Tagalog Profile

Language Identification: ISO 639-1 t1

Other Names: Filipino, Pilipino

Local name: Filipino

Pronunciation  [tɐˈɡaːloɡ]

Ethnic Population: Tagalog

Tagalog users: Native speakers 22.5 million (23.8 million total speakers (2019); 45 million L2 speakers)

Approximately 57.3 million Filipinos, 96% of the household population which is slightly over 22 million, or 28% of the total Philippine population, speak Tagalog as a native language.

Language family: Austronesian, Malayo-Polynesian, Philippine, Central Philippine

Early forms: Proto-Austronesian, Proto-Malayo-Polynesian, Proto-Philippine, Old Tagalog

Language Status:

Tagalog is one of the major languages of the Republic of the Philippines. It functions as its lingua franca and de facto national working language of the country. It is used as the basis for the development of Filipino, the national language of the Philippines, a country with 181 documented languages.

DialectsBataan, Batangas, Bulacan, Lubang, Manila, Marinduque, Tanay–Paete (Rizal-Laguna), Tayabas (Quezon)

Typology: Tagalog is a verb-initial language. The verb always remains in the initial position, the order of noun phrase complements that follows is flexible.

Writing system:  Latin (Tagalog/Filipino alphabet)


(Wikipedia: Distribution of Tagalog dialects in the Philippines. The colour-schemes represent the four dialect zones of the language)



Tagalog language is a member of the Central Philippine branch of the Austronesian (Malayo-Polynesian) language family and the base for Pilipino, an official language of the Philippines, together with English. It is most closely related to Bicol and the Bisayan (Visayan) languages—Cebuano, Hiligaynon (Ilongo), and Samar. Native Tagalog speakers form the second largest linguistic and cultural group in the Philippines and total about 14 million; these are in turn located in central Luzon and parts of Mindanao.


Tagalog is a language that originated in the Philippine islands. More than 50 million Filipinos speak Tagalog in the Philippines, The direct translation of the word Tagalog means, “from the river.” It combines language influences from China, Malaysia, Spain and America. It is the result of the occupation of the Philippines by several other nations. The origins of this language date back to more than 1,000 years ago. Interestingly, Tagalog has changed throughout the years as various countries have influenced the Philippines. Tagalog was originally native to the southern part of Luzon, prior to spreading as a second language over all the islands of the Philippine archipelago, due to its selection as the basis for Filipino, the national language of the Philippines, in 1937 and to the fact that Tagalog is spoken in the Philippine capital of Manila, the largest city of the country. From 1961 to 1987, Tagalog was also known as Pilipino. In 1987, the name was changed to Filipino.

Geographical distribution

Tagalog is the first language of most Filipinos and the second language of most others. There are more than 50 million speakers of Tagalog in the Philippines, mostly in the southern parts of Luzon, the archipelago’s largest island and 24 million people speak the language worldwide. There are also significant numbers of Tagalog-speaking communities in other countries, the largest being in the United States where it is classified as the sixth most-spoken language.

The official status of Tagalog

Tagalog was declared the official language by the first revolutionary constitution in the Philippines in 1897. Tagalog is an Austronesian language spoken as a first language by the ethnic Tagalog people, who make up a quarter of the population of the Philippines, and as a second language by the majority. Its standardized form, officially named Filipino, is the national language of the Philippines

The Department of Education now has 17 designated languages that qualify for mother-language based education. The current Philippine constitution (1987) states that the national language is Filipino and as it evolves, “shall be further developed and enriched on the basis of existing Philippine and other languages.” Furthermore, the Philippine constitution (1987) has mandated the Government to “take steps to initiate and sustain the use of Filipino as a medium of official communication and as language of instruction in the educational system.” There are also contentions on whether Filipino, based on the Tagalog language, should be the national language of the Philippines. These contentions come from the non-Tagalog speaking region that have called the current language policy as “Tagalog imperialism.”


At present, no comprehensive dialectology has been done in the Tagalog-speaking regions, though there have been descriptions in the form of dictionaries and grammars of various Tagalog dialects. Ethnologue lists Manila, Lubang, Marinduque, Bataan (Western Central Luzon), Batangas, Bulacan (Eastern Central Luzon), Tanay-Paete (Rizal-Laguna), and Tayabas (Quezon and Aurora) as dialects of Tagalog; however, there appear to be four main dialects, of which the aforementioned are a part: Northern (exemplified by the Bulacan dialect), Central (including Manila), Southern (exemplified by Batangas), and Marinduque.

Other dialects spoken in the Philippines include Cebuano, Ilokano, Waray-Waray, Hiligaynon, Pangasinan, Bikol, Maranao, Maguindanao, Tausug, and Kapampangan, but the official language, Filipino, is based on Tagalog.

Spoken and literary varieties

Tagalog was the foundation of the Filipino language; both share the same vocabulary and grammatical system and are mutually intelligible. However, there is a significant political and social history that underlies the reasons for distinguishing between Tagalog and Filipino. Modern Tagalog originates from Archaic Tagalog, which was likely spoken during the Classical period. It was the language of the Mai State, Tondo Dynasty (according to the Laguna Copperplate Inscription) and southern Luzon, whereas it was written using Baybayin, a syllabary which is a member of the Brahmic family, before the Spanish Romanised the alphabet beginning in the late 15th century. Tagalog was also the spoken language of the 1896 Philippine Revolution. The 1987 Constitution states that Filipino is the country’s national language and one of two official languages, alongside English. Today, Filipino is considered the proper term for the language of the Philippines, especially by Filipino-speakers who are not of Tagalog origin, with many referring to the Filipino language as “Tagalog-based”. The language is taught in schools throughout the country and is the official language of education and business. Meanwhile, native Tagalog-speakers comprise one of the largest linguistic and cultural groups of the Philippines, numbering an estimated 14 million.

Written language

Tagalog, like other Philippines languages today, is written using the Latin alphabet. Prior to the arrival of the Spanish in 1521 and the beginning of their colonization in 1565, Tagalog was written in an abugida—or alphasyllabary—called Baybayin which was used until the 17th century when it was gradually replaced by the Latin alphabet that is still in use today. The word baybayin (from Tagalog baybay ‘spell’) means ‘alphabet’. The Baybayin alphabet was probably developed from the Javanese script that was adapted from the Pallava script, the latter itself derived from the Brahmi script of ancient India. Baybayin was mainly used for letters, poetry, and incantations. Today, the Baybayin alphabet is used mainly for decorative purposes, although there are attempts to revive its use.

This system of writing gradually gave way to the use and propagation of the Latin alphabet as introduced by the Spanish. As the Spanish began to record and create grammars and dictionaries for the various languages of the Philippine archipelago, they adopted systems of writing closely following the orthographic customs of the Spanish language and were refined over the years. Until the first half of the 20th century, most Philippine languages were widely written in a variety of ways, mostly based on Spanish orthography. In the late 19th century, a number of educated Filipinos began proposing revising the spelling system used for Tagalog at the time developing new systems of orthography. A major noticeable change in these proposed orthographies was the use of the letter ⟨k⟩ rather than ⟨c⟩ and ⟨q⟩ to represent the phoneme /k/.

The Tagalog alphabet

In 1937, Tagalog was selected to serve as basis for the country’s national language. In 1940, grammarian Lope K. Santos introduced a new alphabet consisting of 20 letters called ABAKADA in school grammar books called balarilà.

This alphabet consists of 20 letters and became the standard alphabet of the national language. The orthography as used by Tagalog would eventually influence and spread to the systems of writing used by other Philippine languages.

In 1987, the ABAKADA was dropped, the Department of Education, Culture and Sports issued a memo stating that the Philippine alphabet had changed from the Pilipino-Tagalog Abakada version to a new 28-letter alphabet

Tagalog/Filipino is written with the 26-letter Latin alphabet. Tagalog has ten simple vowels, five long and five short, and four diphthongs, later expanded to five with the introduction of words from central and northern Philippines, as well as Spanish words. As for the consonants all the stops (p; b; t           d; k; ɡ; ʔ ) are unaspirated. The velar nasal (ŋ /ng/ )occurs in all positions including at the. There is a fairly good correspondence between spelling and pronunciation. The letters c, f, j, q, v, x, z are used mostly in foreign names and English or Spanish loanwords. They are usually not represented in the Tagalog alphabet. The orthography does not mark stress or vowel length. The glottal stop /ʔ/ is not represented in writing at all. The velar nasal consonant /ŋ/ is represented by the digraph ng.

Stress is a distinctive feature in Tagalog. Primary stress occurs on either the final or the penultimate syllable of a word. Vowel lengthening accompanies primary or secondary stress except when stress occurs at the end of a word.

ABAKADA Revised alphabet

Majuscule Minuscule Majuscule Minuscule
A a Ñ ñ
B b Ng ng
C c O o
D d P p
E e Q q
F f R r
G g S s
H h T t
I i U u
J j V v
K k W w
L l X x
M m Y y
N n Z z

Tagalog Numbers

The numbers (mga bilang) in Tagalog language are made up of two sets. The first set consists of native Tagalog words and the other set are loaned from the Spanish language.




Cardinal Number Cardinal
1 isa 11 labing isa
2 dalawa 12 labindalawa
3 tatlo 13 labintatlo
4 apat 14 labing-apat
5 lima 15 labinlimang
6 anim 16 labing-anim
7 pito 17 labing pito
8 walo 18 labing walo
9 siyam 19 labinsiyam
10 sampu 20 dalawampu



Tagalog is a verb-initial language. The order of other constituents that follow the verb is relatively free, but there is a general preference for the subject to precede the object. Numbers and other quantifiers generally precede nouns, whereas demonstratives, adjectives and possessive pronouns may either precede or follow the noun they modify


Tagalog vocabulary is Austronesian in origin with borrowings from Spanish, English, Min Nan Chinese, Malay, Sanskrit, Arabic, Tamil, Persian, Kapampangan, and other Austronesian languages. Spanish loanwords reflect over 300 years of Spanish domination, while English loanwords resulted from half-century of American control over the Philippines.


In Tagalog, there are nine basic parts of speech: verbs (pandiwa), nouns (pangngalan), adjectives (pang-uri), adverbs (pang-abay), prepositions (pang-ukol), pronouns (panghalip), conjunctions (pangatnig), ligatures (pang-angkop) and particles. Tagalog is a slightly inflected language. Pronouns are inflected for number and verbs, for focus, aspect and voice.


Nouns are never marked for case or number. Only some nouns borrowed from Spanish are marked for gender, e.g., amigo ‘friend’ (masculine) – amiga ”friend’ (feminine). Nouns are usually preceded by case markers that are divided into two classes: one set for names of people (personal) and one for everything else (common).There are three markers:

Absolutive markers that mark the actor of an intransitive verb and the object of a transitive verb; markers that mark the object of an intransitive verb and the subject of a transitive one; markers, like prepositions, that mark location, direction, etc.


Personal pronouns are marked for person (1st, 2nd, 3rd) and number (singular, plural). There is an inclusive and an exclusive 1st person plural pronoun. Inclusive form includes the addressee, while the exclusive form does not. There is no gender distinction in the 3rd person singular, i.e., between he and she. Personal pronouns refer only to humans. There is no equivalent of the English it. There are three demonstrative pronouns. One is equivalent to the English this, the other two distinguish between a near and not so near that.


Tagalog verbs are morphologically complex and include a variety of affixes to indicate focus, tense, aspect, and mood. Verbal affixes consist of a variety of prefixes, suffixes, infixes, and circumfixes. An interesting feature of Tagalog verbs, as in other in Malayo-Polynesian languages, is its trigger system. This means that the role of the noun marked by the absolutive marker is reflected in the verb. There are several triggers: actor, object, location, beneficiary, instrument, and reason. All of the triggers, with the exception of the actor, are transitive. Tagalog distinguishes between actual and hypothetical events. Actual events can be viewed as complete or incomplete. Complete events are in the perfective aspect, and incomplete events are in the imperfective aspect.



  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tagalog_language
  2. https://www.thesaurus.net/tagalog
  3. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/254889924_A_Brief_Syntactic_Typology_of_Philippine_Languages
  4. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Tagalog-language
  5. https://www.livinglanguage.com/blog/2014/11/25/tagalog-a-history-of-the-language-philippines/#:~:text=Derived%20from%20%E2%80%9CTaga%2Dilog%2C,four%20centuries%20of%20colonial%20rule.
  6. https://www.mustgo.com/worldlanguages/tagalog/