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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceedingly useful, 14 Sept. 2009
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This review is from: Tagalog-English/English-Tagalog Standard Dictionary (Hippocrene Standard Dictionaries) (Paperback)
This is less a simple dictionary and more an inclusive book of Tagalog that also happens to be a first class dictionary. What I mean by that is this: as well as the dictionary (more heavily-weighted towards Tagalog-English than English-Tagalog, but that's great for my purposes), this work also contains a nicely detailed section on Tagalog grammar. It has a coda that includes songs and poems in Tagalog, and a section on Tagalog morphology, which is, of course, famously complex. On top of that, there is even a brief outline of Baybayin, the pre-Hispanic Tagalog writing system. What more could you ask for?

There are very few flaws, if any, although occasionally looking up the odd Tagalog word has been problematic, due to the obvious morphological issues. My purpose in buying this text, and in learning Tagalog, is this: I speak quite reasonable Indonesian/Malay, and I find it a wonderfully simple and interesting language. It is quite closely related to Tagalog, and to the Philippine languages. Although it displays a much reduced grammatical complexity as compared to Tagalog, Indonesian also has a relatively large number of verbal affixes, some of which are potentially unnecessary. My question when learning Indonesian was, where did these affixes come from, and why are they there, when the vast majority of the meaning is in the root of the verb? To find the answer, I decided to look a more morphologically complex language where the affixes add a large degree of meaning - in terms of mood, number and so on. So far, it's been an interesting academic voyage through the Austronesian languages, and using this dictionary, with primary texts, has brought me a very large step closer to my aim.

I am also very interested in the aboriginal languages of Taiwan, and when I was living there, I picked up a number of books on two native languages (Seediq and Paiwan), the books being in Chinese. My Chinese is quite good, but trying to understand the western Austronesian focus system (unique in the world's languages) is difficult even in English, and it is exceedingly hard to find English language materials dealing with the particular languages I wanted to learn. In order to gain a good working understanding of the Austronesian system, if not the particulars of the Formosan languages, I thought Tagalog would be a good idea, and so it is proving to be. The grammar section of this dictionary is good enough for this purpose, and that should tell you how good it is generally.

And of course, Tagalog is a useful language by itself, and another aim of mine is to be able to read newspapers, encyclopedias or novels in it. This is why I say that this is more like a handbook of Tagalog than a simple dictionary: if you had only the aim of studying Tagalog for a job, or to go on holiday, then you'd get a lot out of this book. It's very useful.

It's also printed very nicely, with high quality bindings. Aesthetically and academically, it can hardly be faulted. I therefore recommend it highly.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 16 Dec 2011, 11:27:02 GMT
nenabunena says:
Hi! I found your comment very informative! I learned that Tagalog is very close to Dusun as well, a Bornean language. I was wondering, since you are familiar with many Austronesian languages. What are the similarities & dissimilarities do you find between Tagalog & Formosan languages? Also, is the grammar of Tagalog more complex than Formosan or is it an inherited form from Formosan languages. I read that Amis is the closest to many Filipino languages, aside from Yami & the Ivatans.

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Dec 2011, 13:47:25 GMT
AJ says:
The similarities are mostly syntactic. Tagalog and the Formosan languages share what's called the Austronesian alignment. This is a morphosyntactic alignment that it seems to me is similar to ergativity. I expect there are Bornean languages that share this alignment, and I believe Malagasy and Chamorro do as well, but most Indonesian languages only show traces of it in verb forms. It's best learnt through Tagalog, I think, because the literature on the other languages is more scanty while Tagalog is, of course,a well-known and well-understood language.

As for the closest Formosan language to the Philippine languages, I'm fairly sure that it's Paiwan, rather than Amis. Malayo-Polynesian is sometimes considered a sub-branch of the Paiwanic subfamily of Austronesian, the hypothesis being that people from the very bottom of Taiwan, nowadays a Paiwan and Chinese speaking area, journeyed south into the Philippines and spread from there. Amis is probably fairly close as well, given that it is also a southern Taiwanese language, but other than hearing it on train announcements in southeastern Taiwan, I don't know much about it.
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