Visayan languages

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The Visayan languages of the Philippines, along with Tagalog and Bikol, are part of the Central Philippine language family. Most Visayan languages are spoken in the Visayas region but they are also spoken in the Bicol Region (particularly in Sorsogon and Masbate), islands south of Luzon such as those that make up Romblon, the northern and western areas of Mindanao, and the province of Sulu located southwest of Mindanao. Some residents of Metro Manila also speak Visayan.

Over thirty languages constitute the Visayan language family. The Visayan language with the most speakers is Cebuano, spoken by 20 million people as a native language in Central Visayas, northern and eastern parts of Mindanao. Two other well-known Visayan languages are Hiligaynon, spoken by 7 million in western Visayas and Waray-Waray spoken by 3 million in eastern Visayas.



Native speakers of Visayan languages, especially Cebuano, Hiligaynon, and Waray-Waray not only refer to their language by their local name, but also by Bisaya or Binisaya, meaning Visayan language. This is misleading or may lead to confusion as different languages may be called Bisaya by their respective speakers despite their languages being mutually unintelligible. However, languages that are classified within the Visayan language family but spoken natively in places outside of the Visayas do not use the self-reference Bisaya or Binisaya. To speakers of Butuanon, Suriganon, and Masbatenyo, the term Bisaya usually refers to Cebuano. Since Tausugs are mostly Muslims, they view the term Bisaya as a religious term referring to Christian Filipinos (mostly referring either to Cebuano or Hiligaynon as they are the neighboring languages). One must also recognize the distinction between this Bisaya language and people and that of the Malaysian Bisaya.

Geographic distribution

Regions in the Philippines where Visayan languages are predominantly spoken.

The Visayan languages are further divided into five subfamilies. The list below is by no means exhaustive. Asi and Cebuano constitute their own subfamilies. For a complete listing and information on all Bisayan languages, refer to

  • Asi - spoken in towns on Tablas Island as well as the islands of Banton, Simara, and Maestro de Campo in Romblon province..

Table of speakers

Language Speakers
Aklanon 394,545 (1990 census)
Ati 1,500 (1980 SIL)
Bantoanon 200,000 (2002 SIL)
Butuanon 34,547 (1990 census)
Caluyanon 30,000 (1994 SIL)
Capiznon 638,653(2000)
Cebuano 20,043,502 in the Philippines (1995 census)
Cuyonon 123,384 (1990 census)
Hiligaynon 7,000,000 in the Philippines (1995)
Inonhan 85,829 (2000 WCD)
Kinaray-A 377,529 (1994 SIL)
Malaynon 8,500 (1973 SIL)
Masbatenyo 350,000 (2002 SIL)
Porohanon 23,000
Ratagnon 2 to 3 (2000 Wurm) (Nearly extinct)
Romblomanon and Asi) 200,000 (1987 SIL)
Sorsogon, Masbate 85,000 (1975 census)
Sorsogon, Waray 185,000 (1975 census)
Surigaonon 344,974 (1990 census)
Tausug 900,000 in the Philippines (2000 SIL) (Population total all countries: 1,022,000)
Waray-Waray 2,437,688 (1990 census)
Total 33,463,654

See also

Related links

Original Source

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