The KWF mandate and its work (1st of 3 parts)

By: the Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino

SO MUCH misunderstanding has surfaced lately as certain groups have quite vehemently voiced their opposition to the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino’s campaign to institute a national orthography through 1) the writing of orthographies for the other native languages of Philippines, of which there is seldom one existing (as we will show later); 2) the updating of existing orthographies especially for what has been traditionally considered the “major” Philippine languages, and 3) the subsequent necessity for the harmonization of said orthographies.

Such misunderstanding, and even ignorance, indeed, have led many to forget even the most fundamental core of this linguistic task under the KWF’s mandate: that there is an existing Filipino national language to be propagated, disseminated and promoted, and enriched through the other native languages, as distinctly provided in the Constitution of the Republic, and through Republic Act No. 7104, which states in Section 14 the following primary responsibilities of the Komisyon:

(a)     formulate policies, plans and programs to ensure the further development, enrichment, propagation and preservation of Filipino and other Philippine languages;

(b)     promulgate rules, regulations and guidelines to implement its policies, plans and programs;

(c)     undertake or contract research and other studies to promote the evolution, development and eventual standardization of Filipino and other Philippine languages.

The other fundamental fact seemingly being forgotten or ignored by the opponents of a national orthography and harmonization is that next to or together with the Filipino language, there is also the Filipino Nation (whatever denial, disrespect, and disparagement might have been thrown against it) that the Filipino language seeks to represent, further firm up and help build, and prepare in the context of the globalizing world.

In explaining this national responsibility, and so as to enlighten many and not promote further misunderstanding, the KWF would like to go back to basics and provide as much as within its apparently underestimated capabilities the answers to the following questions:

What is orthography?

Orthography in its simplest sense is a system or set of rules for writing a language. Such rules, standards or conventions have to do with spelling and generally how the sounds of a language maybe represented through symbols or letters, so it can be properly pronounced and written down. Orthography also includes rules on capitalization, punctuation, emphasis, accents, and such specific cases as word breaks and hyphenation, among other concerns.

The word “orthography” or “ortograpiya” as we write it in Filipino directly comes from the Spanish ortografia, or the English orthography which in turn comes from the Latin orthographia made up of the Greek roots orthós (“correct”) + graphein (“to write”). In the contemporary sense, orthography refers to a standardized system of rules for writing, speaking, or using a language in general. Even from its roots, and by its very definition, orthography assumes such notions as rules, conventions, and standards, indicating that there may be different ways of writing a language, or there might be different alphabets in use, or even different manners of using a single system. But that one single system might provide a unified or harmonized manner of using and writing a language.

Is there an official orthography for the Filipino language?

This question is raised in the context of the multicultural and multilingual nature of what we call the Filipino nation (at least as defined by the Constitution of the Republic). Right now, the KWF has the Ortograpiyang Pambansa (OP), which is an updating, overhauling, and refinement based on field research and consultations of past orthographies prepared by its predecessor institutions. Since 2013, the KWF has been disseminating the OP and conducting lectures and workshops nationwide on its use by schoolteachers and various audiences and users of the language. Disseminated together with the OP is its Manwal sa Masinop na Pagsulat (MMP), a writing manual or style guide.

Historically, there have been only two orthographies for Philippine languages, which included Tagalog and the “major” Philippine languages, traditionally referring to Bicol, Ilocano, Hiligaynon, Pampango, Pangasinan, Cebuano, and Waray. These two orthographies were:

1) The Hispanized Orthography or Spanish style-written interpretation of the sounds of the said languages; and

2) The Anglicized Orthography or American English style-written interpretation of the sounds of the said languages.

These two orthographies served the specific purposes of the two sets of our colonizers, which was firstly, to learn our language and, for the Spanish, to proselytize the Christian faith among other purposes; and for the Americans to introduce the American style of instruction under a public school system.

Both purposes are not distinct or separate from the main aim of colonization, which is to exploit or derive specific economic and other benefits for the colonizer from the natural resources of the colonized.

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