Pinay at Oxford bats for Filipino-coined English words

Filipinos ‘talk in a rich mix of American, Spanish, and Malay influences’

MANILA: Are there such words as “presidentiable” and “senatoriable” in an English dictionary?

There are none, all right, but they might soon be included in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) if a Filipino grantee of a Mellon postdoctoral research fellow in lexicography had her way.

“The Oxford English Dictionary is more than a dictionary,” Danica Salazar, PhD, recently told the Manila-based online news site rappler.com. “It’s also a historical document because it is a record of the English language as it is spoken all over the world, not just in the UK and the US.”

English-language newspapers in the Philippines always use the word 'presidentiable', referring to a potential candidate for the highest pubic office in the land, or senatoriable when referring to a candidate running for the position of senator.

The 28-year-old Salazar, who earned a bachelor’s degree in European Languages at the University of the Philippines-Diliman, in Quezon City, and went to Spain for her masters and doctorate degrees, got a job at the OED last year. She has since been working with the Oxford’s Hertford College, at the University of Oxford, and the Oxford University Press, publisher of OED.

Her job entails, among other things, looking for the “extensions of meaning” of some English words that have taken on a different meaning in the Philippines. Take “salvage”, for instance, whose original meaning is to save, but has, for decades, been used here also to mean summary execution.

Salazar’s main proposal for her Mellon fellowship, she said, included the search, systematisation, and possible inclusion into the OED of English words that have been uniquely coined by Filipinos and are widely used in the Philippines.

Her main goal now is to have Philippine English recognised globally and a Philippine English dictionary published by the Oxford University Press. The latter, she noted, recently released a South African English dictionary.

Salazar also wants a change in the attitude of many peoples, especially language scholars, in reaction to criticisms from some academics who say that acceptance of Filipino-coined English words should not hinge on their inclusion in the OED.

“But that’s the reality,” she stressed. “A dictionary plays an important role in legitimising language. I would like to change the perception that for English to be spoken correctly, it has to be spoken like the Americans or the British.”

She has prepared for this with a list of words for possible inclusion into the OED, which is undergoing a comprehensive revision. “If I can include ‘chorva’ in the OED, maybe my life would have not been in vain,” she said, although with a jest. Chorva is a gayspeak widely used in the Philippines (now by all sexes) to mean whatever or something.

She said the inclusion of the Filipino-coined English words into the OED would be a validation of the Philippine culture. “We should be proud and not ashamed to speak English anywhere in the world in the way we do.”

Salazar said she believes in preserving such words as “solon”, “thrice”, and “viand”—which are no longer widely used in the US and the UK, but are still regularly used in the Philippines. She also wants to bat for the recognition of popular Filipino acronyms like “TY” (thank you) and “CR” (comfort room).

The latter prompted one reader to comment that “CR” is no different from “WC”, an acronym widely used by native English speakers to mean water closet, when referring to toilet.

Salazar said that Philippine English could help enrich the language, noting that the integration of the Latinos in the US is prompting the introduction of new words into their lexicon.

“But in the Philippines, that kind of integration has already happened,” she said. “We talk in a rich mix of American, Spanish, and Malay influences.”

(Home page image courtesy Shutterstock)

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