|Visayas, Mindanao, southern parts of Mindoro and Sabah|
Geographic extent of Visayan languages based on Ethnologue and the National Statistics Office 2000 Census of Population and Housing
The Visayan or Bisaya 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 the Western Visayas and Cotabato region; and Waray-Waray, spoken by 3 million in Eastern Visayas.
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).
There have been no proven accounts to verify the origins of Bisaya. However, there is an ethnic group in Malaysia who call themselves of the same name. However, these ethnic groups in the Philippines must not be confused with those in Borneo.
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 aside from the indigenous Romblomanon and Banton.
Notably, Baybayanon and Porohanon have Warayan substrata, indicating a more widespread distribution of Waray-Waray before Cebuano speakers started to expand considerably starting from the mid-1800s.
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, Siquijor, Central Visayas, western Leyte, northern Mindanao, and eastern Negros)
- 3. Central (spoken across most of the Visayan region)
- 4. Asi (spoken in northwestern Romblon Province)
- 5. West
- Aklan (spoken in northern Panay)
- North-Central (spoken on Tablas Island and the southern tip of Mindoro)
- Inonhan (language related to Karayan)
- 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 Philippines) vocabulary.
Ethnologue classifies the 25 Visayan languages into five subgroups:
|Language family||No. of Languages||Languages|
|Peripheral||5||Ati, Capiznon, Hiligaynon, Masbatenyo, Porohanon|
|Warayan||3||Baybayanon, Kabalian, Northern Sorsoganon|
|South Visayan||2||Surigaonon, Tandaganon|
|West Visayan||2||Aklanon, Caluyanon|
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.
|Close||i /i/||u /u/|
- Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Bisayan". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.
- 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.
- Lobel, Jason. 2009. Concise Encyclopedia of Languages of the World, 914-917. Oxford: Elsevier.