Western Mindanao, Philippines
Linguistic classificationAustronesian
  • Central Subanen
  • Eastern Subanen
  • Northern Subanen
  • Southern Subanen
  • Kolibugan Subanon
  • Western Subanon

The Subanen languages (also Subanon and Subanun) are a group of closely related Austronesian languages belonging to the Greater Central Philippine subgroup.[1]: 303  Often described as a single language, they are considered by linguists as a dialect cluster more than a monolithic language. Subanen languages are spoken in various areas of Zamboanga Peninsula, namely the provinces of Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga del Sur, and in Misamis Occidental of Northern Mindanao. There is also a sizeable Subanen community in Misamis Oriental. Most speakers of Subanen languages go by the name of Subanen, Subanon or Subanun, while those who adhere to Islam refer to themselves as Kalibugan.

Internal classification

Jason Lobel (2013:308) classifies the Subanen varieties as follows.[1]

Lobel (2013:308) lists the following innovations among each of the following subgroups.


Reconstruction ofSubanen languages

The following phoneme inventory can be reconstructed for Proto-Subanen:[1][2]

Front Central Back
Close *i *u
Open *a
Bilabial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Stop voiceless *p *t *k
voiced *b *d *g
Fricative *s
Nasal *m *n
Lateral *l
Approximant *w *y

According to Jason Lobel (2013:304-305), the innovations defining Proto-Subanen from Proto-Greater Central Philippine are:

1. *h was lost in all positions in Proto-Subanen.

2. *ʔ was lost word-initially and word-medially, only being retained in word-final position.

3. Reduction of *a to *ə in prepenultimate syllables, as well as in closed penultimate syllables.

4. Addition of a word-initial *g- to all vowel-initlal words following the operation of the previous innovations.

5. Assimilation of consonant clusters into a sequence of either *kC, *gC, or a nasal cluster.


  1. ^ a b c Lobel, Jason William (2013). Philippine and North Bornean Languages: Issues in Description, Subgrouping, and Reconstruction (PDF) (Ph.D. dissertation). University of Hawai'i at Manoa.
  2. ^ Bulalang, Sharon (2018). "Two Patterns of /a/ and /o/ Alternation in Subanon". Oceanic Linguistics. 57 (2): 289–302. doi:10.1353/ol.2018.0013.