Verbal Focus in Tagalog

One of my goals in this blog is to share my knowledge of the Tagalog grammar and, in the process, study it again, as I studied it many years ago and never revisited it.

I am publishing (and rivisiting and updating) posts about the Tagalog grammar in Tagalog, English and Italian because I want to master the Tagalog grammar terminology in these 3 languages.

Tagalog is an agglutinative language.

An agglutinative language is a type of language that uses agglutination.

Agglutination means that words are formed by stringing together morphemes (the smallest meaningful unit in a language) without changing them in spelling or phonetics.

As I have said in my first post about the Tagalog grammar, in Tagalog agglutination happens by combining one or more affixes with a root-word.

There are 3 main categories of affixes in Tagalog being:

Maka-uri: to form adjectives like maganda=beautiful

Maka-ngalan: related to nouns like mag-kapatid or mag-asawa

Maka-diwa: used to form verbs and to indicate verbal focus

Maka-diwa affixes and verbal focus in Tagalog

in Tagalog you have to use the right affix to form a verb, depending on the focal point of the sentence, and there are many verbal affixes in Tagalog like -um-, mag-, maka-, makapag-, ma-, magpa-, i-, -in, -an.

You also need to use the right marker (something like what we call an article in Western languages) like ang, ng, sa (or si, ni and kay if you are talking about a person).

The focus of the sentence also determines which personal pronouns you are going to use.

The actor focus personal pronouns are:

Ako=I

Ikaw (or ka)=you

Siya=he or she

Kami or tayo=we (I’ll talk about the difference in another article)

Kayo=You

Sila=they

The object focus personal pronouns are :

Ko

Mo

Niya

Namin or natin

Ninyo

Nila

To illustrate how all of this works, let’s take the root word basa, which conveys the idea of reading and let’s say that we want to say something like “I (or you, he/she, we, You, they) read a book”

In this sentence we’ve got:

A personal pronoun (I)

A verb (to read)

A marker (or article being “a”)

In this sentence I can basically emphasize two elements:

The one who is reading thereby answering the question “who reads the book?”

The object or the thing being read which answers the question “what is being read?”

ACTOR FOCUS

The first type of focus is the actor focus type of sentence:

In this kind of sentence I am going to use such verbal affixes like -um- (that goes between the first consonant and the first vowel of the root word) or mag-.

The markers I am going to use in connection with the actor are ang or si (if the actor is a personal name, like “si Eduardo”).

And the personal pronouns are ako, ikaw etc.

MAG- VERBS

Let’s make a few examples:

“The man is reading a book”

In Tagalog that would be: “Ang tao ay nagbabasa (present “tense” or, more accurately “incompleted aspect” of magbasa) ng isang aklat”. Notice that I am using the “ay” which inverts the order of the sentence that could also be rendered as “nagbabasa ang tao ng aklat”.

“Eduardo is reading the book”

“Si Eduardo ay nagbabasa ng aklat” (or “nagbabasa si Eduardo….”).

“I am reading the book”

“Ako ay nagbabasa ng aklat”

In the examples above I have used the verbal affix “mag” which turns the root word basa into a mag- verb, which is only one type of actor focus verb.

The completed aspect of magbasa is nagbasa (mag becomes nag)

The incompleted aspect is nagbabasa (mag becomes nag and I am doubling the first syllable)

The contemplated aspect (basically the “future tense”) is magbabasa.

The abilitative form (expressing the ability to do the action) of a mag- verb is makapag-, so to convey the idea that one has the ability or the possibility to read I say makapagbasa.

-UM- VERBS

The other common actor focus affix is -um- by using which with basa the verb is bumasa (past: bumasa, present: bumabasa, again I am doubling the first syllable, future: babasa, I am removing the um to form the future) and the corresponding abilitative form is maka-

MA- VERBS

Another actor focus affix is ma- for actor focus verbs like:

Matulog (to sleep)

Makinig (to listen)

Maligo (to take a bath)

Manood (to watch)

OBJECT FOCUS

The second type of focus is the object focus in which case I am answering the question “what is being read?”

-IN VERBS

Examples:

“The book is what the man is reading”

“Binabasa (present “tense” or incompleted aspect of basahin) ng tao ang aklat”

“The book is what Eduardo is reading”

“Binabasa ni Eduardo ang aklat”

“The book is what I am reading”

“Binabasa ko ang aklat”

In this case I have used a verb that ends in -in like basahin, inumin, ayusin etc. (Past: binasa, present: binabasa, future: basahin)

I- VERBS

Another common object focus verb is the one that begins with i- like ituro, idiin, itago etc. (past: itinuro, present: itinuturo, future: ituturo).

MA- VERBS

Some ma- verbs are actor focus like makinig while others are object focus like:

Makita (to see)

Marinig (to hear)

Mapansin (to pay attention)

-AN VERBS

Some object focus verbs end in -an like:

Buksan (to open)

Takpan (to cover)

LOCATION/DIRECTION VERBS

In Tagalog the affix -an is used to talk about a location, and this applies not just to verbs but also to nouns.

For example the word aklatan, which is formed by combining aklat (book) with -an means “library” or “the place or location where books can be found”.

The word basurahan, which is formed by adding -an to basura (garbage) is the place where people dispose of garbage.

Similarly verbs that end with -an generally refer to an action where the focus is either the location or the direction of the action.

For example if I am going to Juan’s house I can use the verb puntahan and the house of Juan is my pupuntahan.

If I do something in behalf of someone and this person is the receiver or the direction of my action, I also use an -an verb like bigyan where the verb (“to give”) is used to talk about the person to whom an object is given, like for instance bigyan ko ng bulaklak ang misis ko (“my wife is the one to whom I give the flowers”, so my action, the action of buying flowers is directed toward my wife).

Sometimes -an can also be used for object focus verbs (see part 2) or even beneficiary focus verbs, speaking of which let’s now talk about those

BENEFICIARY FOCUS VERBS

These verbs are used to talk about the beneficiary of an action like for example the verb bilhan (to buy for someone) ex. bilhan mo ang bata ng kendi (“buy the candy for the child”)

In addition to -an another beneficiary focus affix is ipag- like in the following sentence: ipagluto mo ng l ang mga bata ng fried chicken (“(you) cook some fried chicken for the children”), even though, to be honest, I don’t hear ipag- verbs very much in everyday speech (my wife never uses ipag- verbs but she does use -an beneficiary verbs)

An easy way to talk about the beneficiary of an action without having to learn the beneficiary focus is by simply using the expression para sa (“for something”) or para kay (“for someone”) in an actor focus or in a object focus sentence.

For example, instead of saying ipagluto mo ang mga bata ng fried chicken you could simply say magluto ka ng fried chicken para sa mga bata (or para kay Mario if you are using a personal name)

INSTRUMENTAL FOCUS

The last type of focus is the instrumental which talks about the tool or instrument one is using to do something.

The affix here is ipang- or ipan-

So I could say something like “I am using the walis tambo to sweep the floor” and, in this case I have to use ipanlinis ko ang walis tambo ng sahig

If I wanted to avoid using the instrumental focus I could simply use an actor or object focus verb + the expression sa pamamagitan (“by means of”) like nagwawalis ako ng sahig sa pamamagitan ng walis tambo and, in reality, I have never heard my wife using ipang- verbs, she always uses either an actor focus affix or an object focus affix followed by the expression sa pamamagitan.

Balarilang Tagalog-Bahagi 3: Pokus ng Pandiwa

Gaya ng sinabi ko sa dating mga post ko tungkol sa balarilang Tagalog ang aking layunin sa mga post na ito ay hindi upang ipakita kung gaano kahusay ako kundi ang layunin ko ay ibahagi lang ang aking personal na mga nota tungkol sa wikang Tagalog.

Nag-aaral ako ng balarilang Tagalog noong 2001-2006 at paminsan-minsan kailangan kong repasuhin ito.

Bukod dito ang pag-aaral na ginawa ko noon ay sa wikang Ingles samantala sa ngayon gusto kong maging pamilyar sa terminolohiyang Tagalog.

Kaya wala akong balak na ituro ang balarilang Tagalog sa mga Pilipino.

Pero, gaya ng sinabi ko na, ang aking impresyon ay na maraming mga Pilipino, kahit mas marunong magsalita ng Tagalog kaysa sa aming mga foreigner, ay hindi masyadong pamilyar sa balarila.

Tiyak na maraming mga Pilipino ay nag-aaral ng balarila sa paaralan pero habang lumalaki ang isang tao madaling nakakalimutan niya ang mga impormasyong ito.

Para sa akin mahalaga ang pag-aaral ng balarila ng sariling wika dahil napakaraming mga Pilipino ay nag-aabroad at kailangan nilang matuto ng ibang wika at di-hamak na mas madaling gawin ito kapag ang isa ay may kaalaman tungkol sa balangkas ng sariling wika.

Sa akin huling post binanggit ko ang aspekto ng pandiwa.

Ito ang madaling bahagi ng wikang Tagalog.

Ang mahirap para sa aming mga foreigner na nagnanais matuto ng Tagalog ay ang dami ng mga panlapi na ikinakabit sa salitang ugat para bumuo ng isang pandiwa.

Para sa aming mga foreigner ay talagang mahirap malaman kung kailan gamitin ang um, mag, -in,-an, magpa-, maka-, makapag- at iba pa.

At ang problema ay na kapag tinatanong namin ang mga Pilipino (tulad halimbawa ang asawa ko) hindi nila alam kung papaano ipaliwanag ang mga bagay na ito.

Kaya ginawa ko ang isang balangkas para maging maliwanag kung anu-anong mga panlapi ang dapat gamitin may kaugnayan sa mga pandiwa.

Bukod sa mga panlapi na ikinakabit sa mga pandiwa mayroon din ibang uri ng mga panlapi pero sa ngayon ang pinag-uusapan ko ay ang pokus ng pandiwa.

Ang uri ng panlapi na ginagamit sa bawat situwasyon ay nakadepende sa pokus.

Ano ba ang pokus?

Pokus ang tawag sa relasyong pansemantika (ang salitang semantika ay may kaugnayan sa kahulugan ng isang salita, parilala o pangungusap)
ng pandiwa sa simuno o paksa ng pangungusap.

  • Aktor-pokus o pokus sa tagaganap o sa isa na gumagawa ng kilos

Ang pokus dito ay nasa kung sino ang gumagawa ng isang bagay at ang mga panlapi ay
MAG, NAG, MA, NA at UM.

Halimbawa: sino ang bumabasa ng aklat? Sagot: “bumabasa si Mario (aktor) ng aklat”. Dito si Mario ang pokus

  • Pokus sa layon

Ito ay sumasagot sa tanong na “ano?”.

Dito ang mga panlapi ay IN, I, AN, NA.

Halimbawa: “ano ang binabasa ni Mario?” Sagot: “Binabasa ni Mario ang aklat“. Sa halimbawang ito ang aklat ang pokus.

  • Pokus sa ganapan o lokatibo

Ito ay sumasagot sa tanong na “saan?” o sa ibang salita ang pokus ay nasa lugar kung saan ginaganap ang isang kilos.

Ang mga panlapi ay: pag-/-an , -an/-han , ma-/-an , pang-/-an , mapag-/-an, pinag/an, in/an.

Halimbawa: “Ang bukiran ay pinagtaniman ng gulay”. Ang bukiran ay ang pokus ng pangungusap na ito.

  • Benepaktibong pokus o pokus sa tagatanggap

Ang pokus ay ang ang tumatanggap.

Ito ay sumasagot sa tanong na “para kanino?“. Ang mga panlaping i- , -in , ipang- , ipag- ang ginagamit.

Halimbawa: “ipinagbili ko ang bata ng kendi”. Bata ang tumatanggap kaya siya ang pokus.

  • Instrumentong pokus o pokus sa gamit

Ang pokus ay nasa bagay na ginagamit upang makagawa ng kilos. Ito ay sumasagot sa tanong na “sa pamamagitan ng ano?”

Ang ginagamit ay ang mga panlaping ipang- , maipang-

Halimbawa: “ipangluto ang kaldero ng pagkain”. Ang kaldero ay ang instrumento na ginagamit para magluto at siya ang pokus.

  • Kosatibong pokus o pokus sa sanhi

Ang pokus ay ang sanhi ng kilos. Ito ay sumasagot sa tanong na “bakit?” at ginagamit ang mga panlaping i- , ika- , ikina-

Halimbawa: “ikinalungkot ko ang kamatayan ng aso ko” (ang kamatayan ng aso ko ay ang sanhi kung bakit malungkot ako).

  • Pokus sa direksyon

Ang pokus ay ang direksyon ng kilos. Ito ay sumasagot sa tanong na “tungo saan/kanino?” at ang ginagamit ay ang mga panlaping –an , -han , -in , -hin.

Halimbawa: “sinulatan ko ang pinsan ko”. Ang pinsan ko ay ang pokus dahil siya ang direksyon ng aking pagsusulat.

Ito ang isang balangkas ng iba’t ibang mga panlapi na ginagamit sa bawat uri ng pokus at ito ang pinakamahirap para sa aming mga foreigner na nagnanais matuto ng Tagalog….

Introduction to Tagalog Grammar and Verbal Aspect in Tagalog

A Tagalog course in Italian based on the book “Conversational Tagalog” by Teresita Ramos
My journey with the Tagalog language started with this course…. the only material available here back in 2001

In this post I am going to cover the basics of the Tagalog grammar.

The reason why I am including this kind of posts in my blog is because from time to time I need to brush up my knowledge of the Tagalog grammar and, in so doing, I also share it with anyone who may be interested in learning this language, like some Western guy married to a Filipina for example.

I must give credit to a couple of sources that have greatly helped me to grasp the grammar of my wife’s native language: “Conversational Tagalog” by Teresita Ramos and the website http://www.seasite.niu.edu/tagalog/tagalog_mainpage.htm

  • HOW WORDS ARE FORMED IN TAGALOG

Learning Tagalog is almost like playing with Lego blocks, as the seemingly long words are, in reality, the result of the combination of a root word and one or more affixes: English speakers are already familiar with this concept because in English a number of words are formed by adding an affix to a root word. For example the root word beauty can be combined with ful to form the adjective beautiful. Take for example the Tagalog root word ganda (that conveys the idea of beauty): if you combine it with the affix ma– you form the adjective maganda or beautiful; if you combine it with –um– (between the first consonant and the first vowel) you form the verb gumanda and if you put the prefix ka– before the root word and the suffix –an after it you form the noun kagandahan. As I said, it is almost like playing with Legos and putting the pieces together: depending on the affix that you stick to the root word you can form an adjective, a verb or a noun A root word is simply a basic, core word that can be used to make other words. This is the starting point to understand the structure of the Tagalog language and what I can say is that I’ve found out that the structure of Tagalog is much easier than that of most Western languages, especially when you are learning verbs, speaking of which….

  • VERBAL ASPECT VS TENSES

Another aspect that made it relatively easy, at least for me, to learn Tagalog is that there is only one kind of past tense, present tense or future tense not many like in Italian for example. Technically those are not even called “tenses” but rather “verbal aspects” because they only convey the idea that a certain action has been accomplished, is being accomplished or is being “contemplated” but they give no clue as to “when” it has been accomplished or will be accomplished. For example the verb “bumasa” (to read) has the following aspects: Bumasa ako ng aklat=I have read the book (the action has been accomplished, it doesn’t tell you the when) Bumabasa ako ng aklat=I am (in the process of) reading the book Babasa ako ng aklat=I have the intention to read it, I am contemplating the idea of reading it but I am not communicating when in the future I will do it (unless I use a time expression like bukas=tomorrow etc).

A nice way to illustrate the difference between a tense and the verbal aspect is the example of the boss of a company and the secretary (which I’ve found on the Tagalog page of the official website of the department of Asian studies of the University of Illinois): the boss of a company is only concerned with whether his employee has done his job or not, the secretary is concerned with when the employee did his job because she has to calculate the amount of his paycheck. Similarly the verbal aspect only communicates if a certain action has been done or not while a tense communicates when the action has taken place or will take place.

If I say something like binasa ko ang aklat (I read the book) that expression simply tells me that I did the action of reading the book, it could have happened one moment ago, yesterday, one year ago, 20 years ago. If I say babasahin ko ang aklat I am stating my intention to read the book: it could happen in 5 minutes or 5 years. So, in order to give the listener a clue about the when Filipinos need time expressions like kanina (earlier), kahapon (yesterday), ngayon (today), mamaya (later), bukas (tomorrow) and many others. In my language (Italian) not only do we have tenses but we have plenty of them, 21 to be specific. We have 8 tenses in the indicative mode, 4 in the subjunctive, 2 in the conditional, one in the imperative, 2 in the infinitive, 2 in the participle and 2 in the gerund, imagine that!

  • LINKERS

Filipinos often use either ng or na to connect two words, usually an adjective and a noun. If the word that appears before the linker ends with a vowel they use ng, if it ends with a consonant they use na like in the following two examples: Masamang kalagayan (bad situation) Mahirap na kalagayan (difficult situation) So, in the first example, because masama ends with a vowel I used ng, while after mahirap that ends in a consonant, I used na. The same applies when you are linking two numbers like: Limang daan Apat na raan

  • NUMBERS

The first time I heard numbers like labingisa or isang daan at labindalawa etc. I wondered “how am I possibly going to learn this stuff”? In reality, if you are interested in learning numbers in Tagalog, all you really need to memorize are the numbers from one to ten being: isa dalawa tatlo apat lima anim pito walo siyam sampu. Then, the numbers from 11 to 19 are really easy because all you need to do is add labin to the numbers you’ve already learned: 11=labingisa 12=labindalawa and so on. Then, as for the numbers 20, 30, 40 etc. they all end like 10 or sampu: Dalawampu Tatlumpu and so on Between 20, 30, 40 etc. you just add ‘t isa, ‘t dalawa etc.: Example: 21=dalawampu’t isa 22=dalawampu’t dalawa ….. 51=limampu’t isa And so on As for the “hundreds” you just have to learn …ng daan (except for apat and other numbers that end in a consonant where you’ve got na raan) the pattern is: Isang daan Dalawang daan …. Apat na raan ….. Anim na raan Then for higher numbers you add: Libo=1000 Milyon Bilyon And so on.

  • PLURALS

Generally, in order to turn a singular noun into a plural, Filipinos add the word mga between the markers ang and ng and the noun like in the following examples: “Ang mga Pilipino ay umiinom ng gin” meaning “Filipinos drink gin” (which is true, by the way) and the focus is on the actors. “Iniinom ng mga Pilipino ang gin” meaning the same thing the focus being on the object So, when you find the little word “mga” between the marker and the noun that indicates that the noun is in the plural number. This means for example that if you go to a Filipino party don’t just bring ang isang bote (one bottle), rather always bring ang mga bote (ng gin)…..

  • THE “AY” INVERTER

In Tagalog there is no such thing as the verb to be. You will often come across expressions like: ako ay Pilipino. Well, that doesn’t literally translate as “I am Filipino”. That is just an inverted form of Pilipino ako where ay simply inverts the order in the sentence. Well, this blog is mainly about how to have a thriving marriage with a Filipina but, from time to time I also like to talk about the Tagalog language and grammar. I started doing it in the past a little randomly and so in some future articles I will cover this kind of material in a more systematic way….and in so doing I’ll review the Tagalog grammar myself since I haven’t been doing it for quite a while…

A Very Useful Website to Learn Tagalog

In this brief post I just want to mention a very interesting website that has immensely helped me to grasp the structure of the Tagalog language.

The link is http://www.seasite.niu.edu/Tagalog/Tagalog_mainpage.htm

I think this link can be very useful to Westerners who are trying to learn Tagalog

Faithful or Loyal? “Tapat” or “tapat”?

In my study of the Tagalog language I occasionally bump into gaps that sometimes make it difficult to convey nuances. You can convey the general meaning but there are situations where, if you are trying to put across a more nuanced information, that actually makes a huge difference in meaning, you find yourself short of words.

A case in point is the difference between faithful and loyal.

Dogs are animals who are always talked in terms of being faithful to men. The term can also be used in connection with an employee who faithfully does what his employer requires of him when his boss is watching him or, perhaps, a driver who abides by traffic laws, as long as police is around.

Personally I’ve never heard of a dog being talked in terms of being loyal. To me a driver who is loyal abides by the law regardless of whether he fears being given a ticket or not and a loyal employee will always do what is right even if his boss is not around.

In the western United States, there is a geyser that erupts just about every hour. It is so regular that it has been called Old Faithful. Such inanimate things as the moon are very faithful yet they are not capable of any attachment or moral qualities, such as loyalty.

In an intimate relationship you are faithful as a man if you do not cheat upon your spouse, but you are loyal if you are by her side come what may.

Now, while the English language has two different words to express these two concepts, Tagalog only seems to have one word which is “tapat“.

Does it mean that Filipinos don’t know the difference between being a dog-like, a geyser-like or a moon-like faithful person and a loyal one?

Well, the Filipino culture is a high-context one and the language is also high-context so, although the Tagalog language doesn’t really seem to have a specific word for loyal I do not believe that this means that by marrying a Filipina you will bump into someone who is just faithfully sticking to her marriage vows and does not know how to be loyally attached no matter what.

Foreigner Teaching Tagalog: the Difference Between “Um” Verbs and “Mag” Verbs

As I’ve mentioned in another post, when the actor (the one doing the action) is the focus of the sentence, Filipinos generally use mag verbs (like magtayo, magbasa etc.) or um verbs (like tumayo, uminom etc.).

I’ve been asking myself, for as long as I’ve been studying Tagalog, what the difference between the two types of verbs is and when exactly to use, for example, bumangon or magbangon.

I’ve done quite a bit of research but, generally, Tagalog grammar books don’t explain that. The only bit of information I’ve found, I’ve found it in a book by a lady named Teresita Ramos and what she says is, basically, that mag verbs are “transitive” (generally speaking) while um verbs are generally “intransitive”.

Somebody borrowed my book a few years ago and never returned it so I don’t have the possibility to check this information again but I think this explanation makes sense because Filipinos usually use magbangon to lift themselves up, not an object while they use magbangon when they lift or raise something.

For example:

Sa umaga bumabangon ako alas 5

Ang estudiante ay nagbangon ng isang tanong (there is an object here)

This however is not always the case because, sometimes, even um verbs have an object (example uminom ako ng tubig).

As far as I understand it, mag is generally for transitive verbs while um is generally (but not always) for intransitive ones.

This is one of the blind spots in my understanding of Tagalog…..

Foreigner Teaching Tagalog: Adjectives, Comparatives and Superlatives

As I’ve already mentioned, adjectives in Tagalog are usually formed by putting the affix ma- before the root word. For example, in order to form the adjective beautiful starting from the root word ganda, you need to combine ma with ganda and, therefore, form the adjective maganda.

Not all adjectives, however, are formed that way: sometimes there are adjectives that don’t require any affix, such as: payat (slim), bobo (stupid) and so on.

If you want to say that something is more, let’s say, beautiful than something else, you need to use the following structure: mas maganda kaysa (example: ang Pilipinas ay mas maganda kaysa sa Italya=the Philippines is more beautiful than Italy).

If you want to say that something is the most, let’s say, beautiful among a group you use the affix pinaka- instead of ma- before the root word (example: ang Pilipinas ay ang pinakamagandang bansa sa mundo=the Philippines is the most beautiful country in the world).

If you want to say that something is very beautiful you can use the napaka- affix instead of ma- (example: ang Pilipinas ay napakaganda).

Hope this helps….

Foreigner Teaching Tagalog: “Gusto/Ayaw Ko…”

An interesting aspect of Tagalog is that certain actions that are normally expressed through verbs in most Western languages can be replaced by words that are not verbs in the real sense of the word.

One of these is gusto which is the equivalent of the verb “to like”.

So, in order to say “I (or you, he/she etc.) like…”, Filipinos say “gusto ko (mo, niya etc.)….”.

Example:

Gusto ng mga Pilipino ng gin” (which is true by the way).

Another way to say it is: “ang mga Pilipino ang may gusto ng gin” (which is still a valid way to say it…as long as gin is available…).

The opposite of gusto or “I like” is ayaw meaning “I don’t like”. You can either say ayaw ko or use the shortened form ayoko.

Well, this is one of those Tagalog pills that sometimes I like to squeeze into this blog.

Tagalog Lessons (Lesson 1): How Words are Formed in Tagalog

In this blog I primarily talk about how to make a marriage between a Westerner and a Filipina work.

I also glimpse into the Filipino culture and mentality and I have also briefly touched on the language.

As I have repeatedly said, although I can speak Tagalog, I prefer to communicate with my wife in English.

However, for the sake of building better rapport, I have decided to apply myself to the study of the Tagalog language.

Should you be interested in learning this language you can check out my posts about Tagalog that from now on will be part of this blog.

The Tagalog language is not the main topic of this blog, I will continue to talk about the Filipino mentality and how to deal with it, especially if you are married to a Filipina or wish to marry one, but my articles will occasionally be interspersed with some tips about how to learn Tagalog.

Let’s talk about the way words are formed in Tagalog.

Basically words in Tagalog are the result of combining a root or core word with one or more affixes.

English speakers are already familiar with this concept because in English a number of words are formed by adding an affix to a root word.

For example the root word beauty can be combined with ful to form the adjective beautiful.

Take for example the Tagalog root word ganda (that conveys the idea of beauty): if you combine it with ma- you form the adjective maganda or beautiful; if you combine it with -um- (between the first consonant and the first vowel) you form the verb gumanda and if you put the prefix ka- before the root word and the suffix -an after it you form the noun kagandahan.

A root word is simply a basic, core word that can be used to make other words, like an atom, or a building block that is used to make a house.

This is the starting point to understand the structure of the Tagalog language and what I can say is that I’ve found out that the structure of Tagalog is much easier than that of most Western languages, especially when you are learning verbs.

Being able to speak Tagalog can make an intimate relationship with a Filipina (which is tantamount to marrying the whole culture) much more interesting.

More on Learning Tagalog: Verbal Focus

In one of my posts I mentioned that one of the things that made it relatively easy for me to learn the Tagalog grammar is the fact that there are no real “tenses” in Tagalog. There is just a “completed” aspect, an “incompleted” aspect and a “contemplated” one.

The tricky thing though is that more than one affix can be attached to a root word to form a verb to determine the “focus” of the sentence.

Just to briefly gloss over it, take for example the verb kumain=”to eat”. If I say kumain ako ng pancit what I am saying is that “I am the one who ate pancit“.If, instead, I say kinain ko ang pancit what I am saying is that pancit is what I ate, I am no longer focusing on the doer of the action of eating but on what has been eaten.

Even the pronoun changes accordingly: if I use kumain then I have to use ako, while if I use kinain I need to use ko. The “article” (it is not really an article but we can call it that to simplify) changes as well: in a subject focus type of sentence it is ng, while in an object focus type of sentence it’s ang.

Again this business of focus is a little more complex than what I’ve briefly mentioned here but it is not too difficult either.

So, the purpose of these brief posts I’ve made, about the basic structure of the Tagalog language, is not to engage you in a lecture about the language itself but merely to let you know (just in case your wife is Filipina or you are planning to marry a Filipina and you have never considered the possibility to learn Tagalog) that learning Tagalog is within reach and it’s not as difficult as one might think.