Kankanaey language

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Native to Philippines
Region Northern Luzon
Ethnicity Kankanaey people
Native speakers
(240,000 cited 1990 census – 2003)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Variously:
kne – Kankanaey
xnn – Northern Kankanaey
itt – Maeng Itneg
Glottolog kank1245[2]
Greater Kankanaey language map.png
Area where Kankanaey (including Northern Kankanaey, but not Maeng Itneg) is spoken according to Ethnologue

Kankanaey (also spelled Kankana-ey) is a South-Central Cordilleran language under the Austronesian family spoken on the island of Luzon in The Philippines primarily by the Kankanaey people. Alternate names for the language include Central Kankanaey, Kankanai, and Kankanay.[3] It is widely used by Cordillerans, alongside Ilocano, specifically people from the Mountain Province and people from the Northern part of the Benguet Province.[4] Kankanaey has a slight mutual intelligibility with the Ilocano language.


This language should not be confused with a related, but different, language in the Sagada area called **Kankanay**. Of particular phonological interest is the very common occurrence of what is called the "barred i" in IPA. It is the unrounded, high mid vowel on the IPA chart. The letter e in Kankanaey is to be pronounced as this sound, and not as the e in words like bet or wet. This is also one of the vowels in a few other Northern Luzon languages like Iloko and Pangasinan.

Some words with this sound are as follows:

emmey - to go

entako - let's go (a contracted form of emmey tako)

ed - a preposition showing location or time marker (e.g. ed Baguio = in Baguio, ed nabbaon = in the long-ago times)

ippe-ey - to put

eng-gay - only, finish


Kankanaey Content Roots[edit]

Kankanaey content roots divide the Kankanaey lexicon into different categories to define their usage and word type. The categories are class roots, property roots, stative roots, perception-stative roots, physical roots, and action roots. Word charts and definitions taken from Allen, Janet's Kankanaey: A Role and Reference Grammar Analysis.[4]

Class Roots[edit]

Class roots are a class of nouns that are defined by physical or other sensory characteristics.[4]

Example of class roots:

Word Definition
babai female, especially human
beey house, home of person or anima; container where something is usually kept
begas hulled rice

Property Roots[edit]

Property roots point out a characteristic like size, taste, color, etc.[4]

Example of property roots:

Word Definition
emʡek soft (easily cut)
emis sweet, tasty
ando tall, long

Stative Roots[edit]

Stative roots point out a temporary physical condition. Result-stative roots are states that are changed by an outside source.[4]

Example of stative roots:

Word Definition
tey dead, deceased
gadgad mangy
kemi dented in, partially crushed
beteng drunk

Perception-Stative Roots[edit]

Perception-stative roots point out a perception by a living being, such as physical, emotional and mental perception-states. Living beings are able to actively perceive with control and content, so these roots form predicates of a wider range than those formed from simple stative roots.[4]

Example of perception-stative roots:

Word Definition
ila see, look at
bongot angry
kibtot startled
kiyapot rushed, stressed

Physical Roots[edit]

Physical roots point out movements and position such as natural movements, body movements and positions, but not bodily functions. They may denote location, direction, or manner of movement.[4]

Example of physical roots:

Word Definition
tedted drip
ali move toward speaker, come
saa go home
balalong move downwards, descend
sekad stamp, stomp
tagtag run

Action Roots[edit]

Action roots point out activity by a living and sometimes intentional participant. Some action roots indicate the direction of that action to another participant; others denote a participant as involved with the action but not the end receiver. Rather than having the action root modified, Kankanaey roots are very specific as to what the action is. Many roots indicate the receiver of the action.[4]

Example of action roots:

Word Definition
togda eat lunch
tilid carry something on one shoulder
tobʡong put a relatively small amount of something into a relatively large amount of water
todyok jab or poke upwards at something


Multiple types of reduplication are used when forming words in Kankanaey. Unaffixed or affixed roots may experience reduplication, and have their first CV, CVC, or CV(C)CV of the base form copied, with each type of base executing different functions. Kankanaey has many roots that have canonical shapes that appear to have reduplication. These irreducible roots can contain one syllable that is repeated such as taktak and baba, but other roots can contain a repeated syllable with a prefix or infix such as togingging and wagawag. All of these irreducible roots are not examples of reduplication as a word-building process.[4]


Many Kankanaey affixes are normal prefixes that come directly before the root such as the ka- in katokdo (seat-mate) from tokdo. A lot of reduplicative affixation is used before the prefixation such as the CV- and na- in nabebeteng (was drunk) from beteng (drunk). However, some CVC reduplication is applied after the prefix is added to the beginning of the stem such as the ma- and CVC- in magmageyek (ticklish) from geyek (to tickle). Some roots lose their first vowel when they are prefixed such as the e in ʡemis (sweet, tasty) when prefixed to mamʡis (sweet, tasty). This is because the glottal metathesizes with the second consonant under phonological constraints. If the root is one-syllabe or if it is vowel reduced, then the reduplication is applied after the predicative affixation such as the ma- and CVC- in matmatey (dying) from tey (dead).[4]


According to Allen, Janet's Kankanaey: A Role and Reference Grammar Analysis, only "two predicating affixes are suffixes, -en and -an. Some roots drop their last vowel when suffixed, as in datngan (come upon, find) from dateng (arrive)."[4]


To change ʡayos, meaning 'flow down', to ʡomayos, meaning 'flows down', the predicating affix -om- is infixed after the first consonant of the root word. In kinaan, meaning 'removed', the perfective affix -in- is infixed after the first consonant of kaan, meaning 'to remove'.[4]

Pinmanapanakpak, meaning 'was repeatedly hitting/slapping', is formed by first reduplicating the word panakpak, meaning 'hit with slapping sound', into panapanakpak, and then the predicating infixation and aspect infixation are added. This is because reduplication usually precedes both the predicating infixation and aspect infixation. However, in this example, vowel reduction occurred when the infixes were added before the vowel, causing the infixes -in- and -om- to become -inm-. When forming binombomtak, meaning 'were exploding', from betak, meaning 'explode', the reducible vowel and reduplication steps were re-ordered and so no vowel reduction was experienced.[4]

Some highly marked affixes have an infixed glottal stop leading the second vowel such as when forming bangbangʡa, meaning 'little old pots, toy pots', from banga, meaning 'pot'.[4]


A lot of affixes consist of a prefix or an infix which is also followed by a suffix. These are called circumfixes and have their own unique meanings, not a combination of the two parts. [4]

Examples taken from Allen, Janet's Kankanaey: A Role and Reference Grammar Analysis.[4]

Original (and meaning) Circumfix Circumfixed Version (and meaning)
ila (to see) ka-...-an ka-ila-an (appearance)
oto (to cook) i-...-an i-oto-an (to cook for someone)

Predicate Formation[edit]

The Kankanaey vocabulary is arranged by root morphemes, and points out the important semantic properties of each root. Kankanaey roots deeply rely on the combination of with their affixes to determine their meaning in phrases and clauses. The predicates that form are determined by the interaction of the affixation to the semantic properties of the root that are relevant in its context. Aktionsart is a way to categorize event semenatics, proposed by Vendler (1967), by if they are "happening" or are static, and it distinguishes them by their temporal properties and its dynamicity. According to Allen, Janet's Kankanaey: A Role and Reference Grammar Analysis, "VVLP (1997) and Van Valin (2005) expanded the list of categories to reflect resultant situations, adding semelfactives and complex predicates--active accomplishments and causatives." [4]



  1. ^ Kankanaey at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Northern Kankanaey at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Maeng Itneg at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Kankanay". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  3. ^ "Kankanaey". Retrieved 2016-09-15. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Allen, Janet L. 2014. **Kankanaey: A Role and Reference Grammar Analysis** Dallas:SIL International