Your word against mine: How a rebel language and script of the Philippines was created, suppressed, recovered and contested
Article first published online: 20 DEC 2012
© 2012 Australian Anthropological Society
The Australian Journal of Anthropology
Special Issue: Interlingual Articulations in Asia and the Pacific: Figuring Sociocultural Otherness through Otherness of Linguistic Codes. Guest Editors: Alan Rumsey & Rupert Stasch.
Volume 23, Issue 3, pages 357–378, December 2012
How to Cite
Kelly, P. (2012), Your word against mine: How a rebel language and script of the Philippines was created, suppressed, recovered and contested. The Australian Journal of Anthropology, 23: 357–378. doi: 10.1111/taja.12005
- Issue published online: 20 DEC 2012
- Article first published online: 20 DEC 2012
- auxiliary languages;
- construction of indigeneity;
- linguistic ideology
When news of an uncontacted ‘lost tribe’ began emanating from the island of Bohol in the southern Philippines, visitors were fascinated by the group's unique language and complex writing system, used today by some five hundred people in limited domains. Though few persons have attempted to analyse the language—known today as Eskayan—exotic theories of its origins are widely circulated by outsiders. However, according to speakers, Eskayan was created by the ancestor Pinay who used the human body as inspiration. For Pinay, a language and its written mode were inextricable. In the twentieth century, Pinay's language was rediscovered by the rebel soldier Mariano Datahan who retransmitted it to his followers. This creation story is consistent with my linguistic analysis, which points to a sophisticated encryption of the regional Visayan language. Further, the particulars of how Eskayan was designed shed much light on the sociocultural conditions motivating its (re)creation. Implicit notions of linguistic materiality, boundedness, and inter-changeability are reflected in the relexification process carried out by Pinay/Datahan. In defiance of all imperial claimants to the island, Pinay and Datahan effectively reified a language community whose territorial rights were corporeally inscribed.