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Ilokano grammar

Ilokano grammar, akin to many of the Philippine languages, is very different in many resepects from European
languages like English.

Ilokano has word classes such as nouns, verbs and adjectives found in a canonical grammar. Yet, Ilokano
has particles. Particles have no inherent meaning on their own, but are useful in altering the sentence or
phrase in which they occur. One particle in particular, the ligature, is common to Philippine languages. It use is
to link constituents of a sentence as a unit.

In English morphology, there are prefixes and suffixes. In addition to those, Ilokano has what are called infixes.
Sometimes, prefixes and suffixes come in pairs, called "circumfixes".

Ilokano verbal morphology is rather complex and uses a system of Philippine-type focus.


1 Word Classes

o 1.1 Determiners

1.1.1 Articles

1.1.2 Demonstratives Spatial Demonstratives Non-Visible Demonstratives

o 1.2 Pronouns

1.2.1 Personal Pronouns

1.2.2 Enclitic Personal Pronoun Sequences

1.2.3 Reflexive

o 1.3 Nouns

1.3.1 Plural
o 1.4 Adjectives

1.4.1 Root Adjectives

1.4.2 Derived Adjectives

1.4.3 Adjective degrees

o 1.5 Verbs

o 1.6 Adverbs

1.6.1 Locatives

1.6.2 Manner

o 1.7 Numbers

1.7.1 Cardinal

1.7.2 Ordinal

1.7.3 Distributive

2 Morphology

3 Syntax

o 3.1 Typology

o 3.2 Noun Phrases

o 3.3 Verb Phrases

o 3.4 Existential

o 3.5 Clauses
3.5.1 Coordination

o 3.6 Notes

o 3.7 See also

o 3.8 Original Source

Word Classes
Ilokano has two subsets of determiners. Articles are similar to the in English. Demonstratives are those words
that point out something, this and that.

Ilokano determiners show only two cases, core and oblique, unlike Ilokano pronouns which show
three: absolutive, ergative and oblique. In fact, core can function as absolutive or ergative.

Ilokano has two sets of articles, common and personal. Personal articles are used with persons, names and
titles. Common articles are used with all other nouns.

Case Singular Plural
ti <ref name="diay">Diay may be used in place of ti if the speaker
Core dagiti
would like to be more specific.</ref>
Oblique iti kadagiti
Case Singular Plural
Core ni da
Oblique kenni kada

Kinship terms, such as mother or uncle can take either set of articles. Preceded by the common article, the
term is more generalized or conceptual. On the other hand, preceeded by a personal article, the reference is
more specific. The speaker refers to someone in particular.

Napan ti ama idiay eskuelaan ti anakna.

The father went to his child's school.

Napan ni amam idiay eskuelaan ni kabsatmo.

Your father went to your sister's/brother's school.
Such can also be said of titles or offices.

Nakitak ni maestra idiay padaya.

I saw teacher at the party.
(referring to the speaker's teach in school or some other specific person)

Nakitak ti maestra idiay padaya.

I saw a teacher at the party. (any teacher)

Similar to the articles, demonstratives distinguish two cases (core and oblique) and two numbers
(singular and plural). Like Spanish or Japanese, Ilokano has a three-way distinction regarding space. But,
Ilokano has another set that refers to object or events not visible to either the speaker or the listener. In total,
Ilokano demonstratives have a five-way distinction.
Spatial Demonstratives

Ilokano distinguishes the following levels of proximity:

Proximal: Near the speaker, this

Medial: Near the listener, that

Distal: Removed from both speaker and listener, yonder

Number Case Proximal Medial Distal
Core daytoy ('toy) dayta ('ta) daydiay ('diay) <ref name="diay"/>
iti daytoy iti dayta iti daydiay
kadaytoy kadayta kadaydiay

Core dagitoy dagita dagidiay

Oblique kadagitoy kadagita kadagidiay
Non-Visible Demonstratives

The Non-Visible series refers to objects and events that are not visible to either the speaker or the listener.
Quite possibly, what is referred to occurred in the past.

Recent Past: Refers to things or events that are not visible to the speaker or the listener at the
moment of the speech event.

Remote Past: Refers to persons who have passed away, things that no longer exist or events that
occurred long ago.
Number Case Recent Remote
Core daytay ('tay) daydi ('di)
iti daytay iti daydi
kadaytay kadaydi

Core dagitay dagidi

Oblique kadagitay kadagidi

Demostratives are linked to their noun or noun phrases with the ligature a/nga.

Dayta a lalaki
That man

But, the forms in parentheses above, do not require a ligature.

'Ta lalaki
That man


Nagtagtagainepak iti daydi nga apong.

I dreamt of grandmother.

Nabirukam 'tay kuartam?

Did you find your money?


<div id="pronouns"/>

Personal Pronouns
Ilokano personal pronouns distinguish three cases: absolutive, ergative, and oblique. They also distinguish
three numbers: singular, dual and plural.

The only person that distinguishes a dual number is the first. It includes only the speaker and only one listener.
If there are more persons addressed, then the fist person plural inclusive is more appropriate. Non-native
speakers of Ilokano who are not familiar with this concept will tend to confuse the first person plural
inclusive tayo with ta. For example, in a situation where the speaker and the listener are taking leave, a native
would say Intan whereas the non-native would say Intayon.
The first person plural encodes inclusivity. The first person plural inclusive refers to the speaker and at least
two listeners. On the other hand, the first person plural exclusive refers to the speaker and others. It does not
include the person(s) spoken to.

Personal pronouns in the absolutive case have two forms: independent and enclitic. Independent pronouns are
not attached to any word; they can be sentence predicates as well. On the other hand, enclitic pronouns must
attach to the preceding word, whether a noun or a verb. When attached to a noun, they indicate possession, to
a verb, they indicate the agent of the verb.

Oblique pronouns usually express conveyance to someone. They also mark the patient role (direct object) of
verbs cast in the agent focus. Additionally, they can be used to denote someone's home.

Personal Pronouns
Absolutive Ergative Oblique
Enclitic (-ak)<ref
Enclitic (-ko)<ref
name="KoSeries">The series of
series of absolutive enclitics
ergative enclitics series is
is sometimes referred to as
Independent sometimes referred to as the - Independent
the -ak series, a name
ko series, a name derived from
derived from the form of
the form of the first person
the first person
-k(o) <ref name="LostO">The
final o is lost when the precending
word ends in a simple vowel and
when there are no following
enclitics. Compare the following:

sik <ref
name="SiForms">These -ak <ref name="ako">When Asom Your dog
1st forms are a combination of the enclitic particle -(e)n is
person the obsolete variant of the attached, the form becomes - kanik
singular personal article si and the akon indicating that it once Asomonto It will be your
absolutive enclitic was -ako.</ref> dog.</ref><ref
attaching to either of the
suffixes, -en or -an, the -n of
the suffix is lost.</ref>
dat, sit <ref
person -ta -ta kadat
sik <ref
person -ka -m(o) <ref name="LostO"/> kenk
- <ref name="Zero">The
3rd person singular has no
person is(na) -na kenkuna
ending or form; it is inferred
by context.</ref>
person datay, sitay <ref
-tay -tay kadatay
plural name="SiForms"/>
person dakam, sikam <ref
-kam -mi kadakam
plural name="SiForms"/>
dakay, sikay <ref
person -kay -yo kadakay
person isda -da -da kadakuda

Examples of independent absolutive personal pronouns:

Sik ti gayyem ni Juan.

"I am Juan's friend."

Dakam ti napan idiay Laoag.

"It was us who went to Laoag."

Sikayo ngay?
"What about you? (plural) "

Examples of enclitic absolutive personal pronouns:

Gumatgatangak iti saba.

"I am buying bananas."

Agawidkayonto kadi intono Sabado?

"Are all of you going home on Saturday?"

Examples of possessive use of the enclitic personal pronouns:

Napintas ti balaymo.
"Your house is beautiful."

Ayanna daydiay asok?

"Where is my dog?"

Examples of ergative enclitic personal pronouns:

Basbasaenda ti diario.
"They are reading the newspaper."

Intedna kaniak.
"He gave it to me."

Examples of oblique personal pronouns:

Imbagam kaniana!
"You told her!"

Adda kadakuada.
"He is at their house."

Enclitic Personal Pronoun Sequences

Enclitic personal pronoun sqeunces occur with goal oriented or transitive verbs, verbs that take both an agent
and an object to complete its meaning. Enclitic personal pronouns may or may not combine when they occur in
sequence, in the order of agent (in the ergative case, or -ko series) and goal (in the absolutive case, or the -
ak series).

ent 1st Plur. 1st Plur.
1st Sing. 2nd Sing. 3rd Sing. 1st Dual 2nd Plur. 3rd Plur.
Excl. Incl.
where the
agent and the
patient are
1st the same, the -k(o) <ref
Sin agent remains -ka name="Zero" - - - -kayo -k(o) ida
g. the same, but />
the patient is
one of the
pronouns that
correspond to
<ref -m(o) <ref
-nak name="Refl name="Zero" - -nakami - - -m(o) ida
exives"/> />
3rd -nak -naka <ref -nata -nakami -natayo -nakayo -na ida
Sin name="Refle
g. xives"/>/-
na <ref
1st -ta <ref <ref
Du - - name="Zero" name="Refl - - - -ta ida
al /> exives"/>
Plu -mi <ref <ref
r. - -daka name="Zero" - name="Refl - -dakayo -mi ida
Ex /> exives"/>
Plu -tayo <ref <ref
r. - - name="Zero" - - name="Refl - -tayo ida
Inc /> exives"/>
-yo <ref <ref
-dak - name="Zero" -data -dakami - name="Refl -yo ida
/> exives"/>
3rd -da <ref
Plu -dak -daka name="Zero" -data -dakami -datayo -dakayo
r. />


The 3rd person is assumed when it is a patient. In other words, it appears as a zero morpheme. If

there is a need for emphasis, then isuna, an idependent absolutive personal pronoun, may be used, for
example, Nakitak isuna, I saw him.

Ida never combines with any of the pronouns. As a result, other enclitics may occur between the agent

and ida, for example, Nailutuannan ida, He cooked for them already.

-ko and -mo forms only occur when more enclitics, such as the future particle, are

added, Ipankonto ida, I will send them.

-na appears to signal a singular agent regardless of person, where as, -da signals a plural agent.

Some combinations do not exist, for example, 1st person singular agent and a 1st person plural

patient. Typically, these non-existent forms are those where the agent is among the patients.
Nouns are classed into the Common or Personal subclasses. The Personal nouns are introduced by the
personal article ni. They may be introduced by ti, the common article, if the speaker is making a generalization
or conceptualizing. All other nouns, the common nouns, are introduced by ti.

Nouns can be made plural by using the appropriate form of the article. Plurality can be indicated in the noun
form, but adds the nuance of distribution.

Root Adjectives
Root adjectives are not derived from any other roots and are characterized as not having any of the common
derivational affixes, such as a-, na-, etc. Many root adjectives denote physical characteristics. A great number
of them, especially, denote physical abnormalities.

bassit small
dakkel big
baro new
daan old (applied to inanimate objects)
baket old (applied to animate females)
lakay old (applied to animate males)
buttiog having a pot-belly (applied to men)
tuleng deaf
pangkis cross-eyed/cock-eyed

Derived Adjectives



Adjective degrees





Main article: Ilokano Verb

Although other word classes in Ilokano are not as morphologically diverse in forms, verbs are about as
morphologically complex as the classic Indo-European languages of Latin, Ancient Greek or Sanskrit.

Locative correspond to here and there. They have a three-way distinction similar to the demonstratives:
proximal, medial and distal. They can be used with nouns to specify location. In addition, they can replace
a noun phrase in the oblique case that concerns location.

Locative Determiners
Space Form Gloss
Proximal ditoy here
Medial dita there
Distal there or yonder (obs.)


Napan iti balay.

He went to a house.

Napan idiay balay.

He went to that house (over there).
He went to the house.

Napan idiay.
He went there.

Ilokano has a set of adverbs that reference manner according space. They are a combination
of kas "like/as" and the abbreviated determiner forms 'toy, 'ta and 'diay.

Locative Determiners
Space Form Gloss
Proximal kastoy like this, this way
Medial kasta like that, that way
Distal kasdiay like that, that way

Kinitak a kastoy.
I looked at him like this.

Apay sinuratmo a kasta?

Why did you write it that way?

Nagsala a kasdiay.
She dance like that (over there, like she is dancing).