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Re-marking Filipino: A study on the usage of diacritic markers and the

consideration of using them again

University of the Philippines-Diliman

In partial fulfillment of the requirements of Linguistics 180: Mga Problemang

Pangwika sa Pilipinas (THV)

Submitted to:

Prof. Francisco C. Rosario, Jr.

May 22, 2017

Submitted by:

Michaella A. Azores

Lorma Mae J. Concepcion

Dyan Mariz C. Ferido

1. Introduction
1.1. Background of the Study

Standardizing the orthography of a language is an essential part of national

language planning and policy making. In a country where more than 170 languages

are spoken, it is a challenge to come up with an orthography which will represent

the languages' similarities, as well as reconcile their differences. In the Philippines,

Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) oversees the direction of language planning and

implementation of language policies. Since its conception in 1991, the commission

has been the authority in planning and enriching the orthography of the national

language (Ortograpiyang Pambansa, 2014).

In most Philippine languages, stress is phonemic - the relative emphasis

given to a certain syllable changes the meaning of the word. A classic example in

Filipino would be /ba.ka'/ 'might' and /ba'.ka/ 'cow'. In this regard, the overt usage of

diacritic markers in written discourse is considered a guide to correct pronunciation

for non-native speakers of Filipino, as well as native speakers alike. One of the

earliest attempts to standardize the usage of diacritic markers was made in 1904 -

Carlos Ronquillo saw the necessity to recognize the usage and the labels for

different kinds of stress markers which occur in Tagalog. The most recent attempt

was made in 2014 - enclosed in DepEd Order No. 34 is an update of Ortograpiyang

Pambansa which presents a more comprehensive orthography, recognizing the

schwa in Ibaloy, Ilokano, Ivatan, Ayta Mag-antsi, Agutaynen, Pangasinan, Mranaw,

and other Philippine languages. To represent the schwa, a diacritic mark called the

umlaut or dieresis ( ) is used over a vowel.

Coming up with a standard orthography is already a laborious task in itself,

implementing it is another. Since native speakers of the languages have their own

set of rules in identifying stress in words, there have been concerns regarding the

propagation of KWF's standard orthography. This research will mainly delve into the

nonlinguistic variables and issues regarding the attitude and acceptance of the

standard orthography by students, linguists, language teachers, and the proponents


1.2. Research Objectives

The research aims to determine how beneficial the usage of diacritic marks in

Filipino is to be able to know if they should be used again as encouraged by KWF. To

fulfill the main objective of the research, the study identified different perspectives

from several government and academic agencies namely, Komisyon sa Wikang

Filipino (KWF) which is the main proponent for the project, linguists/ language

teachers who will be one of the most in-charged if the proposal will push through,

and students who are one of the most important target learners of the project.

Based on the interviews and quasi-experiment done to gather the data, the

researchers laid out the advantages and disadvantages of having diacritic markers

in written texts, in line with the effects in reading and writing that it may produce

after weighing the pros and cons of the usage of diacritic markers based on the

different perspectives that were considered and the reading exercises that were

conducted (as elaborated in the next part - Methodology). The researchers also

suggested ways on how to successfully conduct the proposal if it will be approved

and used especially in education. And lastly, in case the proposal will not be

adopted, particularly by the academe, the researchers came up with alternatives on

how the diacritic markers could possibly still be applied and made use of.

1.3. Significance of the Research

As stated in the background of the problem, Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino

(KWF) is proposing the use of diacritic and accent marks in documents and other

written texts. For this reason, this research will be of importance to members of the

KWF since the research can be an important reference for their proposal. It will also

be significant to teachers, especially Filipino language teachers, and students since

it will help them know if diacritic and accent marks should really be used in writing

documents in Filipino.

1.4. Scope and Limitations

The study will focus only on the use of diacritic and accent markers in Filipino.

In this research, Filipino is considered to be mainly Tagalog-based and has only a

few characteristics that can be attributed to other Philippine languages. Hence, the

study will not touch on the use of diacritic marks in other languages of the

Philippines. Also, the quasi-experimental reading test only included nine (9)

students from the University of the Philippines-Diliman and only two (2) language

professors were interviewed.

1.5. Review of Related Literature

In 1904, Carlos Ronquillo wrote a book entitled Pag-aaral tungkol sa tumpak

na pagsulat ng wikang Tagalog. In this book, Ronquillo (1904) said that there are

three kinds of kudlit known to Filipinos - (1) mariin // (2) impit /`/ and (3)

sinalakot /^/. Mariin is used to mark a stressed sound. Impit is used for an

unstressed but glottal sound and salakot is used to mark a sound that is both

stressed and glottal. According to Ronquillo (1904), there are a lot who know these

symbols but do not know how to use them properly. It is important for him that

people know the right usage of these symbols because otherwise, it will lead to

confusion and misunderstanding because there are words in Filipino that change in

meaning depending on the position of the stress in the word. He cited some

examples in his book. Moreover, he said that having these symbols in our writing

will also help foreigners who want to learn or study our language.

Then, in 1918, a book entitled Philippine orthography was written by Norberto

Romualdez. Romualdez (1918) stated that his aim in writing the book is to assist in

systematizing and unifying the native writing. In this book, he wrote about the

vowels, consonants and orthographical signs that should be used. Same with

Ronquillo (1904), Romualdez (1918) talked about three orthographical accents: (1)

the acute //, (2) the grave // and (3) the angular //. The functions of the three

markers Romualdez mentioned are also the same as what Ronquillo stated. Aside

from the above-mentioned, Romualdez (1918) also discussed deformed native

words. When he used the term deformed native words, he was referring to

geographical names which were originally based on the native language but was

somehow changed, for a reason he did not specify. To quote Romualdez (1918), he

wrote, the original native form should be restored to all Philippine geographical

names. One example he gave was Lusg (Luzn) because such is the sound

whether it is considered as the Chinese word for island, or as the Tagalog and

Bisayan word for mortar (Romualdez, 1918). Lastly, he talked about how foreign

words must be written in the language.

Decades after, in 1940, Subido & Gamboa-Mendoza published a book with

the title Tagalog Phonetics and Orthography. In this book, they allocated one section

on Tagalog stress and accent. Interestingly, they described the Tagalog language as

naturally onomatopoeic where weak objects and slow motion are spoken slowly

and gently, while the terms for strong objects and swift, sudden or violent action are

usually spoken with great force (Subido & Gamboa-Mendoza, 1940). With this

analysis, they gave six (6) classes of stress in Tagalog -- level, level-glottal, acute,

acute-glottal, antepenultimate and pausal stress. For both level and level-glottal

stress, the stress is on the penultimate syllable making the pronunciation of the

word slow. The difference lies in the presence of a glottal stop at the end of the

word. A word with level stress ends with a consonant or a vowel without a glottal

stop while a word with level-glottal stress ends in a vowel with a glottal catch

(Subido & Gamboa-Mendoza, 1940). The acute and the acute-glottal stress differ in

the same way. However, words with acute and acute-glottal stress have stress that

falls on the last syllable making the pronunciation continuous until it reaches the

last syllable with the stress. Lastly, the two remaining kinds of stress, which Subido

& Gamboa-Mendoza (1940) described as incidental, are the antepenultimate stress

and the pausal stress. The antepenultimate stress falls on a syllable farther away

from the penultima, on the fourth, fifth or sixth syllable from the penultima. This

occurs in words with more than two syllables. Finally, the pausal stress is placed

when there is a glottal stop between the final vowel of a word and the preceding

syllable (Subido & Gamboa-Mendoza, 1940). The authors stated in their concluding

remarks that stress marks greatly benefit the learners of the language, especially

the non-Tagalog ones. However, they wrote that when the language has become

widespread to the point that the differences in pronunciation of the words have

already been internalized by Filipinos that they can pronounce them without the

marks, then by that time the use of these stress markers may only be reduced to

dictionaries and may entirely be ruled out in ordinary writing and printing (Subido &

Gamboa-Mendoza, 1940).

In 1977, the Surian ng Wikang Pambansa published a book entitled Mga

tuntunin ng ortograpiyang Filipino: Mga patnubay na sinusunod sa pagwawasto ng

mga aklat babasahin. According to the books preface, it was published to

propagate to the masses the revised way of writing in Filipino. The preface also

states that there were changes in the rules to give way to a faster cultivation of the

language and also to its modernization. Compared to the grammar books published

by Ronquillo and Romualdez in 1904 and 1918 respectively, this grammar book of

the Surian does not contain anything about or diacritic and accent markers. It

mainly talked about the proper syllabification of words, proper spelling of native and

foreign terms, etc. The book has a chapter with the title Mga Bantas na Karaniwang

Gamitin. In this chapter, the proper uses of a dot, question mark, comma,

semicolon, colon, etc. were explained. There was no mention of diacritic and accent

markers. Hence, during this time, the proposal of Ronquillo (1904) and Romualdez

(1918) to use diacritic and accent markers to formalize the writing was no longer


From the history narrated above, it seems that during Ronquillos time, the

use of what he calls kudlit is not yet standardized since there are a number of

people who are not yet aware of its proper usage. Moreover, his book was only his

opinion together with the pieces of advice from the people he consulted. It was not

really an official grammar book approved by the government or an organization

appointed by the government to handle language problems. However, it was his

way of systematizing the way of writing in Filipino. After 10 years, it was still the

same. As what Romualdez (1918) said, he wrote the book in order to systematize

the writing. Same with Ronquillo (1904), his book was also a compilation of his and

other Filipino linguists knowledge about the Filipino grammar. It can be observed

that writers during this time want all Filipino writers to follow a systematized way of

writing in Filipino. This includes the use of diacritic and accent markers. After two

decades, in 1940, Subido & Gamboa-Mendoza wrote a book on Tagalog

Orthography. The way they described and classified the kinds of stress is different

from the previous two but essentially, they are all the same. The mariin // of

Ronquillo (1904) and the acute // of Romualdez (1918) can account for the level

stress, the acute and the antepenultimate stress of Subido & Gamboa-Mendoza

(1940). The level-glottal stress and the pausal stress are the same as Ronquillos

(1904) impit /`/ and Romualdezs (1918) grave //. Lastly, sinalakot /^/ and

angular // of Ronquillo (1904) and Romualdez (1918), respectively, are the same as

the acute-glottal stress. Hence, Subido & Gamboa-Mendoza just divided them into

more classes. These authors recognized the importance of diacritic and accent

marks for the learners of the language but also acknowledged the possibility that

their use may be eliminated from writing and printing when the speakers of the

language have become perfectly used to pronouncing words without diacritic and

accent marks.

In 1977, after almost four decades, the use of these markers was eliminated

from the system. As mentioned above, in the book published by the Surian ng

Wikang Pambansa, there was no mention of the use of diacritic and accent markers

in the proper way of writing in Filipino. The book did not say anything as to why

diacritic and accent markers were removed but definitely, they must have had their

reason for doing so. Thus, it can be inferred that the use of diacritic and accent

markers were removed in 1977 or sometime before that. At present, the Komisyon

sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) is bringing them back. According to KWFs Manwal sa

Masinop na Pagsulat (2014) the usage of diacritic marks is important to ensure the

correct pronunciation especially of words that are similar in form (spelling) but differ

in meaning because of the pronunciation. They mentioned the three diacritic

markers that Lope K. Santos proposed - pahilis or acute () for words that are

pronounced rapidly; paiwa or grave (`) for words that are pronounced with a fall of

pitch; and pakupya or circumflex () for words like with grave accent, but with

emphasis on the last syllable. Through time, the pronunciation of words may

change, and the agency believe that mispronunciation of these words is due to

unawareness, especially of the youth and new users of Filipino, about these

markers. In the book they published, Manwal sa Masinop na Pagsulat, KWF further

discussed the particular use of each marker and an additional accent, the patuldok

which is similar to umlaut or dieresis (), was introduced as a solution to the present

confusion on how to properly represent schwa - as A or E - in languages such as

Meranaw, Ivatan, Ayta Mag-antsi, Agutaynen, etc.

It was not mentioned in the book, however, why these diacritic markers are

no longer in use at present in general written texts. But nonetheless, it is evident

that they try to promote and bring back the usage of the said markers by using

them in the documents and publications they produce aside from explicitly

mentioning in the manual the importance and reason why we should use them


As this study aims to recognize the importance of diacritic markers, it will also

be helpful to take a look on other languages that use diacritic markers in their

orthography, like the Romance languages Spanish and French. Indeed, in these

languages, diacritic markers play a significant role in identifying the proper

pronunciation and deciphering the correct meaning of words. In Spanish, Spanish

accents (tildes) can only be written over the five vowels , , , , . This indicates

where the stress should be put in the word. For words that end in a vowel, the letter

n, or the letter s, the stress is on the next to last syllable (penultimate). For

words that end in all other consonants (not n or s), the stress falls on the last

syllable. Accent marks are added when the stress breaks either of those two rules.

For example, la cancin meaning song, ends with an n and is supposed to have

its accent mark on the penultimate syllable. However, the stress falls on the last

syllable when it is pronounced (can-cion) that is why an accent mark should be

placed on it. It is also helpful in differentiating homographs, or words with the the

same spelling but different in pronunciation and also in meaning. For example, mas

but and ms more; and tu your and t you (subject) (Thering, n.d.). Although in

formal written Spanish accent marks are written, some users do not strictly adhere

to this practice and treat this as a minimal mistake if not employed. It seems that it

is assumed that the reader already gets the context of the sentence with a word

with unapplied stress.

Meanwhile, French uses five accent marks namely, the 1.) cdille (cedilla) ,

2.) the accent aigu (acute accent) , 3.) the accent grave (grave accent) , , , 4.)

the accent trma (dieresis/umlaut) , , , and 5.) the accent circonflexe

(circumflex) , , , , . They are basically used as guides for pronunciation. The

cdille which is only used for the phoneme /c/, changes a hard "c" sound (like "k")

into a soft "c" sound (like "s"). // is never used before the vowels e or i, as these

2 vowels always produce a soft "s" sound (e.g. glace, ici). If the accent will be

omitted, a mistake in pronunciation will be inevitable as the /c/ might be

pronounced as [k]. The accent aigu which is put only on an /e/ often indicates that

an s used to follow that vowel, e.g., tudiant student. The grave laced on /a/

and /u/, usually serves to distinguish between words that would otherwise be

homographs; e.g., ou or vs o where. When there is no accent on an /e/, it will

otherwise be pronounced as the regular French /e/ that sounds like a schwa. Like the

accent aigu, the circonflexe usually indicates that an s used to follow that vowel,

e.g., fort forest. However, it does not change pronunciation yet should be

included in written French (Grammarist, n.d.). Meanwhile, the accent trma (dieresis

or umlaut) can be on an /e/, /i/, or /u/. It is used when two vowels are next to each

other and both must be pronounced, e.g., nave, Sal (Lawless, 2017). In French, the

accent marks are strictly used (although not in informal texts like text messages or

in social networking sites), otherwise it will be regarded as a spelling mistake just as

an incorrect or missing letter would be.

As we have seen the importance of diacritic markers in the two previously

discussed Romance languages, the roles that these markers play in identifying the

correct pronunciation and meaning of the words could serve as good points to be

considered to further know how diacritic markers work in Filipino and if they should

really be applied. Although French has more varied diacritic markers than in Spanish

and Filipino, how these markers are used allows us to weigh the usage of diacritics

and their importance in Filipino orthography.

2. Methodology

One of the objectives of the study is to gather different perspectives about

the use of diacritic marks. First, to know how students respond to texts with and

without diacritic and accent markers, two quasi-experimental reading tests were

done with nine (9) students from the University of the Philippines - Diliman. The

quasi-experiments were video or audio recorded. Below is the text that will be used

in the reading activity.

Sa byan ng Pangasinn, may isng tong nakatir sa pno
ng mangg. Ang tong ito ay nagnganglang Juan. Sa isng tang
paninirhan niya rto ay tla banakramdam siya ng pangungull.
Ang pnong tintirhan ni Juan ay isng pno ng mangg. Ito ay pun
ng mga bngang mangg. Ngnit dhil may isng butik na nalaglg
sa kanyng mga dalr ay napgdessyunn niyang umuw na sa
kanilng bhay matpos ang isng tong pagtir niya sa pno ng
mangg. Tuwng tuw ang kanyng mga maglang nang siya ay
makta. Tinanng siya ng kanyng in kung nakakaramdm ba siya
ng gtom. p. Gutm na po ak. sagt ni Juan. Kay namn agd
na umals ang ttay niyang mngingisd. Dray, mangngisd na
ak! Pra namn may masarp tyong maipakin kay Juan. ni ng
kanyng Ttay. Sublit, pagdatng nit sa pampng ay biglng
sumam ang panahn kung kayt nasip ng am ni Juan na 'wag na
lang tumuly at sinpin na lang ang mga bka. Nasip kas niya na
bak ang mga ity mapahmak. Is pa namn it sa mga
pangunhing pinagkuknan nil ng hnapbhay. Nakta niya si Mang
Kanr at summa siya dtong pumnta sa palngke pra bumil ng
lam. Matpos niyang gawn it ay umuw na siya sa kanilng bhay.
Sinbi niya sa kanyng aswa na hind siya nakapangsd dhil nga
masam ang panahn kay bumil na lang daw siya ng lam sa
palngke. Napansn niyang tahmik na nakahig si Juan sa isng
slok ng kanilng kwrto. Pinuntahn niya it at tinanng kung may
masam ba itng narramdamn. Ang sakt po ng tiyn ko, Tay,
sambt ni Juan. Nang maring it ng kanyng am ay agd itng
lumabs ng bhay pang humnap ng manggagmot. Ang kanyng
in namn ay agd siyang pinuntahn. Pagbalk ng kanyng am ay
kasma na nit ang mangggamot sa kany sublit nakta nilng
masayng nakaup si Juan sa kanilng msa. Sbi ni Juan, Tay, utt
lang pal.

In the first reading test, the text did not have any diacritic and accent marker.

After a week, the second reading was done and this time, the text had diacritic and

accent markers. The researchers observed each participant if s/he had any

difficulty while reading the text. When the participant finished reading, the

researchers asked follow-up questions about his/her performance during the reading

test. In addition, to get the insights of language experts, one professor from the UP-

Department of Filipino and one from the UP-Department of Linguistics were

interviewed. Lastly, to hear the opinions of the proponents themselves, the

researchers also conducted an email correspondence with Komisyon ng Wikang

Filipino (KWF). Through this, the researchers were able to ask various questions

about the use of diacritic and accent markers proposed by KWF.

After gathering all their respective opinions, the results were analyzed and

were used to answer the research questions. With the results that came out, the

researchers also laid out the advantages and disadvantages of using diacritic and

accent markers which led them to answer the main research problem of the study.

3. Findings and Discussion

3.1. Quasi-Experimental Reading Test

The researchers have gathered nine undergraduate students from the

University of the Philippines - Diliman for the reading test. The informants had no

knowledge regarding the background and aims of the research prior to reading the


In the first reading test, the informants were to read aloud the version of the

text that didn't use diacritic markers. The second reading test was carried out a

week after the first reading test. In the second reading test, the informants read the

version of the text with diacritic markers.

After the reading tests, the researchers explained to the informants the

background and aims of the research, and asked the following questions to the


a. Any questions or feedback regarding the two reading exercises?

b. Did you have any difficulty reading the text or pronouncing some words from the


c. Was the usage of diacritic markers taught in grade school or high school?

d. Do you prefer the text without diacritic markers or with diacritic markers? Why?

3.1.1. General findings

As observed in the text, homographs in Tagalog were strategically placed in

the text to maintain the nature of the research impalpable to the informants during

the activity. The table below shows the words and homographs included in the text

and the number of informants who mispronounced the homographs.

Word No. of people who No. of people who

mispronounced the word mispronounced the word in
in the first reading activity the second reading activity

tong 0 0

tang 5 1

pno 0 0

pun 5 0

gtom 0 0

gutm 0 0

mngingisd 1 0

mangngisd 3 2

sumam 1 1

summa 1 0

bka 0 0

bak 2 1

manggagmot 0 1

mangggamot 6 4

sinpin 1 1

nagnganglang 1 1
Table 1. Frequency of mispronunciation from the first and second reading activity

As observed in the table, most of the informants made a mistake in

pronouncing the word mangggamot in both the first and second reading test. On

the other hand, no informant made a mistake in pronouncing the homographs

gtom and gutm. Aside from homographs, some informants also made a mistake

in pronouncing the words sinpin and nagnganglang. Prior to the reading test, one

of the informants did not know of the Tagalog word sinpin, and thus the reason for

her mistake.

Two out of the nine informants have expressed preference to the text with

diacritic markers. The text with diacritic markers can be aesthetically pleasing. The

informants suggested, however, that the markers should only be used when writing

homographs in order to distinguish one word from another. From the perspective of

the writer, writing and typing using diacritic markers can be tedious and time-

consuming. From the perspective of the reader however, the diacritic markers can

serve as a guide to the right pronunciation of words. Seeing the markers can be

overwhelming at first but with adequate practice, the diacritic markers can be


Five out of nine informants have expressed disfavor to the text with diacritic

markers. Since most Filipino speakers do not use diacritic markers in written

discourse, the markers might become impediments instead of aids to speakers

unfamiliar with diacritic markers. The markers can cause confusion to the untrained

eye of the reader. It might be less distracting and easier to the eyes if texts did not

include diacritic markers.

Although they were not required to use the markers in class, some informants

have claimed that the usage of diacritic markers was taught in their Filipino classes

in grade four or five. Some informants learned about diacritic markers in Filipino in

college. One of the informants have admitted that although she is aware of the

usage of diacritic markers in English, it was her first time to read a Filipino text

which used diacritic markers.

Some informants have suggested that it is more economical to limit the use

of diacritic markers to homographs. Although the markers can serve as a guide to

right pronunciation, it was deemed unnecessary to use diacritic markers in syllables

which do not cause sound change and in words which only have one pronunciation.

Using diacritic markers to every word in the text would make the document appear

untidy. Moreover, one of the suggestions was to introduce diacritic markers while

learning homographs in Filipino. This is to familiarize the students with the usage

and importance of diacritic markers in written texts.

3.2. Interviews

Since the study is mainly related to language use, pedagogy, and writing, the

researchers interviewed language teachers. Professors from two different

departments at the University of the Philippines - Diliman were interviewed to gain

different perspectives about the issue. The interviewed language teachers were

Prof. Ricardo Ma. D. Nolasco, Ph.D. from the Department of Linguistics and Sir Ronel

O. Laranjo from the Department of Filipino and Philippine Literature.

3.2.1. Interview with Prof. Nolasco, Ph.D.

Prof. Ricardo Ma. D. Nolasco, Ph.D. is an associate professor at the

Department of Linguistics of the University of the Philippines-Diliman. His

specializations include sociolinguistics, morphosyntax, and theoretical and

structural linguistics, to name a few.

Through personal communication, the professor sent three files to the

researchers. These files were his works, which are not yet published, containing his

opinions, his beliefs, basically his position on the said topic. Since the professor

specifically told the researchers not to publicize the works, the titles will not be

listed here.

Starting off with language pedagogy, Prof. Nolasco (personal communication,

2017) stated that in teaching, the more frequent and more familiar sounds are

taught first, and the less frequent and less familiar sounds are taught later. For

example, in Filipino, the vowel /a/ has the most frequency of occurrence compared

to the other vowels. Hence, it should be taught first. In connection to this, Prof.

Nolasco wants language teachers to teach the historic and variant spellings in the

language. The vowels /i/ and /e/ and /u/ and /o/ vary freely making them allophones

of one phoneme but historically, /o/ is favored in final position and /u/ in all others.

Also along the same vein, Prof. Nolasco believes that for accuracy, the proper

pronunciation and marking of words must be taught to the learners of the

languages. According to him, teaching these is important because there are

homographs in Filipino where a change in the position of the stress leads to a

change in meaning. Some examples that he gave were the words tli `string for

tying and tal `to be tied down (Nolasco, personal communication, 2017).

Furthermore, for emblematic and literary purposes, Prof. Nolasco suggests

the use of the apostrophe () to symbolize the glottal stop in Filipino (personal

communication, 2017). He added that the symbol will not be written at all times but

only at the end of a syllable or a word. The professor even said, Masaya na ako

kung kikilalaning may glottal stop sa nasabing mga salita (I will be happy if the

presence of the glottal stop in the said words will be recognized) (Nolasco, personal

communication, 2017). From the professors statement, it is apparent that he wants

the glottal stop in Filipino to be recognized because according to him, the said

sound was not important in English and in Spanish so when the Americans and the

Spaniards studied Filipino, they were not able to assign a symbol or a letter for it.

Thus, it was reduced to being a diacritic mark. The professor even said that the use

of diacritic and accent markers in Filipino was stopped because people believed that

it was a hindrance to writing and to publishing (Nolasco, personal communication,


Then, regarding the orthography of the languages of the Philippines, Prof.

Nolasco stated that one national orthography for all the languages of the

archipelago is not plausible simply because different languages have different

sound systems altogether. They may have similar sounds and letters but the

pronunciation, distribution and value of their respective letters are different. As an

example, Prof. Nolasco (personal communication, 2017) cited some of the

languages of the Cordillera region where /d/ becomes /ch/ after a vowel (e.g.

bodong > fochong). This sound change does not happen in languages such as

Tagalog and Bikol. (Nolasco, personal communication, 2017).

This also implies that the set of diacritic and accent marks best suitable for one

language may not be the most suitable for another. Hence, as what Prof. Nolasco

calls it, a one-size-fits-all orthography for the Philippine languages is not possible.

Finally, when asked about what he can say regarding the aspiration of KWF to

bring back the usage of diacritic and accent marks and also about the DepEd Order

(Appendix 1), the professor boldly said that paurong kasi ang nilalaman ng manwal

at ang DepEd order ay hindi umaalinsunod sa wastong paraan ng pagsusuri ng

ating mga wika at sa wastong paggamit ng ating mga wika sa edukasyon ng mga

Pilipino (the contents of the manual are backwards and the DepEd order does not

follow the proper ways of analyzing our languages and also the proper use of our

languages in the education of the Filipino). Prof. Nolasco added that, mapanlinlang

kasi gusto ipamukha ng KWF ang kanilang awtoridad na itakda kung ano ang

estandardisadong paraan ng pagsusuri at pagsulat ng ating mga wika, samantalang

wala silang ganitong kapangyarihan at wala rin silang ganitong kakayahan ((it is)

deceiving because KWF wants to prove that it has the authority to impose the

standard way of studying ang writing our languages but they do not have the power

and the ability to do so) (Nolasco, personal communication, 2017). From the

professors statements, it is apparent that he is questioning the ways of KWF - how

they want to establish their authority and their capability to study the Philippine

languages. Through his statements, it can be inferred that as an expert on

languages, he does not agree with all of KWFs plans. Thus, when asked if he is in

favor of bringing back the diacritic and accent marks in Tagalog orthography, the

professor said that he is in favor of using them again but he is in favor based on his

own standards and principles of using them and not by the standards prescribed by

KWF (Nolasco, personal communication, 2017).

3.2.2. Interview with Prof. Laranjo

Since the concern about the implementation of using diacritic markers is on

the Filipino language, the researchers had as well interviewed an instructor from the

UP Department of Filipino and Philippine Literature, who is Prof. Ronel O. Laranjo.

During the 20-minute structured interview, the professor has directly and

elaborately answered the questions of the researchers. He said that he does not use

diacritic markers in teaching mainly because there is no tradition of using these in

the register of the Filipino language (Laranjo, personal communication, 2017).

According to him, it is only the Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino (KWF) who uses the

said markers since it is a personal choice by its current chairperson. Furthermore,

he added that in written text, the readers rely more on the context of the passage

rather than on how it is written. And even in teaching Tagalog to foreigners, he said

he does not use the markers since the correction of mistakes was more focused on

the pronunciation rather than in the way of writing (Laranjo, personal

communication, 2017).

The Department of Filipino and Philippine Literature does not have a single

stand regarding the use of diacritic markers according to Prof. Laranjo (personal

communication, 2017). Elaborating more on the importance of the texts context in

reading, he cited baybayin as an example. He said that even in baybayin, different

words could be written in similar form; the meaning will be deciphered based on the

context/sense of what has been read. For example, words such as palay, palad, and

pala are written exactly the same way using baybayin; the word that is really

referred to is (supposed) to be identified by the reader through the context (Laranjo,

personal communication, 2017). Moreover, the professor has also admitted that

personally, he finds it difficult to apply the use of diacritic markers since he has not

been used to using it. He also uses them very minimally in case he really has to.

Perhaps in dictionaries and literary poems they could be helpful; however, in wide,

everyday usage, he articulated that he does not see the need/importance of them.

The professor is also aware about the DepEd order about the implementation

of the use of the said markers through KWF and MTBMLE (Mother-tongue Based

Multilingual Education). Among the diacritic markers, he personally thinks that the

use of umlaut () could be beneficial to better accommodate the schwa () in

Philippine languages that have this sound. Aside from it, he mentioned that other

diacritic markers are not that necessary and can already be omitted (Laranjo,

personal communication, 2017).

When asked about his thoughts if he thinks that using diacritic markers in

writing would help, or would rather cause confusion, Prof. Laranjo (personal

communication, 2017) has split opinions. According to him, it depends on the

learner i.e 1) the ones who are not used of using them; and 2) those young ones

that are just about to enter school. It is necessary that the ones who will teach the

use of diacritic markers have an adequate knowledge about them as the professor

also thinks that the use of them would be most beneficial in the academe. The use

of such markers could be started through the help of media as it has a wide scope.

Reaching the end of the interview, Prof. Laranjo (personal communication,

2017) expressed his concern about the issue by mentioning economic matters that

he sees the need to be addressed first before starting the implementation of the

order. In the country, there is not yet a microsoft interface that will accommodate

faster encoding of such symbols and so it may be a hassle whenever people need to

type them. Moreover, it will cost more ink and space in publishing materials which

will require an adjustment in budget as well. Efficient training for the teachers and

sufficient budget for the production of materials needed are indeed important for

this implementation of the orthography to be successful (Laranjo, personal

communication, 2017).

3.3. Email Correspondence with Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF)

Being the main proponent of the use of diacritic and accent markers, the

researchers also decided to get the side of Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF)

through an email correspondence. The researchers sent an email to the organization

containing six questions (6) and received a reply from Miss Maria Christina Pangan

of KWF through email, together with attached supplementary materials - a PDF file

of Ortograpiyang Pambansa and a scanned copy of words that should always be

marked, which will be discussed more later.

For the first question, since it was mentioned in DepEd Order No. 34, s. 2013

(Appendix 1) that KWF carried out a careful study of the previous Filipino

orthography currently taught in schools, the researchers asked how it was studied,

what was the scope of the study and what were the results. As their response,

Pangan stated that a consultative forum about the Filipino orthography was held last

March 2013 at the UP College of Education. In the said forum, the three previous

orthographies - 1987, 2001 and 2008 - made by KWF was presented. Also, the draft

of an orthography whose framework is based on the harmonization of the Philippine

languages was also presented. Moreover, Pangan mentioned that different experts

of Filipino and other Philippine languages participated in the forum. The convener

was Dr. Galileo Zafra and the results of the consultation may be found in the

introduction of the book Ortograpiyang Pambansa, written by President Almario of

KWF (Pangan, personal communication, 2017). The said introduction was basically a

look back on how far the national orthography has come and also a summary of

the March 2013 forum. It was written that the forum decided on five (5) desired

characteristics of the orthography - (1) reflects the history of the languages, (2)

based on a higher model of language use, (3) responds to the basic needs in

writing, (4) flexible in adapting to changes and (5) easy to use. Mr. Almario also

made mention of additions to the orthography such as the symbol that will be used

for schwa - (), which is called tutuldok (Ortograpiyang Pambansa, 2014). However,

in his introduction, there was no mention of the use of diacritic and accent markers

and the motivation behind doing so.

Therefore, the researchers asked KWF for their reason why they decided to

bring these markers back. Pangan stated that the markers, which they call tuldik,

were brought back mainly to avoid confusion in pronouncing and in writing words

with the same spelling but with different pronunciation, thus, also with different

meanings (Pangan, personal communication, 2017). The example they gave was

the word paso which, according to them, can be pronounced as malumay (pso

pass e.g. Pasong Tamo, Paso de Blas), mabilis (pas outdated) malumi (pas

burn) and maragsa (pas pot). Pangan (personal communication, 2017) also

mentioned that KWF is encouraging textbook writers to use diacritic and accent

marks, most especially in the lower levels, to help the children get used to seeing

these marks when they read and also for the markers to serve as guide when


Going back to the DepEd Order, which was first released in 2013, the

researchers asked the organization about the progress and the results of the

implementation since the order was out. For their reply, Pangan (personal

communication, 2017) said that there is no formal study yet on the results of the

implementation but focus group discussions (FGD) were conducted in target areas

in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. However, the results of the FGDs cannot be

disclosed as of the moment since the results are still being analyzed but will be

released by this year.

Then, regarding the use of diacritic and accent marks, the researchers asked

KWF if they use the marks in writing all documents or in specific documents only.

KWF responded by saying that they are the frontrunner of bringing back the use of

these markers, hence, they use them in all kinds of documents that they release.

Specifically, they said that the usage of the markers can best be seen in the book

Aklat ng Bayan. However, KWF clarified that not all words must be marked and they

added that Chapter 10 of Ortograpiyang Pambansa contains the words that must be

marked (Pangan, personal communication, 2017). Also, as mentioned above,

together with the reply, they attached supplementary materials to the email they

sent the researchers. One of those supplementary materials is a scanned copy of

the draft of a memo listing words that must be marked. The memo was released by

KWF and is being used by their employees. A copy of the memo may be found in

Appendix 2.

In connection to the use of diacritic and accent marks, the researchers also

asked KWF if they promote its usage in all kinds of documents or in specific

documents only. KWF stated that yes, they encourage the use of diacritic and

accent marks at all times but only for words which need them to avoid confusion

and misunderstanding. In other words, they encourage its use only on homographs

(Pangan, personal communication, 2017).

Lastly, the researchers asked how the organization promotes the use of

diacritic and accent marks. KWF stated that Aklat ng Bayan, a publication program

of KWF, is one of the ways by which they promote diacritic and accent markers. All

books made by KWF are marked even if the books are written in the regional

languages. In addition, Pangan (personal communication, 2017) said that KWF is

conducting seminars about the national orthography. Through these seminars, they

believe that they can explain the history of the orthography, how it was made, its

similarities with the previous orthographies and also the changes that was done

with the latest one.

3.4. Data Analysis

On the quasi-experimental reading test, the researchers have observed that

the informants did better on the second reading of the text (the text with diacritic

markers). While some informants proactively ignored the diacritic markers to avoid

being confused, for one informant, the diacritic markers became helpful for her to

pronounce the homographs correctly and distinguish one homograph from another.

The markers also helped her remember the first text. For informants who did not

learn about the usage of diacritic markers in Filipino, it is better not to use the

markers since it can be overwhelming. For informants who have prior knowledge of

the diacritic markers however, the usage of diacritic markers can be beneficial to an

extent. It is preferred to limit the use of diacritic markers to homographs.

The researchers have also posited some factors which may have led to

mistakes and mispronunciations of the words from the informants. The informants

might have been inordinately conscious of the video recording. While reading aloud,

some of the informants were more focused on the delivery than the overall context

of the story and the right pronunciation of words. On the other hand, some

informants tried to predict what happens next in the story and in turn, lose focus on

the delivery of the words. The influence of the preceding homograph may also be a

factor in the mispronunciation of the words. Some informants pronounced

manggagmot similarly with mangggamot, as well as mngingisd with

mangngisd. Words with more than three syllables have also caused confusion to

some of the informants (e.g. nagnganglang). Unfamiliarity with a certain word is

also a factor in mispronouncing the word. Prior to the reading test, an informant did

not know of the word sinpin, and thus mispronounced the word.

On the interviews with the two language professors, both have quite different

points of view when it comes to the usage of diacritic marks. For Prof. Nolasco, he

strongly recommends and encourages the use of them at all times, in his own

suggested provisions however, and not with KWFs. On the other hand, for Prof.

Laranjo, umlaut () is the only marker necessary and deemed beneficial to be used.

The researchers have considered the difference in the two professors generation

where it is possible that Prof. Nolasco has been used to write using diacritics since

the marks, according to KWF, were first introduced in 1904, used until 1940, but

gone around 1970s. Anyhow, during these years, Prof. Nolasco has then already

started writing studies and researches. On the other hand, Prof. Laranjo, who is

younger than the previous professor, was not used of writing using diacritic markers

since they were not of active usage during his time. Pondering on Prof. Laranjos

interview, the fact that he does not apply the usage of the said markers in teaching

foreigners Filipino was quite surprising; It somehow implies that these markers are

not really necessary to make non-speakers of Tagalog understand and speak the

language, although they can be helpful in explaining why or how the words are

pronounced. The use of the apostrophe () to account for the glottal stop, as

suggested by Prof. Nolasco, was also noteworthy. Although it is not actually applied

in writing in Tagalog, if its usage will be pursued, the researchers were afraid that

this will be understood as a convenient representation for glottal stop only by those

who have technical linguistic knowledge; otherwise, its use may be mistaken as for

possession or contractions. The two professors also have different views about

Filipino - Prof. Nolasco sees Filipino indifferent from Tagalog, while Prof. Laranjo takes

into account other Philippine languages aside from Tagalog, which probably is the

reason for his suggestion of using the umlaut () to represent schwa, as this sound

is present in many indigenous languages in the Philippines.

Regarding the reply of KWF, the researchers observed that contrary to what

was expected, the Komisyon was only encouraging the use of accent marks on

homographs. According to their reply, they were not suggesting the use of all

diacritic and accent markers but only those necessary to differentiate words with

the same spelling but different pronunciation and meaning. The respondent from

KWF indicated that this clarification can be found in Chapter 10 of Ortograpiyang

Pambansa. The respondent added that the chapter also contains the list of words

that must be marked. However, the researchers observed that in Manwal ng

Masinop na Pagsulat and in Ortograpiyang Pambansa, it was not clearly stated. In

Ortograpiyang Pambansas (2014) Chapter 10 Pagbabalik Sa Mga Tuldik,, it was

written that (m)ahalagang ibalik ang paggamit sa mga tuldk o asnto. Kung

mahihirapang markahan ang lahat ng salita, gamitin ang tuldik upang maipatiyak

ang wastong bigkas lal na sa mga salitang magkakatulad ng baybay ngunit

nagbabago ang kahulugan dahil sa bigkas (It is important to bring back the use of

diacritic and accent markers. If it will be difficult to mark all words, use the markers

to indicate the proper pronunciation, most especially on words with the same

spelling but have different meaning due to difference in pronunciation). From this

statement, it can be observed that KWF did not explicitly state that only the

markers that will differentiate homographs will be used. They only said that IF it will

be difficult, apply the markers for homographs only. Hence, the researchers

suggests that they clearly state their proposals to avoid confusion and

misunderstanding. The chapter also does not include the list of words to be marked.

But they attached the list in the email as a supplementary material. A copy can be

found in Appendix 2. As can be noticed, the memorandum only includes 27 sets of

homographs. There are still a lot of homographs in Filipino that can be added to the

list such as those included in the researchs reading test (e.g. manggagmot

doctor and mangggamot to heal). Thus, the researchers suggest that the

Komisyon expand their list to include more homographs. Lastly, it can be said that

the whole topic of bringing back the use of diacritic and accent markers is still in

process. KWF is still in the process of spreading knowledge about its proper use and

based on their answers and also the responses the researchers got from the

students, it seems that, as of the moment, it is only the Komisyon using these


4. Conclusion

After analyzing all the data, the researchers concluded that yes, the use of

diacritic and accent markers are beneficial to its users, but not all diacritic and

accent marks must be used. The researchers agree with the suggestion of the

participants in the conducted quasi-experiment, that the said marks can be

beneficial most especially when it comes to texts containing homographs. Other

words with only one pronunciation need not be marked since they do not cause

confusion. The native speakers of the language automatically know how to

pronounce them. For Prof. Nolasco, all diacritic marks are encouraged to be used,

while for Prof. Laranjo, only the umlaut () is necessary. Also, it was observed that

for those who have been used to writing using the said marks, they can indeed be

helpful and will not cause confusion, but for the others who have not been trained in

using them, the marks may even add more difficulty and confusion. Hence, it all

boils down to what writing system one is used to. In connection to that, the

researchers believe that it is also important for the teachers to have sufficient

knowledge about this topic so that they can adequately teach it to their students. If

the students will be used to the marks, the use of stress marks, especially to

homographs, can also be beneficial in teaching the proper pronunciation of words.

Hence, the diacritic and accent marks may be useful in facilitating learning among

the young learners of the language but for practical purposes, only the marks used

to differentiate homographs will be used in writing and publishing.

Similar to teaching young Filipinos, when it comes to teaching non-native

learners, the diacritic and accent marks may also help in teaching the proper

pronunciation of the words since, after all, they are studying a foreign a language.

However, foreign students should not be used to texts with markers since majority

of the published works in Filipino do not have diacritic and accent marks. After some

time, they should also be trained to read texts without the help of diacritic and

accent marks.

Lastly, as part of the researchs objectives, the researchers also came up with

suggestions for KWF in terms of spreading knowledge and propagating the use of

diacritic and accent markers. First, they should clearly state what they are

proposing. As mentioned above, it was not explicitly stated in Ortograpiyang

Pambansa that only the marks needed to differentiate homographs will be used. A

clear statement of their proposal is important to avoid misunderstanding. Also, the

researchers suggest that they provide sufficient training, seminars, materials, etc.

to the teachers who will be teaching them because it is important that the learners

be taught adequately since they will be the ones to use it in their writing. Lastly, if

KWF really wants to propagate the usage of these markers, they must also start

encouraging the media, especially the TV networks, newspaper companies and

internet users, to use these markers. Exposure to the diacritic marks will help

people to get used to them and at the same time, learn how to apply them


Indeed, for the implementation to be successful, a collaborative effort from

the respective authorities and organizations (including DepEd and KWF) together

with the teachers, and even the willingness of every Filipino to adopt the usage are

all deemed necessary.

As a recommendation, other researchers are also encouraged by the

researchers to look further on the issue by analyzing other uses of diacritic markers

in other Philippine languages and identify afterwards what the most necessary

marks are if there is such a need of using them.