Visayan languages

Visayan languages

Infobox Language family
region=Visayas and Mindanao
fam4=Central Philippine
Central Visayan
Southern Visayan
Western Visayan
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, most of the 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 "Visaya" 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

The Visayan languages are further divided into five subfamilies. The list below is by no means exhaustive. Asi and Cebuano constitute their own subfamilies.

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

*Cebuano - includes Boholano, Leytehanon and Mindanao Visayan dialects.

*Southern Visayan - Tausug, Butuanon, and Surigaonon (including Jaun-Jaun).

*Central Visayan - includes Hiligaynon, Waray-Waray, Romblomanon, Ati, Capiznon, Masbatenyo, Porohanon, the Bisakol languages of Sorsogon and Northern Samar, and others.

*Western Visayan - includes Kinaray-a (the major language of Antique), Aklan languages (Aklanon, Malaynon), Onhan, Caluyanon, Cuyonon, Ratagnon, and others.

Table of speakers

List of visayan words


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