Tagalog phonology

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This article deals with current phonology and phonetics as well as with historical developments of the phonology of the Tagalog language, including variants.

Tagalog has allophones, so it is important here to distinguish phonemes (written in slashes / /) and corresponding allophones (written in brackets [ ]).

Consonants[edit]

Tagalog consonant phonemes
Bilabial Alveolar
/Dental
Post-al.
/Palatal
Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Stop p b t d k g ʔ
Fricative s ʃ h
Approximant l j w
Flap ɾ
Phoneme Spelling Distribution and quality of allophones
Stops
/p/ "p" pulá ("red")
/b/ "b" bugháw ("blue")
/t/ "t" tao ("human") When followed by /j/ may be pronounced [tʃ], particularly by but not limited to speakers in urban areas.
/d/ "d" diláw ("yellow") When followed by /j/ may be pronounced [dʒ], particularly by but not limited to speakers in urban areas. [ɾ] and [d] are in free variation for some speakers if /d/ is at the word-initial and word-final positions and attached by prefixes and suffixes with vowels touching /d/ as they once were allophones, but this is only applied to native words.
/k/ "k" kamáy ("hand") /k/ has a tendency to become [kx] word-initially. Intervocalic /k/ tends to become [x], as in bakit ("why") or takot ("fear").
/ɡ/ "g" gulay ("vegetable") Intervocalic /ɡ/ tends to become [ɰ], as in sige.
/ʔ/ "-" mag-uwi ("to return home").
Normally unwritten at the end of a word (galâ, "roam") or between vowels (buang, "insane")
A glottal stop occurring at the end of a word is often elided when it is in the middle of a sentence, especially by speakers of the Manila Dialect; any vowel it follows is often lengthened. It is preserved in many other dialects of Tagalog. In the Palatuldikan (diacrtical system), it is denoted by the "pakupyâ" or circumflex accent.
Fricatives
/s/ "s" sangá ("branch") When followed by /j/, it is often pronounced [ʃ], particularly by but not limited to speakers in urban areas.
/ʃ/ "sy" sya (a form of siya, second person pronoun) May be pronounced [s], especially by but not limited to speakers in rural areas.
/h/ "h" hawak ("being held") Sometimes elided in rapid speech.
Affricates
// "ts" tsokolate ("chocolate"); "ty" pangungutyâ ("ridicule") May be pronounced [ts], especially by but not limited to speakers in rural areas.
// "dy" dyaryo ("newspaper") May be pronounced [dz], especially by but not limited to speakers in rural areas. In some speakers in urban areas it is pronounced [ʒ], but not limited to urban areas.
/ts/ "zz" "pizza"; "ts" tatsulok ("triangle") May be pronounced [tʃ], especially by but not limited to rural speakers and in some urban areas.
Nasals
/m/ "m" matá ("eye")
/n/ "n" nais ("desire")
/ɲ/ "ny" anyô ("form", "appearance"); also ñ for Spanish loanwords May be pronounced [ni], especially by rural speakers.
/ŋ/ "ng" ngitî ("smile") Assimilates to [m] before /b/ and /p/ (pampasiglâ, "invigorator") and to [n] before "d", "l", "s", and "t" (pandiwà, "verb"), some people pronounce /ŋɡ/ as a geminate consonant [ŋŋ], as in Angono.
Laterals
/l/ "l" larawan ("picture")
Rhotics
/ɾ/ "r" saráp ("delicious"); kuryente ("electricity") See corresponding entry for /d/. May be pronounced [ɹ] or [r], particularly by but not limited to speakers in urban areas.

Vowels and semivowels[edit]

Phoneme Spelling Allophones
Vowels
/a/ "a" asoge ("mercury") /a/ is raised slightly to [ɐ] in unstressed positions and also occasionally in stressed positions (e.g. Ináng Bayan [iˈnɐŋ ˈbɐjən], "motherland").

The diphthong /ai/ and the sequence /aʔi/ have a tendency to become [eɪ ~ ɛː] (e.g. tenga from tnga, "ear"; kelan from kailan, "when").

The diphthong /au/ and the sequence /aʔu/ occasionally have a tendency to become [oʊ ~ ɔː] (e.g. iso from isau, "to return something").

/ɛ/ "e" in any position (espíritu, "spirit"; tsinelas, "slippers") and often "i" in final syllables (e.g., hindì) and with exceptions like mulì (adverbial form of "again") and English loanwords. /ɛ/ can sometimes be pronounced [i ~ ɪ ~ e], or sometimes diphthongised to [ai].
/i/ "i" ibon ("bird") Unstressed /i/ is usually pronounced [ɪ] (e.g. sigalót, "discord").

In final syllables, /i/ can be pronounced [ɪ ~ i ~ e ~ ɛ], as [e ~ ɛ] was formerly an allophone of [ɪ ~ i].

/i/ before s-consonant clusters has a tendency to be dropped, as in isports [sports] ("sports") and istasyon [staˈʃon] ("station").

See also /j/ below.

/o/ "o" oyayi ("lullaby") /o/ can sometimes be pronounced [u ~ ʊ ~ ɔ]. [o~ ʊ ~ ɔ] and [u ~ ʊ] were also former allophones, or sometimes diphthongized to [au]. Morphs into [u] before "mb" and "mp" (e.g. Bagumbayan, literally "new town", a place now part of Rizal Park; kumpisál, "Confession").
/u/ "u" utang ("debt") Unstressed /u/ is usually pronounced [ʊ].
Semivowels and/or Semiconsonants
/j/ "y" yugtô ("chapter")
/w/ "w" wakás ("conclusion" or "end")

Stress and Glottalization[edit]

Stress, coupled with glottalization, is a distinctive feature in Tagalog. Primary stress or the default position occurs on either the final or the penultimate syllable of a word. Vowel lengthening accompanies primary or secondary stress except when stress occurs at the end of a word.

Tagalog homonyms are often distinguished in meaning from one another by the position of the stress and presence of the glottal stop. In general, there are four types of phonetic emphases, which in formal or academic settings are indicated with a diacritic (tuldík) placed above the vowel. The penultimate primary stress position (malumay) is the assumed, default stress type and is therefore left unwritten except in dictionaries. Note that the name of each stress type has its corresponding diacritic in the final vowel.

Phonetic comparison of Tagalog homographs based on stress and glottalization
Lexicon Stressed non-ultimate syllable Stressed ultimate syllable Unstressed ultimate syllable with glottal stop Stressed ultimate syllable with glottal stop
baka ['baka] (cow) [bɐ'ka] (maybe, possible)
pito ['pito] (whistle) [pɪ'to] (seven)
kaibigan ['kaɪbɪgan] (lover) / [kɐɪ'bigan] (friend)
bayaran [bɐ'jaran] (pay [imperative]) [bɐjɐ'ran] (for hire, pay)
bata ['bata] (bath robe) [bɐ'ta] (persevere) ['bataʔ] (child)
sala ['sala] (living room) ['salaʔ] (sin) [sɐ'laʔ] (filtered)
baba ['baba] (father) ['babaʔ] (chin) [bɐ'baʔ] (underneath; descend [imperative])
labi ['labɛʔ]/['labiʔ] (lips) [lɐ'bɛʔ]/[lɐ'biʔ] (remains, cadaver)

See also[edit]

References[edit]