The Philippines is known for its thousands of islands—7,641 to be exact. Of these, 2,000 are inhabited, resulting in hundreds of languages spoken throughout the country. While vital to the Filipino culture, some of these languages are slowly becoming endangered—and eventually, extinct—due to non-usage.
Because of this, Project Marayum was born.
Marayum, from the Asi ethnolinguistic community of Romblon, means ‘wise words.’ A brainchild of MA Linguistics student Mantha Sadural and UP Computer Science Department Professor Mario Carreon, Project Marayum aims to preserve the “dying” languages of the Philippines by creating digital dictionaries that will be owned and maintained by the community members themselves.
In their two-year research, Sadural says they found that some languages didn’t have a corpus—a compilation of written or spoken texts usually stored on a computer. This is why they decided to team up with communities, language experts, and editors to start a community-built dictionary for the native languages in the country. The basic information such as the words and tenses will be filled out by the community members, missing data will be completed by language experts, and checked by the editors.
The team is also developing a webpage and a mobile application, which will provide easier access for people who would want to browse the dictionaries. Targeted to be available by October this year, the public will have access to the Asi, Cebuano, and Hiligaynon dictionaries, initially.
There are 185 languages all over the country, four are extinct—Agta Villa Viciosa, Agta Dicamay, Ayta Tayabas, and Ermiteño—28 are endangered, and 11 are dying. Some of the widely used languages in the Philippines are Filipino, Cebuano, Kapampangan, Waray, and Bikol. An estimated 20 million Filipinos have Cebuano as their first language, while around 45 million have Filipino as their first language.