Tag Archives: Philipines

In The Afterglow Of A Dazzling Light. The Gentle Lapping Of Waves Onto the Beach At Subic Bay. “Some Linguists Claim That Tagalog Lacks A Subject.”

I am in Subic Bay, in the Philippines.  I am inside a beach house, whose unglassed (but protected by iron bars) windows open out to the beach on Subic bay.  I am spending a pleasant (( but also, for reasons I won’t go into here, anxiety-filled (and yes, the two can go together) ) afternoon working through a sliver of a LEARN FILIPINO book.  I hear the gentle lapping of the waves onto the beach.  The light outside is dazzling, brilliant; inside I am in its afterglow.  Quite a few cats and kittens prowl about, not exactly starved but also clearly not completely confident they know where their next meal is coming from.

“Do Tagalog sentences have subjects?” the book’s author asks in a footnote.  “Some linguists say yes, others say no.”  A bit more accurately, the question should be “Does Tagalog have a subject construction at all, in any sentence,” since many perfectly functional and common Tagalog sentences plainly lack a subject construction, e.g., kaka logoff ko lang sa trabaho, and umuulan.  

Later, the author does insist that Tagalog does have a subject.  His insistence struck me (maybe unfairly) as having a bit of a tone of ‘Now shut up!  I am not going to discuss this any further!”

Kakaiba ang Tagalog!  What strange language is this whose weirdness makes some authorities think it lacks a subject?  What is a subject anyway?

So as part of my effort to learn Tagalog, I started to try to wrap my mind around the controversy.  Many of the posts here are attempts to learn about the controversy (‘does Tagalog have a subject construction?’) by writing about it.