LINGUIST List 15.1611

Fri May 21 2004

Review: Sociolinguistics: Thompson (2003)

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  1. Emanuel A da Silva, Filipino English and Taglish

Message 1: Filipino English and Taglish

Date: Thu, 20 May 2004 19:51:53 -0400 (EDT)
From: Emanuel A da Silva <>
Subject: Filipino English and Taglish

AUTHOR: Thompson, Roger M. 
TITLE: Filipino English and Taglish 
SUBTITLE: Language switching from multiple perspectives 
SERIES: Varieties of English around the World G31 
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins 
YEAR: 2003
Announced at

Emanuel A. da Silva, French Department, University of Toronto (Canada)

The present study is part of the 'Varieties of English Around the
World' series published by John Benjamins. The author, Professor Roger
Thompson of the University of Florida, lists his research and teaching
interests as: Language Contact/Language Planning (English as a World
Language) and Teaching English as a Second Language (from his website

In the Philippines, the English language competes with Tagalog and
Taglish (a mixture of English and Tagalog) resulting in language
switching. The purpose of this book is to investigate the dynamics of
this language switching from various perspectives in order to find
clues as to the future of English in the Philippines.

Taking the point of view of an English speaker arriving in Manila, the
author raises three questions (p.4):
- Why are Filipinos so attached to English?
- If they like English so much, why do they sometimes speak
 English, sometimes Tagalog, and sometimes mix the two?
- Why does the mass media switch between English and Tagalog?
 These are the research questions which underlie the entire book.


Filipino English and Taglish consists of 15 chapters divided into 3
parts. Chapter 1 provides an introduction to language switching,
establishes the situation in the Philippines and presents the
rationale behind the study. The author reviews previous work on
English/Taglish in the Philippines, like Bautista's (1996)
sociolinguistic reader devoted to the language situation in the
Philippines. However, apart from this and a few other works Thompson
finds that ''there has been little attention paid to the linguistics
of Taglish and the social dynamics that underlie this language
switching'' (p.4)

Part A addresses the first research question of why Filipinos are so
attached to English by reviewing one hundred years of Philippine
language planning which first promoted English as a replacement for
Spanish, then Tagalog as a replacement or supplement for English. This
scholarly research is supplemented by the author's own observations
from his travels throughout the country leading workshops with high
school and university English teachers on how to relate language
teaching to ways that English is used outside the classroom. Thompson
adopts Moag's (1982a) taxonomy of ''English-using'' societies,
especially English as a Second Language (ESL) and English as a Foreign
Language (EFL). A question throughout the book is whether to classify
the Philippines as an ESL or EFL nation. Another concept inspired by
Moag (1982b) is the model for the ''life cycle'' of English in the
world context: transportation, expansion, nativization or
institutionalization and restriction. The chapters in this section
investigate the social and political forces that have propelled
English through its life cycle in the Philippines from 1898 to 1998.

Chapter 2 looks at the arrival of the English language and its use as
a tool for social engineering during the American period of 1898 to
1935. During this time the language was indigenized and claimed by the
Filipinos as one of their own.
Chapter 3 outlines the ''golden age'' of English from 1936 and 1973
after the Philippines first became a commonwealth and then an
independent country. During this period Tagalog began its rise as a
rival to English.
Chapter 4 analyses the rise of Taglish, a mixture of English and
Tagalog, and its acceptance as the language of the educated classes
with the institution of bilingual education in the period from 1974 to
1998. As English currently undergoes restriction in public domains,
the elite complain of the decline in English proficiency in the
younger generations.
Chapter 5 considers the Spanish overlay in Taglish that is often
overlooked or even dismissed by scholars, but readily apparent to
English speaking visitors who also know Spanish.

In Part B the author addresses the second research question by
examining the social support for English outside the classroom as
reported by the English teachers from Metro Manila and the Visayas who
participated in his teacher training workshops, as well as those in
remote provinces. (Metro Manila, or the National Capital Region, is an
amalgamation of 8 cities where Tagalog is the language most spoken;
the urban settings of the Visayas, a non-Tagalog speaking area, have
traditionally resisted the spread of Tagalog). In line with Ferguson
(1959) and Fishman (1967), Thompson focuses on societal bilingualism
or diglossia and conducts an analysis of various social domains in
order to answer the question of why Filipinos can be heard switching
between English and Tagalog. For English to maintain itself as a
second rather than a foreign language, Thompson argues that there must
be informal ways to learn and practice the language outside the
classroom. The chapters in this section underscore the important role
played by the media in promoting English and Tagalog.

Chapter 6 analyses the data from a questionnaire used as part of a
language awareness activity with the English teachers who participated
in the author's workshops and reports on how they interact with
English and Tagalog in the media.
Chapter 7 examines when these same English teachers reported using
English and Tagalog in interpersonal relations at work, in public
places, and at church.
As a counterbalance to this usage data from urban settings, Chapter 8
looks at the penetration of English and Tagalog into remote areas of
the Philippines: the mountainous and somewhat isolated northern Luzon
and in the large island of Mindanao in the south.

To find the answer to the third research question of why the media
uses Taglish, Part C investigates the language of television and
newspapers from various sociolinguistic and sociocultural perspectives
in order to identify the important role of the media in modeling
language usage to the masses and providing informal means to develop
language proficiency. The chapters in this section show that competing
ideologies, not just linguistics, underlie language switching.

Chapter 9 outlines the linguistics of English-Tagalog language
switching based on Muysken's (2000) typology of code-mixing. The data
comes from the play-by-play commentary of two sports commentators at a
basketball game. Evidence that Taglish represents a new style of
English resulting from a convergence of English and Tagalog is
provided: the Tagalog focus system is being adapted for use in English
as well as the use of Tagalog tags, rejoinders, adverbial clitics and
the locative marker ''sa''.
Chapter 10 looks at the role that commercials play as informal
language teachers in promoting the acquisition of English outside the
classroom. According to Thompson, the commercials are structured in
such a way as to help language learners build their communicative
competence with its associated grammatical, discourse and pragmatic
components. They use language learning strategies, review grammar and
''teach'' that English is appropriate at home and in public, but that
Taglish is expected in extended discourse.
Chapter 11 continues the look at television commercials by examining
the social messages signaled by English as it is used to promote
various products: English is seen as enriching, empowering and
ennobling Filipinos.
Chapter 12 presents 5 case studies which examine the role Taglish
plays for successful Filipinos. Four of the case studies come from a
business magazine show and the fifth is a courtside interview with a
basketball player and his coach. In each case the principles of
Accommodation Theory (Giles, Coupland and Coupland 1991) are applied
and reveal the values governing language choice.
Chapter 13 analyses the ''backlash'' against English apparent in the
language switching in two Tagalog sitcoms, a comedy sketch show and a
televised Tagalog movie which reveal the role that language switching
plays in the language of social resistance. Thompson refers to a
''cultural war'' (p.230) being fought between English and Filipino
programming, with each language depicting the other in the least
favourable light possible. He finds that the rich believe in the power
of English, while the masses do not. Thus instead of ennobling the
majority of Filipinos (as the commercials suggest), English may be
seen as degrading them.
Chapter 14 looks at Philippine newspapers and how the use of Taglish
differs in English and Tagalog newspapers. Most English language
''broadsheets'' (newspapers) are geared towards the business and
professional classes. Although the members of these classes commonly
speak Taglish it is almost absent from the papers. It is used to quote
''common'' Filipinos to show their ''lack of education'' and is also
used sparingly in showbiz gossip columns (p.254). The Tagalog
tabloids, on the other hand, use Taglish and subtly imply that English
is the language of violence, sex and drugs.
Chapter 15 is an ''afterword'' that takes a brief look at political
events and ''language revolutions'' after the author returned to the
US (1998) and how they relate to the life cycle of English in the
Philippines at the turn of the twenty-first century. Thompson shows
how the spectacular rise and the precipitous fall of President Joseph
Estrada (a high school educated former movie star who ended the use of
English in schools and in the government) reveal a cultural battle
inherent in the development of Taglish. The author observes that
English is useful only for those hoping to work overseas or in the
Philippines' highest paying jobs, for everything else Taglish
suffices. In terms of the ESL/EFL debate, Thompson argues that in
Metro Manila English is a second language, whereas among the educated
in urban Visayas it is losing its status as a second language. In the
rural areas English is a foreign language. The book closes with
Thompson's prediction that ''once an intellectual version'' of
Filipino is accepted in scientific, technical and professional
contexts, English will disappear from the Philippines (except among an
elite few), much like French did in 14th-century England.

Filipino English and Taglish successfully accomplishes that which its
subtitle sets out to do: examine ''language switching from multiple
perspectives.'' This multidimensional approach, which is crucial when
investigating the many complex layers of language switching, is one of
the merits of this book. The rich data and methodology include
comparisons between urban and rural settings and analyses of
historical texts, language-use questionnaires, various television
programs and newspapers which incorporate sociocultural,
sociolinguistic and linguistic theory.

The book is written with great clarity and Thompson's writing style is
not overly formal or technical which allows the reader to follow along
easily. The development is orderly and logical, with each chapter and
subsection clearly outlined in the table of contents. Since this is
not a textbook, no audience is targeted specifically, but I think it
would be appropriate for the general public or those at an
undergraduate or early graduate level. Given that the language
situation in the Philippines does not garner much attention it is a
relatively unknown field to most and this book serves as a very
comprehensive introduction.

One of the risks of writing in less formal prose, however, is that the
omission of words and other careless mistakes that may be acceptable
in speaking may infiltrate the writing. Sadly, this is the case
here. There are several unacceptable spelling and omission errors
which do not make the read as enjoyable, for example: ''Within
thirty-five years English have been imported to the Philippines, had
replaced Spanish in...'' (p.26) ''After competing this analysis I
asked...'' (p.230)

When investigating the language ideologies that influence language
choice in a given context, one must also be aware of one's own
ideologies and any influence it may have. The author's drive to
preserve and promote English in the Philippines is not only what
inspired the research he conducted, but also the workshops he led.
Further research into the question of Taglish may benefit from a more
impartial, yet equally critical observation of the language practices
of Filipinos. I would argue that the focus should expand to include
verbal interactions among the youth, the leaders of language change.


Bautista, Maria Lourdes S. (1996) Readings in Philippine
Sociolinguistics. 2nd ed. Manila: De La Salle University.

Ferguson, Charles A. (1959) ''Diglossia.'' Word 15:325-350.

Fishman, Joshua A. (1967) ''Bilingualism with and without diglossia;
diglossia with and without bilingualism.'' Journal of Social Issues

Giles, Howard, Justine Coupland and Nikolas Coupland, eds. (1991)
Contexts of Accommodation. Developments in Applied
Sociolinguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University.

Moag, Rodney F. (1982a) ''English as a foreign, second, native, and
basal language.''In Pride, ed., pp.11-50.

Moag, Rodney F. (1982b) ''The life cycle of non-native Englishes: a
case study.'' In Kachru, ed. 1982:270-88.

Muysken, Pieter. (2000) Bilingual Speech: A Typology of
Code-Mixing. Cambridge: Cambridge University


Emanuel A. da Silva is a first year PhD student in the French
Department at the University of Toronto (Canada). His research
interests include ethnolinguistics or sociolinguistic ethnography and
the extralinguistic factors governing language choice.
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