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The Subanen language (also Subanon and Subanun) is an Austronesian language belonging to the Greater Central Philippine languages. It is typically considered by linguists as a dialect cluster more than a monolithic language. Subanon is spoken in various areas of Zamboanga Peninsula namely the provinces of Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga del Sur, and in Misamis Occidental of Northern Mindanao. There is also a sizeable Subanon community in Misamis Oriental. Most go by the name of Subanen, Subanon or Subanun, while those who adhere to Islam refer to themselves as Kalibugan.

Subanon, Subanun
Kalibugan, Kolibugan
RegionWestern Mindanao
Native speakers
(400,000 cited 1978–2011)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3Variously:
syb – Central
stb – Northern
suc – Western
skn – Kolibugan
laa – Southern
sfe – Eastern

Internal classificationEdit

Jason Lobel (2013:308) classifies the Subanen varieties as follows.

  • Subanen
    • Western
      • Western Subanon
      • Western Kolibugan
    • Nuclear
      • West Nuclear
        • Tawlet-Kalibugan Subanen
        • Salug-Godod Subanen
      • East Nuclear
        • Southern Subanen
        • Central Subanen
        • Northern Subanen
        • Eastern Subanen

Lobel (2013:308) lists the following innovations among each of the following subgroups.

  • Nuclear Subanen: *k > Ø
  • Western Subanen: *k > /k/
  • East Nuclear Subanen: *r > /l/
  • West Nuclear Subanen: *r > /r/
  • Western Subanen: *r > /l/ (independently took place, likely due to contact with Tausug, Maguindanaon, Butuanon, Cebuano, and/or Ilonggo, which have also undergone the *r > /l/ shift independently of one another)

Proto-Subanen is also notable for having completely lost Proto-Greater Central Philippine *h.

Lobel (2013) also provides a reconstruction of Proto-Subanen.


Western Subanon has 15 native consonants. There is no phonemic contrast between velar and uvular consonants.[3]

Western Subanon ConsonantsEdit

Consonant phonemes
  Bilabial Labio-
Alveolar Palatal Velar/
Plosive p b     t d     k~q g~ɢ     ʔ  
Fricative         s               h  
Nasal   m       n       ŋ        
Approximant               j       w    
Lateral approximant           l                

Western Subanon VowelsEdit

Western Subanon has 5 vowels.[3]


Front Central Back
High i u
Mid e o
Low a


The diphthongs of Western Subanon are /au/, /ua/, /io/, /oi/, /ai/, and /ia/.


The chorus of the Western Subanon song Momula ita 'Let’s plant' is shown.[3]

Gumani ita
We will harvest (or, Let’s harvest)
Gumani ita
We will harvest
Landu’ da’da’an ta
Great is our rejoicing
Po’ gumani ita
Because we will harvest
Gumani ita
We will harvest
Gumani ita
We will harvest
Di’ na mobon sinsaan ta
Our suffering will not last long
Gumani ita
We will harvest


  1. ^ Central at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Northern at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Western at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Kolibugan at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Southern at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Eastern at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Subanen". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ a b c Estioca, Sharon Joy. "Subanon (Spring 2015)". Language Documentation Training Center. University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Retrieved 2 September 2017.

External linksEdit