Philippine Creole Spanish (Chabacano)


Philippine Creole Spanish, composed of the main local varieties Ternateño (spoken in the village of Ternate, Manila Bay), Caviteño (spoken in the San Roque neighborhood of Cavite City, Manila Bay), Zamboangueño (spoken in Zamboanga City, Mindanao), and known collectively as Chabacano, is the most extensive Spanish‑based creole language now in existence, the only one found outside of the Americas, and the only one without an African connection. The only dialect to have maintained and even increased its vitality is the Chabacano of Zamboanga (Zamboangueño), spoken by several hundred thousand residents of Zamboanga del Sur province (Mindanao) centering on Zamboanga City and nearby Basilan Island. A small group of Chabacano speakers is found in Cotabato City, Mindanao. Cotabatateño is virtually identical to Zamboangueño, with the few differences being mostly lexical. Although some form of creole Spanish may have existed in the Philippines as early as the 17th century, any historical reconstruction is complicated by the almost complete lack of any reliable documentation prior to the turn of the 20th century. During the Spanish regime, lasting from Legazpi’s 1565 expedition until 1899, there was no acknowledgment of any stable Spanish-derived pidgin or creole language in the Philippines. Thus reconstruction of the history of Chabacano is a daunting task that can be partially informed by contemporary field data. The majority of my research centers on Zamboanga Chabacano, a language that once borrowed heavily from modern Spanish and nearby Visayan languages, and which now is increasingly mixed with English and—in the past two decades—Tagalog. The frequent code-switching characteristic of Filipinos (most of whom speak several languages) is especially intense in Zamboanga, and contemporary Chabacano-English-Tagalog mixing and switching offers a broad spectrum of language-contact phenomena that can provide examples and counter-examples for models of language contact.


My research in the Philippines was partially supported by a Fulbright research fellowship and by the Embassy of Spain in Manila.



Representative publications: