Bisayan languages
  (Redirected from Visayan languages)
Not to be confused with Brunei Bisaya language.
The Bisayan languages or the Visayan languages[1] are a subgroup of the Austronesian languages spoken in the Philippines. They are most closely related to Tagalog and the Bikol languages, all of which are part of the Central Philippine languages. Most Bisayan languages are spoken in the whole Visayas section of the country, but they are also spoken in the southern part of the Bicol Region (particularly in Masbate), islands south of Luzon, such as those that make up Romblon, most of the areas of Mindanao and the province of Sulu located southwest of Mindanao. Some residents of Metro Manila also speak one of the Bisayan languages.
Visayas, most parts of Mindanao, Masbate, and Mimaropa in the Philippines, Sabah in Malaysia and immigrant communities
Linguistic classificationAustronesian
Central Bisayan
West Bisayan
South Bisayan

Geographic extent of Bisayan languages based on Ethnologue and the National Statistics Office 2000 Census of Population and Housing
Central Bisayan
  Southern Sorsogon
  Central Sorsogon
West Bisayan
South Bisayan
Other legend
  Widespread/L2 use of Cebuano
  Widespread/L2 use of Hiligaynon
Over 30 languages constitute the Bisayan language family. The Bisayan language with the most speakers is Cebuano, spoken by 20 million people as a native language in Central Visayas, parts of Eastern Visayas, and most of Mindanao. Two other well-known and widespread Bisayan languages are Hiligaynon (Ilonggo), spoken by 9 million in most of Western Visayas and Soccsksargen; and Waray-Waray, spoken by 6 million in Eastern Visayas region. Prior to colonization, the script and calligraphy of most of the Visayan peoples was the badlit, closely related to the Tagalog baybayin.
Native speakers of most Bisayan languages, especially Cebuano, Hiligaynon and Waray, not only refer to their language by their local name, but also by Bisaya or Binisaya, meaning Bisayan language. This is misleading or may lead to confusion as different languages may be called Bisaya by their respective speakers despite their languages being mutually unintelligible. However, languages that are classified within the Bisayan language family but spoken natively in places outside of the Visayas do not use the self-reference Bisaya or Binisaya. To speakers of Cuyonon, Surigaonon, Butuanon and Tausug, the term Visayan usually refers to either Cebuano or Hiligaynon.
There have been no proven accounts to verify the origins of Bisaya. However, there is an ethnic group in Malaysia and Brunei who call themselves with the same name. However, these ethnic groups in the Philippines must not be confused with those in Borneo.
David Zorc lists the following innovations as features defining the Bisayan languages as a group (Zorc 1977:241).[2] Tausug is noted to have diverged early from the group and may have avoided some sound changes that affected the others.
  1. *lC, *Cl > *Cl (where C is any consonant not *h, *q, or *l)
  2. *qC, *Cq > *Cq (MOST) *qC, *Cq > *qC (Tausug, and most Bik)
Reflexes of PCPh and PPh
(Tag: araw)
(Tag: asim)
(Tag: itlog)
(Naga: aldaw)
(Naga: alsom)
(Iriga: itlog)
*ba:guh (Iriga)
(ALL: adlaw)
(Kin: aslëm,
Ceb: aslum)
(MOST: itlog)
Internal classification
David Zorc gives the following internal classification for the Bisayan languages (Zorc 1977:32).[2] The five primary branches are South, Cebuan, Central, Banton, and West. However, Zorc notes that the Bisayan language family is more like a dialect continuum rather than a set of readily distinguishable languages. The South Bisayan languages are considered to have diverged first, followed by Cebuan and then the rest of the three branches. Also, in the Visayas section, the province of Romblon has the most linguistic diversity, as languages from three primary Bisayan branches are spoken there: Romblomanon from Central Bisayan, Inunhan from Western Bisayan and Banton (which has an independent Bisayan branch).
Notably, Baybayanon and Porohanon have Warayan substrata, indicating a more widespread distribution of Waray before Cebuano speakers started to expand considerably starting from the mid-1800s.[3]
A total of 36 varieties are listed below. Individual languages are marked by italics.
The auxiliary language of Eskayan is grammatically Bisayan, but has essentially no Bisayan (or Philippine) vocabulary.
Magahat and Karolanos, both spoken in Negros, are unclassified within Bisayan.[4]
Ethnologue classification
Ethnologue classifies the 25 Bisayan languages into five subgroups:
Language familyNo. of LanguagesLanguages
Central Bisayan1Bantayanon
Peripheral5Ati, Capiznon, Hiligaynon, Masbateño, Porohanon
Warayan3Baybayanon, Kabalian, Northern Sorsoganon
Gubat1Southern Sorsoganon
South Bisayan2Surigaonon, Tandaganon
Butuan-Tausug2Butuanon, Tausug
West Bisayan1Caluyanon
Aklan2Aklanon, Malaynon
Cuyan2Cuyonon, Ratagnon
Names and locations
Zorc (1977: 14-15) lists the following names and locations of Bisayan languages. The recently documented languages Karolanos, Magahat, and Kabalian are not listed in Zorc (1977).
SubgroupLanguageOther namesLocation(s)
BantonBantonBanton Island, Romblon
BantonSibaleBantonSibale (Maestre de Campo) Island, Romblon
BantonOdionganonCorcuera Island dialectOdiongan area, Tablas Island, Romblon
WesternAlcantaranonAlcantara, Tablas Island, Romblon
WesternDispoholnonSan Andres (Despujols), Tablas Island
WesternLooknonInunhanLook and Santa Fe, Tablas Island
WesternDatagnonRatagnun, LatagnunIlin Island and Magsaysay, Occidental Mindoro
WesternSanta TeresaBarrio Santa Teresa of Magsaysay, Occidental Mindoro
WesternBulalakawnonBulalacao (San Pedro), southern Oriental Mindoro
WesternSemiraraSemirara Island Group
WesternCuyononCuyunoCuyo Island, except Agutaya; coastal area around Puerto Princesa, Palawan; Culion and Busuanga Islands
WesternAklanonAkeanon, Aklano, AklanAklan and northern Capiz, Panay Island
WesternPandanPandan area, Antique, including the Buruanga, Aklan area of Panay
WesternKinaray-aAntiqueño, Hinaray-a, Sulud, Panayanomost of Antique, Panay Island; most inland areas of Iloilo and Capiz; southern Guimaras Island off of Iloilo
WesternGimarasGuimaras Island, Iloilo
CentralRomblomanonRomblon and Sibuyan Island; San Agustin area, Tablas Island
CentralBantayanBantayan Island
CentralCapiznonCapiz and northeastern Iloilo, Panay Island
CentralHiligaynonIlonggomost of Iloilo, Panay Island; western Guimaras and Negros Occidental
CentralKawayanCauayan, Negros Occidental
CentralMasbateMasbateMasbate and Ticao Island
CentralCamotesCamotes Island, between Cebu and Leyte
CentralNorthern SamarSamareño, Waray-Waraynorthern Samar
CentralSamar-LeyteSamareño, Waray-Waray, Sinamarcentral Samar; northern half of Leyte
CentralWaraySamareño, Waray-Waray, Binisayâsouthern Samar Island, Eastern Samar
CentralSorsogonSorsogonon, Bikolnorthern Sorsogon, Bikol
CentralGubatSorsogononsouthern Sorsogon, Bikol (including Gubat)
CebuanCebuanoSugbuanon, Sugbuhanon, Cebuan, SebuanoCebu Island; Negros Oriental; eastern Visayas and the coastal areas of northern and eastern Mindanao
CebuanBoholanoBol-anonBohol Island
CebuanLeyteKanâ, Leyteñocentral western Leyte; immigrants to Dinagat Island
SouthernButuanonButuan City, Agusan del Norte area
SouthernSurigaononJaun BisayâSurigao del Norte
SouthernJaun-JaunSiargaononSiargao Island, Surigao del Norte
SouthernKantilanCantilan and Madrid, Surigao del Sur
SouthernNaturalisTandag and Tago, Surigao del Sur
SouthernTausugMoro, Taw SugJolo Island; southern and western Palawan
The following comparisons are from data gathered by Zorc (1997).
Personal-Noun Case Markers
Western, InonhanAlcantaranon
Western, InonhanDispoholnonsinikaysándaynándaykánday
Western, InonhanLooknonsinikaysándaynándaykánday
Western, Kuyan, RatagnonDatagnonsinikisándanándakanánda
Western, Kuyan, RatagnonSanta Teresasinikaysándaynándaykánday
Western, InonhanBulalakawnonsinikaysándaynándaykánday
Western, Kuyan, CaluyanonSemirarasinikaysándaynándaykánday
Western, KuyanCuyononsinikisandanandakanda
Western, Kinaray-aPandansinikaysándaynándaykánday
Western, Kinaray-aKinaray-asinikaysándaynándaykánday
Western, Kinaray-aGimaras
Central, PeripheralBantayan
Central, PeripheralCapiznonsinikaysándaynándaykánday
Central, PeripheralHiligaynonsinikaysilá niníla nisa íla ni
Central, PeripheralKawayan
Central, PeripheralMasbatesinikansindanindakanda
Central, PeripheralCamotes
Central, Warayan, WarayNorthern Samarsinikansiránirákánda
Central, Warayan, WaraySamar-Leytesinikansiránírakánda
Central, Warayan, WarayWarayhinikanhiránírakánda
Central, PeripheralSorsogon (Central Sorsoganon)sinikansiránirákánda
Central, WarayanGubat (South Sorsoganon)sinikansiránirákánda
CebuanCebuanosinikangsilá si
níla ni
sa íla ni,
sa ílang
CebuanLeytesilangnilangsa ilang
Southern, Butuan-TausugButuanonsinikangsílanílakánda
Southern, SurigaononSurigaononsinikaysílanílakaníla
Southern, SurigaononJaun-Jaunsinikansíla siníla nidíla ni
Southern, SurigaononKantilan
Southern, TandaganonNaturalis
Southern, Butuan-TausugTausughihikanhindahindakanda
Common-Name Case Markers
Western, InonhanAlcantaranonangittangsa
Western, InonhanDispoholnonangitkangsa
Western, InonhanLooknonangittangsa
Western, Kuyan, RatagnonDatagnonang#angsa
Western, Kuyan, RatagnonSanta Teresaangkangsa
Western, InonhanBulalakawnonangittangsa
Western, Kuyan, CaluyanonSemiraraangkangsa
Western, KuyanCuyononangii-angsa
Western, Kinaray-aPandanangitkangsa
Western, Kinaray-aKinaray-aangtikangsa
Western, Kinaray-aGimarasangtikangsa
Central, PeripheralBantayanangsingsangsa
Central, PeripheralCapiznonangsingsangsa
Central, PeripheralHiligaynonangsingsangsa
Central, PeripheralKawayanangsingsangsa
Central, PeripheralMasbateansinsansa
Central, PeripheralCamotesinansinsansa
Central, Warayan, WarayNorthern Samariasi(n)sa(n)sa
Central, Warayan, WaraySamar-Leyteinanitsinsansitsa
Central, Warayan, WarayWarayinanithinhanhitha
Central, PeripheralSorsogon (Central Sorsoganon)ansinsansa
Central, WarayanGubat (South Sorsoganon)ansinsansa
Southern, Butuan-TausugButuanonanghungsa
Southern, SurigaononSurigaononangnangsa
Southern, SurigaononJaun-Jaunannansa
Southern, SurigaononKantilanangnangsa
Southern, TandaganonNaturalisangnangsa
Southern, Butuan-TausugTausuginsinha
Reconstruction ofBisayan languages
David Zorc's reconstruction of Proto-Bisayan had 15 consonants and 4 vowels (Zorc 1977:201).[2] Vowel length, primary stress (penultimate and ultimate), and secondary stress (pre-penultimate) are also reconstructed by Zorc.
Proto-Bisayan Consonants
Proto-Bisayan Vowels
Closei /i/u /u/
Midə /ə/
Opena /a/
See also
  1. ^ Adelaar, Alexander (2005). "The Austronesian languages of Asia and Madagascar: a historical perspective". In Adelaar, Alexander; Himmelamnn, Nikolaus (eds.). The Austronesian languages of Asia and Madagascar. London: Routledge. pp. 1–42., page 16.
  2. ^ a b c Zorc, David Paul (1977). The Bisayan Dialects of the Philippines: Subgrouping and Reconstruction. Canberra, Australia: Dept. of Linguistics, Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University. doi:10.15144/PL-C44. ISBN 0858831570.
  3. ^ Lobel, Jason (2009). Concise Encyclopedia of Languages of the World. Oxford: Elsevier. pp. 914–917.
  4. ^ Lobel, Jason William. 2013. Philippine and North Bornean languages: issues in description, subgrouping, and reconstruction. Ph.D. dissertation. Manoa: University of Hawai'i at Manoa.
External links
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Bisaya phrasebook.
"Bisayan" on Ethnologue, (23rd ed., 2020).
Last edited on 22 March 2021, at 08:16
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