Monday, February 3, 2014

Senior Citizens & the Endangered Isinay Language (Part 2)

A Life-Changing Dream
HELPING produce an Isinay dictionary, I soon realized, is certainly a good trail for me to blaze en route to making up for my decades of absence from Dupax. Besides, I told the Doubting Thomas in me, what better way to atone for the sins of omission I may have made as an Isinay than giving back to my birthplace all the ropes I learned in the fields of research, writing, editing, photography, layouting, and book production?
Illustration made in 2013 by DANTE N. PECSON
It didn’t take long then before this Isinay-dictionary dream became a priority in my daily ruminations. Among the images that played in my mind's eye were a number of editions and formats for the dictionary. One would be Isinay-English. Another would be English-Isinay. And a possible spinoff would be a primer on Isinay for children, non-Isinays, and foreigners or non-Isinays married to residents of Aritao, Bambang, and Dupax.
Part of the dream is to get help from linguists and other language experts to put up a standard orthography for the Isinay language. This would probably help put to rest this issue on the Spanish-influenced way of writing (examples: the use of J instead of the modern H; the use of O instead of W as last letter for such words as "ehaw"; the use of Y instead of I in such words as "ina" and "ira^mi") that admittedly intimidates Isinay youths to read and write Isinay but which elder Isinays have been accustomed to and would naturally find hard to upgrade. 
To compare and contrast Isinay with other related and/or neighboring Philippine languages (and cultures), I also envision as a final project the publication of a multilingual dictionary that would contain the Ilocano, Kankanaey, Ibaloy, Ifugao, Kalanguya, Pangasinan, and Tagalog equivalents of Isinay words. 
At first I thought I would be a lone ranger in this dictionary dream. But it would perhaps interest readers of this blog to know that, apart from the enthusiasm shown in Facebook by Isinays working/living overseas, certain ripples of interest have come from the academe, notably UP Baguio and UP Diliman, largely due to the efforts of the Oxford-educated anthropologist Analyn Salvador-Amores.
In the meantime, the project has not only made me a hunter/miner/stalker/eavesdropper/investigator for Isinay words; in many ways it has also reformatted my lifestyle. 
For instance, each time I watch TV and a word that catches my attention is mentioned, I would crack my brain for its Isinay equivalent. While reading and I would come across a picturesque phrase or a quotable quote, I would try to translate it into Isinay.
I even attempted to make Isinay versions of the song “Bahay Kubo”, Joyce Kilmer’s poem “Trees,” and the Pambansang Awit ng Pilipinas.
Even if away from Dupax, I found ways to collect more words. I Googled the terms Isinay, Isinai, Insinay, and Inmeas in the hope that the Internet would give me documents of yesteryears that used Isinay in its un-Ilocanized, un-Tagalized, un-Hispanized form. Luckily, I found two Spanish-era items, one of which is the Catecismo de la Doctrina Cristiana en la Lengua Isinay which curiously carried the Isinay subtitle “Dasal Ynimeas.”
Even when I am in the CR or when feeding my cats and dogs, I would jog my memories of Isinay conversations I had with my Isinay playmates, or the animated exchanges in pure Isinay I heard between my father and uncle. I would pasture my mind’s eye back to my grade school days when Isinay was still the lingua franca among pupils and teachers.
In this recollection of words, I found the cellphone to be a reliable assistant. Today I take it with me when my wife and I would go to market, and I keep it under my pillow during bed time so that I won’t have to get up and write when suddenly remembered words come like unexpected rain on a summer day.
Of course, in the middle of the night, when I make pindut-pindot to catch the easy-to-forget words, the wife would hear the clicking sound of my cp’s keys and say:“Sino ba yang seksing textmate mo at kitikiteks ka nang kitikiteks diyan?”
The cellphone was and is a convenient tool each time I would get stuck or not sure with the meaning, synonym, antonym, pronunciation, or English /Ilocano/Tagalog equivalent of certain Isinay words, vice versa. I would text or call my more Isinay-proficient mother, sisters or cousins, and -- presto -- in a matter of minutes some more verified entries would be added to my list.
As if on cue, one of my sisters earlier stumbled on the idea of playing a paramihan game among themselves or with me, via texting. My Ilocana mother (who was forced to learn Isinay because her in-laws did not speak any other language except Isinay) served as our arbiter.
Examples of the categories we competed on -- and which increased our collective vocabulary -- were place names in Isinay, family names that are truly Isinay, vegetables, parts of the body, toys played by Isinay kids, and minor injuries in Isinay.
From a few dozens, the words on my list soon became hundreds, and the hundreds became thousands. I would put all my word discoveries in my computer not only to make alphabetizing and writing definitions and sample sentences easier, but also to be able to have a quick count of how many words I have already collected. 
My latest computer-aided count has come up to more than 22,000 and still many more words are coming.


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