Ayta Abellen
Native toPhilippines
Ethnicity5,000 Aeta (2008?)[1]
Native speakers
3,000 (2008)[2]
Language codes
ISO 639-3abp
ELPAbellen Ayta

Abellen, Abenlen, Aburlin, or Ayta Abellen, is a Sambalic language. It has about 3,500 speakers and is spoken in a few Aeta communities in Tarlac province, Philippines.[3] Ayta Abellen itself is part of the Sambalic language family in the Philippines and is closely related to not only the five other Ayta dialects but also the Botolan dialect of Sambal. Ethnologue reports 45 monolinguists.[4]

Geographic distribution

Abellen Ayta speakers can be found in the following locations:


Early history

The Ayta Abellen people are historically a semi-nomadic people. Also known as Negritos, they are said to be descendants of the earliest inhabitants of the Philippines, dating back to the late Pleistocene Era.[6] The Ayta Abellen are distinguishable by their curly black hair, and darker skin tone as compared to other Filipinos.[7] Since their language is similar to other Austronesian languages, there is a theory of an Austronesian migration that occurred. In this theory, there were two different migrations, one from the southern coast of Sundaland eastward and from Wallacea to Mindanao, causing there to be a separation of Ayta people and the Mamanwa for about 20,000 to 30,000 years. Prior to the Austronesian migration, there was not much similarity between the original languages of the Negritos.[6]

Modern history and revitalization

After the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the 1990s, some of the Ayta Abellen have relocated from the mountains and have intermarried and mixed in with the local Ilocano people.[8] As a result, there are Ilocano loan words in the language.[7] Much of the population also speaks Ilocano as a second language along with Tagalog as well. The Ayta people rely on natural resources; however, due to shrinking forests, it has become harder to sustain that life style. This problem, along with diseases and remoteness from modern health care centers, is correlated with the higher death rate as compared to the birth rate among the Ayta Abellen people.[9]


Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ
Plosive voiceless p t k ʔ
voiced b d ɡ
Fricative h
Lateral l
Semivowel w j
Front Back
Close i o
Open a ə
Phonemes Orthographic symbols
/p/ P
/b/ B
/t/ T
/d/ D
/k/ K
/g/ G
/ʔ/ -
/h/ H
/m/ M
/n/ N
/ŋ/ Ng
/l/ L
/w/ W
/j/ Y
/i/ I
/a/ A
/a/ Ā
/«/ E
/o/ O


Additionally, s, r, c (for [k]), j, among other phonemes, are used in loanwords and names.[7] In the Sambal and Ayta languages, the glottal stop tends to replace a word final non-obstruent when proceeded by a stressed high central vowel.


Ayta Abellen shares the same verb–subject–object sentence structure as other languages in the Philippines.[7] It shares similar phonology with other Ayta dialects as well as Botolan Sambal. Not only does it share an identical pronoun system with other Sambalic languages, but between other Ayta languages, it is around 70% similar.[12] This language is a CV (consonant and vowel) and CVC language, although sometimes it is ambiguously a VC and V language. In this language, vowel deletion as well as consonant deletion are evident when words are combined.[7] In this language, placement of stress can be unpredictable. Poly-syllabic words have primary stress whereas words with more than three syllables contain a secondary stress. However, suffixation also causes a shift in stress placement.[7]

Writing system

Ayta Abellen is written using Latin text.[11] Ilocano is a second language to much of the Abellen and the lingua franca of where many of the Abellen people reside, while Tagalog is the national language of the Philippines. Transcribers are trying to document the language in text that is similar to both Ilocano and Tagalog. Many of the hymnals used in the area are written in Botolan Sambal, and thus they are also trying to have Ayta Abellen orthography conform to it as well.[7]

See also


  1. ^ Abellen language at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013) Closed access icon
  2. ^ Abellen at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  3. ^ Hammarstrom, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastion, eds. (2016). "Ayta Abellen"
  4. ^ "Ethnologue".(subscription required)
  5. ^ a b c Abellen at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  6. ^ a b Reid, L. (1987). "The Early Switch Hypothesis: Linguistic Evidence for Contact between the Negritos and the Austronesians". Man and Culture in Oceania 3, Special Issue.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Nitsch, W. Stone, R. (2013) An Introduction to Ayta Abellen Morphology and Syntax. Retrieved from SIL Philippines.
  8. ^ [1]Abellen at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  9. ^ Curtis, B.(2011, November 15). Ayta Abellen.mov.[Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1akrbADrqi4
  10. ^ Stone, Roger; Nitsch, Wilhelm. "An Introduction to Ayta Abellen Morphology and Syntax". Retrieved 2021-08-25.
  11. ^ a b Stone, R. (2013). Ayta Abellen Orthography Fact Sheet.[Working Paper]. Retrieved from http://www.pnglanguages.org/asia/Philippines/show_work.asp?pubs=onlinehtml&id=928474551911&Lang=eng
  12. ^ Stone, R. (2008). The Sambalic Languages of Central Luzon. Studies in Philippine Languages and Cultures, Volume 19. Retrieved from https://www.sil.org/resources/archives/25795