In a country where more than one hundred languages are spoken, Filipino linguists have their job cut out for them. There are a number of linguists in the Philippines - linguists are those people who study and analyze languages scientifically and they should not be confused with polyglots, people who can speak many languages - and some 400 belong to the Linguistic Society of the Philippines.
The organization was the brainchild of Dr. Bonifacio Sibayan of the Philippine Normal College (now University) and Dr. Ernesto Contantino of the University of the Philippines, two linguists who were working on their respective research projects in the Pacific and Asian Languages Institute of the University of Hawaii in 1968. Far away from home and very conscious of the linguistic work going on in the US, they had several discussions on the need for an organization of linguists that would do research and write on Philippine languages.
The Linguistic Society of the Philippines (popularly known as the LSP) was formally organized in school year 1969-1970, with Teodoro Llamzon (Ateneo de Manila) as President, Bonifacio Sibayan (PNC) as Vice-President, Edilberto Dagot (PNC) as Secretary, and Fe Otanes (PNC) as Treasurer.
The organization was off to a rousing start, with a lecture series and a five-day seminar-workshop on linguistics and language teaching held in SY 1969-1970, and with the LSP's journal called the Philippine Journal of Linguistics (or PJL for short) coming out in June 1970. The LSP also initiated discussions for a Consortium between the Ateneo de Manila University and Philippine Normal College that would offer a Ph.D. in Linguistics, with assistance from the Ford Foundation and the Asia Foundation. The first group of scholars in the Ateneo-PNC Linguistics Consortium started their program in SY1971-1972 and several completed their doctorates starting in SY1974-1975.
The LSP has been blessed with dynamic officers, starting with its first group of officers. Special mention should be made of the contribution of Bro. Andrew Gonzalez, FSC, of De La Salle University, who was its Executive Secretary for seventeen years and editor of the PJL for twenty-one years. It was Bro. Andrew who provided a home for the LSP Secretariat at De La Salle University, an institution he was associated with for a long time as Academic Vice-President and President. It was through his initiative that many of the research and training programs of the LSP got underway. Brother Andrew Gonzalez is presently the Secretary of the Department of Education and Culture.
Significant research on Philippine languages (including a frequency count and etymological dictionary of Filipino, a linguistic atlas of the Philippines, a dictionary of Cebuano Visayan), language planning in the Philippines, the implementation of the Bilingual Education Policy, and the Philippine variety of English has been conducted and published under the auspices of the LSP.
Training has constituted an important part of the LSP's agenda. From practically the very founding of the organization, the LSP has sponsored in-service training programs, annual conventions, and regular lectures for its members and for all those interested in language. These training programs have been held with the assistance of such agencies as the Fund for Assistance to Private Education, the Philippine Social Science Council, the Department of Education, Culture and Sports, the Summer Institute of Linguistics, the British Council, the United States Information Agency, and in cooperation with other linguistic and language teaching organizations.
The LSP has organized Summer Workshops for Teachers, Workshops for Senior Linguists, Summer Workshops in Translation, Roving Seminars on Language Teaching, Lecture Series, Annual Conventions, and has been able to invite distinguished scholars from all over the country and the world to speak at these public fora. With the assistance of the Fund for Assistance to Private Education, a group of 20 teachers completed their Master of Arts in Teaching English Language at De La Salle University through a summer program lasting four summers.
The language situation in the Philippines being a very complex one, the LSP has been at the vanguard of groups that are trying to clarify positions and chart directions in the formulation of language policy. It has been involved in policy discussions on the national language and the medium of instruction. Several LSP members appeared before the Constitutional Convention of 1971 and again before the Constitutional Commission in 1986 to discuss the national language issue.
The LSP was involved in the formulation of the Bilingual Education Policy in 1974 and conducted a formal evaluation of its implementation for the period 1974 to 1985; based on the results of that evaluation, the Policy was revised in 1987. Several of its recent round-table discussions have focused on the Philippine language agenda for the 21st century: even as the role of the ethnic languages is recognized and upheld, the concern remains the development of Filipino as a national language and the maintenance of English as the global language remain key concerns.
The LSP continues to contribute to the professionalization of the discipline of linguistics and its allied sub-disciplines, especially language teaching, in the Philippines. It has built up a network of linguists at the national and international levels, and has been able to reach out to other social scientists inside and outside the Philippines. Finally, it has helped shape policy on language and education in very important ways.