The Visayan languages (or Bisayan languages) of the Philippines, along with Tagalog and Bikol, are part of the Central Philippine languages. Most Visayan languages are spoken in the Visayas region but they are also spoken in the Bicol Region (particularly in Masbate), islands south of Luzon such as those that make up Romblon, most of the areas of Mindanao, and the province of Sulu located southwest of Mindanao. Some residents of Metro Manila also speak Visayan.
Over thirty languages constitute the Visayan language family. The Visayan language with the most speakers is Cebuano, spoken by 20 million people as a native language in Central Visayas, parts of Eastern and Western Visayas and most of Mindanao. Two other well-known and widespread Visayan languages are Hiligaynon, spoken by 7 million in most of Western Visayas and Waray-Waray spoken by 3 million in Eastern Visayas.
The term comes from Sanskrit as do Rajah and numerous others. Native speakers of Visayan languages, especially Cebuano, Hiligaynon, and Waray-Waray not only refer to their language by their local name, but also by Bisaya or Binisaya, meaning Visayan language. This is misleading or may lead to confusion as different languages may be called Bisaya by their respective speakers despite their languages being mutually unintelligible. However, languages that are classified within the Visayan language family but spoken natively in places outside of the Visayas do not use the self-reference Bisaya or Binisaya. To speakers of Butuanon, Surigaonon, and Masbatenyo, the term Visaya usually refers to Cebuano. Since Tausugs are mostly Muslims, they view the term Bisaya as a religious term referring to Christian Filipinos (mostly referring either to Cebuano or Hiligaynon as they are the neighboring languages).
The Visayan language and people of the Philippines are also not to be confused with the Bisaya of Malaysia.
Geographic distribution 
Regions in the Philippines where Visayan languages are predominantly spoken
The Visayan languages are further divided into five subfamilies. The list below is by no means exhaustive. Asi, Surigaonon, and Cebuano constitute their own subfamilies.
- Asi – spoken in towns on Tablas Island as well as the islands of Banton, Simara, and Maestro de Campo in Romblon province. It is known officially as Bantoanon language.
- Cebuano – includes Boholano, Leyteño and Mindanao Cebuano (generally called Bisaya)
Internal classification 
David Zorc gives the following internal classification for the Visayan languages (Zorc 1977:32). The five primary branches are South, Cebuan, Central, Banton, and West. However, Zorc notes that the Visayan language family is more like a dialect continuum rather than a set of readily distinguishable languages. The South Visayan languages are considered to have diverged first, followed by Cebuan and then the rest of the three branches. Also, in the Visayan region, Romblon Province has the most linguistic diversity, as languages from three primary Visayan branches are spoken there.
A total of 36 varieties are listed below. Individual languages are marked by italics.
- 1. South (spoken on the eastern coast of Mindanao)
- 2. Cebuan (spoken in Cebu, Bohol, western Leyte, northern Mindanao, and eastern Negros)
- 3. Central (spoken across most of the Visayan region)
- Romblon (also the name of the province)
- 4. Banton (spoken in northwestern Romblon Province)
- Bantaonan (possibly the same language as Inonhan)
- 5. West
- Aklan (spoken in northern Panay)
- North-Central (spoken on Tablas Island and the southern tip of Mindoro)
- Inonhan (possibly the same language as Bantoanon)
- Kuyan (spoken in the archipelagos west of Panay and Romblon as well as the southern tip of Mindoro)
The auxiliary language of Eskayan is grammatically Visayan, but has essentially no Visayan (or Philippine) vocabulary.
David Zorc's reconstruction of Proto-Visayan had 15 consonants and 4 vowels (Zorc 1977:201). Vowel length, primary stress (penultimate and ultimate), and secondary stress (pre-penultimate) are also reconstructed by Zorc.
- ^ Austronesian Basic Vocabulary Database
- ^ a b Zorc, David Paul. The Bisayan Dialects of the Philippines: Subgrouping and Reconstruction. Canberra, Australia: Dept. of Linguistics, Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University, 1977.
See also