Cebuano Grammar Notes

by Jessie Grace U. Rubrico

1. Cebuano phonemes

Sixteen consonants and three vowels constitute the segmental phonemes of 
the Cebuano language, while stress and length constitute its suprasegmentals. 

1.1 Consonants according to their points of articulation 

Bilabial Labio-velar Alveolar  Palatal Velar Glottal
/ p /
/ t /
  / k /  / ? /
/ b /
/ d /
  / g /  
/ m /
/ n /
  / ? /  
/ s /
    / h /
/ w /
/ l / / r /
/ y /

1.2 Vowels according to tongue advancement (1) and position (2), lip rounding (3). 

(1) Front
(2) High  / i /
[ i ]
[u] (3) 
 [ I ] 
[o] (3)
/ a /

Phoneme /i/ has two phonetic representations, [i] and [I] which freely alternate. The phoneme /u/ ahas also two allophones which may be considered to be in complementary distribution, to wit:

                / u /              [ u ] / ___C#         Example: ug, uy!
                                    [ o ] / (V) C___#   Example: ko, mo, ako, imo

1.3 Suprasegmentals. Stress and Vowel length are phonemic in Cebuano.

1.3.1 Stress. Cebuano lexical items may be accented:
    a) on the penultimate vowel as in dayon , unya, ligo;
    b) on the final vowel as in dayon, wala, sukad;
    c) on both vowels in a two-syllable word, if these  vowels are glottal as in ku?ko?; sa?b-?a; 
    d) the position of the stress on the stem (i.e., final or penult) is retained when suffixation is 
         applied as in palit - palitan
    e)  in word reduplication, the stress of the base is carried over as primary stress on the second 
         component while the initial component gets  the secondary stress. Example, gamaygamay, 
     f)  the glottal stress - whether in the initial, medial, or final position- is retained whenever affixation
         is applied. Example: ?ayo - ma?ayo

1.3.2 Vowel Length  - Stressed vowels in  Cebuano  may  have length which is  an element in 
          contrasting phonemes da:pit (invite) - dapit (place) ba:y (house) - bay (vocative for friend)

2. Morphophonemic Processes

Some phonemic changes occur in certain environments. These may be due to the following morphophonemic processes.

2.1 Assimilation. This process generally occurs during affixation when a phoneme takes the point of articulation of its neighbor.

Note the changes that occur when affix mang- [maN] is prefixed to roots which begin nasals.

(a) maN- + palit > mangpalit > mampalit > mammalit > mamalit
(b) maN- + kahoy > mangkahoy > mangngahoy >mangahoy 
(c) maN- + dakop > mangdakop > mandakop > mannakop > manakop 

In Example (a) the N is bilabial, /m/, since it takes the point of articulation of /p/, afterwhich it is totally assimilated and the affixed form become "mamalit" after degemination.This is progressive assimilation, where the preceding phoneme is influenced by the one following it. Example (b) is regressive assimilation, where the initial consonant of the root is totally assimilated by the velar nasal before it. In Example (c) the N beomes alveolar to partially assimilate with /d/, and /d/ in turn is totally assimilated to come up with "manakop."

2.2 Deletion.
        a)  Final vowel of the base may be deleted after suffixation
             Examples:         sukod + -on = sukodon > sukdon
                                         kaon + -an = kaonan > kan-an
                                         agad + -on = agadon > agdon
                                             higot + -i = higoti > higti

         b) The phoneme /l/ may be deleted when it is between two / a /. The
              initial / a / is then lengthened and the final / a / deleted.

              Examples:                    base              a.                   b.
                                                    balay >         baay >           ba:y
                                                    sala >           saa   >           sa:                     

2..3 Alternation

        a)  [ l ] alternates with [ w ]     when it is between /a/ and /u/
              Examples: balud ~` bawud, bulad ~ buwad, salud ~ sawud

        b)  [ d ] > [ r ] after suffixation
              Examples: badbad + on = badbadon > badbaron
                                   tugkad + an = tugkadan > tugkaran
                                       tul-id + on = tul-idon > tul-iron

2.4 Metathesis.This process of reordering the phonemic sequence after suffixation
       is often accompanied by the deletion of the final vowel of the base.
       Example:           Affixation                         Deletion       Metathesis

                                     bilin + an =   bilinan >    bilnan >       binlan
                                      inom + a =  inoma  >    inma  >        imna
                                       sulod + i = sulodi  >     suldi  >        sudli
                                   tanum + an = tanuman > tanman >    tamnan

2.5 Epenthesis The insertion of a vowel or a consonant into some borrowed words
is practised in Cebuano in accordance with its phonotactics. This brings about euphony,
which is characteristic of the language. Also, it makes the word easier to pronounce.
For example, Spanish: tia > tiya; viaje >biyahe;   English: smart > esmarte; ball > bola

3. Phonotactics: Sequencing of Phonemes

3.1. Consonant Clusters
C1 C2  
l, r, w, y - plano, prangka, pwerto pyano
k l, r, w, y - klima, krus, kweba, kyugpos
b l, r, w, y - blangka, brilyante, bwinggit, Byernes
t r, w, s, y - trapo, twerka, tsuper, tyabaw
d r, w, y - drayber, dwende, dyamante
g r, w - grabe, gwano
n w, y - mwebles, myerkules
m w, y - nwebe, nyebe
s w, y - swapang, syagit
h - hwes


3.2 Diphthongs

/ aw /
/ ay /
/ iw /
/uy /.
lugaw balay kagiw kahoy
bahaw tinapay taliwtiw pahoy
kawkaw lubay   bugoy

  3.3 Syllabification. A Cebuano syllable may consist of:

a Vowel  (V) a-ko, i-mo, ad-to-a
Consonant + Vowel  (CV) ka-ma, ta-na, ba-to
Vowel + Consonant  (VC) us-us, un-ya, ug-ma
Vowel between two Consonants  (CVC) u-moy, kal-ye, balde
two Consonants + Vowel  (CCV) kla-ro, gru-po, pla-to
two Consonants + Vowel + Consonant (CCVC) krus, trak-tor, hwes, 
ak-syon, kwar-ta
Vowel + two Consonants - (VCC) eks-tra

Next Page : Word Classification       

Maintained by Mark Rubrico