Indigenous Language, Migration, and Sedentism of the Migrant Mamanwa in Southern Leyte, Philippines

Authors: Angelie Genotiva, Jett C. Quebec, Bethlehem A. Ponce (Visayas State University, The Philippines)
Speakers: Angelie Genotiva
Strand: Language, Contact and Change
Session Type: General Session


Many of the world’s languages are dying at a rapid pace including Philippine indigenous languages. Migration among others contributes significantly to this phenomenon. Previous studies show significant figures of indigenous languages in the country that are declared endangered (Grimes, 2000 and Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino, 2018), one of which is the Minamanwa (see Headland, 2003). Furthermore, there is a scarcity of existing literature on indigenous languages and internal migration, specifically in the Philippines. Hence, this study focuses on Minamanwa, the language of the migrant Mamanwa in Southern Leyte, Philippines. This paper argues that the internal migration process of indigenous peoples (IPs) can be equated to international migration in terms of adaptive mechanisms, class distinctions and differentiations, and even in language socialization and acquisition. The equation is based on the fact that the IPs have a cultural system totally different from that of the dominant group thus the constant and increasing socialization to the latter as part of the migration and sedentism processes has a significant impact on the language of the IPs. Utilizing triangulation method and thematic analysis, this study came up with very comprehensive results. Data show that language becomes a necessary adaptive mechanism for migrant IPs to survive in the new environment. Their constant mobility and increasing social interaction with the host society resulted in a new Minamanwa variation – mixed with the Waray language. Eventually, sedentism resulted in the acquisition of local and institutionalized languages. Across three generations, language acquisition and competency vary depending on the dominant linguistic domains, the degree of social interactions with locals, and exposure to institutionalized languages. Due to the structural changes in the language (Headland, 2003) and the language acquisition resulting in bilingualism/multilingualism (Jourdan & Tuite, 2006), the case of the Minamanwa language among the Mamanwa in Southern Leyte is possibly endangered.


Grimes, Barbara F. (ed.), 2000. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Fourteenth edition. Dallas, Texas: SIL International. Online version:

Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino. (2018). KWF Resolution 18-33, s. 2018.

Headland, Thomas N. (2003). Thirty Endangered Languages in the Philippines. Work Papers of the Summer Institute of Linguistics, University of North Dakota Session, Vol. 47

Jourdan, Christine & Tuite, Kevin (2006). Introduction: Walking Through Walls. In Language, Culture, & Society by Christine Jourdan and Kevin Tuite Eds. Cambridge University Press. The Edinburg Building, Cambridge, CB2, 2RU, UK

Keywords: Indigenous language, Indigenous people migration, language contact and change, Mamanwa