Thursday, March 4, 2010

Kudlit or Kulitan?

AD 900: the Kavi script is alive and well on Manila.

AD 1300: Someone etches a Philippine script on a pot. I've got an image of it here, characters handily numbered.

It's similar to Baybayin, kudlits and all. Could easily be a parent script.

AD 1500: Baybayin was in use by the general population.

By the end of the 1600s Baybayin is moribund.

A few small and remote populations continue to write, including Tagbanwa, Buhid, Hanunóo, and Kapampangan: more or less versions of Baybayin. Tagbanwa, Hanunóo and Buhid appear to have evolved along similar lines, while Kapampangan uses fewer characters, but retains Kawi word construction rules. In many respects, Kapampangan seems to be midway between Kavi and Baybayin.

And some Filipino native writing has survived to the present day.

But between Tagalog and Ilocano speakers there are 65+ million people, versus perhaps 3 million using Kapampangan, and a few tens of thousands of people using the other surviving abugidas.

And so we come to the modernization problem: how best the Baybayin can speak in modern Tagalog and Ilocano.

I begin to understand. It's not a matter of stamping out the surviving scripts; it's a matter of re-establishing a script for Tagalog and Ilocano. And the place to start is with "classical" Baybayin.

Fortunately, the Filipino script was a continuum of writing styles and methods using similar characters. Different areas, and even perhaps different individuals, approached the problem in different ways, but fundamentally with the same character set.

This is not a place for invention, but rather, accommodation and patience, perhaps.

1 comment:

  1. I don't think it's so much that Kapampangan "retains" Kawi word construction rules as that sometime between the 1960s and now, a modern Kapampangan script was developed by fusing a calligraphic version of the letters attested in historical documents with elements of Kawi structure. But there is no evidence in the historical record for this Kawi-type structure in the early colonial period.

    Observers were always careful to describe everything they saw about the way Baybayin was written, including the characters (even if some made rather clumsy reproductions influenced by their European writing habits), the direction of writing, the way vowels were marked, and remarks about the absence of a way to write vowelless consonants. You can guarantee that for the Pampangos just north of Manila, if they had been using a way of marking vowelless consonants, especially with subordinate consonants Kawi-style, the Spanish evangelists would definitely have noticed that and written about it. But they didn't, and nothing has ever been published or shown up anywhere that gives even the remotest hint that this was ever done.

    Many people assume there is a direct (as opposed to coincidental) relationship with Kawi letters, but the differences are to great and the similarities too unsystematic, which is why people working on Indonesian and Philippine scripts who are familiar with Kawi and with the non-Javanese scripts conclude there is simply not enough evidence for a Kawi origin as opposed to any of the alternatives. Still, since Kawi is the closest ancient script, that's where people look for a relationship... and that's probably why the Kawi use of stacked letters was borrowed sometime in the last couple of decades to construct a hybrid modern Kapampangan script.