Issue of October 18, 2020
Mt. Province
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Is Nabaloi a language.. or a ‘dialect’?

WHEN THE QUESTION is whether Nabaloi – or Ibaloi, is a language or not i.e. it is a dialect(?), our answer is: it is definitely a language under the Northern Philippine Branch, and independent; not sub-descended nor co-descended, from or with any – not even with Pangasinan.

[FACT IS: PANGASINAN is closer or more allied to Kalanguya – both Structurally and most noticeably: Phonologically, than to Ibaloi or Nabaloi].

NABALOI CANNOT BE just ‘assigned’ as a ‘dialect’; for the lame reason of its ‘limited’ number of speakers (close to .5 million, in 2002 surveys); that would be real ‘hasty’ or grossly ‘unfair’ to world standards (there are living tongues recognized and listed as ‘languages’, yet, look at their numerical figures of speakers: do they come up to be even close to ‘just a half-million’)?

BESIDES, THE LINGUISTIC Thumb for a ‘dialect’ is that: it looks up to a ‘Standard Form’. Nabaloi has no Standard Form but its own, original, ‘yet-to-be-standardized’ Form! (challenge, especially to Ibalois: who among us may dare to do, join in, etc., this ‘Standardization’, in case? This should be easy – a Yes-No question; just ask yourself with all honesty, and you’ll know your own response to the ‘challenge’). Ü

ONCE ‘STANDARDIZED’ NABALOI can have its own dialects, ‘accents’, versions, and varieties.

BUT EVEN AS of now – that Nabaloi is not yet ‘standardized’, we believe it’s high time we recognize it as a language. So, how do we go about this; or, what mechanisms are available to determine this?

LET’S FIRST DESIGNATE a Standard Form (or SF) of the existing, at-use Nabaloi. This would be no other than the most commonly or numerically greatest, employed Form – or Form-elements, and employed in daily Usage among the speakers; and: the uncommon Form-elements? These shall constitute the versions, accents, or dialect-forms. Let’s use demo-examples, to wit:

WORD-LEVEL: KHAIT (Standard-Form for: siblings, cousins, relatives, fellows, etc.), could also be understood correctly as: Eshom (Bokod Central version, dialect, variety, or accent Form); or Kupos (Daklan, Bokod specific Form – together with Barangays Tikey, Bila, and Nawal). Note: extreme ‘downstream’ Bokod Barangays such as Ambuklao and Bobok-Bisal may use either: Khait (the Standard Form) or Eshom, but never or seldom: Kupos in one, single conversation setting.

PHRASE-LEVEL: NONTA epangpangdo, (Standard Form (SF) for: “In the beginning,”) could also be correctly rendered as: Nonta Pilmero, (Ikulos ‘Accent’), especially in the towns of Itogon, Bokod, and Kabayan; or Nonta Shamo, (Ehnontog ‘Accent’) heard especially in Sablan, Tuba, and partly La Trinidad municipalities.

THE OTHER NABALOI SPEAKING municipalities including some adjacent Sitios of other municipalities perfectly understand – or else, may alternately use all the three forms, viz. the SF Nonta epangpangao, the Ikulos Nonta Pilmero, and the Ehnontog Nonta Shamo.

FURTHER, ‘YOUNGER’ GENERATIONS of today sometimes drop(!) the Nabaloi specific word for ‘~beginning’, i.e. ~pilmero, ~epangpangdo, or ~shamo, and what is left is just: Nontan da. (Which literally affords only the meaning of “Earlier yet..”) for the Ikulos Accent -speakers, and: Da non, for the Ehnontogs.

[AS A RESULT, sometimes their Elders correct them to the Standard Form, or else the longer Forms of Nonta Pilmero.. and Nonta Shamo.. They say to their children: Sai nam-ai shakan maegwatan. (Transl: “So, people shall easily understand you.”].

SENTENCE-LEVEL. SATTAN enan ka; sajai enak (Standard Form for: “That is yours. This is mine.”) could also be rendered and understood perfectly as: Hattan e si-kam; hajai e si-kak. Tublay (or Tuvdai) ‘variety’ or version; or as: Ko-jen mo’ttan; Ko-jen ko ngo jai. (Kabayan ‘accent’, ‘version’, or ‘variety’). Note, however, that this may be translated literally as: “Yours is that; mine is this.” – deviating emphases of the demonstratives “that” and “this”, as are the Supra. cases of the Standard Form(SF) and Tublay ‘version’.

HAVING SEEN ALL these, you and I now has come to the stark realization that Nabaloi and the Ibaloi people have great things in-store for anyone interested to further do.. more studies on the not-yet-standardized Nabaloi language, as well as its people.

WE HAVE BEEN echoing and re-echoing this concern, and challenge.. for decades, but it seems nobody has gotten word of it yet.. is this time not the opportuned time yet? Ayuhh kha!

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