As an Austronesian language, it is related to Malay (Indonesian and Malaysian), Tetum, Chamorro, Fijian, Maori, Hawaiian, Samoan, Tahitian, Paiwan and Malagasy. It is closely related to some of the other Austronesian languages of Northern Luzon, and has slight mutual intelligibility with the Balangao language and the eastern dialects of the Bontoc language. 
The Ilokano people had their own distinct indigenous writing system and script known as kur-itan. There have been proposals to revive the kur-itan script by teaching it in Ilokano-majority public and private schools in Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur.
Ilocano, like all Philippine languages, is an Austronesian language, a very expansive language family believed to originate in Taiwan. Ilocano comprises its own branch within the Philippine Cordilleran language subfamily. It is spoken as first language by seven million people.
A lingua franca of the northern region of the Philippines, it is spoken as a secondary language by more than two million people who are native speakers of Ibanag, Ivatan, and other languages in Northern Luzon.
The language is spoken in northwest Luzon, the Babuyan Islands, Cordillera Administrative Region, Cagayan Valley, northern parts of Central Luzon, Mindoro and scattered areas in Mindanao (the Soccsksargen region in particular). The language is also spoken in the United States, with Hawaii and California having the largest number of speakers. It is the third most spoken non-English language in Hawaii after Tagalog and Japanese, with 17% of those speaking languages other than English at home (25.4% of the population) speaking the language.
In September 2012, the province of La Union passed an ordinance recognizing Ilocano (Iloko) as an official provincial language, alongside Filipino and English, as national and official languages of the Philippines, respectively. It is the first province in the Philippines to pass an ordinance protecting and revitalizing a native language, although there are also other languages spoken in the province of La Union, including Pangasinan and Kankanaey.
The modern Ilokano Alphabet consists of 28 letters:
Aa Bb Cc Dd Ee Ff Gg Hh Ii Jj Kk Ll Mm Nn Ññ NGng Oo Pp Qq Rr Ss Tt Uu Vv Ww Xx Yy Zz
Precolonial Ilocano people of all classes wrote in a syllabic system known as Baybayin prior to European arrival. They used a system that is termed as an abugida, or an alphasyllabary. It was similar to the Tagalog and Pangasinan scripts, where each character represented a consonant-vowel, or CV, sequence. The Ilocano version, however, was the first to designate coda consonants with a diacritic mark – a cross or virama – shown in the Doctrina Cristiana of 1621, one of the earliest surviving Ilokano publications. Before the addition of the virama, writers had no way to designate coda consonants. The reader, on the other hand, had to guess whether the vowel was read or not, due to this vowels "e" and "i" are interchangeable and letters "o" and "u", for instance "tendera" and "tindira" (shop-assistant).
In recent times, there have been two systems in use: The "Spanish" system and the "Tagalog" system. In the Spanish system words of Spanish origin kept their spellings. Native words, on the other hand, conformed to the Spanish rules of spelling. Most older generation of Ilocanos use the Spanish system.
In the system based on that of Tagalog there is more of a phoneme-to-letter correspondence, and better reflects the actual pronunciation of the word.Template:Efn The letters ng constitute a digraph and counts as a single letter, following n in alphabetization. As a result, numo humility appears before ngalngal to chew in newer dictionaries. Words of foreign origin, most notably those from Spanish, need to be changed in spelling to better reflect Ilocano phonology. Words of English origin may or may not conform to this orthography. A prime example using this system is the weekly magazine Bannawag.
Samples of the two systems
The following are two versions of the Lord's Prayer. The one on the left is written using the Spanish-based orthography, while the one on the right uses the Tagalog-based system.
- Amami, ñga addaca sadi lañgit,
- Madaydayao coma ti Naganmo.
- Umay cuma ti pagariam.
- Maaramid cuma ti pagayatam
- Cas sadi lañgit casta met ditoy daga.
- Itedmo cadacam ita ti taraonmi iti inaldao.
- Quet pacaoanennacami cadaguiti ut-utangmi,
- A cas met panamacaoanmi
- Cadaguiti nacautang cadacami.
- Quet dinacam iyeg iti pannacasulisog,
- No di quet isalacannacami iti daques.
- Amami, nga addaka sadi langit,
- Madaydayaw koma ti Naganmo.
- Umay koma ti pagariam.
- Maaramid koma ti pagayatam
- Kas sadi langit kasta met ditoy daga.
- Itedmo kadakami iti taraonmi iti inaldaw.
- Ket pakawanennakami kadagiti ut-utangmi,
- A kas met panamakawanmi
- Kadagiti nakautang kadakami.
- Ket dinakam iyeg iti pannakasulisog,
- No di ket isalakannakami iti dakes.Template:Col-end
Ilocano and education
With the implementation by the Spanish of the Bilingual Education System of 1897, Ilocano, together with the other seven major languages (those that have at least a million speakers), was allowed to be used as a medium of instruction until the second grade. It is recognized by the Commission on the Filipino Language as one of the major languages of the Philippines. Constitutionally, Ilocano is an auxiliary official language in the regions where it is spoken and serves as auxiliary media of instruction therein.
In 2009, the Philippine Department of Education instituted department order 74, s. 2009 stipulating that "mother tongue-based multilingual education" would be implemented. In 2012, department order 16, s. 2012 stipulated that the mother tongue-based multilingual system was to be implemented for kindergarten to grade 3 effective school year 2012-2013. Ilocano is used in public schools mostly in the Ilocos region and the Cordilleras. It is the primary medium of instruction from kindergarten to grade 3 (except for the Filipino and English subjects) and is also a separate subject from grade 1 to grade 3. Thereafter, English and Filipino are introduced as mediums of instructions.
Ilocano animistic past offers a rich background in folklore, mythology and superstition (see Religion in the Philippines). There are many stories of good and malevolent spirits and beings. Its creation mythology centers on the giants Aran and her husband Angalo, and Namarsua (the Creator).
The epic story Biag ni Lam-ang (The Life of Lam-ang) is undoubtedly one of the few indigenous stories from the Philippines that survived colonialism, although much of it is now acculturated and shows many foreign elements in the retelling. It reflects values important to traditional Ilokano society; it is a hero's journey steeped in courage, loyalty, pragmatism, honor, and ancestral and familial bonds.
Ilocano culture revolves around life rituals, festivities and oral history. These were celebrated in songs (kankanta), dances (salsala), poems (dandaniw), riddles (burburtia), proverbs (pagsasao), literary verbal jousts called bucanegan (named after the writer Pedro Bucaneg, and is the equivalent of the Balagtasan of the Tagalogs) and epic stories.
Modern Ilocano has two dialects, which are differentiated only by the way the letter e is pronounced. In the Amianan (Northern) dialect, there exist only five vowels while the Abagatan (Southern) dialect employs six.
- Amianan: /a/, /i/, /u/, /ɛ/, /o/
- Abagatan: /a/, /i/, /u/, /ɛ/, /o/, /ɯ/
Reduplicate vowels are not slurred together, but voiced separately with an intervening glottal stop:
- saan: /sa.ʔan/ no
- siit: /si.ʔit/ thorn
The letter in bold is the graphic (written) representation of the vowel.
|Close||i /i/||u/o /u/
|Mid||e /ɛ/||o /o/|
For a better rendition of vowel distribution, please refer to the IPA Vowel Chart.
Unstressed /a/ is pronounced [ɐ] in all positions except final syllables, like madí [mɐˈdi] (cannot be) but ngiwat (mouth) is pronounced [ˈŋiwat].
Although the modern (Tagalog) writing system is largely phonetic, there are some notable conventions.
O/U and I/E
Example: Root: luto cook agluto to cook lutuen to cook (something) example:lutuen dayta
Instances such as masapulmonto, You will manage to find it, to need it, are still consistent. Note that masapulmonto is, in fact, three morphemes: masapul (verb base), -mo (pronoun) and -(n)to (future particle). An exception to this rule, however, is laud /la.ʔud/ (west). Also, u in final stressed syllables can be pronounced [o], like [dɐ.ˈnom] for danum (water).
The two vowels are not highly differentiated in native words due to fact that /o/ was an allophone of /u/ in the history of the language. In words of foreign origin, notably Spanish, they are phonemic.
Example: uso use oso bear
Unlike u and o, i and e are not allophones, but i in final stressed syllables in words ending in consonants can be [ɛ], like ubíng [ʊ.ˈbɛŋ] (child).
Example: kuarta /kwaɾ.ta/ money paria /paɾ.ja/ bitter melon
Unstressed /i/ and /u/ are pronounced [ɪ] and [ʊ] except in final syllables, like pintás (beauty) [pɪn.ˈtas] and buténg (fear) [bʊ.ˈtɛŋ] but bangir (other side) and parabur (grace) are pronounced [ˈba.ŋiɾ] and [pɐ.ˈɾa.buɾ].
Pronunciation of Template:Angbr
The letter Template:Angbr represents two vowels in the non-nuclear dialects (areas outside the Ilocos provinces) [ɛ] in words of foreign origin and [ɯ] in native words, and only one in the nuclear dialects of the Ilocos provinces, [ɛ].
Diphthongs are combination of a vowel and /i/ or /u/. In the orthography, the secondary vowels (underlying /i/ or /u/) are written with their corresponding glide, y or w, respectively. Of all the possible combinations, only /aj/ or /ej/, /iw/, /aw/ and /uj/ occur. In the orthography, vowels in sequence such as uo and ai, do not coalesce into a diphthong, rather, they are pronounced with an intervening glottal stop, for example, buok hair /bʊ.ʔuk/ and dait sew /da.ʔit/.
|/iu/||iw||iliw "home sick"|
|/ei/Template:Efn||ey||idiey "there" (Regional variant. Standard: "idiay")|
|/oi/, /ui/Template:Efn||oy, uy||baboy "pig"|
The diphthong /ei/ is a variant of /ai/ in native words. Other occurrences are in words of Spanish and English origin. Examples are reyna /ˈɾei.na/ (from Spanish reina, queen) and treyner /ˈtɾei.nɛɾ/ (trainer). The diphthongs /oi/ and /ui/ may be interchanged since /o/ is an allophone of /u/ in final syllables. Thus, apúy (fire) may be pronounced /ɐ.ˈpui/ and baboy (pig) may be pronounced /ˈba.bui/.
|Stops||Voiceless||p||t||k||(#Template:EfnTemplate:IPA linkTemplate:Efn V/∅V∅/C-V)[ʔ]Template:Efn|
|Affricates||Voiceless||(ts, tiV) [tʃ]Template:Efn|
|Nasals||m||n||(niV) [nʲ]Template:Efn||ng [ŋ]|
|Semivowels||(w, CuV) [w]Template:Efn||(y, CiV) [j]Template:Efn|
All consonantal phonemes except /h, ʔ/ may be a syllable onset or coda. The phoneme /h/ is a borrowed sound and rarely occurs in coda position. Although, the Spanish word, reloj, clock, would have been heard as [re.loh], the final /h/ is dropped resulting in /re.lo/. However, this word also may have entered the Ilokano lexicon at early enough a time that the word was still pronounced /re.loʒ/, with the j pronounced as in French, resulting in /re.los/ in Ilokano. As a result, both /re.lo/ and /re.los/ occur.
The glottal stop /ʔ/ is not permissible as coda; it can only occur as onset. Even as an onset, the glottal stop disappears in affixation. Take for example the root aramat [ʔɐ.ra.mat], use. When prefixed with ag-, the expected form is *[ʔɐɡ.ʔɐ.ra.mat]. But, the actual form is [ʔɐ.ɡɐ.ra.mat]; the glottal stop disappears. In a reduplicated form, the glottal stop returns and participates in the template, CVC, agar-aramat [ʔɐ.ɡar.ʔɐ.ra.mat].
Stops are pronounced without aspiration. When they occur as coda, they are not released, for example, sungbat [sʊŋ.bat̚] answer, response.
Ilokano is one of the Philippine languages which is excluded from [ɾ]-[d] allophony, as /r/ in many cases is derived from a Proto-Austonesian *R, compare bago (Tagalog) and baró (Ilokano) new.
The language marginally has a trill [r] which was spelled as "rr", for example, serrek [sɛ.ˈrɛk] to enter. Trill [r] is sometimes an allophone of [ɾ] in word-initial position and word-final positions, spelled as single <r>. But it is different in proper names of foreign origin, mostly Spanish, like Serrano, which is correctly pronounced [sɛ.ˈrano]. Some speakers, however, pronounce Serrano as [sɛ.ˈɾano].
The placement of primary stress is lexical in Ilocano. This results in minimal pairs such as /ˈkaː.yo/ (wood) and /ka.ˈyo/ (you (plural or polite)) or /ˈkiː.ta/ (class, type, kind) and /ki.ˈta/ (see). In written Ilokano the reader must rely on context, thus ⟨kayo⟩ and ⟨kita⟩. Primary stress can fall only on either the penult or the ultima of the root, as seen in the previous examples.
While stress is unpredictable in Ilokano, there are notable patterns that can determine where stress will fall depending on the structures of the penult, the ultima and the origin of the word.
- Foreign Words – The stress of foreign (mostly Spanish) words adopted into Ilokano fall on the same syllable as the original.Template:Efn
|agmaného||(to) drive||Spanish origin (I drive)|
|agrekórd||(to) record||English origin (verb)|
- CVC.'CV(C)# but 'CVŋ.kV(C)# – In words with a closed penult, stress falls on the ultima, except for instances of /-ŋ.k-/ where it is the penult.
|addá||there is/are||Closed Penult|
|bibíngka||(a type of delicacy)||-ŋ.k sequence|
- 'C(j/w)V# – In words whose ultima is a glide plus a vowel, stress falls on the ultima.
|ibiáng||to involve (someone or something)||Consonant-Glide-Vowel|
- C.'CV:.ʔVC# – In words where VʔV and V is the same vowel for the penult and ultima, the stress falls on the penult.
|buggúong||fermented fish or shrimp paste||Vowel-Glottal-Vowel|
|síit||thorn, spine, fish bone||Vowel-Glottal-Vowel|
Secondary stress occurs in the following environments:
- Syllables whose coda is the onset of the next, i.e., the syllable before a geminate.
|pànnakakíta||ability to see||Syllable before geminate|
|kèddéng||judgement, decision||Syllable before geminate|
|ùbbíng||children||Syllable before geminate|
- Reduplicated consonant-vowel sequence resulting from morphology or lexicon
|agsàsaó||speaks,is speaking||Reduplicate CV|
|àl-aliá||ghost, spirit||Reduplicate CV|
|agdàdáit||sews, is sewing||Reduplicate CV|
Vowel length coincides with stressed syllables (primary or secondary) and only on open syllables except for ultimas, for example, /'ka:.yo/ tree versus /ka.'yo/ (second person plural ergative pronoun).
|/ˈpuː.dut/ (heat)||/-ɯn/ (Goal focus)||/pu.ˈduː.tɯn/||to warm/heat (something)|
|/da.ˈlus/ (clean)||/-an/ (Directional focus)||/da.lu.ˈsan/||to clean (something)|
Ilokano is typified by a predicate-initial structure. Verbs and adjectives occur in the first position of the sentence, then the rest of the sentence follows.
Ilocano uses a highly complex list of affixes (prefixes, suffixes, infixes and enclitics) and reduplications to indicate a wide array of grammatical categories. Learning simple root words and corresponding affixes goes a long way in forming cohesive sentences.
|Word||Source||Original Meaning||Ilocano meaning|
|arak||Arabic||drink similar to sake||generic alcoholic drink|
|karma||Sanskrit||deed (see Buddhism)||spirit|
|sanglay||Hokkien||to deliver goods||to deliver/Chinese merchant|
|agbuldos||English||to bulldoze||to bulldoze|
|kuarta||Spanish||cuarta ("quarter", a kind of copper coin)||money|
|kumusta||Spanish||greeting: ¿Cómo está? ("How are you?")||How are you?|
Ilokano shows a T-V distinction.
|How are you?||Kumustaka?
Kumustakayo? (polite and plural)
|Good day||Naimbag nga aldaw.
Naimbag nga aldawyo. (polite and plural)
|Good morning||Naimbag a bigatmo.
Naimbag a bigatyo. (polite and plural)
|Good afternoon||Naimbag a malemmo.
Naimbag a malemyo. (polite and plural)
|Good evening||Naimbag a rabiim.
Naimbag a rabiiyo. (polite and plural)
|What is your name?||Ania ti naganmo? (often contracted to Ania't nagan mo? or Ana't nagan mo)
Ania ti naganyo?
|Where's the bathroom?||Ayanna ti banio?|
|I do not understand||Saanko a maawatan/matarusan.
Haanko a maawatan/matarusan.
|I love you||Ay-ayatenka.
|Thank you.||Agyamannak apo.
Dios ti agngina.
|Goodbye||Kastan/Kasta pay. (Till then)|
Sige. (Okay. Continue.)
Innakon. (I'm going)
Inkamin. (We are going)
Ditakan. (You stay)
Numbers, days, months
Ilocano uses two number systems, one native and the other derived from Spanish.
awan (lit. none)
|10||sangapulo (lit. a group of ten)||dies|
|11||sangapulo ket maysa||onse|
|100||sangagasut (lit. a group of one hundred)||sien, siento|
|1,000||sangaribo (lit. a group of one thousand)||mil|
|10,000||sangalaksa (lit. a group of ten thousand)||dies mil|
|1,000,000||sangariwriw (lit. a group of one million)||milion|
|1,000,000,000||sangabilion (American English, billion)||bilion|
Ilocano uses a mixture of native and Spanish numbers. Traditionally Ilokano numbers are used for quantities and Spanish numbers for time or days and references. Examples:
- Mano ti tawenmo?
- How old are you (in years)? (Lit. How many years do you have?)
- Twenty one.
- Luktanyo dagiti Bibliayo iti libro ni Juan kapitulo tres bersikolo diesiseis.
- Open your Bibles to the book of John chapter three verse sixteen.
- Mano a kilo ti bagas ti kayatmo?
- How many kilos of rice do you want?
- Sangapulo laeng.
- Ten only.
- Adda dua nga ikanna.
- He has two fish. (lit. There are two fish with him.)
Days of the week
Days of the week are directly borrowed from Spanish.
Like the days of the week, the names of the months are taken from Spanish.
Units of time
The names of the units of time are either native or are derived from Spanish. The first entries in the following table are native; the second entries are Spanish derived.
dominggo (lit. Sunday)
To mention time, Ilokanos use a mixture of Spanish and Ilokano:
- 1:00 a.m. A la una iti bigat (One in the morning)
- 2:30 p.m. A las dos imedia iti malem (in Spanish, A las dos y media de la tarde or "half past two in the afternoon")
- 6:00 p.m Alas sais iti sardang (six in the evening)
- 7:00 p.m Alas siete iti rabii (seven in the evening)
- 12:00 noon Alas dose iti pangaldaw (twelve noon)
More Ilocano words
- abay = beside; wedding party
- abalayan = parents-in-law
- adal = study (Southern dialect)
- adda = affirming the presence or existence of a person, place, or object
- ading = younger sibling; can also be applied to someone who is younger than the speaker
- ala = to take
- ammo = know
- anus = perseverance, patience (depends on the usage)
- anya = what/what is it
- apan = go; to go
- apa = fight, argument; ice cream cone
- apay = why
- apong = grandparent
- apong baket / lilang / lola = grandmother
- apong lakay / lilong / lolo= grandfather
- aramid = build, work (Southern dialect)
- aysus!/ Ay Apo! = oh, Jesus/oh, my God!
- baak = ancient; old
- bado = clothes
- bagi = one’s body; ownership
- balong = same as baro
- bangles = spoiled food
- (i/bag)baga = (to) tell/speak
- bagtit / mauyong = crazy/bad word in Ilokano, drunk person, meager
- balasang = young female/lass
- balatong = mung beans
- balong = infant/child
- bangsit = stink/unpleasant/spoiled
- baro = young male/lad
- basa = study (Northern dialect); read (Southern dialect)
- basang = same as balasang
- bassit = few, small, tiny
- kabarbaro = new
- basol = fault, wrongdoing, sin
- baut = spank
- bayag = slow
- binting = 25 cents/quarter
- dadael = destroy/ruin
- (ma)damdama = later
- danon = to arrive at
- diding / taleb = wall
- dumanon = come
- kiaw/amarilio = yellow
- buneng = bladed tool / sword
- gasto = spend
- ganus = unripe
- gaw-at = reach
- (ag) gawid = go home
- giddan = simultaneous
- iggem = holding
- ikkan = to give
- inipis = cards
- inton bigat / intono bigat = tomorrow
- kaanakan = niece / nephew
- kabalio = horse
- kabatiti = loofah
- kabsat = Sibling
- kalub = cover
- kanayon = always
- karuba = neighbor
- kayat = want
- kayumanggi-kunig = yellowish brown
- kibin = hold hands
- kigtut = startle
- kuddot/keddel = pinch
- kumá / komá = hoping for
- ina/inang/nanang = mother
- lastog = boast/arrogant
- lag-an = light/not heavy
- laing / sirib = intelligence
- lawa / nalawa = wide
- lugan = vehicle
- madi = hate
- manang = older sister or relative; can also be applied to women a little older than the speaker
- manó = how many/how much
- manong = older brother or relative; can also be applied to men a little older than the speaker
- mare = female friend/mother
- met = also, too
- obra = work (Northern dialect)
- naimbag nga agsapa = good morning
- naapgad = salty
- nagasang, naadat=spicy
- (na)pintas = beautiful/pretty (woman)
- (na)ngato = high/above/up
- panaw = leave
- pare = close male friend
- padi = priest
- (na)peggad = danger(ous)
- (ag) perdi = (to) break/ruin/damage
- pigis= tear
- pigsa = strength; strong
- pustaan = bet, wager
- pimmusay(en) = died
- riing = wake up
- rigat = hardship
- rugi = start
- rugit = dirt/not clean
- ruot = weed/s
- rupa = face
- ruar = outside
- sagad = broom
- sala = dance
- sang-gol = arm wrestling
- sapul = find; need
- (na)sakit = (it) hurts
- sida = noun for fish, main dish, side dish, viand
- siit = fish bone/thorn
- (na)singpet = kind/obedient
- suli = corner
- (ag)surat = (to) write
- tadem = sharpness (use for tools)
- takaw = steal
- takrot/tarkok = coward/afraid
- tangken = hard (texture)
- tinnag = fall down
- (ag)tokar = to play music or a musical instrument
- torpe = rude
- tudo = rain
- (ag)tugaw = (to) sit
- tugawan = anything to sit on
- tugaw = chair, seat
- tuno = grill
- (na)tawid = inherit(ed)
- ubing = kid; baby; child
- umay = welcome
- unay = very much
- uliteg = uncle
- uray = even though/wait
- uray siak met = me too; even I/me
- ulo = head
- upa = hen
- utong = string beans
- utot = mouse/rat
- uttot = fart
Also of note is the yo-yo, named after an ilocano word.
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- iOS Mobile Application - Ilokano Search – A free iOS application that allows users to search our database of entries for Ilokano/English translations
- Tarabay iti Ortograpia ti Pagsasao nga Ilokano – A free ebook version of the Guide on the Orthography of the Ilokano Language developed by the Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino (KWF) in consultation with various stakeholders in Ilokano language and culture. Developed back in 2012 as a resource material for the implementation of the Department of Education's K-12 curriculum with the integration of MTB-MLE or Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education.
- Bansa.org Ilokano Dictionary
- Materials in Ilocano from Paradisec
- Ilocano.org A project for building an online Ilokano dictionary. Also features Ilokano songs, and a community forum.
- Ilokano Swadesh vocabulary list
- Ilocano: Ti pagsasao ti amianan – Webpage by linguist Dr. Carl R. Galvez Rubino, author of dictionaries on Iloko and Tagalog.
- Iluko.com popular Ilokano web portal featuring Ilokano songs, Iloko fiction and poetry, Ilokano riddles, and a lively Ilokano forum (Dap-ayan).
- mannurat.com blog of an Ilokano fictionist and poet written in Iloko and featuring original and Iloko fiction and poetry, literary analysis and criticism focused on Ilokano Literature, and literary news about Iloko writing and writers and organization like the GUMIL (Gunglo dagiti Mannurat nga Ilokano).
- samtoy.blogspot.com Yloco Blog maintained by Ilokano writers Raymundo Pascua Addun and Joel Manuel
- Austronesian Basic Vocabulary Database
- dadapilan.com – an Iloko literature portal featuring Iloko works by Ilokano writers and forum for Iloko literary study, criticism and online workshop.
- Vocabularios de la Lengua Ilocana by N.P.S. Agustin, published in 1849.
- Tugot A blog maintained by Ilokano writer Jake Ilac.