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Sip-on, But-o: the Fading Batangas Practice of Separating Syllables

Image credit:  http://www.kalusugan.ph.

“Nagkatrangkaso ako eh! Tulô ang sip-on at nanakit ang mga but-o!” (I had the ‘flu! I had runny nose and my bones ached!) When I was a lot younger, I used to hear mostly from the elderly and those from remote agrarian communities what then seemed to me as a quirky way of pronouncing certain words in the Tagalog language.

This was the practice of separating syllables of certain words with a glottal stop where in standard Tagalog or Filipino there would be none. First things first: in Linguistics, the glottal stop is the termination of a sound by closing the glottis, a vocal apparatus of the larynx.

Glottal stops, we were taught in elementary Balarilâ (Grammar), are frequently used to create the maragsâ sound. This is the sound created by abruptly clipping the vowel at the end of a word.

This is the same pronunciation technique that is used in separating one syllable from the other in a practice that appears to be dying out among Batangueños. The glottal stop is inserted between the ending consonant of a syllable and the following vowel.

For the record, the practice of doing so is not endemic to Batangas. It is observable as far south as Marinduque, where there is a local Tagalog-based dialect; and is used by many native speakers of Visayan and Bicolano. (The Dialects of Marinduque Tagalog, Rosa Pelaez-Soberano)

There is no difference in spelling; and the use of the glottal stop is a matter of personal preference. Hence, sipon and sip-on (the common cold) are really spelled the same way and mean the same thing. Tagalogs will understand the word pronounced either way.

There also does not seem to be any rule dictating when the glottal stop is to be inserted. For instance, although sipon can be pronounced as sip-on and ngayon (now) can be pronounced as ngay-on, the word hipon (shrimp) is never pronounced as hip-on.

In the same breath, although gabok (dust) can be pronounced as gab-ok and lagok (to swallow) as lag-ok, batok (the nape or back of the neck) is never pronounced as bat-ok.

This is just me, but the practice of inserting glottal stops into certain Tagalog words goes naturally with the hard core Batangueño punto (accent). Try using the words sip-on or bay-ong (woven market bag) with the intonation preferred by those in northern Tagalog provinces and it just does not sound quite right.

Of course, if you subscribe to the theory that modern Tagalog originated from Batangas, then you realise that this was how Tagalog was originally spoken. It is unfortunate, therefore, that through the teaching of standardised Filipino in school and the preponderance of a media that prefers this, the practice of inserting glottal stops into certain Tagalog words seems to be fading.

If you go to the markets, however, there is wont to be an elderly vendor who will offer you minatam-is (dessert), something that she probably made the traditional way in the tiny shack she calls a home.

Here are some words that can be used with the glottal stop. If you know of some, please enrich this article by posting these using the Facebook comments box below.

Bag-ok to hit against
Bang-aw rabid; sometimes a large fly, alternatively bangyaw
Bay-ong a large woven market bag
Bug-al large chunks; broken soil et al.
Bug-ong rice wrapped in banana leaf
Dag-is to groan
Gab-i night
Gab-ok dust
Lag-ok swallow
Mabig-at heavy
Ngay-on now
Pang-os, pang-ut to bite off and chew a chunk of sugarcane
Pus-on the pubic area
Sip-on the common cold

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