Chapter 32: Dialect Variation Survey

When we first came to the Itawes area, we knew there were variations in the dialect, but we didn’t know how great they were. There are six Itawes towns (eight, if two marginal ones are included) within a radius of fifteen miles, and the differences among them are comparable to, or greater than, the differences in English as it is spoken in Los Angeles, Houston, Boston, and London, England. Since we came to live in Piat, we learned it was the smallest Itawes town, and with the exception of one of the marginal towns, linguistically the most different from the rest. So, we decided that we should relocate to one of the other towns and continue our work there.

We needed to learn the form of Itawes that would be appreciated by the most Itawes people in these six towns, and we needed to figure out where that form was spoken. Right about that time, in the course of us doing our official paperwork activities, we met a woman working at one of the government offices in Tuguegarao. We mentioned to her our endeavor to translate the Itawes language, and that we were still undecided as to where to make that happen. She was delighted to tell us that her very own uncle was acknowledged to be the outstanding living authority on the Itawes language and its various dialects. This man, Monsignor Mallo (MALL-yo), was a native Itawes and a Catholic priest, and when we met him, he was able to tell us immediately where we should go to do our translation. Of course, we didn’t know for sure if he really knew that, so we had to prove it for ourselves.

To do this, we conducted a survey, using a list of about 150 words we had discovered were different in different towns. Chuck made this list with the help of an anthropologist, an Itawes, who gave us two books called a Guide for Learning the Itawes Dialect and an Itawes-English Dictionary. He had prepared these as a Peace Corps informant some years back. We found many differences between his dialect and the one we learned in Piat.

We surveyed each of the six Itawes towns, and found that our survey confirmed what Monsignor Mallo had told us originally. Enrile, (en-REE’-lay) would be the best place to learn Itawes and translate the New Testament in order that the finished product would have the widest acceptance and lead to the greatest understanding of the message. We now realized that he was in fact the Itawes expert, and we saw a possible opportunity to use his expertise to our advantage. We asked him to review our thus-far completed work and to help make it better. After that, we sent/took everything we did to him so we could get his comments on it. We had a wonderful working relationship with him for tenfifteen years, right up until the time he passed away. We didn’t think we would ever find another man with whom we would have such good rapport, and who also knew the language as well as he did.

What’s more, we actually needed the approval of the local Archbishop for our translation to be accepted by the Catholic population, which is significant in the Philippines. Fortunately, Monsignor Mallo had been pre-approved by Archbishop Diosdado A. Talamayan (ta-la-my-ON), something we didn’t know at the time we started working with him. After Monsignor Mallo died, we went to the Archbishop to seek his appointment of a new reviewer for our translation. It turned out there was a priest from Enrile, Henry Singayan (sing-EYE-on), who was named as our reviewer for the Catholic Church after that, and he was a very good, loving, personable person. It was he who became the man to read and approve our translation. Archbishop Diosdado A. Talamayan was able to give his approval, too, because of his faith and trust in this man. His signature is called the imprimatur. Their signatures appear on the back side of the title page, which means that it is all right for any Catholic to read this book.

At any rate, we ultimately moved to Enrile when we found out this was the best Itawes dialect and most apt to be readily received by the rest of the Itawes people.

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