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The Tagalog language is a member of the Austronesian language family and its standardized form, known as Filipino, is one of the two official languages of the Philippines (along with English). There are approximately 22 million native speakers of Tagalog in the Philippines, and about 45 million speak it as a second language. The largest concentration of native Tagalog speakers is found in the central to southern parts of the island of Luzon.

With a large and vibrant community of Filipinos in the United States, Tagalog (Filipino) has become the third most widely spoken foreign language, after Spanish and Chinese, and Filipinos represent the second largest sub-group of Asian-Americans in the United States. The American Community Survey (ACS) in 2013 estimated that there are approximately 1.6 million speakers of Tagalog in the United States.

Linguists have identified four (4) main dialect groups of Tagalog, which include Northern (Bulacan), Central (including Manila), Southern (Batangas), and Marinduque. Key differences between the dialects include pronunciation, some vocabulary, and grammatical patterns.

One of the unique features of the Tagalog language is the prevalence of code-switching between Tagalog and English (known colloquially as “Taglish”), wherein the two languages are frequently mixed together in the context of a single conversation. In Taglish, sentences typically follow the Tagalog grammar rules, syntax, and morphology, while employing English nouns and verbs in place of their Tagalog counterparts. In fact, the practice is so common that it is frequently used in television, radio, and print media, as well as in advertising.

Tagalog typically follows a verb-subject-object (VSO) word order, but with a high degree of flexibility. Tagalog is also a slightly inflected language, with pronouns being inflected for number and verbs being inflected for focus, aspect, and voice. Verbs are conjugated by adding affixes to the root verb. Verbs are also conjugated for time by using aspect rather than tense. One of the unique features of Tagalog (and other related languages of the Philippines and some other Austronesian languages) is known as the “trigger system” of alignment wherein rather than using two voices (transitive/active and intransitive passive), Tagalog has two separate transitive voices.

The majority of vocabulary in Tagalog is derived from its Austronesian roots. However, given the Philippines’ location as a major commercial hub for centuries, as well as a cultural crossroads and ethnic melting pot, the Tagalog language has borrowed a significant amount of vocabulary from other languages. As a result of the long period of Spanish colonization between 1521 and 1898, the majority of loanwords found in Tagalog come from Spanish, amounting to approximately 13.33% of Tagalog vocabulary. Other languages that have bequeathed significant numbers of loanwords include Nahuatl (Aztec), Malay, English, Chinese, Tamil, and Sanskrit.

As with other languages of the Philippines, Tagalog is written using the Latin alphabet, containing 28 letters, and with significant influences from Spanish orthography. Before the Spanish colonization, the Tagalog language utilized an abudiga (alphasyllabary) derived from the Brāhmī script, known as Baybayin, wherein a consonant-vowel sequence is written as a unit. The modern Tagalog script also incorporates the Spanish Ñ and Tagalog Ng digraph.

FUN FACTS: In the 1970s, President Marcos attempted to introduce a new national language, Pilipino, which sought to replace Spanish and English loanwords with native Tagalog words. Given that Spanish and English words had become such an integral part of the Tagalog language, however, this effort was not successful. Also, while Tagalog includes many Spanish loanwords, many of them are false cognates. For example, syempre in Tagalog means “of course,” while siempre in Spanish means “always.”

At Piedmont Global Language Solutions (PGLS), we offer document translation, interpretation, localization, and other language services in Tagalog. Whether you need to translate student records into Tagalog, need a Tagalog interpreter for a community meeting, or want to localize your website into Tagalog to market your products in the Philippines, PGLS is here to help with all of your Tagalog language needs.

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