Sunday, May 24, 2009

Conversations: Misuse of Semantics, Key to Miscues in Philippine Studies

Conversations highlight papers written about indigenous thought, babaylans, and/or include babaylan concepts.

In this essay Azurin, an anthropologist, looks at the language games and their uses/misuses in academic theorizing.

by Arnold Molina Azurin
Research Fellow, Center for Integrative and Development Studies
University of the Philippines System


The master semantic artist William Shakespeare mesmerized his theater patrons and audience with such unforgettable witticisms like “A rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet” and “If to say is as easy as to do, chapels would have been churches…” In all probability his drama actors must have delivered such enticing quips in a more vibrant manner, or my memory may have skipped a word or two. But either possibility is irrelevant to the point I wish to raise with a sense of alarm. Which is the fact that quite a few Filipino researchers engaged in cultural studies have been too mesmerized by their
semantic gambits even without the evocative profundity of Shakespeare’s style and cultural savvy.

To sharpen this point, let me underscore that this indulgence in semantic mumbojumbo is being given an aura of authenticity because it deploys native words from Philippine languages, as well as a gloss of scientific veracity by citing as one of its props
“comparative linguistics”. And nobody is expected to raise the question or the ticklish issue if it were truly comparative linguistics being harnessed when a litany of cognates found among Philippine languages – idy(ang) in Batanes, ili among Ilocanos and a portion of Igorot areas, ilihan in Bicol, iligan in north Mindanao, and ilihan in Agusan
which commonly refer to an old prime settlement or a fortified sanctuary is supposedly the basic evidence for the existence of an “estadong etniko” (a prehistoric ethnic state) across this archipelago.

Complete text found at: 9th Philippine Linguistics Congress (25-27 January 2006) Organized by the Department of Linguistics, University of the Philippines . Accessed May 21, 2009

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