Maranao language

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Native toPhilippines
RegionLanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur
EthnicityMaranao people
Native speakers
(780,000 cited 1990 census)[1]
Historically written in Arabic
Official status
Official language in
Regional language in the Philippines
Regulated byKomisyon sa Wikang Filipino
Language codes
ISO 639-3mrw
Maranao language map.png
Area where Maranao is spoken

Maranao (Mëranaw [ˈmәranaw])[3] is an Austronesian language spoken by the Maranao people in the provinces of Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur in the Philippines, and in Sabah, Malaysia.

Iranun was once considered a dialect.

Unique among other Danao languages, Maranaoan is spoken with a distinct downstep accent, as opposed to stress accent.


Maranao is spoken in the following areas (Ethnologue).


Maranaoan was historically written in Arabic letters, which were known as Batang Arab. It is now written with Latin letters.[4] Though there is no officially proclaimed standard orthography, Maranao is more or less written phonetically as influenced by Filipino. The following are the letters used in writing out native words:

A, B, D, E, G, H, I, K, L, M, N, NG, O, P, R, S, T, U, W, Y [5]

In representing the mid central vowel (or schwa) /ə/, different authors have employed various means to represent this sound (e.g. "E" or "U").[6] Consequently, Maranao social media use either of the two letters or just leave it blank (e.g. saken can also be spelled sakn and sakun in the internet). "Ë" may also be used as recommend by the Komisyong ng Wikang Filipino's Ortograpiyang Pambansa of 2013.

In 1996, McKaughan and Macaraya, in their revised Maranao dictionary, the digraph "ae" was introduced and used to represent the supposed presence of the vowel /ɨ/.

Double vowels are pronounced separately. For example, "kapaar" is pronounced as /kapaʔaɾ/.

In some older orthographies, "q" is used for the glottal stop regardless of position,[7] while in others an apostrophe is used. Outside of linguistic literature, the glottal stop, regardless of position, is not marked in contemporary spelling.

The final /w/ sound in diphthongs and "W" were marked with "-o" in older orthographies, as in other Philippine languages, but both are nowadays spelled as "W". Also, "i" was used in older orthographies to transcribe /j/, which is currently spelled as "Y".

"H" is only used for Malay loanwords[4], and "sh" (pronounced as /ʃ/) is used for Arabic loanwords and names such as "Ishak" (Isaac)[7].

"Di" or "j" are used to transcribe the /d͡ʒ/ sound, such as "radia/raja" (from the Sanskrit word for "king", "Rāja") or the English name "John"[7].


Below is the sound system of Maranao including underlying phonetic features.[6]


Maranao has four vowel phonemes that can become more close or higher when in certain environments (see hard consonants below).[8] Although previous studies have analyzed the ɨ sound as an ae phoneme.

Front Central Back
Close /i/

[ɪ ~ i]

Mid /ə/

[ə ~ ɨ]


[o ~ u]

Open /a/

[a ~ ɤ]


According to Lobel (2013), Maranao has the following consonants:[6]

Bilabial Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ
Stop Voiceless p t k ʔ
Heavy p’ t’ k’
Voiced b d ɡ
Fricative s
Heavy s’ (h)
Flap ɾ
Lateral l
Approximant w j

Velar fricative [h][edit]

According to Lobel (2013), [h] only occurs in a select number of Malay loanwords:[6]

  • tohan 'God'
  • tahon 'astrological sign'
  • hadapan 'in front (of God)'

Consonant elongation[edit]

Consonants are also pronounced longer if preceded with a schwa /ə/. However, this process is not a form of gemination since consonant elongation in Maranao is not distinctive as seen in other Philippine languages such as Ilokano and Ibanag. Some of these are:

  • tëpad [təpːad] 'get off a vehicle'
  • tëkaw [təkːaw] 'startled; surprised'
  • Mëranaw is spoken by the Maranao tribe.
  • Solutan [solutːan] (Sultan of Gandamatu) Sultan sa Gandamatu.

Hard consonants and vowel raising[edit]

Since 2009, it has been proposed that previous studies on the phonology of Maranao had overlooked the presence of "heavy" consonants.[8][9][6] These four "heavy" consonants being /p’ t’ k’ s’/. Vowels that follow these consonants are raised in position.

The four Maranao vowels (a, ə, i, o) are raised when they follow hard consonants[8]

There are four possible environments for that determine whether the vowel will be raised or not:

  1. Non-raising - /p t k s m n ŋ r w y/
  2. Obligatory Raising - /p’ t’ k’ s’ (h)/
    • Tohan is pronounced as [t̪o.hɤn] instead of [to.han]
  3. Optional Raising - /b d g/
  4. Transparent - /l ʔ/ - (meaning the consonant before it will determine the raising)


Case markers[edit]

In contrast to Tagalog which has 3 case markers (ang/ng/sa), and Iloko which has 2 (ti/iti),

Maranao has four: so ko o sa


Maranao pronouns can be free or bound to the word/morpheme before it.

Meaning Nominative








I saken (a)ko aken raken
you (singular) seka ka (ng)ka reka
he/she/it sekaniyan sekaniyan (n)iyan rekaniyan
we (dual) sekta ta ta rekta
we (including you) sektano tano tano rektano
we (excluding you) sekami kami (a)mi rekami
you (plural) sekano kano (n)iyo rekano
they siran siran (i)ran kiran

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Maranao at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Maranao". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ "Ortograpiyang Pambansa" (PDF). Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-10-12. Retrieved 2013-08-28.
  4. ^ a b "Maranao language and alphabet". Omniglot. Retrieved 2018-09-23.
  5. ^ Rubino, Carl. "Maranao".
  6. ^ a b c d e Lobel, Jason William (2013). Philippine and North Bornean languages: issues in description, subgrouping, and reconstruction (PDF) (Ph.D. dissertation thesis). Manoa: University of Hawaii at Manoa.
  7. ^ a b c d McKaughan, Howard P.; Macaraya, Batua A. (1967). A Maranao Dictionary (PDF). Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.
  8. ^ a b c d Lobel, Jason William; Riwarung, Labi Hadji Sarip (2009). "Maranao Revisited: An Overlooked Consonant Contrast and its Implications for Lexicography and Grammar". Oceanic Linguistics. 48 (2): 403–438. doi:10.1353/ol.0.0040. JSTOR 40783537.
  9. ^ Lobe, Jason William; Riwarung, Labi Hadji Sarip (2011). "Maranao: A preliminary phonological sketch with supporting audio". Language Documentation & Conservation. 5: 31–59. hdl:10125/4487.
  10. ^ Kaufman, Daniel (2010). "The grammar of clitics in Maranao" (PDF). Piakandatu ami: Dr. Howard P. McKaughan: 132–157 – via SIL Pacific.

External links[edit]