The Masbatenyo people group of the Philippines have a population over 700,000. The term Minasbate is the language spoken by this people group.
In the Philippines they are located on the islands of Masbate, Ticao and Burias in the Masbate Province. This province is 200 nautical miles southeast of Manila and just west of the southern tip of Luzon Island.
The classification of the language is Austronesian, Malayo-Polynesian, Philippine, Greater Central Philippine, Central Philippine, Bisayan, Central, Peripheral.
There is lexical similarity with Capiznon (79%) and Hiligaynon (76%). Hiligaynon. It is also closely related to Tagalog, the basis of the national language Filipino, and Cebuano, but it is most closely related to the language of Sorsogon City in the province of Sorsogon on the southern tip of Luzon Island. Up until the 1920's, the Masbate region was a part of Sorsogon Province.
Three dialects of Masbatenyo have been discovered: the northern dialect centered around the provincial capital, Masbate town, and within the whole northern half of Masbate Island; the western dialect centered around the town of Balud on the western coast; and the southern dialect centered about the town of Cataingin in the southeastern part of Masbate. This dictionary is a record of speech as spoken in northern Masbate. This dialect is the lingua franca for the province and the home language for between 300,000 to 350,000 people.
In the far southern and southwestern parts of Masbate Island, Cebuano is the home language. There are other dialects spoken in the small towns on the island of Ticao. On Burias most of the speakers are Cebuano who migrated from the Cebu region.
The Masbatenyo people highly value their language, using it in the home, the market and at work. Another people group, Southern Sorsoganon, use Masbatenyo as a second language.
There is a high degree of literacy in the community (65%). Masbatenyo is taught in primary and secondary schools. Written materials using the Latin script include Masbatenyo newspapers and the New Testament (1993). There are also radio programs being transmitted.
This dictionary of the Masbatenyo language is a preliminary effort to compile vocabulary items together with a brief sketch of the phonology and grammar. The dictionary entries have been collected over a period of 20 years (1972-1992) while the compiler was working on linguistic and translation projects in Masbate as a volunteer researcher with the Summer Institute of Linguistics.
The procedure followed in the preparation of the dictionary was to first collect texts and their translations from Masbatenyo speakers. As words were compiled, the glosses were checked with other speakers and, with their help, a wider range of English semantic equivalents was added. Information on synonyms, antonyms and more illustrative sentences were also included for each entry where possible. Finally, phonological and grammatical information about the words was added by the researcher.
Further work is also needed to expand the database of words and to complete the analysis of the semantic classes of verbs. Even so, it is our desire to make available the work done so far in the hope that it will encourage others to expand this information.
The educational researcher seeking insight into the language for the preparation of school materials can benefit from this work. It is hoped that the dictionary will also make a linguistic contribution to the study and maintenance of Philippine languages.
There are three major income-producing occupations: fishing, coconut cultivation, and cattle raising. Many words relate to these occupations. In the 16th century Chinese and Indonesian traders visited the Philippines. The Spanish also came and refueled their ships and restocked their food supplies in Masbate. The Spanish set up churches and left many cultural items and practices, resulting the infusion of new words into the Masbatenyo language. In 1898 the United States began to promote education in English all across the Philippines. Tagalog, Cebuano, and English influence the vocabulary of Masbatenyo through radio, television and movies.
A striking characteristic of Masbatenyo is the presence of competing grammatical and lexical subsystems in the language, probably brought on by the influx of settlers from surrounding major language groups who mixed in elements of their languages. As a result, many semantic concepts in Masbatenyo can be expressed by from two to five alternate words. These concepts appear to have the exact same reference but come from one or more of the five surrounding languages: Bikol, Waray-waray, Cebuano, Hiligaynon and Tagalog.
There are also some variant coexistent forms of the grammatical markers and pronouns. The laughing comment from the speakers of the language is that their language is a mixed-up language. That is why, they say, speakers from other languages have a hard time learning Masbatenyo. Masbatenyos themselves usually have a preferred choice of words in their own use of the language, but readily recognize the others and sometimes also use them.
To the knowledge of the compiler, this dictionary is only the second published work on the Masbatenyo language. There are, however, several descriptions of separate subsystems of the language in microfiche form as well as a few publications of educational and religious material in Masbatenyo (see the Bibliography).