Eskayan

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This article is about the language. For the people,see Eskaya.

Eskayan
Eskaya 
Sample of Eskayan script: Sample of Eskayan script
Spoken in: Philippines 
Region: Bohol
Total speakers: unknown
Language family:
 Eskayan
 
Writing system: Eskayan script (syllabary)
Language codes
ISO 639-1: none
ISO 639-2:
ISO 639-3: — 
Eskayan script table

 

Eskayan is the language of the Eskaya cultural minority of Bohol, an island province of the Philippines. Relatively little is known about this speech variety which has been the object of occasional media attention in the Philippines since the 1980s.<ref name="survey">Piers Kelly. Visayan-Eskaya Secondary Source Materials: Survey & Review Part One: 1980–1993 Produced for the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, Bohol, Philippines. 2006</ref> While Eskayan has no mother-tongue speakers, it continues to be taught by volunteers in at least three cultural schools in the southeast interior of the province.
Eskayan has a number of idiosyncracies that have attracted wide interest. One of its most immediately remarkable features is its unique writing system of over 1000 syllabic characters, all said to be modelled on parts of the human body.<ref name="bibingka">Hector Santos.The Eskaya Script in A Philippine Leaf (1997). </ref> Also significant is its syntactic and morphological equivalence to Cebuano, the dominant language of Bohol and some surrounding provinces.<ref name="Ted">Milan Ted D Torralba ‘The morphology of the Eskaya language’ A term paper submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements in LNG 704 (Morphology & Syntax) The Pontifical and Royal University of Santo Tomas. October 1991.</ref>
The earliest attested document written in Eskayan dates from 1908 and was on display at the Bohol Museum until September 2006.

Contents

Classification

Eskayan shows no consistent lexical similarity to any languages spoken in its vicinity, which has prompted broad speculation regarding its origins. Over the years, languages as far flung as Greek language|Greek <ref>Erma M Cuizon. ‘Bohol Community May Hold Clue to Bisayan Alphabet’s Origin.’ Tubod. December 1980. 3</ref><ref> The Greek theory would later be reproduced in the following: Alberto A Payot, Sr. “Bisayan Eskaya: Karaang Pinulongan sa Bohol?” Bisaya. June 3 1981. 11, 55-6; Brenda S Abregana. Open letter to Governor Rolando Butalid G. 12 March, 1985; Sonieta B Deguit ‘Eskaya: A Touch with Bohol’s Past’ Bohol’s Pride. March 1991, 18; Jes B Tirol. ‘Eskaya of Bohol: Origin of Its System of Writing’, The Bohol Chronicle. 11 July, 1993. n.p.</ref>, Phoenician languages|Phoenician<ref name="Tirol1">Jes B Tirol ‘Bohol and Its System of Writing.’ UB Update. July–September 1990. 4, 7</ref>, Biblical Hebrew<ref name="Tirol2">Jes B Tirol, ‘Bohol: a new Jerusalem?’, The Bohol Chronicle. 19 March 1989. 1, 3; ‘Bohol: a new Jerusalem?: 2nd instalment’, The Bohol Chronicle. 26 March 1989. 1, 7; ‘Is Bohol a New Jerusalem?’. mimeograph. n.p., n.d.</ref><ref>Jes Tirol would continue to elaborate the Hebrew theory in some of his subsequent articles: ‘Bohol and Its System of Writing.’ UB Update. July–September 1990. 4, 7; ‘Eskaya of Bohol: Traces of Hebrew Influence Paving the Way For Easy Christianization of Bohol’, Bohol’s Pride. July 1991. 50-51, 53; ‘Eskaya of Bohol: Origin of Its System of Writing’, The Bohol Chronicle. 11 July, 1993. n.p.</ref>, Latin,<ref>Alberto A Payot, Sr. “Bisayan Eskaya: Karaang Pinulongan sa Bohol?” Bisaya. June 3 1981. 11, 55-6</ref><ref>The Latin theory was later reproduced by Sonieta B Deguit ‘Eskaya: A Touch with Bohol’s Past’ Bohol’s Pride; and Jes B Tirol. ‘Eskaya of Bohol: Origin of Its System of Writing’, The Bohol Chronicle. 11 July, 1993. n.p. March 1991, 18</ref> Etruscan language|Etruscan,<ref>Alberto A Payot, Sr. “Bisayan Eskaya: Karaang Pinulongan sa Bohol?” Bisaya. June 3 1981. 11, 55-6. Although not mentioned in the article it is presumed that Payot was citing Brenda Abregana who subsequently expanded the Etruscan theory in ‘Eskaya: The Living Fossil Language in Bohol’, Focus Philippines. 28 July, 1984. 13-14; and in the almost identical article ‘Escaya, the living fossil language in Bohol – a legacy from the Etruscans’. The Republic News. n.d., n.p. Sonieta B Deguit cites this theory for the last time in her article of 1991 (op.cit.)</ref> and Arabic<ref>Jes B Tirol. ‘Eskaya of Bohol: Origin of Its System of Writing’, The Bohol Chronicle. 11 July, 1993. n.p.</ref> have all been linked to Eskayan without success. Comparative studies have since indicated that although Eskayan shows no credible lexical relationship with any known language<ref name="classification">Piers Kelly. The Classification of the Eskayan Language of BoholA research report submitted to the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, Bohol, The Philippines. July, 2006. </ref>, it displays a manifest grammatical equivalence to Cebuano<ref>This equivalence is documented by Ma. Cristina J Martinez Gahum ug Gubat: A Study of Eskayan Texts, Symbolic Subversion and Cultural Constructivity. Unpublished manuscript, 1993; and Stella Marie de los Santos Consul Iniskaya: A linear linguistic description. A Dissertation presented to the Faculty of the Graduate School Cebu Normal University. September, 2005</ref>, a fact which is difficult to reconcile in conventional linguistic terms. The most plausible explanation is that Eskayan is an auxiliary language encoded from Cebuano, perhaps in an attempted reconstruction of an imputed indigenous Boholano language. This theory is consistent with the Eskaya written legend Pinay, which tells of how an ancestor was instructed to create the language and script, basing it on the human anatomy.<ref name="classification"/> Whatever the case may be, structural comparisons show that the language is clearly a speech variety of Cebuano while the specific age and origin of most Eskayan lexemes remains a mystery.

Writing system

The Eskayan script has both alphabetic and syllabic components. A basic 'alphabet' of 46 characters accounts for most of the common sounds and syllables used in Eskayan while a broader subset totalling over 1000 is used to represent the remaining syllables. The unusual diversity of consonant and vowel clusters accounts for this relatively large number of composite characters, which even includes superfluous symbols.<ref> Ma. Cristina J Martinez Gahum ug Gubat: A Study of Eskayan Texts, Symbolic Subversion and Cultural Constructivity. Unpublished manuscript, 1993</ref> The symbols are said to be based on parts of the human anatomy. This is similar to the Meitei Mayek script|Manipuri script and that of the Phoenician alphabet|Phoenicians.

Romanised orthography

A romanised form of Eskayan is used in the cultural schools for the purpose of exposition. Although not strictly standardised, this orthography has elements in common with the Spanish system once used for transliterating Cebuano. Eg, the letters ‘i’ and ‘e’ are interchangeable symbols representing the sound /ɪ/; the ‘ll’ combination is pronounced /lj/ and the letter ‘c’ will be pronounced /s/ when it precedes a frontal vowel as per Spanish. A notable innovation in Eskayan romanised orthography is the letter combination ‘chd’ which represents the sound /ʤ/.<ref name="classification"/>

Phonology and phonotactics

Eskayan shares all the same phonemes as Boholano-Visayan (the particular variety of Cebuano spoken on Bohol) and even includes the distinctive Boholano voiced palatal affricate /ʤ/ that appears in Visayan words such as maayo [maɁaʤo] (‘good’). With the exception of this phoneme, Eskayan shares the same basic phonology as Cebuano-Visayan, Tagalog and many other Philippine languages. The phonotactics of Eskayan, on the other hand, are quite different from those of Boholano-Visayan and Philippine languages generally. This can be seen in Eskayan words such as bosdipir [bosdɪpɪɹ] (‘eel’), guinposlan [gɪnposlan] (‘face’), ilcdo [ɪlkdo] (‘knee’) and estrapirado [ɪstɹapɪɹado] (‘flower’) that contain consonant sequences like /sd/, /np/, /sl/, /lkd/ and /stɹ/ which do not feature in Philippine languages. Furthermore, a significant number of Eskayan words have phonemic sequences that are common in Spanish or in Spanish loans into Boholano-Visayan but appear rarely, if ever, in non-borrowed words.<ref name="classification"/>

Case system

Eskayan conforms to the same syntactic and morphological structure as Cebuano. As such, Eskayan nouns are uninflected but may be marked for case with one of several preceding case markers.

The table below shows the basic case system of Eskayan, with Cebuano equivalents in brackets.<ref>This is modelled on Himmelman's table of Cebuano case marker's in Nikolaus Himmelmann, ‘The Austronesian languages of Asia and Madagascar: typological characteristics’. The Austronesian Languages of Asia and Madagascar, ed. by Nikolaus Himmelmann and Alexander Adelaar. London: Routledge, 2005. Cited in Fuhui Hsieh & Michael Tanangkingsing ‘The Empty Root in Cebuano and Kavalan: A Cognitive Perspective’ Papers from the Tenth International Conference on Austronesian Linguistics. January 2006. </ref>


  Personal name marker
Non-personal name marker
nominative ye or e (si) Specific (article) esto (ang)
possessive kon (ni) Oblique specific ya (sa)
dative puy (kang) Oblique non-specific chda (ug)

Pronouns

Eskayan personal pronouns are also marked by case. In the table below, the Cebuano equivalents are indicated in brackets. (These pronouns are drawn from a limited corpus; omissions are indicated by [] and uncertainties with an asterisk.)

  Absolutive Genetive₁
(Preposed)
Genetive₂
(Postposed)
Oblique
1st person singular naren (ako, ko) damo (akong) tompoy (nako, ko) tompoy (kanako, nako)
2nd person singular samo (ikaw, ka) gona (imong) nistro (nimo, mo) nistro (kanimo, nimo)
3rd person singular atcil (siya) chdel (iyang) kon chdil (niya) mininos* (kaniya, niya)
1st person plural inclusive arhitika (kita, ta) chdaro (atong) [] (nato) [] (kanato, nato)
1st person plural exclusive kim (kami, mi) gramyu (among) [] (namo) [] (kanamo, namo)
2nd person plural chdicto (kamo, mo) [] (inyong) [] (ninyo) [] (kaninyo, ninyo)
3rd person plural [] (sila) persiyan (ilang) [] (nila) [] (kanila, nila)

Lexicon

Cebuano influences

Despite its structural equivalence to Eskayan, Cebuano has had a very limited lexical influence on the language. In a comparison of core Swadesh vocabulary, there are eight identifiable cognates.<ref name="classification"/>

English Eskayan Cebuano
at ya sa
that cano ka'na
we (inclusive/exclusive) arhitika/kim kita/kami
who kinya kinsa
four pat upat
six nom un'um
eight wal walo'
nine sem siam

Spanish influences

Although the Eskayan lexicon bears a marked Spanish influence<ref>See op.cit Martinez Gahum ug Gubat(132) and Kelly The Classification of the Eskayan Language of Bohol(12)</ref>, the loan-patterns are hard to map<ref name="classification"/>. Some Spanish words appear to have been directly borrowed into Eskayan with virtually no semantic or phonetic alterations. Eg, the Eskayan word merido, meaning ‘husband’, is evidently loaned from the Spanish marido, also meaning ‘husband’. Others retain only a few of the semantic properties of the original. Eg, the word astro means ‘sun’ in Eskayan but ‘star’ in Spanish. In some interesting cases Eskayan lexical items appear to be borrowed but are assigned new meanings entirely. Eg, the Eskayan memorya (‘sky’) does not coincide semantically with the Spanish memoria (‘memory’). One of the most intriguing examples of such an ‘interrupted loan’ is that of the Eskayan tre (‘two’) seemingly derived from the Spanish tres (‘three’). Here the semantic property of ‘number’ was retained but the actual quantity it represented was reassigned.<ref name="classification"/>

Theories and controversies

In the 1980s and 1990s, the Eskaya community attracted the interest of local mystics who promoted the notion that their language was of exotic origin.<ref name="survey"/> Today, the few linguists who have examined Eskayan generally concur that it is structurally Cebuano but lexically irregular. The implication of these two premises is that Eskayan is an auxiliary language or a highly sophisticated form of disguised speech encoded from Cebuano. This raises further questions as to what the auxiliary functions of the language might have been – eg, liturgical, political, military – and when precisely it came into existence.

References

  1. a b Piers Kelly. Visayan-Eskaya Secondary Source Materials: Survey & Review Part One: 1980–1993 Produced for the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, Bohol, Philippines. 2006
  2. Hector Santos.The Eskaya Script inA Philippine Leaf (1997).
  3. Milan Ted D Torralba ‘The morphology of the Eskaya language’ A term paper submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements in LNG 704 (Morphology & Syntax) The Pontifical and Royal University of Santo Tomas. October 1991.
  4. Erma M Cuizon. ‘Bohol Community May Hold Clue to Bisayan Alphabet’s Origin.’ Tubod. December 1980. 3
  5. The Greek theory would later be reproduced in the following: Alberto A Payot, Sr. “Bisayan Eskaya: Karaang Pinulongan sa Bohol?” Bisaya. June 3 1981. 11, 55-6; Brenda S Abregana. Open letter to Governor Rolando Butalid G. 12 March, 1985; Sonieta B Deguit ‘Eskaya: A Touch with Bohol’s Past’ Bohol’s Pride. March 1991, 18; Jes B Tirol. ‘Eskaya of Bohol: Origin of Its System of Writing’, The Bohol Chronicle. 11 July, 1993. n.p.
  6. Jes B Tirol ‘Bohol and Its System of Writing.’ UB Update. July–September 1990. 4, 7
  7. Jes B Tirol, ‘Bohol: a new Jerusalem?’, The Bohol Chronicle. 19 March 1989. 1, 3; ‘Bohol: a new Jerusalem?: 2nd instalment’, The Bohol Chronicle. 26 March 1989. 1, 7; ‘Is Bohol a New Jerusalem?’. mimeograph. n.p., n.d.
  8. Jes Tirol would continue to elaborate the Hebrew theory in some of his subsequent articles: ‘Bohol and Its System of Writing.’ UB Update. July–September 1990. 4, 7; ‘Eskaya of Bohol: Traces of Hebrew Influence Paving the Way For Easy Christianization of Bohol’, Bohol’s Pride. July 1991. 50-51, 53; ‘Eskaya of Bohol: Origin of Its System of Writing’, The Bohol Chronicle. 11 July, 1993. n.p.
  9. Alberto A Payot, Sr. “Bisayan Eskaya: Karaang Pinulongan sa Bohol?” Bisaya. June 3 1981. 11, 55-6
  10. The Latin theory was later reproduced by Sonieta B Deguit ‘Eskaya: A Touch with Bohol’s Past’ Bohol’s Pride; and Jes B Tirol. ‘Eskaya of Bohol: Origin of Its System of Writing’, The Bohol Chronicle. 11 July, 1993. n.p. March 1991, 18
  11. Alberto A Payot, Sr. “Bisayan Eskaya: Karaang Pinulongan sa Bohol?” Bisaya. June 3 1981. 11, 55-6. Although not mentioned in the article it is presumed that Payot was citing Brenda Abregana who subsequently expanded the Etruscan theory in ‘Eskaya: The Living Fossil Language in Bohol’, Focus Philippines. 28 July, 1984. 13-14; and in the almost identical article ‘Escaya, the living fossil language in Bohol – a legacy from the Etruscans’. The Republic News. n.d., n.p. Sonieta B Deguit cites this theory for the last time in her article of 1991 (op.cit.)
  12. Jes B Tirol. ‘Eskaya of Bohol: Origin of Its System of Writing’, The Bohol Chronicle. 11 July, 1993. n.p.
  13. a b c d e f g Piers Kelly. The Classification of the Eskayan Language of BoholA research report submitted to the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, Bohol, The Philippines. July, 2006.
  14. This equivalence is documented by Ma. Cristina J Martinez Gahum ug Gubat: A Study of Eskayan Texts, Symbolic Subversion and Cultural Constructivity. Unpublished manuscript, 1993; and Stella Marie de los Santos Consul Iniskaya: A linear linguistic description. A Dissertation presented to the Faculty of the Graduate School Cebu Normal University. September, 2005
  15. Ma. Cristina J Martinez Gahum ug Gubat: A Study of Eskayan Texts, Symbolic Subversion and Cultural Constructivity. Unpublished manuscript, 1993
  16. This is modelled on Himmelman's table of Cebuano case marker's in Nikolaus Himmelmann, ‘The Austronesian languages of Asia and Madagascar: typological characteristics’. The Austronesian Languages of Asia and Madagascar, ed. by Nikolaus Himmelmann and Alexander Adelaar. London: Routledge, 2005. Cited in Fuhui Hsieh & Michael Tanangkingsing ‘The Empty Root in Cebuano and Kavalan: A Cognitive Perspective’ Papers from the Tenth International Conference on Austronesian Linguistics. January 2006.
  17. See op.cit Martinez Gahum ug Gubat(132) and Kelly The Classification of the Eskayan Language of Bohol(12)

Additional readings

External links

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