Monday, April 29, 2013
An Isinay Word Hunter's Story (Part 4)
Part 4. Pathways to Isinay Revitalization
THE DIAGNOSIS OF Celina Marie Cruz on the status of Isinay in the three towns of Nueva Vizcaya where it is spoken (or, to be safe, where it used to be significantly spoken) may be analogous to the findings of a medical doctor as regards one’s mother who we see getting thinner and weaker every day and we merely attribute her situation to old age, but when brought to the doctor, the diagnosis says, “Hey, it’s not old age per se – your mother is sick… we need to do something, now!”
Indeed, no matter if the population of fluent Isinay speakers has now thinned in Aritao, Bambang, and Dupax, there should be no second-guessing that it is not yet time for Isinay to become a museum piece.
Ms. Cruz’ paper has outlined possible approaches to put the revitalization concept to action and prevent the Southern Nueva Vizcaya tongue from being unduly put on silent mode forever. No other paper has come out lately that is as comprehensive and as easy to digest, so I will borrow again what she wrote, this time in her section on Suggested Action:
We can see that the three dialectal groups of Isinai are located at different levels of endangerment. However, they are similar in most needs.
It would help, in addition to the current efforts of the communities, if the three Isinai communities encouraged and actually used the language at home. In the case of Bambang and Dupax del Sur, this would allow children to learn and practice the language. The trend of diminishing speakers among the younger generations will be addressed, as the children will have a venue to interact with fellow speakers.
In Aritao, however, even parents cannot speak the language fluently. This problem may be addressed by teaching Isinai to the parents first and helping them regain mastery in it. After this, they may incorporate it in their homes and teach it to their children.
It is also important that the three dialectal communities devise a standard orthography for the language. It is a common complaint that the lack of a standard orthography discourages speakers to write in their language. By standardizing the orthography of the three groups, the speakers will become less critical of writing in Isinai. This will encourage more written materials and documentation – as some of the speakers are willing to do.
As mentioned, the documentation of the language and the culture of Isinai is imperative. As of now, the history and other cultural practices are still not documented, leading to varying information or misconceptions. There is little linguistic documentation and researches done in Isinai and most if not all are outdated or are in need of revisions.
Teaching materials in the Isinai language may also serve to address the literacy of the children as well as the proper documentation of the language.
It was largely due to this call for Isinay revitalization that I have come into the picture. Believe me, it was not intentional. Likas-yaman at pagsusulat po ang aking linya, hindi lingwistika. Uria^ poran ines-esep an mileleman si attuwar an pansasavayatan. (Wala sa aking hinagap na sumali sa ganitong usapin.)
In fact, even as I have been including “Isinay Dictionary Project” under the Work in Progress section of my Curriculum Vitae, it has until recently been an on-and-off affair. As fate would have it, however, I have become known among the more sociable senior citizens of Dupax as “mangap-apyat diksyonarin si Isinay andojlan man-Isinay podda.”
Okay, in case you’d want to know, I did some snooping around if somebody else was doing a similar Isinay word-hunting-en-route-to-a-dictionary activity. There’s only one genuine person that I heard of – my favorite Isinay writer Edgar Larosa Daniel Sr., a public school teacher turned columnist and editor-in-chief of the newsweekly Vizcaya Advocate, a former Board Member of Nueva Vizcaya, and top gun of the Isinay language and culture documentation and revitalization efforts in Aritao. Unfortunately, I learned he passed away in April last year. He was 73.
Speaking of dictionaries, here’s a warning. If you Google “Isinay dictionary” in the internet, two items will appear, one that says “Isinay English Dictionary” and one that says “Isinay English and English Isinay Dictionary Free Online Translation.” Man-engat ayu! (Beware/Be careful!) These two sites lead you to one and the same site that has abrogated for itself the name Isinay Dictionary, yet it has only 27 words to offer. Worse, the website says “Donate.”
The skeptics among you would probably ask: Why the fuss about a dictionary for a dying language? Isn’t it a case of “too late the hero” to make one for Isinay now?
My answer to the first is this: Because dictionaries are a potent way of documenting languages in the brink of extinction. They are indispensable in the resuscitation of weaking languages, much like the way blood transfusion would spell the difference between life and death for patients who undergo major and very bloody surgery. My reply to the second: It may look like that but, as they say, better late than never, especially for a language like Isinay that has no dictionary yet.
Others may have a different pangi-onna (viewpoint) on the role of dictionaries, but I think a dictionary is clearly a forward-looking creature the usefulness of which would even outlive the last fluent speakers of the language itself. In the case of Isinay, this means that in the future when the last Isinay speaker or writer shall have been gone, the dictionary would be a priceless source of material to enable linguists and even Isinay descendants to reconstruct the language and probably make it live again.
In my pan-es-esesep (rumination) on how to make the dictionary something that would make the Isinay community proud and happy , and a document that with a bit of luck would be appreciated by those in the linguistics sector, the images of several versions of the dictionary came to mind.
First is an Isinay-English volume. Next is an English-Isinay edition. Then an illustrated one for children. And a little later, a multilingual version, one objective of which is to compare Isinay words with their equivalent terms in Ilocano, Tagalog, Ibaloy, Bontoc, Kankanaey, Ifugao, and Binisaya.
My in-inop (dream) is to come out with both hard (that is, book) and soft (such as CD and USB) copies of my outputs.
I also plan to add to the Isinay revitalization pot a number of brochures/pamphlets on useful Isinay phrases and conversational Isinay for visitors. In the pipeline is a tourists’ guide to Dupax and a booklet on the flora and fauna of Isinay country.
In the meantime, I’m focusing on the Isinay-English volume (my compilation now contains a word population running close to 17,000). I made it one of my New Year Resolutions last year to finish this first version before turning 61. But up to this moment it still is basically an alphabetized listing of Isinay words from Aritao, Bambang, and Dupax with a sprinkling here and there of definitions, synonyms, and sentences illustrating the use of certain tricky words.
I assure you, however, that just like a mango, the fruit will be worth waiting for… and I’m going to share it once it gets ripe enough.
 I heard that an Isinay dictionary (probably made by Spanish or Belgian priests assigned in Dupax) used to exist. One source says her family had a leather-bound copy siriyen poto^ (in the olden days) but it was borrowed by a member of a prominent family in Dupax, brought to the United States, and never returned. The other story I got was that the late Mrs. Ermelinda Castañeda-Magalad, my favorite Isinay teacher at St. Mary’s Dupax, also used to have a copy.