Filipinos were first introduced to English when the British invaded Manila and Cavite in 1762, but this occupation had no lasting effect on English in the country. A national variety called Philippine English evolved eventually, as a result of the American colonization, and was arguably one of the fastest to develop in the postcolonial world. Its origins as an English language spoken by a large segment of the Philippine population can be traced to the American introduction of public education, taught in the English medium of instruction. This was marked by the arrival of the Thomasites in 1901, immediately during re-colonization after the Philippine Revolution in the late 19th century up to the early 1900. After a tumultuous period of colonial transition, Filipino leaders and elites, and the American colonial government alike begun discussing the formation of a Philippine national language. The retained high ethnolinguistic diversity of the new colony was due to low penetration of Spanish under Spain's rule. Spanish was limited to a medium of instruction for the landed elites and gentry. At the end of Spanish colonization, only 3-5% of the colonial population could speak Spanish. The lingering effects of Spanish amongst the general population nevertheless had notable effects on the lexical development of many Philippine languages, and even Philippine English, in the form of hispanisms. Tagalog was selected to be the basis for a national language in 1937, and has since remained so. It was re-labelled as Pilipino in 1959, and Filipino in 1987. With the successful establishment of American-style public education having English as a consequential medium, more than 20% of the Philippine population were reported to be able to understand and speak English just before the turn of mid-20th century. This meteoric growth was sustained post-World War II, much further through Philippine mass media (e.g. newsprint, radio, television) where English also became the dominant language, and by the ratification into the current Philippine Constitution in 1987, both Filipino and English were declared co-official languages. In 2020, the Philippines was ranked 27th worldwide (among 100 countries ranked) in the EF English Proficiency Index. In the same report, it was ranked 2nd in Asia next only to Singapore.
Today a certain Philippine English, as formally called based on the World Englishes framework of renowned linguist Braj Kachru, is a recognized variety of English with its distinct lexical, phonological, and grammatical features (with considerable variations across socioeconomic groups and level of education being predictors of English proficiency in the Philippines). As English language became highly embedded in Philippine society, it was only a matter of time before the language was indigenized to the point that it became differentiated from English varieties found in the United States, United Kingdom, or elsewhere. This, along with the formal introduction of the World Englishes (WE) framework to English language scholars in the Philippines opened the floodgates to research on this new emerging English, which has since been branded as such as Philippine English.
Philippine English in the services sector
The abundant supply of English speakers and competitive labor costs have enabled the Philippines to become a choice destination for foreign companies wishing to establish call centers and other outsourcing. English proficiency sustains a major call center industry and in 2005, America Online had 1,000 people in what used to be the US Air Force's Clark Air Base in Angeles City answering ninety percent of their global e-mail inquiries. Citibank does its global ATM programming in the country, and Procter & Gamble has over 400 employees in Makati, a central Manila neighborhood, doing back office work for their Asian operations including finance, accounting, Human Resources and payments processing.
An influx of foreign students, principally from South Korea, has also led to growth in the number of English language learning centers, especially in Metro Manila, Baguio, Metro Cebu and Metro Bacolod.
Orthography and grammar
Philippine laws and court decisions, with extremely rare exceptions, are written solely in English. English is also used in higher education, religious affairs, print and broadcast media, and business. Most educated Filipinos are bilinguals and speak English as one of their languages. For highly technical subjects such as nursing, medicine, computing and calculus, English is the preferred medium for textbooks, communication, etc. Very few would prefer highly technical books in either Filipino or the regional language. Movies and TV shows in English are usually not dubbed in most cable channels except a few such as Tagalized Movie Channel.
Because English is part of the curricula from primary to secondary education, many Filipinos write and speak in fluent Philippine English, although there might be differences in pronunciation. Most schools in the Philippines, however, are staffed by teachers who are speakers of Philippine English and hence notable differences from the American English from which it was derived are observable.
- Philippine English traditionally follows American English spelling and grammar (with little to no similarity to Commonwealth English) except when it comes to punctuation as well as date notations. For example, a comma almost never precedes the final item in an enumeration (much like the AP Stylebook and other style guides in English-language journalism generally). Except for some very fluent speakers (like news anchors), even in English-language media, dates are also often read with a cardinal instead of an ordinal number.
- Most Filipinos say "January one" rather than "January first" or "January the first") even if the written form is the same. This is mostly because educated Filipinos were taught to count English numbers cardinally, thus it carried over to their style of reading dates. In reading the day-month-year date notation used by some areas in the government (e.g. 1 January), it may be pronounced as "one January" rather than "the first of January" or rearranged to the month-first reading "January one". Foreign nationals of Filipino descent, however, may have continued to read dates in English based on the conventions of their birth countries.
- Perhaps because of this practice, levels of primary pupils and secondary students are usually referred to as grade one, grade two, and so on, similar to Canadian English, rather than American first grade, second grade, etc.
- Tautologies like redundancy and pleonasm are common despite the emphasis on avoiding them, stressing brevity and simplicity in making sentences; they are common to many speakers, especially among the older generations. The possible explanation is that the English language teachers who came to the Philippines were taught old-fashioned grammar, thus they spread that style to the students they served.
- Examples are "At this point in time" and ".. will be the one ..." (or "... will be the one who will ...") instead of "now" and "... will ..." respectively - e.g., "I will be the one who will go ...", rather than "I will go ...".
- Collective nouns are generally singular in construction, e.g., my family is doing well as opposed to my family are doing well or the group was walking as opposed to the group were walking. This is also the case in American English.
- The past tense and past participles of the verbs learn, spell and smell are often regular (learned, spelled, smelled) in Philippine English. This also the case in American English.
- River follows the name of the river in question, e.g., Pasig River, rather than the British convention of coming before the name, e.g., River Thames. This is also the case in North American English.
- While prepositions before days may be omitted in American English, i.e., She resigned Thursday, they are retained in Philippine English: She resigned on Thursday. This is shared with British English.
- The institutional nouns hospital and university do not take the definite article: He's in hospital, She's at university. This is in contrast to American English where the is required: In the hospital, At the university.
- 'On the weekend is used in favor of the British at the weekend which is not encountered in Philippine English.
- Ranges of dates use to, i.e., Monday to Friday, rather than Monday through Friday. This is shared with British English and is in contrast to American English.
- When speaking or writing out numbers, and is not inserted before the tens, i.e., five hundred sixty-nine rather than five hundred and sixty-nine. This is in contrast to American English.
- The preposition to in write to (e.g. I'll write to you) is always retained, as opposed to American usage where it may be dropped.
- Philippine English does not share the British usage of read (v) to mean study (v). Therefore, it may be said that He studies law but not that He reads law.
- When referring to time, Filipinos will refer to 12:30 as half past twelve and do not use the British half twelve. Similarly, a quarter to twelve is used for 11:45 rather than (a) quarter of twelve, which is found in American English.
- To take a shower or take a bath are the most common usages in Philippine English, in contrast to British English which uses have a shower and have a bath.
As a historical colony of the United States, the Philippine English lexicon shares most of its vocabulary from American English, but also has loanwords from native languages and Spanish, as well as some usages, coinages, and slang peculiar to the Philippines. Due to the influence of the Spanish languages, Philippine English also contains Spanish-derived terms, including Anglicizations, some resulting in false friends, such as "salvage". Philippine English also borrowed words from Philippine languages, especially native plant and animal names (e.g. "ampalaya", balimbing"), and cultural concepts with no exact English equivalents (e.g. kilig); some borrowings from Philippine languages have entered mainstream English, such as abaca and ylang-ylang.
Spelling and style
Philippine spelling is significantly closer to American than British spelling, as it adopted the systematic reforms promulgated in Noah Webster's 1828 Dictionary.
- French-derived words which in British English end with our, such as colour, honour and labour, are usually spelled with or in Philippine English: color, honor and labor, though the British rule of spelling words ending in -our is sometimes used. Words that retain the u include: four, fourth, fourteen, fourteenth and glamour.
- Words which in British English end with ise, such as realise, recognise and organise' are spelled with ize in Philippine English: realize, recognize and organize. Words that take the -ise- in Philippine English include: advertise, advise, arise, chastise, circumcise, comprise, compromise, demise, despise, devise, disguise, excise, exercise, exorcise franchise, guise, improvise, incise, reprise, revise, rise, supervise, surmise, surprise, televise, and wise.
- Words which in British English end with yse, such as analyse, paralyse and catalyse are spelled with yze in Philippine English: analyze, paralyze and catalyze.
- French-derived words which in British English end with re, such as fibre, centre and metre are spelled with er in Philippine English: fiber, center and meter. The words acre, lucre, massacre and mediocre, is used in Philippine English to show that the c is pronounced /k/ rather than /s/. The spellings ogre and euchre are also used in Philippine English. More recent French loanwords keep the -re spelling in Philippine English. These are not exceptions when a French-style pronunciation is used (/rə/ rather than /ə(r)/), as with double entendre, genre and oeuvre. However, the unstressed /ə(r)/ pronunciation of an -er ending is used more (or less) often with some words, including cadre, macabre, maître d', Notre Dame, piastre, and timbre. The word theatre always follows the British English spelling.
- Words which end in American English end with log, such as catalog, dialog and monolog are usually spelled with logue in Philippine English: catalogue, dialogue and monologue.
- Ae and oe are not maintained in words such as oestrogen and mediaeval as Philippine English favors the American English practice of using e alone (as in estrogen and mediaeval). Though -ae and -oe are rarely used in Philippine English, words that retain the -ae or -oe include: aesthetic, amoeba and archaeology.
- A double-consonant l is usually retained in Philippine English when adding suffixes to words ending in l where the consonant is unstressed, contrary to American English. Therefore, cancelled and dialling are more prominent than the American spelling of canceled and dialing.
- Where British English uses a single-consonant l in the words skilful, wilful, enrol, distil, enthral, fulfil and instalment. Philippine English uses a double-consonant: skillful, willful, enroll, distill, enthrall, fulfill and installment.
- The British English defence and offence are spelled defense and offense in Philippine English.
- Philippine English uses practice and license for both nouns and verbs rather than practice and licence for nouns and practise and license for verbs.
- Examples of individual words where the preferred spelling is different from current British spellings include program (in all contexts) as opposed to programme, lovable as opposed to loveable and guerilla as opposed to guerrilla.
The DD/MM/YYYY and MM/DD/YYYY date format are used in the Philippines for time notation and the 12-hour clock for time notation.
There are two major English language keyboard layouts, the United States layout and the United Kingdom layout. Keyboards and keyboard software for the Philippine market universally use the US keyboard layout, which lacks the pound sterling, euro and negation symbols and uses a different layout for punctuation symbols than the UK keyboard layout.
Philippine English is a rhotic accent mainly due to the influence of Philippine languages, which are the first language of most of its speakers. Another influence is the rhotic characteristic of General American English, which became the longstanding standard in the archipelago since Americans introduced the language in public education. This is contrary to most Commonwealth English variants spoken in neighboring countries such as Malaysia or Singapore. The only exception to this rule is the word Marlboro, which is frequently read as Malboro. Therefore, /r/ phonemes are pronounced in all positions. However, some children of Overseas Filipinos who are educated in Commonwealth countries (such as Australia, New Zealand or the United Kingdom) may speak in a non-rhotic accent unless taught otherwise. Native and well-educated speakers (also called acrolectal speakers) may also feature flapping and vowel sounds resembling the California vowel shift due to the influence of Hollywood movies and call center culture mostly pegged towards the American market.
For non-native speakers, Philippine English phonological features are heavily dependent on the speaker's mother tongue, although foreign languages such as Spanish also influenced many Filipinos on the way of pronouncing English words. This is why approximations are very common and so are hypercorrections and hyperforeignisms. The most distinguishable feature is the lack of fricative consonants, particularly /f/, /v/ and /z/. Another feature is the general absence of the schwa /ə/, and therefore pronounced by its respective full equivalent vowel although the r-colored variant [ɚ] is increasingly popular in recent years.
The following consonant changes apply for most non-native speakers of the language:
- The rhotic consonant /r/ may vary between a trill [r], a flap [ɾ] and an approximant [ɹ]. The English approximant [ɹ] is pronounced by many speakers in the final letters of the word or before consonants, while the standard dialect prefers to pronounce the approximant in all positions of /r/.
- The fricatives /f/ and /v/ are approximated into the stop consonants [p] and [b], respectively.
- Th-stopping: The dental fricatives /θ/ and /ð/ become the alveolar stop consonants /t/ and /d/, respectively. This can be also observed from speakers of Hiberno-English dialects and a number of American English speakers. Thus, Anthony is pronounced with a T like in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Conversely, Thomas and Thai(land) are often pronounced with a hyperforeign /θ/.
- Yod-coalescence: Like most Commonwealth English variants outside Canada and sometimes in Irish English, the /dj/, /tj/ and /sj/ clusters become [dʒ], [tʃ] and [ʃ] respectively. This makes the words dew, tune and pharmaceutical are pronounced as , and [pärmɐˈʃuːtikäl], respectively. Yod-coalescence also occurs in some other words where other English variants either resist it or do not call for it, e.g. calcium and Celsius are respectively [ˈkälʃʊm] and [ˈsɛlʃʊs]. For these reasons, the use of yod-coalescence is another case of approximation for aspirated consonants which Philippine languages lack in general in words such as twelve.
- Yod-retention is usually practiced selectively, similar to the historical mid-Atlantic accent in the U.S., Irish or British and Commonwealth English, and to a lesser extent, some speakers of English in Canada, in certain words such as new(s) but not student. For that reason, maneuver is mainly pronounced also with a yod, somewhat in a hyperforeign manner, whereas all other accents drop it intrinsically. However, yod-dropping is often common due to influence of modern General American. The yod as retained in many words is sometimes coalesced; see "Yod-coalescence" above.
- The fricative [ʒ] may be devoiced into [ʃ] in words such as measure or affricated into [dʒ] in words such as beige.
- The /z/ phoneme is devoiced into an /s/. This also includes intervocalic /s/ which is usually pronounced as a [z] in most other accents of English.
- Older speakers tend to add an i or e sound to the clusters sl, sm, sn, sp and st- due to Spanish influence, so the words star and lipstick sounds like (i/e)star and lipistick respectively.
- Like most non-native speakers of English elsewhere, the "dark l" ([ɫ]) is merged into the usual "light" /l/ equivalent.
- The compound ⟨ll⟩ is pronounced as a palatal lateral approximant [ʎ] in between vowels (e.g. gorilla), especially to those who were exposed to Spanish orthography. This is negligible among younger well-educated speakers.
- The letter "z" is usually pronounced (and sometimes spelled) as a "zey" like in Jamaican English. However, in standard Philippine English, it is pronounced as the American "zee".
Vowels in Philippine English are pronounced according to the letter representing each, so that ⟨a, e, i, o, u⟩ are generally pronounced as [a, ɛ, i, o, u], respectively. The schwa /ə/—although a phonological feature across numerous Philippine languages such as Kinaray-a, Meranao, or the Abagatan (Southern) dialect of Ilokano—is absent.
- The following are the various approximations of the schwa:
- Words that end in -le that succeeds a consonant (such as Google) are generally pronounced with an [ɛl], except for words that end -ple, -fle or -ble (apple, waffle and humble), which are pronounced with an [ol].
- The /ɪ/ in words such as knowledge or college, it is pronounced as a diphthong /eɪ/, making it rhyme with age.
- The rhotic vowels /ər/ and /ɜːr/ may be pronounced as an [ɛr] (commander), [ir] (circle) or an [or] (doctor), usually by non-native speakers outside urban areas or the elderly.
- The ⟨a⟩ pronunciations /æ, ʌ, ɑ/ are pronounced as central vowels [ä] and [ɐ]. In the standard dialect, the open front [a] may be pronounced as an allophone of /æ/.
- The first ⟨a⟩ in some words such as patronage, patriot(ic/ism), (ex/re)patriate(d/s), and (ex/re)patriation usually have the sound of either [æ], like in British/non-Canadian Commonwealth or Irish English, or sometimes [ä], rather than [eɪ] in the United States and Canada.
- The /ɪ/ phoneme may be merged or replaced by the longer /i/ for some speakers. The words peel and pill might sound the same, mostly like in Australian English.
- The /ɒ/ may be enunciated as an [o] (color or even tomorrow, sorry, sorrow, etc. like in Canada) or an [ɐ] (not).
- The u sound from the digraph qu may be dropped before e and i in some words such as tranquilize(r) and colloquial.
- The /ʌ/ in namely couple and double may also be enunciated as an [o] or, rarely, as an [a].
- The /ʌ/ in namely culture and ultimate is sometimes enunciated as an [ʊ], partly similar to accents in England and Wales without the foot–strut split.
- Distinct non-native emphasis or stress is common. For example, the words ceremony and Arabic are emphasized on the second syllable (as [sɛREmoni] and [A RAbik] respectively) as another result of indirect Spanish influence.
Many Filipinos often have distinct non-native English pronunciation, and many fall under different lectal variations (i.e. basilectal, mesolectal, acrolectal). Some Philippine languages (e.g. Ibanag, Itawis, Surigaonon, Tausug) feature certain unique phonemes such as [dʒ], [f], [v], and [z], which are also present in English. However, Filipinos' first languages have generally different phonological repertoires (if not more simplified compared to English), and this leads to mis- or distinct pronunciations particularly among basilectal and to some extent mesolectal speakers.
Some examples of non-native pronunciation include:
- Awry = [ˈari]
- Filipino = [piliˈpino]
- Victor = [bikˈtor]
- Family = [ˈpɐmili] or [ˈpamili]
- Varnish = [ˈbarniʃ]
- Fun = [ˈpɐn] or [ˈpan]
- Vehicle = [ˈbɛhikɛl] or [ˈbɛhikol]
- Lover = [ˈlɐbɛr]
- Find = [ˈpajnd]
- Official = [oˈpisʲɐl] or [oˈpiʃɐl]
- Very = [ˈbɛri] or [ˈbejri]
- Guidon = [ɡiˈdon]
- Hamburger = [ˈhɐmburɡɛr]
- High-tech = [ˈhajtɛk]
- Hubcap = [ˈhabkab]
- Margarine = [mɐrɡɐˈrin]
- Seattle = [ˈsʲatɛl]
- Shako = [sʲaˈko] or [ʃaˈko]
- Daniel/Danielle = [ˈdejnjɛl] or [ˈdanjɛl]
- February = [(f/p)ebˈwari] or [(f/p)ebˈrari]
- Eunice = [jʊˈnis]
- Janice = [dʒaˈnis]
- January = [dʒanˈwari]
- Ombudsman = [omˈbudsman]
- Rachel/Rachelle = [ˈrejʃɛl]
- Stephen, Stephen- in Stephens, Stephenson = [(i/ɛ)ˈstifɛn] or [(i/ɛ)ˈstipɛn]
- Special (some speakers) = [(i/ɛ)ˈspejʃal] or [ˈspejʃal]; rhymes with spatial
- Twenty- (one, two, etc.) (many speakers) = [ˈtwejnti]
- -ator in some words like predator = [ˈejtor] (by analogy with -ate)
- -mentary (e.g. elementary) = [menˈtari] (hyperforeignism, from -mentaria/-mentarya)
- Note on "Stephen" and its derivatives: The ph digraph has an F sound rather than a V, even among most speakers of standard Philippine English; i.e. irregularly spelled names like these are pronounced intuitively or according to spelling rather than like "Steven".