A Dictionary of Cebuano Visayan by John U. Wolff


The Southeast Asia Program was organized at Cornell University in the Department of Far Eastern Studies in 1950. It is a teaching and research program of interdisciplinary studies in the humanities, social sciences, and some natural sciences. It deals with Southeast Asia as a region, and with the individual countries of the area: Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

The activities of the Program are carried on both at Cornell and in Southeast Asia. They include an undergraduate and graduate curriculum at Cornell which provides instruction by specialists in Southeast Asian cultural history and present-day affairs and offers intensive training in each of the major languages of the area. The Program sponsors group research projects on Thailand, on Indonesia, on the Philippines, and on the area’s Chinese minorities. At the same time, individual staff and students of the Program have done field research in every Southeast Asian country.

A list of publications relating to Southeast Asia which may be obtained on prepaid order directly from the Program is given at the end of this volume. Information on Program staff, fellowships, requirements for degrees, and current course offerings will be found in an Announcement of the Department of Asian Studies, obtainable from the Director, Southeast Asia Program, 120 Uris Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14850.

Cornell University, Southeast Asia Program
Linguistic Society of the Philippines

This work is a dictionary of Cebuano Visayan, the language of the central part of the Philippines and much of Mindanao. Although the explanations are given in English, the aim of this work is not to provide English equivalents but to explain Cebuano forms in terms of themselves. It is meant as a reference work for Cebuano speakers and as a tool for students of the Cebuano language. There is a total of some 25,000 entries and an addenda of 700 forms which were prepared after the dictionary had been composed.

This dictionary is the product of eleven years work by more than a hundred persons. The work was edited by me and is my responsibility, but the sources are entirely native, and all illustrations are composed by native speakers. The personnel who wrote up the entries are listed in Section 2.1, p. ix. The manuscript went through five versions, the final on an IBM selectric composer. The whole composition was done in Cebu City in five months’ time by Pacifico Briones, Nicolasito Catingan, Florecita Florido, Donata Laingo, and Grace Mendoza. The drafting and splicing were done by Carlito Gubaynon and Felismeno Simplicio. The proofreading and editing was done by me together with Mrs. Elizabeth Say, Mrs. Fe Cuenca, Richard Quiñanola, and my wife Ida Wolff. In the earlier stages of gathering, transcribing, and indexing materials a huge number of people participated, too numerous to mention by name. The entire dictionary through the final composed product was compiled from notes on index cards in the course of twenty-six months. My thanks go especially to the staff listed above and on p. ix for their cooperative spirit. Without their willingness to work overtime, this dictionary could not have been completed.

The work was supported from 1963 to 1966 by funds from Cornell University faculty research grants; 1966–7 by Office of Education contract No. 1-7-002672-2040; 1967–1968 by a Cornell University faculty research grant; 1968–1969 by a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies and by a grant from the Cornell University Philippine Project; 1969–1971 by Office of Education Contract No. 0-9-097718-3350. My trip to the Philippines was financed in 1966–1969 and again in 1970–71 by a Fulbright-Hayes faculty research grant. Without these sources of funds this dictionary could not have been completed.

This dictionary by no means exhausts the Cebuano language, and we hope in future years to produce an expanded and improved version with illustrations. To this end we welcome and would be most grateful for suggestions for corrections and additions.


Southeast Asia Program
Cornell University
Ithaca, New York
August 1971[iv]

The Southeast Asia Program takes particular pleasure in helping to make this Cebuano dictionary available. The language is, of course, of importance in itself, not only because of its wide use in the Philippines, but also because of its value to linguists and historical research.

In addition, we are especially pleased that this dictionary is a joint publication of the Southeast Asia Program and the Linguistic Society of the Philippines. We owe a special debt of gratitude to the Rev. Teodoro Llamzon, S. J., president of the Linguistic Society of the Philippines, for his gracious help and cooperation in attending to the many details involved in such a cooperative venture. We are also grateful to the Asia Foundation, which provided a partial subsidy to make publication possible.

We are confident that Professor Wolff’s research on Cebuano and the compilation of this work, covering a period of eleven years, has resulted in a useful reference work and in an important contribution to our knowledge of Philippine languages and cultures and to linguistics in general.

Robert B. Jones

Ithaca, New York
December, 1971




a, adj. adjective voc. vocative
Culu- prefix consisting of the initial consonant of the root followed by ulu x- x is a prefix
dat. dative -x x is a suffix
gen. genitive -x- x is infixed after the initial consonant
k.o. kind of x1x2 there are two roots with the shape x, members of different morphemes
-l- infix consisting of l followed by the initial vowel of the root x-y x is a prefix, and y is a suffix
lit. literally x(y) y can be substituted for x with virtually no difference in meaning
n noun x-/y- x or, alternatively with no change in meaning, y
nom. nominative root
r- prefix consisting of the initial consonant followed by the first vowel of the root = alternative pronunciation. Defined under the form listed on the right
s.o. someone (→) shift to right: when an affix is added the vowel of the penult is shortened (Section 5.11, p. xii)
s.t. something (←) shift to left: when an affix is added the vowel of the penult is lengthened (Section 5.11, p. xii)
s.w. somewhere additions added to the entry on pp. 1140 ff.
v verb * root which is not used alone


1.0 Cebuano

This work is a dictionary of Cebuano Visayan, here called Cebuano for short. Cebuano is spoken in the central portions of the Philippines: on the islands of Cebu and Bohol, on the eastern half of Negros, western half of Leyte, along the northern coasts of Mindanao, and on smaller islands in the vicinity of these areas. A large portion of the urban population of Zamboanga, Davao, and Cotabato is Cebuano speaking. Cebuano is also widely spoken throughout the lowland areas of the entire eastern third of Mindanao, where it is spreading at the expense of the native languages (most of which are closely related to Cebuano). Cebuano is the trade language in most places in Mindanao where Cebuano-speaking populations and populations speaking other languages are in contact.

Cebuano is also called Sugbuanon and is one of more than a dozen languages or dialects which are given the name Bisayan or Visayan. Other types of Visayan are spoken in areas surrounding the Cebuano-speaking area on the north, east, west, and southeast. This dictionary is confined to Cebuano forms and does not include forms which are not Cebuano from other languages called Visayan spoken outside of the area we have delineated.

In the areas where Cebuano is native and, to a large extent, also in areas where Cebuano is a trade language, it is used for almost every aspect of daily life and for most formal occasions: radio-TV, social life, religious life, business, and the first two grades of school. Cebuano is also largely used in the later grades, although English is supposed to be the medium of instruction. In these areas Cebuano language publications enjoy a wide readership.

Somewhere between one-quarter and one-third of the population of the Philippines speaks Cebuano natively.1 But despite its numerical importance and wide use Cebuano lags far behind Tagalog (Pilipino) in prestige and development as a means of literary and scientific expression. In the schools the emphasis is almost entirely English: Cebuano composition is not a school subject, and students read nothing in Cebuano after the first two grades. In prestige Cebuano is losing ground: for the upper and middle class elite, with isolated praiseworthy exceptions, eloquence in Cebuano is not admired. In fact it is almost a matter of pride not to know Cebuano well. Thus, despite a phenomenal increase in literacy and in the total number of potential contributors and participants in Cebuano literature, output has declined in quantity and quality at an ever increasing rate over the past two generations. The cultivation and development of Cebuano is left to the least influential segments of the population, to whom English education and exposure to English publications are minimally available. These people still compose the vast majority of the population, but the influential classes that have grown up knowing only a dilute and inarticulate Cebuano are ever increasing in number, proportion, and prestige.

1.1 Dialects

The Cebuano language is remarkably uniform. There are differences, to be sure, but these differences are no greater than the differences found among the various varieties of English spoken around the world. There are scattered places within the Cebuano area which use a speech widely aberrant from what we describe here: Surigao, Bantayan Islands, and the Camotes Islands. Forms peculiar to those areas we have simply omitted except for a few widely used forms which tend to find their way into standard Cebuano as spoken by natives of these areas. Such forms are listed, but marked ‘dialectal’. Otherwise whatever forms we have found we have listed without comment, whether or not they are in current use throughout the Cebuano speech area.[viii]

1.12 Correct and incorrect speech

A happy consequence of the low regard which Cebuano speakers have of their own language is that the doctrine of correctness has never gained foothold. Dialectal differences are purely local, not social,2 and speakers regard whatever forms they are familiar with as correct. We have followed the same principle in this dictionary: no attempt is made to prescribe which forms or usages are appropriate, but rather we try to show which forms and usages occur. The various meanings of a given form are listed in such a way that their relation is readily discernible: meanings which are derived by extension or specialization from an original meaning are listed under subheadings of the original-meaning.3

Occasionally annotations such as ‘slang’, ‘euphemism’, ‘humorous’, ‘coarse’, and the like, are given. These annotations signal only that Cebuano speakers tend to regard these forms as such and that they occur only in styles of speech appropriate to these forms.4 We use the following terminology: Biblical, literary, metaphorical, humorous, euphemism, coarse, colloquial. The designation BIBLICAL indicates a form confined to liturgical language or the Bible; LITERARY indicates a form confined to high-flown styles, not ordinarily spoken; METAPHORICAL indicates a meaning recognized as metaphorical in some way (not necessarily confined to literary style); HUMOROUS, a meaning commonly given to a form, but not the primary meaning, which gives the feeling of an oft-repeated joke; EUPHEMISM, a form that is used to avoid saying s.t directly, the meaning of which is readily understood but not as jarring as if it had been said directly; COARSE, a form that clearly would jar the hearer and that is confined to speech used in anger or used as a sign of intimacy or disrespect; SLANG indicates a form confined to intimate speech among people of similar occupations or life styles; COLLOQUIAL indicates forms avoided in formal discourse or writing, but commonly used in normal speech even among non-intimates.

2.0 Basis of this work

This dictionary is a comprehensive listing of approximately 25,000 Cebuano roots with English explanations of their meanings and uses and an indication of the affixational system to which each root is subject, with ample illustrations. Most of the forms here listed are taken from written sources or from taped oral sources of Cebuano of nearly a million words, gathered from all over the Cebuano speech area and covering a wide range of topics and styles. The written sources are some 400 issues of Cebuano publications: BisayaSilaw, and Bag-ong Suga, a few novenas, novels, and other collections that have been published.5 About ninety percent of the forms here listed come from these oral or printed sources. Forms which did not occur in these sources but which were well known to me or at least one of the members of the staff that composed this dictionary are also included. Further, any form which occurred in our sources which was not known to our personnel was not included.6 Although there are numerous published sources of Cebuano forms—dictionaries and anthropological and biological studies, we have not taken any forms from them that could not be confirmed directly from our texts or informants.[ix]

2.1 Personnel

The collection, transcription, and classification of the texts was carried out by a large staff in Cebu City, originating from all over the Cebuano speech area. The final stage, the writing up of the definitions, was carried by a small staff, exclusively native speakers of Cebuano now resident in Cebu: Miss E. Agapay, of Malitbog, Leyte, but also a long time resident of Talibon, Bohol, and in Guihulngan, Negros Oriental; Nicolas Ampatin, of Malitbog, Leyte; Abel Angus, of Tudela, Camotes; José Dioko, of Malaboyoc, Cebu; Mrs. E. Emnace, of Dumanjug, Cebu; Atty. A. Estorco, of Guihulngan, Negros Oriental; Everett Mendoza, of Maasin, Leyte; Mrs. D. Ag. Villondo, of Dumanjug, Cebu, but also a long time resident of Ozamis City, and Molave, Zamboanga del Sur.

2.2 Other sources

The scientific names for plants and shells are based upon specimens which were gathered and identified with their Cebuano names by reliable informants. The specimens were compared against the available literature, and where identification was certain, scientific names were given. Our scientific names for plants are taken from the following sources (in order—plants not listed in the first were referred to the second, those not in the first or second were referred to the third, and so forth): Brown, Quisumbing, Merrill, Steiner. For shellfish, we give no scientific names but follow the English terminology of Abbott, 1962. For the fishes and birds, we relied mainly on pictures for Cebuano identification. For fish available in the local markets, we could examine actual specimens. The scientific names of fish follow those given by Herre (1953) and for birds by Delacour and Myer.

We made heavy use of the anthropological sources listed in the bibliography but independently checked all information incorporated and used terminology listed in them only insofar as we could corroborate it.

3.0 Phonology and transcription

The following chart gives the Cebuano phonemes and the articulation:

  bilabial apico-alveolar palatal dorsal glottal
voiceless stops p t c k ʔ
voiced stops b d j g  
nasals m n   ŋ  
spirants   s     h
liquids w l, r y    
high- or mid-front low central high- or mid-back
i a u

In addition there is a fourth mid-central vowel which occurs dialectally (Bohol, Southern Leyte, Southern Cebu, and other scattered areas) but is not found in the dialect of Cebu City and is not transcribed here.7 The palatal stop /j/ in many dialects does not contrast with the cluster /dy/. In the dialect of the Camotes Islands there is also a voiced spirant /z/ which derives historically from /y/ but contrasts with /y/ currently.

Vowels may be long or short. Contrast between long and short vowels occurs only in the final and the penultimate syllable of the word: káun [kā́ʔun] ‘eat’ and nagdá [nagdā́] ‘is bringing’. Further, there is only one long vowel per word. There is also a phoneme of stress which has a very low contrastive function. For the most part stress can be determined by the phonological make-up of the word: 1 stress falls on the long vowel of the word if the word has a long vowel: nagdá [nagdā́], káun [kā́ʔun]. 2 for words that have no long vowel, stress is on the penultimate if it is [x]closed: tan-aw [tánʔaw] ‘see’; mugbù [múgbuʔ] ‘short’. If the penultimate is open and short, stress is on the ultimate: mala [malá] ‘dry’. Occasionally, in words with a closed penult the final syllable is stressed (marked here with a wedge): mandǎr [mandár] ‘order’; dughǐt [dughít] ‘instrument for poking’. In words with a long vowel in the ultimate syllable there is, in some dialects, a contrast between the stress on the first mora and stress on the second mora of the long vowel: nahū́g [nahúug] ‘fell’; húg [huúg] ‘woof’. This contrast does not obtain in all dialects.

3.2 Transcription

The transcription here adopted adheres as closely as possible to the spelling found in Cebuano publications and at the same time is strictly phonemic—that is, each phoneme is indicated, and no phoneme in a given environment is given more than one transcription. Our transcription follows the phonemic symbols given in the Chart 3.0 with the exceptions listed in the following sections.

3.21 Vowels

We write only three vowels: i, u, a. In Cebuano publications /i/ is sometimes written i, sometimes e, but with no consistency; and /u/ sometimes is written u, sometimes o (again with no consistency). But here the letters e and o are not used.

Long vowels are indicated with an acute accent: nagdá [nagdā́] ‘is bringing’, lána [lā́na] ‘coconut oil’. (Cebuano publications occasionally indicate long vowels by doubling them, but most frequently long vowels are ignored.)

Stress is not indicated if the placement is according to the rules given in Section 3.0, above. Where a word with a closed penult has a stress on the final syllable, this fact is indicated by a wedge: mandǎr [mandár] ‘order’. For words with a long vowel in the final syllable where the stress is on the final mora, the acute accent indicates the long vowel and stress on the final mora: húg [huúg] ‘woof, trák [traák] ‘bus’. For words with a long vowel in the final syllable where the stress is on the first mora, the stress on the first mora and length are indicated by a combination of a long mark and acute accent: nahū́g [nahúug] ‘fell’, ang-ā́ng [ʔangʔáang] ‘not quite’.

3.22 Glottal stop /ʔ/

In Cebuano publications /ʔ/ is only sometimes indicated.8 Here we indicate /ʔ/ in word or syllable final position with a grave accent written over the vowel which precedes the glottal stop: walà /waláʔ/ ‘no’, bàbà /báʔbaʔ/ ‘mouth’, làhib /láʔhib/ ‘slice’. (In Cebuano publications the glottal stop of these words is never indicated.)

In post-consonantal position we indicate /ʔ/ with a hyphen, as is done in most Cebuano publications: tan-aw /tanʔaw/ ‘see’. In other positions—that is, intervocalically and in word initial position, glottal stop is not written, as is also the usual practice in Cebuano publications: writing of two adjacent vowels or initial vowel serves to indicate a glottal stop:9 maáyu /maʔā́yu/ ‘good’, alas /ʔalás/ ‘ace’.

3.23 /ŋ/, /c/, /j/, /dy/, /ty/

The phoneme /ŋ/ is transcribed ng, as in Cebuano publications: bángun /báŋun/ ‘get up’. The sequence /ng/ is transcribed n-g: san-glas /sanglas/ ‘sunglasses’.

/c/ is transcribed ts, as in Cebuano publications: tsinílas /cinílas/ ‘slippers’10. The sequence /ty/ is transcribed ty (as in Cebuano publications): tyanggi /tyánggi/ ‘market’.

The phoneme /j/ is transcribed initially and medially as dydyíp /jíp/ ‘jeep’, dyus /jus/ ‘juice’. (In Cebuano publications /j/ is sometimes written dy, sometimes diydiyip or dyip—i.e. the spelling of /j/ is no different from that of /dy/.) In final position /j/ is transcribed ds, following the usage in Cebuano publications: dyurds /jurj/ ‘a name—George’.11 The sequence /dy/ is transcribed [xi]diydiyus /dyus/ ‘god’. (This sequence is spelled diy or, alternatively, dy in Cebuano publications.)12

3.24 Ciy and CyCuw and Cwayi and ayawu and aw

The contrast between /Ciy/ and /Cy/ and between /Cuw/ and /Cw/ (where C is any consonant) obtains only in the position where the /y/ or /w/ precedes a vowel of the final syllable (e.g. paliya [paliyá] ‘k.o. vegetable’ vs. palya [pálya] ‘fail’). When the /y/ or /w/ precedes a vowel of the penultimate or earlier syllable, the contrast does not obtain. If one consonant precedes the /y/ or /w/ we write Cy and Cwbiyà ‘leftovers’ but hibyaan /hi-byà-an/ ‘be left behind’; guwà ‘go out’, higwaan ‘gone out from’. If two consonants precede the /y/ or /w/ we write Ciy and Cuw respectively: pinsiyunáda ‘one who receives a pension’, nagkuwarisma ‘have a sad expression’ (but Kwarisma ‘Lent’).

Similarly, the contrast between /Vyi/ and /Vy/ or /Vwu/ and /Vw/ (where V is any vowel) obtains only when the /y/ or /yi/, /w/ or /wu/ are final in the word: bay ‘term of address’ vs. bayi ‘female’; mabaw ‘shallow’ vs. hibawu (or hibáwu) ‘know’. In closed final syllables or penultimate or earlier syllables the contrast does not obtain. We write Vyi and Vwu in closed syllables and Viy and Vuw in open syllables: bayinti ‘twenty’ but ayta ‘give me’; dawunggan ‘ear’ but awtu ‘car’.

4.0 Listing of Entries

Cebuano is a language with a complex system of affixation and comparatively simple morphophonemic alternations. For this reason the listing of forms is strictly by root.13 Forms of the sort where the root is not really evident are listed with a cross-reference to the root. The order is strictly alphabetical with no regard to diacritical markings (hyphens or accent marks) except that forms without diacritical markings precede forms with diacritical markings.

The order of presentation is always root alone or root plus verbal affixes (Section 6.1f.) followed by verbal derivations (Section 6.2), followed by nominal and adjectival derivations, listed in alphabetical order (Section 7.0). Most roots occur as several parts of speech, and the determination of whether a root is basically a noun, adjective, or verb depends upon a series of morphological and syntactic criteria the details of which cannot be presented here.14 Roots which are basically adjectives are defined first as adjectives, then as nouns and verbs. Roots, basically nouns, are defined first as nouns, then as adjectives and verbs; and roots, basically verbs, are defined first as verbs and then as nouns and adjectives. For verbal forms a formula indicating the conjugation (set of inflectional affixes which may be added to them) is given. The formulas are explained in Sections 7.1ff. and 7.2ff. below.

The entries are liberally illustrated, with the primary aim of clarifying the meaning and with a secondary aim of exemplifying the morphological characteristics of the affixed forms.[xii]

5.0 Alternations

5.1 Morphophonemic alternations

Since the listing in this dictionary is strictly by root, an outline of the important morphophonemic alternations is given here. In the entries nonpredictable morphophonemic alternations are indicated by writing the affixed forms out.

5.11 Shift of stress

The general rule is that an affixed form has the stress on the same syllable as the root alone. Where this general rule is broken, there is said to be SHIFT OF STRESS. When an affixed form has final stress where the root had penultimate stress, there is said to be SHIFT TO THE FINAL SYLLABLE, indicated by the symbol (→):

káun /kā́ʔun/ eat + nag-(→) = nagkaun /nagkaʔún/ is eating
tugnaw /túgnaw/ cold + -un(→) = tugnawun /tugnawún/ be cold

When an affixed form has penultimate stress where the root had final stress, there is said to be SHIFT TO THE PENULTIMATE SYLLABLE, indicated by the symbol (←):

sakay /sakáy/ ride + nag-(←) = nagsákay /nagsā́kay/ ride together

In many cases an unaffixed root has both final stress and penultimate stress (depending on the meaning). Whichever stress occurs with the prefix MU- (see the entry under MU-) is taken to be the stress of the root. Thus, the formation of the unaffixed root with a different stress pattern is said to be by the addition of an affix consisting of shift of stress alone:

inúm15 /ʔinúm/ drink + (←) = ínum /ʔī́num/ drink heavily
búnal /búnal/ beat + (→) = bunal /bunál/ club
5.12 Dropping of vowels

When a suffix is added to a root with a stressed final syllable, the tendency is to drop the vowel of the final syllable of the root:

dakup /dakúp/ arrest + -an = dakpan /dákpan/ be arrested
pisik /pisík/ splash + -an = piskan /pískan/ be splashed
lakat /lakát/ go + -unun = laktunun /laktunún/ errand

This occasionally also happens to roots with stressed penults:

kalímut /kalímut/ forget + -i = kalimti /kalímti/ forget it
5.13 Adding of /h/ or /ʔ/ to roots ending in a vowel when a suffix is added

Some roots which end in a vowel add /ʔ/ before a suffix, some roots add /h/, other roots add either /ʔ/ or /h/ (depending on which suffix):

bása /bása/ read + -un = basáhun /basáhun/ be read
adtu /ʔádtu/ go + -un = adtúun /ʔadtū́ʔun/ gone to get
kabaláka /kabaláka/ worry + -an = kabalak-an /kabalákʔan/ s.t. to worry about (with the vowel of the final syllable of the root dropped—5.12).
sulti /súlti/ talk + -un = sultíhun /sultī́hun/ talk it out
sulti /súlti/ talk + -ánay = sultiánay /sultiʔā́nay/ conversation
5.14 Metathesis

In affixed forms, the sequences /ʔC/ and /hC/ (where C is any consonant) almost always become /Cʔ/ and /Ch/:16

káun /káʔun/ eat + -a = kan-a /kánʔa/ eat it (with the final syllable of the root dropped).[xiii]
luhud /luhúd/ kneel + -an = ludhan /lúdhan/ kneel on (with the vowel of the final syllable of the root dropped).

The sequences /ʔVh/ usually becomes /hVʔ/ (where V is a vowel):

túu /túʔu/ believe + -an = tuhúan /tuhū́ʔan/ believable (where /h/ is intercalated by the rule of 5.13).

Sequences of a liquid or /s/ plus a consonant tend to be metathesized when a suffix is added if the vowel of the final syllable of the root is dropped.

ngálan /ŋálan/ name + -an = nganlan /ŋánlan/ be named
sulud /sulúd/ enter + -un = sudlun /súdlun/ enter it
inum /ʔinúm/ drink + -a = imna /ʔímna/ drink it
putus /putús/ wrap + -un = pustun /pústun/ wrap it
lusut /lusút/ go through + -an = lutsan /lū́can/ go through it

These alternations also manifest themselves in competing root forms: alhu /ʔálhu/ and hal-u /halʔu/ ‘pestle’; kalamunggay and kamalunggay ‘k.o. tree’.

5.15 Change of /r/ or /l/ to /d, g, h/

Intervocalically, /d/ usually becomes /r/ or, less frequently, /l/:

búkid mountain + ka-an = kabukíran or, alternatively, kabukílan mountains

Vice versa, in roots with intervocalic /l/ or /r/, the /l/ or /r/ may change to /d/ when final or abutting on a consonant.

walà /waláʔ/ be lost + -un = wad-un /wadʔun/ lose s.t. (with loss of the final vowel of the root).
hurut /hurút/ use up + -un = hutdun /hútdun/ use s.t. up (with metathesis).

When a /d/, /l/, or /r/ comes to abut on velar consonant it tends to change to /g/:17

pálung /páluŋ/ extinguish + -an = pagngan /págŋan/ extinguish it
haluk /halúk/ kiss + -an = hagkan /hágkan/ kiss it

/r/ or, occasionally, /l/ at the end of a root may change to /h/ when suffixes are added. These are almost always words of Spanish provenience.

mantinil make do with + -an = mantinihan make do with it
imbitar invite + -un = imbitahun invite him

5.2 Competing forms

Because of sound changes which took place over portions of the Cebuano-speaking areas but did not spread over the entire area and the subsequent spread of forms which reflect these changes, there are numerous competing forms which are of the same etymology and which usually (but not always) have the same meaning.18

Forms which are the same in meaning and which are related to each other in that one underwent the sound change and the other did not are defined only once and cross reference is made. Some sound changes are so common and regular that only the older form is listed, and it is to be taken for granted that the form which shows the sound change also normally occurs unless a statement to the contrary is made.[xiv]

5.21 Dropping of /l/
5.211 Intervocalic /l/

Most (but not all) roots which contain an /l/ between /a/’s and /u/’s compete with roots which lack /l/. The forms without /l/ are used generally in the Northeastern portion of the Cebuano area: all areas east of Cebu (Bohol, Masbate, Leyte and islands in between) and on the northern half of Cebu. In the Southwestern areas (Negros, southern half of Cebu and most of Mindanao, the /l/ forms predominate.

Between like vowels /l/ is dropped and the vowel is usually lengthened: kalabaw or kábaw ‘water buffalo’; balay or báy ‘house’; tutulu or tutú ‘three’. In closed syllables or in the case of /l/ beginning the antepenult, no compensatory lengthening takes place: kalatkat or katkat ‘climb’; kalamunggay or kamunggay ‘k.o. tree’.

Between /a/ and /u/ or /u/ and /a/, /l/ becomes /w/: lalum or lawum ‘deep’; sulab or suwab ‘blade’. The sequence /alu/ in the antepenult and penult or earlier in the root becomes /u/ in Cebu and northern Leyte but /awu/ in Bohol and southern Leyte: dalunggan or dunggan or dawunggan ‘ear’.

This alternation is for the most part confined to the root.19 Otherwise, it is so regular that only the forms containing /l/ are listed, and the presumption is made that the /l/ may be dropped unless a note is made to the contrary.20

5.212 Post-consonantal /l/

There is a tendency to drop post-consonantal /l/ usually (but not always) with compensatory lengthening of the vowel of the penult: kinahanglan or kinahángan ‘need’; aplud or apud ‘astringent in taste’; danglug or dángug or dangug ‘slippery’. The /l/-less forms are most common in the areas which drop intervocalic /l/. The dropping of post-consonantal /l/ is by no means as widespread as dropping of intervocalic /l/, and alternative forms are listed.

5.213 Final /l/

In Bohol and southern Leyte there is a tendency for /al/ at the end of a word to become /aw/ and /ul/ to become /u/: bagal or bagaw ‘shell’. In this case alternative forms are listed.

5.214 Change of /l/ to /y/

Historically, intervocalic /l/ in isolated dialects became /y/. Forms with /y/ for /l/ have spread throughout the Cebuano-speaking area, and some are in competition with /l/-retaining forms: tingáli or tingáyi ‘perhaps’; kalugpus or kayugpus (also kugpus—by the rule of 5.211) ‘fold the arms’. In this case, competing forms are listed with cross reference.

5.22 Assimilation and metathesis

There is a tendency for nasal consonants which abut on consonants to be assimilated: bungdul or bundul ‘poke’; hingbis or himbis ‘scales’; amgid or anggid (also ambid) ‘like’. This alternation is sporadic, and competing forms are listed.

There is some competition between forms with voiced and forms with voiceless consonants, where the competition derives from assimilation: tikbas or tigbas ‘strike with a blade’; bukdu or bugdu ‘bulging out’. Again the competing forms are listed.

There is also competition between forms which differ by virtue of metathesis: bungdul or dungbul (and dumbul) ‘poke’; itsa or ista ‘throw’; bàgu /baʔgu/ or bag-u /bagʔu/ ‘new’. (Cf. Section 5.14.) Competing forms that differ by virtue of metathesis are listed except for forms containing a sequence /Cʔ/ which invariably compete with forms containing /ʔC/.

5.23 Change of vowels

The vowel of the antepenult sporadically may change to /a/: kumusta or kamusta ‘how are, is’; batíis or bitíis ‘leg’. Occasionally /a/ or /u/ is assimilated to a following /y/ or an /i/ in the following syllable: biyà or bayà ‘leave’; musimus or misimus ‘lowly’. In these cases competing forms are listed.[xv]

5.24 Change of /y/ to /dy/

In Bohol and Southern Leyte /y/ becomes /j/ (written dy). Some forms with dy have spread throughout the Cebuano speech area or occur only in the Bohol-Southern Leyte speech. Such forms are listed with dy.21 Other forms with dy are listed as with y, and the reader may conclude that these forms have /dy/ in Bohol and Southern Leyte.

5.25 Competing forms where no sound change is involved

Roots which are not relatable by the above rules are given separate definitions. The exception to this rule is equivalent names of flora and fauna and technical terms which refer to exactly the same cultural forms: e.g. gwayabanu, labanu, malabanu, síku karabaw are all the same plant (Anona muricata); humagbus and hinablus both refer to the same relationship.

6.1 Inflection

Verb forms are subject to the addition of a small list of affixes which we call INFLECTIONAL AFFIXES. The inflectional affixes specify three tenses: PASTFUTURE, and SUBJUNCTIVE; four cases or voices: ACTIVEDIRECT PASSIVELOCAL PASSIVE, and INSTRUMENTAL PASSIVE; and two modes: POTENTIAL and NONPOTENTIAL. The nonpotential forms are further broken down into two aspects: PUNCTUAL and DURATIVE. The punctual-durative distinction exists in all voices but is observed only in the active voice.22 In the passive voices punctual forms are used for all meanings, except for literary or dialectal styles where the durative-nondurative distinction is maintained. The following chart shows these affixes. Their meanings are listed and exemplified in entries in the dictionary listed under mu-, mag-1, maka-1, -un1, ma-1, -an1, i-1. 23 In the following [xvi]chart commas indicate forms which are in free variation (nearly synonymous and mutually substitutable). A preceding hyphen indicates a suffix, following hyphen a prefix, and hyphen in the middle, a circumfix. Dialectal affixes are not listed. The asterisks mark forms which are not normally used in colloquial speech.

    Future Past Subjunctive
  Punctual mu- mi-, ni-, ning-, ming- mu-
  Durative mag-, maga- nag-, naga-, ga- mag-, maga-
  Potential maka-, ka- naka-, ka- maka-, ka-
Direct Passive      
  Punctual -un gi- -a
  Durative paga-un* gina-* paga-a*
  Potential ma- na- ma-
Local Passive      
  Punctual -an gi-an -i
  Durative paga-an* gina-an* paga-i*
  Potential ma-an, ka-an na-an ma-i, ka-i
Instrumental Passive      
  Punctual i- gi- i-
  Durative iga-* gina-* iga-*
  Potential ma-, ika- na-, gika- ma-, ika-

6.2 Verbal derivation

The inflectional affixes are added not only to roots (forms containing no other affixes) but also to derived bases (forms containing further affixes). The productive affixes which are added to roots to form bases which in turn may have inflectional affixes added to them are -ay, -an, pa-, paN-,24 ka-, hi-, ha-, hiN-, pakig-, paki-, panggi-, pani-, paniN-24. These affixes are given entries in the dictionary and exemplified there.

When the active inflectional affixes are added to verb bases which contain some of these derivative prefixes, they undergo morphophonemic alternations as shown in the following chart:

together with prefix ni- (mi-, ning-) becomes mu- becomes
paN- naN- maN-
pakig- nakig- makig-
paniN- naniN- maniN-
pani- nani- mani-
panggi- nanggi- manggi-

These affixes are given entries and defined there.

7.0 Classification of roots according to their system of affixation

With the rich system of derivational and inflectional affixations to which Cebuano roots are subject, there are literally hundreds of different affixed forms for any given root. Since it is manifestly impossible to list exhaustively all affixations for any given root, we follow the principle here that PRODUCTIVE FORMATIONS are generally not listed unless there is s.t. especial [xvii]about their meanings or morphophonemics. By PRODUCTIVE FORMATIONS we mean affixes which are added to all, or almost all, members of a certain group of roots. For example, the affix ka-an2 is added to any root which refers to a plant to form a collective noun referring to a place where a group of that type of plant is found. The formation, ka-[plant]-an, is not listed except in cases where there is s.t. special about the affixation, as for example kalubinhan ‘coconut grove’ (from lubi) which undergoes special morphophonemics or kabaknitan ‘thicket’ (from baknit ‘k.o. vine’), where the meaning of the affixed form is not predictable from the meaning of the base and the affixes. The following productive affixes are listed only occasionally. For their meanings and a description of the type of roots to which they are added, see the entries: pa-1,2paN-1a,cpanggi-, hi-/ha-; hiN-1; -ay/-anay; paka-2doubling or Culu-; -in-1, -in2, ka-an2, -in-an1, -in-an2, ma-2.

The inflectional affixes which may be added to a given verb base in a given meaning are indicated by means of a formula which is explained in the following subsections. The derivational affixes paN-1a,cpakig-, and ka- are also indicated with these formulas.

Our classification of verbs consists of two parts separated by a semicolon: the active and the passive. The active classes are indicated by capital letters A, B, C and numbers indicating subclasses; and the passive classes are indicated by minuscules a, b, and c followed by numbers indicating subclasses. E.g. palit ‘buy’, which is in class A; a, takes the active affixes listed for A (Section 7.11) and the passive affixes listed for a (Section 7.21). In the following subsections the verbs mentioned as examples of each conjugation class are listed with examples for all the relevant affixations.

7.1 Active verb classes

7.11 Class A conjugation, the action verbs

Verbs of class A refer to an action. If they are the predicate of the sentence, the subject is the agent of the action. If they are in attribute construction, the head is the agent of the action. They occur with mu-, meanings 1 and 225 (and thus also with mi-, ni-, etc.), mag-, meanings 1 and 2 (and thus also with nag-, naga-, maga-, etc.), maka- in all meanings (and thus also with naka-, ka-, etc.). (See the entries under these affixes for further illustration and explanation.) The entry for palit ‘buy’ illustrates this class; the entry for bisiklíta ‘bicycle’ indicates this class with verbs derived from noun roots, and the entry for hapit,2 ‘drop in s.w.’ illustrates this class referring to verbs of motion.

7.111 Subclasses of the class A conjugation

The numbers which follow the letter A indicate nonoccurrence of affixes. The symbol A1 indicates verbs of the A conjugation which do not occur with the punctual-active set, mu- (mi-, etc.). An example of a verb of this type is ikspidisiyun ‘go on an expedition’. The symbol A2 indicates that the base does not occur with the durative-active set, mag- (nag-, etc.). A verb of this class is sángit ‘catch, snag s.t.’. The symbol A3 indicates that the base does not occur with the potential-active set, maka- (naka-, etc.), e.g. habhab,3 ‘eat away a portion of s.t.’. Two numbers following the letter A indicate the absence of two of the three active affixes. E.g. A12 indicates a base which occurs only with maka- (naka-, etc.) but not with mu- and mag-, e.g. salà.

The symbol A13 indicates lack of mu- and maka- but occurrence of mag-, e.g. dahum ‘expect’.

The symbol S following a number indicates that the base occurs with the prefix represented, but that there is shift (Section 5.11). E.g. dalágan ‘run’ is in class A2S: it occurs with all three sets, but the penult is short when the durative affixes, mag-, etc., are added. Dáwat ‘receive’ is in class A3S: it occurs with all three active sets, but the penult is short when the potential affixes, maka-, etc., are added.

The symbol P following the letter A indicates that the unaffixed root and the root plus pa- have exactly the same meaning and are used interchangeably with the active affixes: e.g. mala ‘dry’.

The symbol A3P indicates that the root occurs with both maka- (naka-) and, alternatively, with makapa- (nakapa-) with no difference in meaning. Further, the base occurs with nonpotential [xviii]affixes, but with the nonpotential active affixes, pa- cannot be added to the base without changing the meaning. The symbol A123P means that the root occurs only with potential-active affixes (i.e., does not occur with mu- or mag-), but it does occur with maka- and also with makapa- having the same meaning as maka-, e.g. malarya ‘get malaria’.

The symbol N following A or A plus the numbers indicates that the prefix paN- can be added to the base together with the punctual-active affix, mu-, and with the potential-active affix maka- (naka-) but not with the durative affixes, and that the root alone is synonymous with the base plus paN-. That is to say, the form mu- (mi-)[root] and maN- (naN-)[root]26 are synonymous, and maka- (naka-)[root] is synonymous with nakapaN-[root] and makapaN-[root]. An example of a root of the AN conjugation is sanghid ‘ask permission’.

7.12 Class B conjugation, the stative verbs

Verbs of class B refer to s.t. that happened to s.o. or s.t. If they are the predicate of the sentence, the subject is the thing to which the event happened. Verbs of class B occur with mu- (mi-, etc.), meaning 3mag- (nag-, etc.), meaning 3ma- (na-, etc.), meaning 3maka- (naka-, etc.) or, alternatively, makapa- (nakapa-) with a meaning ‘cause s.t. to become [so-and-so]’, and with magka-2 (nagka-, etc.). The entry for pula ‘red’ illustrates this conjugation. The entry for duktur ‘doctor’ illustrates a verb of this class formed from a noun root.

7.121 Subclasses of verbs of the B conjugation

Verbs of class B1 lack mu-, e.g. págud ‘get burnt’. Verbs of class B2 lack mag-, e.g. palanas ‘be eroded’. Verbs of B3 occur with maka- but have a meaning ‘become [so-and-so]’, e.g. laun ‘age’. Verbs of class B3(1) occur with maka- in two meanings: (1) become [so-and-so], and (2) cause to become [so-and-so]. In the latter meaning it also occurs with makapa- (nakapa-), e.g. lup-ut2 ‘thicken’. Verbs of class B4 lack na- (ma-). E.g. laúsag ‘got worse and worse’. Verbs of class B5 lack maka- (naka-) and verbs of class B6 lack magka-2, e.g. paliyar ‘for an engine to malfunction’. Many verbs in the class B conjugation have one or more of these conjugational features. E.g. duktur as a verb ‘become a doctor’ is in class B16,—i.e. it lacks mu- and lacks magka-.

The symbols S and N are used just as with the verbs of the A conjugation. The symbolization B2S indicates that the penult is short with the durative affixes (mag-, etc.), e.g. lúya ‘get weak’. A symbol BN indicates that paN- may be added to the base with the volitional affix (mu-) and that the root plus mu- (mi-, etc.) does not differ in meaning from the root plus maN- (naN-).26 An example of a verb of conjugation BN is pula.

7.13 Class C conjugation, the mutual action verbs

Verbs of class C refer to an action which two or more agents engage in mutually. Verbs in this class usually have a long penult and shift the stress to the penult if the final syllable of the unaffixed root is stressed. Verbs of this class occur with the durative prefixes, mag-1, (nag-, etc.), meaning 5, with the potential prefix magka-1 (nagka-), and with the prefix makig- (nakig-). The entry for sábut ‘come to an understanding’ (under sabut (←)) illustrates a verb of class C conjugation.

7.131 Subclasses of the class C conjugation

The symbol C1 refers to verbs which lack the durative set, mag-. The symbol C2 refers to verbs which lack the potential set, magka-. The symbol C3 refers to verbs which lack the set makig-. The listing for balíus ‘miss each other’ exemplifies a verb of class C13 (missing both mag-1 and makig-). The entry púyù ‘live together’ illustrates a verb of class C2 (lacking the potential form magka-1).

7.2 Passive verb classes

7.21 Class a verbs

Verbs of class a occur with direct passive affixes (see the entry for -un1), and the direct passive [xix]verb refers to a FOCUS27 which is the recipient of the action (see -un1, meaning 1). Verbs of class a normally also occur with the local passive affixes (see -an1) referring to a focus which is the place or beneficiary of the action (-an1, meaning 1). They also occur with the instrumental passive affixes (see i-1) in the instrumental, beneficial, and temporal meanings (i-1, meanings 2, 3, and 4). Palit ‘buy’ illustrates a verb of class a. Hapit ‘drop in’ and dalágan ‘run’ illustrate verbs of class a that refer to motion. Ábut (under ábut) ‘meet with each other’ illustrates a verb of class a conjugation referring to mutual action. Dakù illustrates an adjective with class a conjugation. Bisiklíta and duktur illustrate two different kinds of nouns with class a conjugation.

7.211 Subclasses of the class a conjugation

Verbs in class a1 lack a local passive; verbs in class a2 lack an instrumental passive (except in the benefactive and temporal meanings [-i1, meanings 3 and 4], to which all verbs in the language are subject). Verbs in class a12 lack both the local and the instrumental passive. The verb daug, 1 ‘overcome’ exemplifies this conjugation. Verbs in class a3 have only potential passive affixes, e.g. dungug, 1 ‘hear’. Verbs in class a4 refer to a focus which is the thing suffering from or affected by the thing referred to by the verb (-un1, meaning 2), e.g. malarya ‘get malaria’.

7.22 Class b verbs

Verbs of class b occur with a local passive affix, and the local passive refers to a focus which is the recipient of the action (see -an1, meaning 2). Verbs of this class also normally occur with the instrumental passive affixes (see i-1) in the instrumental, beneficial, and temporal meanings (i-1, meanings 2, 3, and 4). Haluk ‘kiss’ illustrates a verb of class b conjugation.

7.221 Subclasses of class b

The symbol b(1) indicates verbs of class b which lack the instrumental passive conjugation (in any but the benefactive and temporal meanings [i-1, meanings 3 and 4], to which all verbs in Cebuano are subject). An example of a b(1) verb is bantay ‘watch’.

The symbol b1 indicates verbs the local passives of which refer to a focus which is the place of the action (-an1, meaning 1) or, in another meaning, to the recipient of the action (-an1, in meaning 2). Laba ‘wash’ illustrates a verb of this type.

The symbol b2 indicates verbs of the a conjugation, the local passive of which refers to the place of the action, but which also occur with the affix hi-an(→) (hi-i), meaning 2, to refer to the accidental recipient of the action. Bása ‘read’ illustrates a verb in class ab2.

The symbol b3 indicates verbs the local passive of which refers to the reason for the action (-an1, meaning 5). Dalágan ‘run’ illustrates this class. The symbol b3(1) indicates verbs of class b3 which occur only with potential affixes (ma-/na-an/-i or, alternatively, gika-/ka-an/-i). Hadluk ‘be afraid’ illustrates a verb of b3(1).

The symbol b4 indicates verbs the local passive of which refers to a focus which is the thing affected by the action or the thing this verb refers to (-an1, meaning 4). Buntag, 3 ‘be overtaken by morning’ illustrates a verb of this class. The symbol b4(1) indicates verbs of class b4 which have only potential affixes. Walà ‘lose’ illustrates a verb of this class.

The symbol b5 refers to verbs the local passive and the direct passive of which are synonymous, i.e. occur with -un1, in meaning 1, and -an1, in meaning 2, where there is no difference between the two sets of affixation.28 Abli,2 ‘open’ illustrates a verb of this class.

The symbol b6 refers to verbs which have no passive other than the local passive and the instrumental passive in the benefactive or temporal meanings (-i1, meanings 3 and 4), and, further, the [xx]local passive refers to a focus which is the place or the beneficiary of the action (-an1, meaning 1), or, in the case of adjectives, refers to a focus which is the person who considered s.o. to be [adjective]. Kulumbítay ‘hang’ is an example of a verb of class b6. The symbol b6(1) refers to verbs of this sort which also occur with an instrumental passive in the instrumental meaning—i.e. the focus of the instrumental passive is the instrument with which the action of the verb is carried out (i-1, meaning 2). Dagkut, 1 ‘light’ is an example of a verb of class b6(1).

The symbol b7 indicates verbs the local passive of which refers to a focus which is s.t. diminished or added to (-an1, meaning 2a). Kúhà ‘take’ illustrates a verb of this conjugation.

The symbol b8 indicates verbs which have only potential local passives. Kamau ‘know’ (listed under mau) is a verb of class b8.

7.23 Class c verbs

Verbs of class c have instrumental passive affixes which refer to a focus which is the thing conveyed by the action or the direct recipient of the action (see i-1, meaning 1). Verbs of class c normally also occur with the local passive affixes (-an1) referring to a focus which is the place or the beneficiary of the action (-an1, meaning 1). Lábay ‘throw away’ illustrates a verb of this type. Dalágan,1 illustrates a verb of class c which refers to motion.

7.231 Subclasses of class c verbs

The symbol c1 indicates verbs for which the direct and the instrumental passive are synonymous (i.e. occur with -un1 in meaning 1 and with i-1 in meaning 1; and the meaning of the form composed of i- plus the base is synonymous with -un plus the base).29 Most verbs derived from adjectives are in class c1.

The symbol c2 indicates verbs for which the local and the instrumental passive forms are synonymous, where with the local passive and the instrumental passive forms refer to a focus which is the recipient of the action (-an1, meaning 2, and i-1, meaning 1). An example of a verb in class c2 is dusù ‘shove’.

The symbol c3 indicates verbs the instrumental passive of which refers to a focus which is the recipient of the action (i-, meaning 2), but which occur only with the potential affixes ika-, gika-. A verb in class c3 is isturya ‘talk to’.

The symbol c4 refers to verbs which optionally take a prefix ig-1 for the future instrumental passive nonpotential form and igka-1 for the future instrumental passive potential form. Dúngug,3 (listed under dungug (←)) ‘hear from’ is an example of a verb in class c4.

The symbol c5 refers to verbs the instrumental passive of which refers to a focus which is the reason on account of which the agent came into [such-and-such] a state (-i, meaning 5, and ika-1, meaning 2). Lípay ‘be happy’ is an example of a verb with c5 conjugation.

The symbol c6 refers to verbs of class c which do not occur with local passive affixes.

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