Philippine Spanish
español filipino
castellano filipino
Pronunciation[espaˈɲol filiˈpino], [kasteˈʎano filiˈpino]
Native toPhilippines
SpeakersNative: 4,000 (2020)[1]
Proficient: 400,000 (2020)[2]
Total: 1 million (2014)[3]
Early forms
Latin (Spanish alphabet)
Official status
Recognised minority
language in
Regulated byPhilippine Academy of the Spanish Language
Language codes
ISO 639-3

Philippine Spanish (Spanish: español filipino or castellano filipino)[4] is the dialect of standard Spanish used in the Philippines, spoken primarily by Spanish Filipinos.

Spanish as spoken in the Philippines contains a number of features that distinguishes it from other varieties of Spanish, combining features from both Peninsular and Latin American varieties of the language. Philippine Spanish also employs vocabulary unique to the dialect, reflecting influence from the native languages of the Philippines as well as broader sociolinguistic trends in Spanish, and is considered to be more linguistically conservative and uniform than Spanish spoken elsewhere.

Officially regulated by the Philippine Academy of the Spanish Language (AFLE), up to a million people in the Philippines are claimed to be either proficient in or have knowledge of Spanish,[3] with around 4,000 people claiming Spanish as their native language,[1] although estimates vary widely.

Distribution and number of speakers

Philippine Spanish speakers may be found nationwide, mostly in urban areas but with the largest concentration of speakers in Metro Manila. Smaller communities are found particularly in regions where the economy is dominated by large agricultural plantations, such as the sugarcane-producing regions of Negros, particularly around Bacolod and Dumaguete, and in the fruit-producing regions of Mindanao, particularly around Cagayan de Oro and Davao City.[5] Other centers where Spanish-speaking populations can be found include the cities of Cebu, Iloilo and Zamboanga.[6] Most native Philippine Spanish speakers are part of the country's middle and upper classes.[5]

Estimates as to the number of Spanish speakers in the Philippines vary widely, with estimates ranging from the thousands to the millions.[7] In 2014, the Instituto Cervantes estimated that there were around one million Spanish speakers in the Philippines, regardless of level of proficiency,[3] while in 2023 Maria Luisa Young, professor of Spanish and head of the Department of Modern Languages at the Ateneo de Manila University, estimated without confidence that around 500,000 people in the Philippines either speak or at least know Spanish.[8] A 2022 report by the IC, meanwhile, estimated that there are around 460,000 Spanish speakers in the Philippines, though only counting Spaniards in the Philippines as native speakers, including speakers of the various Chavacano dialects in the total, and excluding Filipinos who studied Spanish in universities before 1986.[9] In the 2020 Philippine census, the Philippine Statistics Authority reported that only 167 households nationwide spoke Spanish at home,[10] while a 2020 estimate places the number of native speakers at around 4,000 people.[1]

Accurately counting Spanish speakers in the Philippines is complicated by the Philippine government not keeping updated official statistics, with the last supposedly reliable statistics on the number of speakers dating back to 2008. That estimate placed the number of native Spanish speakers at around 6,000, with an additional two million Filipinos who speak Spanish either as a second or third language and another 1.2 million Chavacano speakers, and that number possibly being larger due to increasing interest in learning Spanish among Filipinos for professional reasons.[11]

In addition to reported estimates of speakers, it is believed that there is an undetermined but significant number of Spanish semi-speakers, Filipinos whose knowledge of Spanish is below that of native speakers but is considered to be superior to that of foreign students.[5]

Status and future

Main article: Spanish language in the Philippines

Compared to other Spanish varieties, Philippine Spanish is among the least studied, and many contemporary studies that claim to talk about the dialect were, in fact, either dealing with Spanish loanwords in the native languages of the Philippines or, more erroneously, to the various Chavacano dialects to which it was often mistakenly confused for.[12]

Philippine Spanish has been described as being endangered,[2] with most speakers also being fluent in English and the Philippine languages, and the language having few native speakers under the age of 40,[5] with many of its speakers also living outside the Philippines.[13] In part due to the American colonization of the Philippines, where English was pushed as the language of government and education, and the implementation of a Tagalog-based national language (which would later become Filipino), use of Spanish declined, particularly after World War II when English was entrenched as the language of social prestige.[14] Spanish-speaking Filipinos mostly use the language at home, with use of the language in public being limited by a lack of speakers and hostility from non-Spanish-speaking Filipinos toward the language,[5] although many Filipinos who previously studied Spanish while it was still mandatory are capable of sustaining a conversation that reasonably approximates the language.[15]

This, however, contrasts with recent trends concerning Spanish in the Philippines more broadly, on the one hand due to changing attitudes toward the language among non-Spanish-speaking Filipinos,[16] and on the other due to the growing prestige of the language worldwide.[17] Starting in 2009 Spanish was reintroduced as part of the basic education curriculum in a number of public high schools, becoming the largest foreign language program offered by the public school system,[18] with over 7,000 students studying the language in the 2021–2022 school year alone.[19] The local business process outsourcing industry has also contributed to the growing popularity of Spanish as Spanish speakers have a larger earnings potential than English speakers in the industry.[20] A new generation of Spanish speakers has since emerged as a result,[21] most of whom are second-language speakers with some learning the language to show national pride, though there exists within this group a smaller number of first-language Spanish speakers who are learning the language at home from their second-language parents.[21]


See also: Spanish phonology

A recording of Emilio Aguinaldo, the first president of the Philippines, delivering a speech in Spanish

Philippine Spanish phonology has been described as conservative and refined, reflecting the socioeconomic status of its speakers, and exhibiting features largely present in the standard dialects of Peninsular Spanish as spoken in the late 19th and early 20th centuries,[22] with little influence from dialects such as Andalusian or Canarian nor from languages like Catalan or Galician despite significant immigration to the Philippines from those areas of Spain.[23] Nevertheless, a number of phonological traits still distinguish Philippine Spanish from Spanish spoken elsewhere as a result of earlier contact with Latin American Spanish varieties, contact with the Philippine languages and the development of Chavacano.

Unlike with Philippine English, Philippine Spanish phonology is also generally uniform, with very little (if any) dialectical variation in terms of pronunciation between speakers of Spanish from different regions of the country.[5]

Distinction between y and ll

As in some dialects in northern Spain and some bilingual zones (Bolivia, Paraguay, and Peru) of Latin America, Philippine Spanish has a phonological distinction between the sounds represented by ll (/ʎ/) and y (/ʝ/). For example, silla ('chair') is pronounced /ˈsiʎa/ (Tagalog silya) as opposed to the pronunciation /ˈsiʝa/ found in most other present-day Spanish varieties. The phoneme /ʎ/ may be realized closer to [lj] in the pronunciation of some younger Philippine Spanish speakers.[24] Sometimes /ʎ/ is depalatalized to [l] in word-initial positions: for example, lluvia ('rain'), normally pronounced /ˈʎubia/, is pronounced [ˈlubja].[25]

While yeísmo, which merges the two, is today considered extremely rare and idiosyncratic in Philippine Spanish,[24] it has been suggested that a more yeísta pronunciation was previously standard owing to the influence of both Andalusian and Mexican Spanish speakers in the 16th and 17th centuries. Speakers only shifted to a contrasting pronunciation, which was characteristic of the aristocratic Castilian pronunciation of the time, toward the end of the 19th century in the final years of Spanish colonization.[26]

Newer generations of Spanish speakers have begun adopting phonological features closer to standard Peninsular Spanish, including yeísmo, as a result of being educated in that dialect,[27] although the majority of those studying Spanish in the Philippines as a foreign language nonetheless continue to contrast both sounds.[28]


Like Latin American Spanish, Philippine Spanish originally practiced seseo, where /θ/ is normally not distinguished from /s/. This is particularly evidenced by borrowings into the Philippine languages where, for example, cerveza ('beer'), pronounced /seɾˈbesa/, became Tagalog serbesa.[29] Although seseo remains the dominant pronunciation today,[30] in a similar way to the introduction of a contrast between y and ll at the end of the 19th century, some native speakers have begun practicing distinción,[29] where /θ/ is distinguished from /s/, but do not always do so consistently.[31]

Newer generations of Spanish speakers have begun adopting distinción as a result of being educated in Peninsular Spanish, alongside a contemporary adoption of yeísmo.[27] Among those studying Spanish in the Philippines as a foreign language, most practice distinción although a large group of students nonetheless practice seseo, and of those who do practice distinción, most do so inconsistently.[32]

Pronunciation of plosive consonants

The consonants /b/, /d/ and /g/ are uniformly pronounced as plosive (hard) consonants in Philippine Spanish, contrasting with other Spanish dialects where these are usually softened to either approximants or fricatives.[31] While the softened pronunciations are also heard, this varies between speakers and even between individual phonemes.[33]

Of particular note is the pronunciation of intervocalic /d/, where it can even overlap with and is occasionally pronounced as [ɾ] as is the case in the Philippine languages.[33] This trait has also carried over to Chavacano and has influenced how the Philippine languages have treated Spanish loans as in the case, for example, of Spanish pared ('wall') becoming Tagalog pader.[31]

Intervocalic /d/ is also frequently elided, particularly with words ending in the suffix -ado.[31]

Palatalization and affrication

Before close vowels (/i/ and /u/), /d/ and /t/ are often palatalized by Philippine Spanish speakers, becoming /dʲ/ and /tʲ/ respectively. Occasionally these would be affricated instead, becoming [] and [] respectively as in the case of Spanish loans to the Philippine languages. For example, Dios ('God'), normally pronounced /ˈdios/, would be pronounced [ˈd͡ʒos] (Tagalog Diyos), or tiangue ('open-air market'), normally pronounced /ˈtjanɡe/, would be pronounced [ˈt͡ʃaŋɡe] (Tagalog tiyangge).[34]

In a similar manner, speakers also occasionally palatalize /s/ to [ʃ] when placed before a close vowel. For example, negocio ('business'), normally pronounced /neˈɡosjo/, would be pronounced [neˈɡoʃo] (Tagalog negosyo).[35]

Retraction of /x/ to [h]

The velar jota sound (/x/) is present in Philippine Spanish, similar to standard Peninsular Spanish, though this is mostly retracted to glottal [h], which also occurs in Andalusian, Caribbean, Canarian, Central American, and Colombian Spanish.[36]

Merger of non-open vowels and bilabial consonants

Often interchanged in Philippine Spanish are the non-open vowels /e/ and /i/, /o/ and /u/,[37] and the bilabial consonants /p/ and /f/,[38] following a similar tendency in the Philippine languages.[35] For example, Filipinas ('Philippines') would be pronounced [piliˈpinas] (Tagalog Pilipinas), tenía ('I had') would be pronounced [tiˈnia], and comen ('they eat') would be pronounced [ˈkumen].[39]

No aspiration of /s/

Unlike many Spanish and Latin American dialects, syllable-final s is always pronounced as an alveolar sibilant [s], rather than a glottal fricative [h]. For example, las moscas ('flies', as in the insect) is always pronounced [las ˈmoskas].[40] The retention of s is reflective of the influence of northern Peninsular Spanish dialects, although it is considered an unusual development in Philippine Spanish given the large number of Andalusian Spanish speakers among the last wave of Spanish migrants to the Philippines.[31]

In contrast, Chavacano speakers do practice syllable-final S-dropping, most notably among older Zamboagueño speakers.[24]

Glottal stop

As a result of contact with the Philippine languages, the glottal stop [ʔ] regularly manifests in the speech of most (if not all) Philippine Spanish speakers, and is normally found in word-initial positions where the pronunciation begins with a vowel.[41] For example, alma ('spirit') would be pronounced [ˈʔalma].[42] This is also present when the word is preceded by a pause, which in other Spanish dialects would be subject to consonantal linking (similar to the liaison in French). For example, el hombre ('the man') would be pronounced as [elˈʔombɾe] in Philippine Spanish but [eˈlombɾe] in other Spanish dialects.[41]

The glottal stop also appears in some vowel sequences, serving to clearly delineate syllables from one another. For example, maíz ('corn') would be pronounced [maˈʔis], and baúl ('trunk', as in the luggage) would be pronounced [baˈʔul].[42]

[ɾ]–[l] shift

Philippine Spanish clearly distinguishes between the use of [ɾ] and [l], similar to standard Peninsular Spanish. However, earlier speakers may have interchanged both sounds, with /l/ becoming [ɾ] and /ɾ/ becoming [l] as in Andalusian and Caribbean Spanish, and which was retained in the various Chavacano dialects.[36]

Despite this distinction certain words in the Philippine Spanish lexicon nevertheless reflect this earlier tendency to interchange both sounds, such as balasar, a variant of barajar ('to shuffle') which the dialect had preserved.[43]

Treatment of tl

Similar to Latin American and Canarian Spanish, Philippine Spanish pronounces the letter sequence tl in the same syllable. For example, the word atlas is pronounced [ˈa.tlas], not [ˈað.las] as in Peninsular Spanish.[44]

Morphology and syntax

Philippine Spanish has been described as having no particularly unique morphological features,[45] although deviations from standard Spanish morphology and syntax have been reported as a result of Spanish's position as a minority language in the Philippines.[46]


Alongside Equatoguinean Spanish, Philippine Spanish is one of only two Spanish dialects outside of Spain to use the second-person plural pronoun vosotros,[47] although ustedes, standard in Latin America, has been reported as also being common in written texts.[48] The second-person familiar pronoun is also freely used, even in situations where the polite pronoun usted would be used instead,[47] and while the various Chavacano dialects developed the use of voseo, this development is absent in Philippine Spanish, which is exclusively tuteante.[49]

Unlike other overseas Spanish dialects, Philippine Spanish is said to employ leísmo, where the pronoun le is used when referring to third-person masculine direct objects instead of lo as is the case elsewhere,[47] although others have said this only represents a minority of speakers and that Philippine Spanish speakers mostly use lo.[45] However, for indirect objects, the use of le is predominant, with a minority of speakers using la (laísmo).[45]

Possession and derivation

Indicating possession in Philippine Spanish is frequently expressed not through possessive adjectives, but rather by combining the object with the construction de ('of') and the possessor. For example, instead of nuestros parientes ('our relatives') as in standard Spanish, Philippine Spanish speakers would often say los parientes de nosotros (lit.'the relatives of us').[50] This also happens with the third-person possessive pronoun su, which parallels Latin American usage with speakers alternating between, for example, Este perro es suyo (lit.'This dog is theirs') and Este perro es de él (lit.'This dog is of him').[51] A similar phenomenon also defines the naming of certain flora, with fruit trees sometimes being called the tree of that fruit. For example, while Spanish has an actual word for an orange tree, naranjo, Philippine Spanish speakers would sometimes say árbol de naranja instead.[52]

In expressing derivation, the most commonly-used suffix for creating diminutives in Philippine Spanish is -ito, although -illo is also encountered but less commonly.[53] For augmentatives, the most commonly-used suffix is -ón, followed by -azo and -ote in order of frequency.[54] Meanwhile, for forming collective nouns, the most common suffix is -ada, followed by -aje when referring to people. For plants and produce, the most common suffix is -al, followed by -ero and -ar, but noun phrases formed by combining the name of the plant or produce, either with or without the standard suffixes depending on the plant or produce being discussed, with plantación (de) ('plantation [of]'), campo (de) ('field [of]') or sementera (de) ('land sown with') are also commonly employed.[52]


In certain cases, Philippine Spanish expresses negation in a manner broadly similar to other Spanish varieties. For example, the determiner más ('more' or 'else') is used to amplify nunca ('never'), nadie ('no one'), nada ('nothing') and ninguno ('nobody') and is normally found in a postnominal (after the word) position, but occasionally this is reversed by Philippine Spanish speakers with más appearing in the prenominal (before the word) position.[55]

Other cases exhibit deviations from standard Spanish usage. The negative adverbial phrase no más ("no more"), for example, is used in one of three ways in Philippine Spanish:[56]

Adverbial no is also regularly paired with other adverbs to express negation, even if the pairing would be considered redundant in standard Spanish. For example, Philippine Spanish speakers often pair adverbial no with tan and tanto (or even tantito), both implying extent, as a substitute for no muy ('not very') and no mucho ('not much') respectively.[57] In a similar manner, Philippine Spanish speakers also often substitute tampoco ('neither') with también no (lit.'also no'),[58] which is normally considered incorrect in standard Spanish,[59] and even tampoco itself is paired with no to create the redundant double negative tampoco no (lit.'neither no'),[58] which in standard Spanish is likewise normally considered incorrect.[60]


See also: List of Spanish words of Austronesian origin

Over the centuries Philippine Spanish has developed a corpus of filipinismos (lit.'Philippinisms'), vocabulary and expressions that are unique to the dialect, of which some have even entered Spanish more broadly and others which have influenced the native languages of the Philippines. Philippinisms in Philippine Spanish are usually derived from a number of sources: words borrowed into Spanish from the Philippine or other foreign languages, Spanish words that have since fallen out of use in Spain or in Spanish more broadly, and Spanish expressions made by Philippine Spanish speakers or are otherwise unique to the country.[61] Since the mid-20th century, the Philippine Spanish lexicon has also been significantly influenced by English, similar to the situation with Spanish in Puerto Rico and the United States.[46]

Although there are efforts in documenting filipinismos, and people studying Spanish as a foreign language today still learn and use Philippine Spanish vocabulary,[62] many of them are in danger of disappearing due to the "foreignization" of Spanish language education in the Philippines (as Peninsular instead of Philippine Spanish is taught in schools), alongside poor documentation practices which lead to, among others, some expressions not being documented and some whose origin is obscured, and a lack of a stronger effort to compile a comprehensive dictionary of these expressions, or at least to include them in the Diccionario de la lengua española.[61]

From Latin American Spanish

Philippine Spanish incorporates a number of words and expressions from Latin American Spanish varieties, most notably from Mexican Spanish but also including influences from other dialects.[63] Words like metate,[64] tiangue and chongo reflect this influence, as well as the use of certain hypocorisms.[63]

Latin American influence in Philippine Spanish is also reflected in the use of Americanisms like maní to describe peanuts and hincarse to describe kneeling, instead of the Peninsular Spanish equivalents cacahuete (or even the Mexican variant cacahuate) and arrodillarse.[63]

From Peninsular Spanish

Much of the basic vocabulary of Philippine Spanish is also derived from Peninsular Spanish. For example, Philippine Spanish uses patata to describe a potato, the same as in Spain.[65] Some words do take on a different meaning in Philippine Spanish: for example, while speakers use the Latin American camarón to describe a shrimp,[66] the Peninsular equivalent gamba is also used but with a slightly more specialized meaning (in this case, a shrimp smaller than a camarón).[67]

In certain cases some words are used by speakers in a more-or-less equal proportion, such as with the Peninsular melocotón and the Latin American durazno to describe a peach.[68] In others, the Peninsular equivalent isn't used at all: for example, to describe an apartment the Latin American terms apartamento and departamento are used exclusively as opposed to the Peninsular piso.[69]

From English

See also: Spanglish

Anglicisms in Philippine Spanish can be classified into three types: those that are present in standard Spanish, those that are also found in Spanish as spoken in the United States, and a much smaller number of words that were borrowed into the language but still carry their original spelling and meaning from English. These include words like planta for 'plant' (instead of fábrica), sugestión for 'suggestion' (instead of sugerencia) and the direct importation of English words like avocado, jeepney and overol ('overalls').[70]

Because Spanish-speaking Filipinos are also fluent in English, English pronunciation also affects how Philippine Spanish speakers pronounce certain words. Some speakers, for example, would pronounce Europa ('Europe') as [juˈɾopa], as in English, instead of /euˈɾopa/.[71]

Unique words and expressions

Many words and expressions used by Spanish speakers in the Philippines are unique to Philippine Spanish, though a number of these have since entered the Diccionario de la lengua española and other publications of the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE). Some of the first filipinismos incorporated by the RAE into its publications include words like caracoa, barangay and parao, which entered the broader lexicon in the late 18th and early 19th century, and the number of filipinismos has ostensibly grown over time.[72]

Unique words and expressions in Philippine Spanish can be broadly placed into four categories:

Many filipinismos that are commonly used in the Philippines, such as pan de sal and cundimán, by both Spanish and non-Spanish speakers alike have yet to be recognized by the RAE,[85] and calls have been made for their inclusion.[86]

See also


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  2. ^ a b Mojarro, Jorge (October 6, 2020). "Spanish is an endangered Filipino language". The Manila Times. Archived from the original on October 15, 2020. Retrieved May 8, 2023.
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  22. ^ Lipski 1986, p. 78.
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  36. ^ a b Lipski 1986b, p. 42.
  37. ^ Quilis & Casado-Fresnillo 2008, p. 82.
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  59. ^ Royal Spanish Academy [@RAEinforma] (June 17, 2020). "#RAEconsultas Lo correcto en el español estándar es «tampoco»: «Él no me escuchó; tú tampoco». La secuencia «también no» es válida en ejemplos como el siguiente: «Así que, parapetándose otra vez tras su periódico, fingió también no verlo» (Clara Obligado)" [#RAEconsultas The correct way in standard Spanish is "tampoco": "Él no me escuchó; tú tampoco" ("He didn't listen to me; neither did you"). The sequence "también no" is valid in examples like the following: "Así que, parapetándose otra vez tras su periódico, fingió también no verlo" ("So, again taking cover behind their newspaper, they pretended not to see them too") (Clara Obligado).] (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  60. ^ "tampoco". Diccionario panhispánico de dudas. Royal Spanish Academy. Archived from the original on May 20, 2022. Retrieved May 6, 2023.
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