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Acoustic Properties of Waray Vowels:

Towards A New Waray Orthography


Voltaire Q. Oyzon
Firie Jill T. Ramos
Michael Carlo C. Villas
Leyte Normal University

ABSTRACT

Issues such as spelling, hyphenating, syllabicating and stresses are major causes for confusion in
the writing of Winaray. With the issuance of DepEd Order #74 s. 2009, a nearly inclusive and
consensual orthography of Waray language is imperative.

The biggest point of contention in writing the Winaray is on the vowels, and not so much with
consonants (see Lobel, 2009; Rubino, 2001;Woolf 1968;Romualdez 1908; de Veyra 1982).

An acoustic analysis of Waray vowels was conducted using formants analysis to determine each
vowels acoustic properties.

The data show that Waray language has 5 vowels: /a/, /i/, /e/, /o/, /u* , e*/. The vowel /e*/ is a
variant of /u*/. Lobel (2009) calls this as a reflex of PAN *e vowel , and describes as a high
central, tense unrounded vowel /i/. Vowels /e/ and /o/ are borrowed.

These findings, became cornerstones for the construction of a new Waray orthography, (that is,
when to use letters o and u, i and e), which, will be used in the development of teaching
materials in Waray, and the teaching of this language to Waray children in the first three levels
of elementary education, as well as to second and foreign language learners.

st
This paper was first read during the 1 Pambansang Summit sa Wika held in UP Baguio, Baguio City, April 29-30,
th
2011. An earlier version of this paper was presented in the 5 NAKEM International Conference with a theme
ADAL KEN SIRIB: Education to Cultural Diversity & Linguistic Democracy held at Heritage Resort of Caoayan,
Caoayan, Ilocos Sur, December 16- 18, 2010. The paper read in the said conference is entitled The Acoustic
Properties of Waray Vowels.
Background and Rationale

This research was a groundbreaking and landmark study. It aimed to produce a written
orthography of Waray, Winaray or Lineyte-Samarnon language, popularly known as
Waray-Waray.

There is no existing official orthography of the Waray language. As such, writers in the
language follow their own methods creating disunity specifically on the practice of
writing. Issues such as spelling, hyphenating, syllabicating, and stresses are major
causes for confusion but not so much on the consonants.

Under Department Order 74, series of 2009, of the Department of Education, schools are
to employ mother tongue-based multilingual education (MTB MLE) in the first three
lower grades of the Philippine elementary school system. The lack of instructional
materials in Waray and the absence of a fixed, agreed-upon orthography surfaced as
problems during the course of this projects implementation. This study is therefore a
response to the pressing need of language teachers who cannot, as of this time, produce
instructional materials in teaching the Waray language primarily because of the absence
of an unified orthographic system.

The research analyzed the result of the study on the acoustic properties of Waray
vowels, studied the different treatises on the Waray language; and from it created a
new orthography of Waray modeled after the orthography proposed by Norberto
Romualdez, Vicente de Veyra, Eduardo Makabenta, and Bisaya Magazine, to mention a
few sources. The study of the Waray vowels was done by conducting a formants
analysis of Waray vowels, serving as a primary data using a computer software called
Praat. Results of the formant analysis, informed the researcher on the actual number of
vowels spoken in Waray. This findings became the primary basis for the development
of the new Waray orthography, as well as taking referring to previous suggested
orthography by Waray scholars in the past. The new orthography was then presented to
the practitioners and stakeholders of the language community through a Language
Colloquium held last May 16-17, 2011, and followed by a second gathering on June 16,
2012. The community members, teachers, writers, and cultural workers in attendance of
both events affirmed their support of the new orthography by signing the manifesto of
support.

Goals and Objective of the Study

The goals of the study was :

1.To come up with a formants analysis of Waray vowels which will form as a linguistic
basis for the development of a new Waray orthography

2.To produce a nearly inclusive and consensual orthography of the Waray language
that respect dialectal variations

3.To promote the adaption and use of the orthography in writing

Statement of the Problem

1. What are the acoustic properties of Waray vowels which can be utilized as a basis of a
proposed orthography?

2. How are o and u, i and e different/similar acoustically based on the native speakers
articulation?

Scope and Limitations


The primary limitation of this study is that the researchers are not trained in linguistics.
The researchers, however undertook the challenge, because of the pressing need of the
situation.

REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE

The early attempt to lay down the orthography of the Lineyte Samarnon or colloquially
knows as Waray, was started by Romualdez ( 1908) in his book Bisayan Grammar, and
De Veyra ( 1982) . Both laid the foundations for the orthographic study of the Lineyte
Samarnon from which this endeavor builds on.

Norberto Romualdez, Sr. (1908) in his book Bisayan Grammar wrote the early, if not
the first work on systematizing the writing in Lineyte-Samarnon. He proposed that
Lineyte- Samarnon has 20 letters consisting of 15 consonants and five vowels namely a,
e, i, o, and u. Vicente I. de Veyra (1982) writing in his Ortograpiya han Binisaya (Bisayan
Orthography) supports the contention of Romualdez on the five vowels in Waray: a, e,
i, o, u.

Subsequent studies by Wolf in 1968 on the vowels of Waray refutes the claim of both
Romualdez and de Veyra. Wolff (1968) asserts that the Waray vowels, /o/ and /u/ and /i/
and /e/ are allophones so that they travel through the same areas in the vocal tract and
have overlapping points of articulation. In short Wolf claims that Waray only has three
vowels /a/ , /i/, and /u/.

A more recent linguistic analysis by Rubino in 2001, argues that Waray has three
native vowel phonemes /a/, /i/ and ,/ u/ . He labels /o/ and /e/ as phonemes and not
vowel phonemes. Therefore, Rubino, identifies /o/ and /e/ as variants of vowel
phonemes /i/ and /u/ respectively. According to Rubino Due to phrase-final high
vowel lowering, word final /u/ is often written o or /i/ as /e/ respectively, implying the
allophonic quality of these vowels, which acquired contrastive status after contact with
Spanish ( Rubino, 2001).

The latest study that supports the claim of a three vowel character of the Waray
language is presented by J. W. Lobel (2009) . He further points out that in northeastern
and eastern Samar, there exists a fourth vowel which he described as a reflex of PAN
*e vowel, a high, central, tense, unrounded vowel /i/ ( Lobel, 2009)

While this disagreement has been isolated in the academicians, the practitioners of the
language have continued on adapting different styles of writing, and spelling. An
examination of writings published in the Waray language showed this phenomenon.

Romualdez himself displays this inconsistency, in his book Bisayan Grammar,


Romualdez ( 1908) where he excluded the letter q from his list of consonants for the
Waray language. However on page 3 of the same book, Romualdez used the word
quita to illustrate the different meanings that an accent conveys. He spells the word
with a q instead of a k.
De Veyra in his writing follows a personal system of spelling, where he used the letter
o instead of u , and e instead of i . Makabenta on the other hand favored to spell
teatro as opposed to writing it as teyatro which followed the phonemic
consistency and syllabication of the Bisayan language. Makabenta digreseds from the
principle of simplification which states that what is not pronounced should not be
written, and the phonemic principle which states that there should only be one
grapheme for one sound.

Winaray has a very light orthography and the phonemic principle, and principle of
simplification helps to put into perspectives the ground work for a systematic
orthography of the language.

There was a two standing opposing views on the issue. Romualdez and de Veyra who
asserted that there are five vowels, while Lobel, Wolf, and Rubino who stuck with the
three vowels, with Lobel describing a fourth vowel which he described as a reflex of
PAN *e vowel, a high, central, tense, unrounded vowel /i/ ( Lobel, 2009) .

An acoustic analysis of these vowels using computer technology hoped to settle once
and for all the argument on the number of vowels of Waray. This technology which was
not available to Romualdez, and de Veyra during their time.

During the time of Romualdez, Makabenta, and De Veyra there was no systemic effort
to put into practice the proposed Orthography of Romualdez, and de Veyras thesis . So
much so that up till the 21st century users of the Waray language have inherited this
confusion in how to write and spell in the mother tongue

The need for a uniform system of writing and spelling in the Waray language came
about in the wake of the DepEd Order #74 s.2009- which institutionalizes the use of the
mother tongue based as language of instruction and learning in the primary grades.

A thorough investigation of the vowels of Winaray, was necessary for the formation
of an orthography of the language. The new orthography will provide foundation and
guidance in the development of teaching materials in Waray, and the teaching of Waray
to school children and others who wish to learn the regional language.

In reflection, the researchers surveyed studies on the phonological characteristics of


other regional languages in the Philippines to seek related experiences. Lineyte-
Samarnon or Waray, just like the other Philippine languages belongs to the Proto
Austronesian Family which meant they generally share a repertoire of sounds in both
the consonants and vowels. This revealed interesting clues relevant to the researchers
inquiry.

Lavaro (2009) conducted a study on the phonological constraints in Tagalog that


centered on three sound patterns in the language and three interacting factors namely,
the sonority hierarchy, diminished perceptual salience, and speakers knowledge of the
language and usage. The study showed the sonority hierarchy, where phonemes that
are less sonorous always come first before the more sonorous sounds. Lavaro, 2009
writes low vowels tend to be more sonorous than high vowels. Harrison, Merow,
and Rachel (2006), cited in Lavaro explained this phenomenon . According to Harrison
et al (2006) Philippine languages show rising sonority, which means that the less
sonorous phonemes appear after the more sonorous sounds. This is the basis of
Tagalogs preference for the u-o sequence in their speech and writing.

Santiago (2009) in his paper, An Articulatory and Acoustic Investigation of Kalanguya


Consonants demonstrated the use of computer software to accurately describe acoustic
properties of a language. In his research, Santiago investigated the articulatory and
acoustic properties of Kalanguya consonants, a language spoken by the Kalanguya
ethnic group in Kayap, Ambaguio, Aritao, Santa Fe in Nueva Vizcaya, and Tinoc in
Ifugao, as well as some parts of Benguet, Pangasinan, and Nueva Ecija. Santiago used
the Praat phonetic software and formants frequency to determine the articulatory
positions for coronal stops and acoustic analysis to describe certain consonants in the
Kalanguya language.

This study duplicated the methodology of Santiago (2009). In this research, the acoustic
properties was used to describe the vowels of Waray language. Rosario, Jr. (2010) did
the same method to study the vowels of Pangasinan, a precedence that will be adapted
in this investigation. Rosario, Jr. ( 2010 ) mapped the stressed and unstressed vowels of
Pangasinan. The areas touched by the tongue from the first to the last millisecond of
articulation were recorded. He found that the quality of these phonemes changes in
stressed and unstressed environments.
METHODOLOGY

The research involved three major stages. The first stage was an analysis and
retrieval of existing linguistic studies of the Waray language. The second was the
Analysis of Acoustic Properties of Waray Vowels using the computer software Praat
and JPlot Formant Programs. The third stage was the development of the new Waray
orthography and the corresponding consultative presentation of the material to the
language community, and its approval.

Gathering of Primary Data for the Acoustic Analysis

Waray language scholars such Romualdez (1908), de Veyra (1967) and Wolff (1968),)
Rubino (2001), Lobel (2009) wrote extensively on the phonemic inventory of Waray.
These scholars had similar inventory on the consonants and their corresponding
graphemes. However they disagreed with each other on the number of vowels. Rubio
(2001) and Wolff (1968) and even Lobel(2009), claimed that the vowels /o/ and /u/ are
allophones; the same case is with /i/ and /e/. Lobel pointed out that Eastern Samar has
a reflex of Pan *e vowel in their phonemic inventory, a fourth vowel. He described it
as a high central, tense unrounded vowel i (Lobel,2009).

Further, the previous studies on the inventory of vowels in Waray did not comment on
vowel changes such as stressed vowel or unstressed vowels. This study was the first to
investigate Waray vowels using formants analysis .

The study subject for the acoustic analysis of Waray vowels was identified through
purposive sampling. The respondents were 16-18 years old, and selected from a group
of freshman students of Leyte Normal University. One student from each of the
following locality was chosen; Catarman, N. Samar; Calbayog City; Catbalogan; Guiuan
and Borongan, Eastern Samar; Carigara, Abuyog, Tanauan, San Miguel, and Biliran.
The students must have spent the first 16 to 18 years in the target locality, with both
parents as speakers of Waray language.

The respondents were asked repeat in their natural way of speaking, pre-identified
words that the researchers first say to them. These target words in words in Waray
exemplify vowels in stressed and unstressed environments (See Annex A). Respondents
did not to read the words. to avoid the effects of the written words to speech (see
Ziegler & Ferrand, 1998; see also, Rosario,Jr. 2010).

The utterances by the respondents were recorded using the Praat, a phonetic software
program. This program was used to measure and determine the acoustic properties of
the vowels by analyzing the formants. Rosario, Jr. (2010) described the formants as

The first formant (F1) is used to identify whether the sound is


open or closed, high or low. As the F1 increases, the mouth
becomes more open and the position of the tongue is lower. The
second formant (F2), on the other hand, is used to identify
whether the sound is fronted or backed. In the process of
articulation, when the F2 increases, the tongue is fronted.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

On Vowels u and o
Surprisingly, the IPA vowel /u/ in Figure 1 did not surface in this study, which is located
at F1 330HzF2 815Hz in the formants. Instead, Lobels (2009) reflex of PAN *e vowel
(near the IPA vowel /e*/ region in the formants which the researchers suspect is
mistakenly identified by Warays speakers and linguists as the IPA vowel /u/), was
proven to exist. This reflex of PAN *e vowel appeared not only with the Eastern
Visayas respondent as what Lobel argued, but also with the other respondents.

Because this reflex of PAN *e vowel is located near IPA vowel /y/, the researchers
decided to use the symbol /e*/ to represent this reflex of PAN *e vowel. Lobel
described this reflex of PAN *e vowel as a high central, tense unrounded vowel i
(2009). It may be argued that this vowel /e*/ is also a variant of vowel /u*/because it
does not alter the meaning of a word when articulated.

The phonemes o and u in Waray are, indeed, allophones (Wolff 1968). And the data
above confirms this assertion of Wolff. Notice the area in Figure 1 where vowels u and o
are concentrated (F1) 400Hz to 600Hz-(F2) 800Hz to 1300Hz.
On vowels e and i
IPA vowel /i/ is at coordinates (F1)300Hz-(F2)2300Hz. The respondents are able to
articulate this correctly. However, they do not distinguish sometimes letters i and e in
articulating the vowels /i/ and /e/as we can see in Figure 1 (coordinates F1300Hz-600Hz-
F2 1200-2500Hz).

Too conscious articulation of the /e/ results to wide opening of the mouth. The IPA
vowel /e/ is on the coordinate (F1) 400Hz and (F2) 2020Hz of the graph in Figure 1. The
respondents are identified at coordinate (F1)700Hz to 900Hz as well as at (F2) 1900Hz.

On vowel a
There is not much to say about this vowel relevant to orthography.

To sum up, the tendency of Waray vowels to be fronted could explain why linguists
describe them as tensed.
Table 1 Vowel Duration Values of the Respondents (in seconds)

Table 1 shows the duration of Waray vowels. The duration of vowels /a/, /i/, /e/, /o/, and
/u, e*/ at initial position (IP) unstressed is at about 0.068889 seconds, 0.076557 seconds,
0.08987 seconds, 0.100 seconds, 0.103039 seconds respectively. The same vowels, in
initial position, this time in stressed environment are longer in duration.

The longest vowels are the borrowed vowelsthe /o/ and /e/ in initial position stressed
environs. The word stimuli for these vowels are oras (time) and Emy respectively. Both
are borrowed words. It can be deduced, therefore, from our data that the range of
Waray vowels are from 0.051921 seconds to 0.103776 seconds. With these data, we can
say that the Waray vowels /a/,/ i/, and /u, e*/) are short in comparison with long,
borrowed vowels /e/, and /o/.

Inputs to the new Waray Orthography

Based on these acoustic characteristics of these vowels, we can come up with a system
of writing for Winaray.
Table 2. Phoneme/grapheme correspondence in Waray
Waray Phonemes/Vowels Graphemes/Letters
/a/ Aa
/i/ Ii
/e/ Ee
/u*/ and /e*/ (PAN *e vowel) Oo,Uu
/o/ Oo

According to Yap (1970), even if a phoneme has two different pronunciations, there is
no need of a separate grapheme as long as the meaning of a word does not change.
Therefore, there is no need for a one-to-one correspondence of the number of
graphemes for the five (5) phonemes in Waray. We proposed that the existing Roman
scripts be adopted. (The table 2 will further illustrate this point). To introduce new
symbols/graphemes will only complicate the writing system of our language. Since the
graphemes a, i, e, o and u are widely accepted; we propose that these graphemes be
utilized in the new Waray orthography. No new graphemes must be added.

The Usage of u and o

1. For the autochthonous Winaray words u comes first and o is always at the last based
on the fact that Waray vowels are tensed. Examples:

sulod, upod, usa, pulong, uyon, gurangliko, linmiko, kato, lako,

bato, igo,naigo, gin-igo, pato, tigo, patigo, ito, ato, inmato, gaod, iginaod,

ginaod, haton, naton, aton, amon, balon, tig-ob, tinig-ob, katig-oban,

Exemption: oo, kun

The use of o at the last part of each word is based on the fact that whenever the sound
/o/ and /u/ occur in a word, the preferred pattern seems to be [u] and [o], and not [o]
and [u] The preferred pattern therefore is for rising sonority and not for lowering
sonority (Harrison (2006) and Zuraw (2007) as cited by Lavaro, 2010). Our data,
corroborates with the findings of Lobel (2009), Rubino (2001) and Wolff (1968), which
state that /o/is an allophone of /u/ and, these two are even similar phonemes. The vowel
/o/ is articulated distinctly only when it appears in borrowed terms.

Suffixes should not affect the spelling of the base form of a word.

CV-CVC is the syllabic pattern of autochthonous Winaray words,(where C=consonant


and V=vowel), as we can see at the examples above. Borrowed Winaray terms do not
follow such pattern as we can see in the word traysikol that has a syllabic pattern of
CCVC-CV-CVC.

The Usage of i and e

1. Because Waray vowels have the tendency to be fronted, all the autochthonous
words in Winaray language with /i/ sound should be written using i, examples:

kirikisi, iba, iban, ibi, ibid, id-id, igo,

Rubino (2001) posits the sounds of the Waray language are mostly tensed . This study
confirms his statements. Romualdez (1908) (cited from T.H. Pardo de Tavera) and de
Veyra (1982) affirms Rubino when they said that only three sounds are used in the old
form of writing a, i, and o/u. Therefore, all of the autochthonous words in Waray
language with /i/ should be written using i, not e. Furthermore, if we examine the
dictionaries of Abuyen (2005), Makabenta (2004) and Unruh (1993) all words starting
with e are all loanwords.

2. Based on the foregoing, the foreign influence particularly Spanish and English see the
imperative use of e. The copy-the-vowel-from-the-source-word principle is applied.
Examples:

Aksidente (Spanish: Accidente) accident


Areyos (Spanish: Arreos) tack (used in Waray Waray as 'earrings')
Bandera (Spanish: Bandera) flag
Barbero (Spanish: Barbero) barber
Kombensido (Spanish: Convencido) - convinced
Demanda (Spanish: Demanda) demand
Deposito (Spanish: Depsito) depot (fuel), deposit (money)

This system of writing (copy-the-vowels-from-the-source-word) is recommended since


Waray do not distinguish sometimes letters i and e in articulating the vowels /i/ and /e/.
(The same can be said about o and u in articulating the vowel /o,u/ in Waray). This
system will also facilitate recognition of loan words.

In doing so, this system will increase the learners repertoire of vowels and consonants,
indirectly prepping him for the study of a second language. The number of vowels and
consonants present in learners L1 affects the learning of new e sounds in the second
language. The exposure to loan words will hinder this difficulty. In a study of the
consonants in Kalungaya, Santiago (2010) observed that, with only 14 consonants,
Kalungaya speakers have a lot of adjustment to do when shifting from their L1 (
Kalanguya) to other languages. Endriga (2010) had the same observation with Cebuano.
Cebuano speakers have difficulty with non-Cebuano words with i and e, o and u.

CONCLUSION

The problem on the vowels of Waray is the main issue addressed by the orthography
as this provides a key to a unified system of spelling and writing. The orthography
seeks a uniform method of writing and spelling in the language, most specially on
words containing the vowels, e,i,o and u where there is confusion. As explained by
Rubino ( 2009) this confusion stems from the fact that Waray language do not contain
the long vowels sounds such as /a/ sound as in hay, /e/ sounds in egg, /o/ sound in hole.
Hence the tendency is to interchange /e/ in egg with the more familiar /i/ in see ; or
/o/ in hole with /u/ in shampoo.

This new Waray orthography includes the sounds /a/, /e/, and /o/ in the inventory of
vowels, for not only are they present in the loan words, and foreign terms that have
been assimilated into the language , but it also serves to prepare the young Waray
speakers familiarity of new vowel sounds for an easier experience in learning the
second language.

The repertoire of sounds in ones native language affects how one learns a second
language. Espedido( 2009) posits that teachers should know the inventory of sounds in
both the learners native tongue, and in the target language to appropriately teach the
learner how to bridge the acoustic barriers between the two language.

The Waray Orthography is the basis for all activities that will involve speaking, reading,
writing and teaching the Waray language. In compliance with DEPED Order No 74, S
2009 : Institutionalizing Mother Tongue Based Multi Lingual Education, teaching
academic subjects in the primary school in the mother tongue was the praxis since June
2010.

Educators, teacher training institutes will need to implement this directive. Therefore,
the effort to produce a modern Waray orthography based on a systematic accounting of
its vowels , was an endeavor to fill the gap in the language community of Waray.

It has come at the most opportune time. For years, there was no standard Waray
orthography because of the long unsolved contention as to its number of vowels, and
the confusion in the pronunciation of vowels. This phenomenon was explained and
addressed in this work. Hopefully the efforts of this paper will suffice, if not provide
initial guidance.

***

We would like to thank the following for extending assistance in making this research possible:
Evangeline T. De la Cruz, Ma. Rocini E. Tenasas, Regalado Tupaz, Jose Lianza, Cristina
Palencia, Cleofe Lajara, Janet Espada, Elizabeth Quimbo, Basilisa Silvano, Lina Fabian, Alma
Sonia Sanchez, Gillian Mae Gardiola, Jacqueline Espina, Jose Ismael Salamia, Genevieve
Balagapo, Ma. Teresa Delima, Joderic Navarrete, Ronald Mocorro, Lorena Ripalda, Arlyn
Cartalla, Ruth Rosminda Lacaba, Chris Rey Macasil, Mildred Perez, Nora Cabriana, Juvy
Mariano, and Dr. Evelyn C. Cruzada.
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