December 5, 2023

In time for Indigenous People’s Month, the Cordillera Studies Center of the University of the Philippines Baguio (CSC-UPB) launched the Isinay Community Dictionary at the UP Baguio lobby last Oct. 20.

The dictionary contains more than 11,000 entries compiled by the Isinay communities in Dupax Del Sur, Aritao, and Bambang in Nueva Vizcaya with the expertise of Dr.  Lawrence A. Reid, a lexicographer and linguist from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

The book also contains a reading guide, the sound system and grammatical notes of Isinay, sound changes in Isinay, and an English-Isinay index.

“Isinay is one of the rapidly disappearing languages in the world,” Reid said during the book launch. “It is not only a threatened language, but it is severely endangered, with the great majority of the young people in Isinay communities no longer using the language of their parents and grandparents.”

He added the compilation of a dictionary required a lexicographer, because it is not just the matter of collecting words. He added that “the orthography system or how to write down the language consistently needs to be decided, each form needs to be defined in an objectively understandable way, and grammatical behavior of each form needs to be analyzed.”

For example, the word Isinay is also commonly spelled as Isinai with an ‘i’ but the elders who provided most of the terms in the dictionary preferred the spelling with a ‘y’.

The spelling system used in the dictionary was decided earlier by the elders of the Isinay communities during a workshop in June 2015. This workshop led to the publication of the “Guide to the Isinay Orthography” in 2016 authored by Reid and UPB anthropologist Dr. Analyn Salvador-Amores.

Representatives from the Isinay communities expressed their messages of thanks to Reid and UPB for the publication of the dictionary. They also gave an impromptu rendition of “War Sipan Uwar”, an Isinay love song. Officials and employees from UP Baguio and representatives from local libraries also attended the book launch.

A more detailed introduction of the Isinay community and language will be delivered by Reid at the National Museum of the Philippines in Manila on Oct. 27.

Copies of the “Isinay Community Dictionary” and “Guide to the Isinay Orthography” are available for sale at the Cordillera Studies Center in UP Baguio and online at – Leia Castro-Margate