Philippine English

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Philippine English
Region Philippines
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Glottolog None
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Philippine English is any variety of English (similar and related to English) native to the Philippines, including those used by the media and the vast majority of educated Filipinos. English is taught in schools as one of the two official languages of the country, the other being Filipino (Tagalog). Due to the strongly bilingual and multilingual nature of the Philippines, code-switching such as Taglish and Bislish is prevalent across domains from the informal to business and mass media.[1][2][3][4][5][6]

Orthography and grammar

Philippine laws and court decisions, with extremely rare exceptions, are written solely in English. English is also used in higher education, religious affairs, print and broadcast media, and business. Most educated Filipinos are bilinguals and speak English as one of their languages. For highly technical subjects such as nursing, medicine, computing and calculus, English is the preferred medium for textbooks, communication, etc. Very few would prefer highly technical books in the vernacular.[7][8] Movies and TV shows in English are usually not dubbed in most cable channels[9] except a few such as Tagalized Movie Channel.[10]

Because English is part of the curricula from primary to secondary education, many Filipinos write and speak in fluent Philippine English, although there might be differences in diction and pronunciation.[11] Most schools in the Philippines, however, are staffed by teachers who are speakers of Philippine English and hence notable differences from the American English from which it was derived are observable.

Philippine English traditionally follows American English spelling and grammar,[12] except when it comes to punctuation as well as date notations. For example, a comma almost never precedes the final item in an enumeration (much like the AP Stylebook and other style guides used in the English-speaking world). Except for some very fluent speakers (like news anchors), even in English-language media, dates are also often read with a cardinal instead of an ordinal number (e.g. "January one" instead of "January first") even if the written form is the same. This is mostly because educated Filipinos were taught to count English numbers cardinally, thus it carried over to their style of reading dates. In reading the day-month-year date notation used by some areas in the government (e.g. 1 January), it may be pronounced as "one January" or rearranged to the month-first reading "January one".

Tautologies like redundancy and pleonasm are common despite the emphasis on brevity and simplicity in making sentences; they are common to many speakers, especially among the older generations. The possible explanation is that the English language teachers who came to the Philippines were taught old-fashioned grammar, thus they spread that style to the students they served. Examples are "At this point in time" and ".. will be the one ..." (or "... will be the one who will ...") instead of "now" and "... will ..." respectively - e.g., "I will be the one who will go ...", rather than "I will go ...".[13]


Philippine English is a rhotic accent mainly due to the influence of Philippine languages, which are the first language of most of its speakers. Another influence is the rhotic characteristic of General American English, which became the longstanding standard in the archipelago since Americans introduced the language in public education.[14][15][16] This is contrary to most Commonwealth English variants spoken in neighboring countries such as Malaysia or Singapore. The only exception to this rule is the word Marlboro, which is frequently read as Malboro. Therefore, /r/ phonemes are pronounced in all positions.[17] Native and well-educated speakers (also called acrolectal speakers[14]) may also feature flapping and vowel sounds resembling the California vowel shift due to the influence of Hollywood movies and call center culture.[18]

For non-native speakers, Philippine English phonological features are heavily dependent on the speaker's mother tongue, although foreign languages such as Spanish also influenced many Filipinos on the way of pronouncing English words. This is why approximations are very common and so are hypercorrections. The most distinguishable feature is the lack of fricative consonants, particularly /f/, /v/ and /z/. Another feature is the general absence of the schwa /ə/, and therefore pronounced by its respective full equivalent vowel although the r-colored variant [ɚ] is increasingly popular in recent years.


The following consonant changes apply for most non-native speakers of the language:[17]

  • The rhotic consonant /r/ may vary between a trill [r], a flap [ɾ] and an approximant [ɹ]. The English approximant [ɹ] is pronounced by many speakers in the final letters of the word or before consonants, while the standard dialect prefers to pronounce the approximant in all positions of /r/.
  • The fricatives /f/ and /v/ are approximated into the stop consonants [p] and [b], respectively.
  • Th-stopping: The dental fricatives /θ/ and /ð/ becomes into the stop consonants /t/ and /d/, respectively. This can be also observed from speakers of Hiberno-English dialects and a number of American English speakers.
  • Yod-coalescence: Like most Commonwealth English variants, the [dj], [tj] and [sj] clusters becomes into [dʒ], [tʃ] and [ʃ] respectively. This makes the words dew, tune and pharmaceutical are pronounced as /ˈ/, /ˈn/ and [pärmɐˈʃuːtikäl], respectively. For some cases, the use of yod-coalescence is another case of approximation for aspirated consonants which Philippine languages lack in general in words such as twelve.
  • The fricative [ʒ] may be devoiced into [ʃ] in words such as measure or affricated into [dʒ] in words such as beige.
  • The /z/ phoneme is devoiced into an /s/. This also includes intervocalic /s/ which is usually pronounced as a [z] in most other accents of English.
  • Older speakers tend to add an i or e sound to the cluster st- due to Spanish influence, so the words star and lipstick sounds like (i/e)star and lipistick respectively.
  • Like most non-native speakers of English elsewhere, the "dark l" ([ɫ]) is merged into the usual "light" /l/ equivalent.
  • The letter "z" is usually pronounced (and sometimes spelled) as a "zey" /z/ like in Jamaican English. However in standard Philippine English, it is pronounced as the American "zee".


Vowels in Philippine English are pronounced according to the letter representing each, so that ⟨a, e, i, o, u⟩ are generally pronounced as [a, ɛ, i, o, u], respectively.[15][17] The schwa /ə/—although a phonological feature across numerous Philippine languages such as Kinaray-a, Meranao, or the Abagatan (Southern) dialect of Ilokano—is absent.[16][19]

  • The following are the various approximations of the schwa:
    • Words that end in -le that succeeds a consonant (such as Google) are generally pronounced with an [ɛl], except for words that end -ple, -fle or -ble (apple, waffle and humble), which are pronounced with an [ol].
    • The /ɪ/ in words such as knowledge or college, it is pronounced as a diphthong /eɪ/, making it rhyme with age.
    • The rhotic vowels /ər/ and /ɜːr/ may be pronounced as an [ɛr] (commander), [ir] (circle) or an [or] (doctor), usually by non-native speakers outside urban areas or the elderly.
  • The ⟨a⟩ pronunciations /æ, ʌ, ɑ/ are pronounced as central vowels [ä] and [ɐ]. In the standard dialect, the open front [a] may be pronounced as an allophone of /æ/.
  • The /ɪ/ phoneme may be merged or replaced by the longer /i/ for some speakers. The words peel and pill might sound the same.
  • The /ɒ/ may be pronounced as an [o] (color) or an [ɐ] (not).
  • The u sound from the digraph qu may be dropped before e and i in some words such as conquest and liquidity.

Other features

  • Non-standard emphasis or stress is common. For example, the words ceremony and Arabic are pronounced on the second syllable as another result of Spanish influence. The words mentioned above are pronounced as [sɛˈɾɛmoni] and [aˈɾabik] respectively.

Non-native pronunciation

Many Filipinos often have a non-standard pronunciation, and many fall under different lectal variations (i.e. basilectal, mesolectal, acrolectal).[14] Some Philippine languages (e.g. Ibanag, Itawit, Surigaonon, Tausug) feature phonemes such as /dʒ/, /f/, /v/, and /z/, which are also present in English. However, Filipinos' first languages have generally different phonological repertoires (if not more simplified compared to English), and this leads to mis- or distinct pronunciations particularly among basilectal and to some extent mesolectal speakers.

Some examples of non-native pronunciation include:

  • Awry = [ˈari]
  • Filipino = [piliˈpino]
  • Victor = [bikˈtor]
  • Family = [ˈpɐmili] or [ˈpamili]
  • Varnish = [ˈbarnis]
  • Fun = [ˈpɐn] or [ˈpan]
  • Vehicle = [ˈbɛhikɛl] or [ˈbɛhikol]
  • Lover = [ˈlɐbɛr]
  • Find = [ˈpajnd]
  • Official = [oˈpisʲɐl] or [oˈpiʃɐl]
  • Very = [ˈbɛri] or [ˈbejri]
  • Guidon = [ɡiˈdon]
  • Hamburger = [ˈhɐmburɡɛr]
  • High-tech = [ˈhajtɛk]
  • Hubcap = [ˈhabkab]
  • Margarine = [mɐrɡɐˈrin]
  • Seattle = [ˈsʲatɛl]
  • Shako = [sʲaˈko] or [ʃaˈko]
  • Daniel/Danielle = [ˈdejnjɛl] or [ˈdanjɛl]
  • February = [(f/p)ebˈwari] or [(f/p)ebˈrari]
  • Janice = [dʒaˈnis]
  • January = [dʒanˈwari]
  • Rachel/Rachelle = [ˈrejʃɛl]
  • Stephen, Stephen- in Stephens, Stephenson = [(i/ɛ)ˈstifɛn] or [(i/ɛ)ˈstipɛn]
    (the ph digraph has an eff sound rather than a vee, even in standard Philippine English)
  • Special (some speakers) = [(i/ɛ)ˈspejʃal] or [ˈspejʃal] rhymes with spatial
  • Twenty- (one, two, etc.) (many speakers) = [ˈtwejnti]
  • -ator in senator, predator = [ˈejtor] (by analogy with -ate)


Philippine English has evolved tremendously from where it began decades ago. Some decades before English was officially introduced, if not arguably forced, to the Philippines, the nation had been subject to Spanish rule and thus Spanish was the language of power and influence. However, in 1898, when the Spanish gave the United States control of the nation, the English language, although initially disfavored, became widely used in a matter of years. This was catalyzed by the coming of American teachers called "Thomasites" (Bolton & Bautista, 2004). Before gaining independence, language policy makers had already started discussing formation of a common language for the Philippines that today is known as Filipino. Filipino became the national language, and English was given the status of an official language of the Philippines; English is the dominant superstrate language, as it is perceived by many as a symbol of status and power, replacing Spanish as the dominant superstate language. With the English language highly embedded in Philippine society, it was only a matter of time before the language was indigenized to the point that it became differentiated from English varieties found in the United States, United Kingdom, or elsewhere. This, along with the formal introduction of the World Englishes (WE) framework to English language scholars in the Philippines by renowned linguist Braj B. Kachru, which occurred at a conference in Manila, opened the floodgates to research on this new emerging English, which has since been branded as Philippine English.[20]

Industries based on English

The abundant supply of English speakers and competitive labor costs have enabled the Philippines to become a choice destination for foreign companies wishing to establish call centers and other outsourcing.[21][22][23] English proficiency sustains a major call center industry and in 2005, America Online has 1,000 people in what used to be the US Air Force's Clark Air Base in Angeles City answering ninety percent of their global e-mail inquiries. Citibank does its global ATM programming in the country, and Procter & Gamble has over 400 employees in Makati, a central Manila neighborhood, doing back office work for their Asian operations including finance, accounting, Human Resources and payments processing.

An influx of foreign students, principally from South Korea, has also led to growth in the number of English language learning centers,[24] especially in Metro Manila, Baguio City, Metro Cebu and Metro Bacolod.[25]

See also


  1. ^ Bautista, Ma. Lourdes (2004). "Tagalog-English code-switching as a mode of discourse" (PDF). Asia-Pacific Education Review. 5 (2): 225–233.
  2. ^ Bautista, Ma. Lourdes (1998). "Tagalog-English code-switching and the lexicon of Philippine English". Asian Englishes. 1 (1): 51–67. doi:10.1080/13488678.1998.10800994.
  3. ^ Erwin-Billones, Clark (2012). Code-switching in Filipino newspapers: Expansion of language, culture and identity (PDF) (Master's). Colorado State University. Retrieved 31 December 2018.
  4. ^ Dayag, D. T. (2002). "Code-switching in Philippine print ads: A syntactic-pragmatic description". Philippine Journal of Linguistics. 33 (1): 34–52.
  5. ^ Bernardo, A. B. I. (2005). "Bilingual code-switching as a resource for learning and teaching: Alternative reflections on the language and education issue in the Philippines". In Dayag, D. T. S.; Quakenbus, J. S. Linguistics and Language Education in the Philippines and Beyond: A Festschrift in Honor of Ma. Lourdes S. Bautista. Linguistic Society of the Philippines. pp. 151–169.
  6. ^ Cook, Erin (26 March 2018). "How the Philippine media's use of code switching stands apart in Asia". Retrieved 31 December 2018.
  7. ^ Author David Crystal remarks that English is used in technical contexts for intelligibility, and Taglish is used in social contexts for identity, noting that similar situations exist in other countries (e.g., as with Singlish). See Crystal, David (2003). English as a Global Language (2, illustrated, revised ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 189. ISBN 0-521-53032-6
  8. ^ Espinosa, Doray (1997). "English in the Philippines". Global Issues in Language Education. Language Institute of Japan (26): 9. Retrieved March 13, 2011.
  9. ^ Rowthorn, Chris; Bloom, Greg (2006). Philippines. Lonely Planet Country Guide (9th ed.). Lonely Planet. ISBN 978-1-74104-289-4.
  10. ^ "Tagalized Movie Channel on SKY". The Philippine Star. 23 November 2014.
  11. ^ Isabel Pefianco Martin (April 12, 2008). "Fearing English in the Philippines". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Archived from the original on July 23, 2011. Retrieved March 13, 2011.
  12. ^ Gonzalez, A. (2009) The Transplantation of American English in Philippine Soil, in A Companion to the History of the English Language (eds H. Momma and M. Matto), Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, UK. doi:10.1002/9781444302851.ch31
  13. ^ Examples: . "So if they see policemen about to conduct a security survey, they should ask me first because I will be the one who will know about it. They will have to talk to me,", "Security survey for Lapu banks suggested". Philippine daily Inquirer, citing Cebu Daily News. March 17, 2008. Archived from the original on September 6, 2011. Retrieved 2008-09-03; . "If I will be the one who will talk and explain, that will be self-serving,", Anselmo Roque (January 18, 2007). "Ecija school faculty bares university exec's mess". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Archived from the original on March 5, 2007. Retrieved 2008-09-03; . "Whoever wins on the issue of secret balloting will be the one who will win the speakership,", Norman Bordadora (July 22, 2007). "Arroyo can deliver SONA sans Speaker—Salonga". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Archived from the original on August 9, 2007. Retrieved 2008-09-03.
  14. ^ a b c Tayao, Ma. Lourdes (2004). "The evolving study of Philippine English phonology". Asian Englishes. 23 (1): 77–90. doi:10.1111/j.1467-971X.2004.00336.x.
  15. ^ a b Llamzon, T. A. (1997). "The phonology of Philippine English". In Bautista, Ma. Lourdes. English is an Asian Language: The Philippine Context. The Macquarie Library Pty. Ltd. pp. 41–48.
  16. ^ a b Bautista, Ma. Lourdes; Gonzalez, Andrew (2009). "Southeast Asian Englishes". In Kachru, Braj; Kachru, Yamuna; Nelson, Cecil. English is an Asian Language: The Philippine Context. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 130–144.
  17. ^ a b c Tayao, Ma. Lourdes (2008). "A lectal description of the phonological features of Philippine English". In Bautista, Ma. Lourdes; Bolton, Kingsley. Philippine English: Linguistic and Literary. Hong Kong University Press. pp. 157–174.
  18. ^ Lee, Don (2015-02-01). "The Philippines has become the call-center capital of the world". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2015-10-08.
  19. ^ Tayao, Ma. Lourdes (2008). "Philippine English: Phonology". In Mesthrie, R. Varieties of English 4: Africa, South and Southeast Asia. Mouton de Gruyter. pp. 292–306.
  20. ^ Kachru, Braj; Kachru, Yamuna; Nelson, Cecil (2009). The Handbook of World Englishes : Volume 48 of Blackwell Handbooks in Linguistics. John Wiley & Sons. p. 240. ISBN 978-1-4051-8831-9.
  21. ^ Carl Marc Ramota (2004). "Economic Woes Drive Bright Graduates to Call Centers". Bulatlat. Retrieved March 13, 2011.
  22. ^ Diana G Mendoza (October 1, 2010). "Philippines: Call Centre Boom Breeds New Culture – and Risky Behaviour". Global Geopolitics & Political Economy. Retrieved March 13, 2011.
  23. ^ Carlos H. Conde (August 13, 2007). "English getting lost in translation in Philippines". The New York Times. Retrieved March 13, 2011.
  24. ^ Jonathan M. Hicap (September 13, 2009). "Koreans Flock to the Philippines to Learn English". Korea Times. Retrieved March 13, 2011.
  25. ^ "Korean students to study English in Bacolod schools". Manila Bulletin. May 3, 2017. Retrieved October 26, 2017.

Further reading

  • Acar, A. "Models, Norms and Goals for English as an International Language Pedagogy and Task Based Language Teaching and Learning.", The Asian EFL Journal, Volume 8. Issue 3, Article 9, (2006).
  • Manarpaac, Danilo. "When I was a child I spoke as a child": Reflecting on the Limits of a Nationalist Language Policy. In: Christian Mair. The politics of English as a world language: new horizons in postcolonial cultural studies. Rodopi; 2003 [cited 18 February 2011]. ISBN 978-90-420-0876-2. p. 479–492.
  • Lerner, Ted. Hey, Joe, a slice of the city - an American in Manila. Book of Dreams: Verlag, Germany. 1999.

External links

  • The Language Planning Situation in the Philippines, by Andrew Gonzalez, FSC, with sections on Philippine English
  • Philippine English, by Tom McArthur.
  • English proficiency in Cebu
  • American or Philippine English? (video)
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