Austronesian Archipelagic Linguistic Diversity Amid Globalization in the Philippines

Reference work entry


The Philippines, an archipelago of 7,100 islands located in Southeast Asia, are marked by substantial linguistic diversity with 181 living languages being used. The languages of the Philippines belong to the Western Malayo-Polynesian group of the Malayo-Polynesian branch of the Austronesian language family. Although the Philippines were a Spanish colony from 1568 to 1898, the Spanish were reluctant to allow the masses to learn Spanish. Nevertheless, numerous Spanish loan words made their way into the Filipino languages and into the toponymy of the archipelago; indeed, in one part of the Philippines a Spanish Creole language emerged that persists to this day. From 1898 to 1946, the Philippines were a colony of the United States, and the Americans aggressively promoted the teaching of English. Today, English as an official language in the Philippines is the language used in government and law and is widely spoken as a second language by many Filipinos. English proficiency has contributed greatly to the employment of overseas Filipino workers around the world and to the development of call centers in the Philippines. Studying the languages of the Philippines illustrates many concepts in linguistic geography. The effect of physical geography upon linguistic diversity is demonstrated by much of the archipelago’s linguistic diversity being attributed to its fragmented territorial morphology. The role of power relations upon languages is demonstrated by the incorporation of Spanish and English words into the Filipino languages. The use of English by overseas Filipino workers and in call centers demonstrates the role of English as the language of globalization.


Philippines Linguistic diversity Austronesian language family Call centers Globalization English Island 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of LawUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  2. 2.Department of GeographyUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

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