Native toPhilippines
EthnicityGaddang people
Native speakers
30,000 (2005)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3gad
Areas where Gaddang language is spoken according to Ethnologue maps
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The Gaddang language (also Cagayan) is spoken by up to 30,000 speakers (the Gaddang people) in the Philippines, particularly along the Magat and upper Cagayan rivers in the Region II [2] provinces of Nueva Vizcaya[3] and Isabela and by overseas migrants to countries in Asia, Australia, Canada, Europe, in the Middle East, United Kingdom and the United States. Most Gaddang speakers also speak Ilocano, the lingua franca of Northern Luzon, as well as Tagalog and English. Gaddang is associated with the "Christianized Gaddang" people,[4] and is closely related to the highland (non-Christian in local literature) tongues of Ga'dang with 6,000 speakers, Yogad, Cagayan Agta with less than 1,000 and Atta with 2,000 (although the Negrito Aeta and Atta are genetically unrelated to the Austronesian Gaddang), and more distantly to Ibanag, Itawis, Isneg and Malaweg.

The Gaddang tongue has been vanishing from daily and public life over the past half-century. Public and church-sponsored education was historically conducted in Spanish (or later in English), and now in Filipino/Tagalog. The Dominicans tried to replace the multitude of Cagayan-valley languages with Ibanag, and later the plantations imported Ilocanos workers in such numbers that they outnumbered the valley natives. Once significantly-Gaddang communities grew exponentially after WWII due to in-migration of Tagalog, Igorot, and other ethnicities; Gaddang is now a minority language. In the 2000 Census, Gaddang was not even an identity option for residents of Nueva Vizcaya.[5] Vocabulary and structural features of Gaddang among native Gaddang speakers have suffered as well, as usages from Ilokano and other languages affect their parole. Finally, many ethnic Gaddang have migrated to other countries, and their children are not learning the ancestral tongue.

Geographic Distribution

The Gaddang people were identified as I-gaddang (likely meaning 'brown-colored people') by the Spanish in the early 1600s, and differentiated from the Igorots of the highlands by physique, skin color, homelands, and lifestyle. Mary Christine Abriza wrote "The Gaddang are found in northern Nueva Vizcaya, especially Bayombong, Solano, and Bagabag on the western bank of the Magat River, and Santiago, Angadanan, Cauayan, and Reina Mercedes on the Cagayan River for Christianed groups; and western Isabela, along the edges of Kalinga and Bontoc, in the towns of Antatet, Dalig, and the barrios of Gamu and Tumauini for the non-Christian communities. The 1960 census reports that there were 25,000 Gaddang, and that 10% or about 2,500 of these were non-Christian."[6]

Distinct versions of Gaddang may be heard down the valleys of the Magat and Cagayan on the Asian Highway 26 (the Pan-Philippine Highway) through Nueva Vizcaya into Isabela after leaving Santa Fe, where its use is infrequent, and successively through Aritao, Bambang, Bayombong, Solano,(including Quezon & Bintawan), and Bagabag. By the time you arrive in Santiago City, in-migration due to the economic development of the lower Cagayan Valley over the last century means you now must search diligently to hear Gaddang spoken at all.


The Gaddang language is related to Ibanag, Itawis, Malaueg and others. It is distinct in that it features phonemes not present in many neighboring Philippine languages. As an example, the "f", "v", "z" and "j" sounds appear in Gaddang. There are notable differences from other languages in the distinction between "r" and "l" (and between "r" and "d"), and the "f" sound is a voiceless bilabial fricative somewhat distinct from the fortified "p" sound common in many Philippine languages (but not much closer to the English voiceless labiodental fricative). Finally, the (Spanish) minimally-voiced "J" sound has evolved to a plosive (so the name Joseph sounds to the American ear as Kosip).


Most Gaddang speakers use six vowel sounds: /a/, /i/, /u/, /ɛ/, /o/, /ɯ/


Gaddang features doubled consonants, so the language may sound guttural to Tagalog, Ilokano, and even Pangasinan speakers. The uniqueness of this circumstance is often expressed by saying Gaddang speakers have "a hard tongue".

For example: tudda (tood-duh). which means rice.


Gaddang is also one of the Philippine languages which is excluded from [ɾ]-[d] allophony.[citation needed]



English Gaddang Tagalog
house balai bahay
girl bafay babae
boy lalaki lalaki
snake irao ahas
person tolay tao
water danum tubig
plate duyug plato; pinggan
light siruat ilaw
name ngan pangalan
bird pappitut ibon
dog atu aso
cat kusa pusa
pig bafuy baboy
carabao daffug kalabaw
key alladdu susi
road dalan daan
stomach kuyung tiyan
slipper sinyelat tsinelas
food maak-kan pagkain
rice cake dekat kakanin
mother ina ina
father ama ama
brother wayi, manung (pollito) kapatid, kuya (pollito)
sister wayi a bafay, manang (pollito) kapatid, ate (pollito)
sibling wayi kapatid

Personal pronouns

Demonstrative pronouns

Enclitic particles


Interrogative words



Like most languages of the Philippines, Gaddang is declensionally, conjugationally and morphologically agglutinative.

Also like them, it is characterized by a dearth of positional/directional adpositional adjunct words. Temporal references are usually accomplished using agglutinated nouns or verbs.

The following describes similar adpositional structure in Tagalog: "The (locative) marker sa, which leads indirect objects in Filipino, corresponds to English prepositions...we can make other prepositional phrases with sa + other particular conjugations."[7] Gaddang uses si in the same manner as the Tagalog sa, as an all-purpose indication that a spatial or temporal relationship exists.


Simple greetings/questions/phrases


Gaddang Tagalog English
Sanna yo inakkannu singkabbulan? Ano ang kinain mo kanina? What did you eat a while ago?
Sanna yo inakkan diaw sin kabbulan? Ano ang kinain ninyo kanina ? What did you (all) eat?
Sanna inakkan nu? Ano ang kinain mo? What did you eat?
Sanna "rainbow" ki gaddang? Ano ang salitang "rainbow" sa gaddang? What is the word "rainbow" in Gaddang?
Paddatang na, maddaggun kami a manggan . Pagdating niya, kumakain kami. We were eating when he came.
Nu dimatang baggina, nakaakkan kamin naddin. Kung dumating sana siya, nakakain sana kami. I (We) hope that by the time he would have arrived, we would have eaten.
Mem manggan. Huwag kang kumain. Don't eat.
Mangngan ka. Kumain ka na! Eat!
Inquak yan! / Akkuak yan! Akin yan! That's mine!
Kanggaman ku ikka. / Anggamman ta ka. Mahal kita. I love you.

Below are examples of Gaddang proverbs and riddles. Note the Ilokano and even Spanish loan-words.


  1. ^ Gaddang at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022) closed access
  2. ^ "An Introduction to Cagayan Valley Region". Cagayan Valley Region. July 30, 2012. Archived from the original on 2013-05-11.
  3. ^ "Homepage". Nueva Vizcaya. Archived from the original on 2013-05-12. Retrieved 2013-04-24.
  4. ^ "Dioscese of Bayombong". CBCP. Archived from the original on 2010-06-17. Retrieved 2013-04-24.
  5. ^ "Nueva Vizcaya's Annual Growth Rate at 1.97 Percent (Results from the 2000 Census of Population and Housing, NSO) | Philippine Statistics Authority". Philippine Statistics Authority. April 3, 2002. Retrieved 2020-12-14.
  6. ^ Abriza, Mary Christine. "Gaddang". Archived from the original on 2013-07-17. Retrieved 2013-04-24.
  7. ^ Kodachi, Kota (2006). A Study of Prototype Formation of the Meanings of Prepositions by Japanese and Filipino Learners of English from the Perspective of Cognitive Linguistics (PDF). Proceedings of the 10th Conference of Pan-Pacific Association of Applied Linguistics: Edinburgh University, United Kingdom, August 2–4, 2005. pp. 105–128. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2015-04-02. Retrieved 2013-04-24.