This e-dictionary aims to save dying languages

Funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), the De La Salle University (DLSU) has created a mobile electronic dictionary (e-dictionary) to help save the country's dying languages.

(Photo from DOST)

According to DOST, there are 187 Philippine languages, but only 183 are living, while the other four are already extinct.

Of the living languages, 175 are Indigenous, while eight are non-Indigenous. Some 13 languages are endangered and 11 are dying.

Led by Dr. Rochelle Irene Lucas of DLSU, the research on Language Preservation and Documentation of Hanunuo was a response to a call of then Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro in 2016 to adopt an Indigenous language to help preserve endangered or in state of dying languages.

Lucas said there are still 13,000 remaining speakers of Hanunuo-Mangyan, one of the languages of the Mangyan population found in Mindoro.

The Mangyan comprises of eight tribes: Alangan, Bangon, Buhid, Hanunuo, Iraya, Ratagnon, Tadyawan, and Tawbuid.

Lucas noted that the Hanunuo Mangyan is critically endangered because of the limited use of their writing systems.

In the survey of 170 respondents from Sitio Bailan and Umabang, Bulalacao, Mindoro, only a few respondents were able to identify or write the Mangyan script.

"The younger generation of Hanunuo Mangyan are no longer literate in their system of writing which will eventually lead to the language loss in writing their script," Lucas said.

She added that for the writing system to regain its presence in the community, the orthography needs to be accessible, visible, and functional.

The research team underscored the need to promote the use of Surat Mangyan in community documentation of Hanunuo Mangyan activities, such as town hall meetings, observance of traditional practices, and sharing of Indigenous knowledge.

They also urged the use of Surat Mangyan as part of the Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education curriculum of DepEd for Kinder to Grade 6 through the Indigenous Education Program.