai – n. sibling
balinsasayaw – n. a grey swift (collocalia franica),
the bird that produces the edible bird’s nest, the main
ingredient in bird’s nest soup.
bakal – v. to buy; to purchase.
Magabakal ako i’ balay. I will buy a house.
Babakalen ko ang balay. I will buy the house.
bakalan v. to buy something for another.
Babakalan ko si Maria i’ balay.
I will buy Maria a house.
ibakal- v. to use a certain amount of money to buy something.
Ibabakal ko i’ pagkaen ang koartang ingtao i Nanay kanaken.
I will use the money that Mother gave me to buy food.
bakal -n. buying or purchasing price. Syn. prisio.
Pira imong bakal i’ dan? How much did you buy that for?
barakalan – n. market; trading place. Syn. palingki, tindan, mirkado.
bakal – v. to sell; to vend.
ipabakal – v. to sell something.
Ipapabakal ko akeng kaniogan sa Paragua.
I will sell my coconut farm in Paragua.
ingpabakal – was sold.
Doto sa baybay dorong isdang ingpabakal kainang timprano.
Much fish was sold on the beach early this morning.
bagtek – adj. general filth or untidy look
Ang batang dan ang ka bagtek ingan iselengen.
That child looks so filthy.
boringis – n. dirt in the mouth area
Pagpandamo agod mabebel imong boringis
Wash around your mouth so the dirt will be gone.
boringisen – adj. having dirt around the mouth.
Ang batang dan ang ka boringisen.
pongit – n. dirt on any part of the face.
Paida imong pongit nga dan.
Wipe off that dirt on your face.
ingkokonkon – n. a person alleged to be a mangalok
sinengnad – n. cooked rice.
anig – n. pot liner, usually banana leaves in cooking rice.
itip – n. bottom crust of cooked rice.
kinalokalo – n. fried rice
Maayad nga adlaw. Good day/morning.
Maayad nga apon. Good afternoon.
Maayad nga gabi. Good evening.
Komosta kaw? How are you?
Tagbalay! Is anybody home?
Adios. Good bye.
Matamang salamat Thank you very much.
Ara i’ anoman ]
Ara i’ sapayan ] You’re welcome.
Ano imong aran? What is your name?
Ano imong maliag ikon? What do you mean?
Ayamo ang langit asol? Why is the sky blue?
Inoro kaw magaalin? When are you leaving?
Kano kaw agabot? When did you arrive?
Marasano ang pagtaranemen i’ paray? How is rice planted?
Pira kamong agaistar sa indong balay? How many live in your house?
Sadin kaw magapakon? Where are you going?
Sadin ang ( ) Where is the ( )
Sadin si ( ) Where is (name of person)
Sino imong ingsasagiap? Whom are you looking for?
Anono imong ingsasagiap? What are you looking for?
Akeng opisina doto sa amianan i’ ang ospital.
My office is north of the hospital.
Ang adlaw agasirak sa sidlangan ig agasalep sa kasaplan.
The sun rises in the east and sets in the west.
Si Pedro agpatindeg i’ balay sa bagatnan i’ ang simban.
Pedro built a house south of the church
Ang nesel baya ara enged i’ pagona.
Literally: Regret never comes first.
Meaning: You will surely regret it
Magakagat ka enged i’ imong siko.
Literally: You will surely bite your elbow.
Meaning: You will surely regret it.
Ang kalabasa indi agpamonga i’ barantiong.
Literally: A squash will not bear a winter melon.
Meaning: Like father; like son or like mother; like daughter
Maagan i’ alima; Literally: light (not heavy) hands
Meaning: tends to strike easily; quick tempered
Mabegat i’ boli ; Literally: bottom heavy; Meaning: lazy
Agasabak i’ anang alima Literally: keeping hands on the lap
Meaning: lazy


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