Ternate Chabacano


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    Ternate Chabacano (autoglossonym: bahra) is spoken in the town of Ternate, situated at the mouth of the river Maragondon in the Manila Bay area on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. Approximately 3,000 of the town’s 20,500 inhabitants speak Ternate Chabacano.

    The origins of Ternate Chabacano can be traced back to the island of Ternate in the Moluccas. Ternate was a central location for the spice trade and the object of constant disputes between the Portuguese, the Dutch, and the Spanish. Around 1660 the Spanish evacuated the garrison in Ternate to Manila, and with them a group of local Christians called mardikas arrived in the Philippines. The mardikas were allowed to resettle on the shores of the Manila Bay in the latter half of the 17th century, and as a consequence the new Ternate was born. The mardikas were said to have spoken Spanish, Tagalog and their own language, and eventually Chabacano.

    Ternate Chabacano is considered the earliest Chabacano variety. It may have arisen from a contact variety spoken already in the Moluccas or developed after the mardikas’ arrival in the Philippines. However, very few lexical items can be traced back to Portuguese, Malay, or Ternate (the West Papuan indigenous language of the island of Ternate), the languages spoken in the Moluccas.

    The Ternate Chavacano Verb

    Ternate Chabacano has three overt preverbal markers: ya/a, ta, and di. No combinations of the markers are possible. Ya and a mark the perfective aspect, ta marks the imperfective aspect, and di marks the irrealis/future. There are two main forms of the verb, one derived from the Spanish infinitive, such as komé ‘eat’ from comer, which combines with the preverbal markers, and the other from an inflected Spanish form for a limited group of verbs, including the modal verbs: dábli ‘must’, dwéle ‘hurt’, kyére ‘want’, pwéde ‘can’, sábe ‘know’, tyéne ‘have’, which generally occur without the preverbal markers.

    Tense-Aspect-Mood markers