The History of Mr. Nang and Ms. Ng

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This is the history of Mr. Nang and Ms. Ng. No, not a real person and this has nothing to do with China or the Chinese either. This is about putting an end to the confusion and debate regarding “nang” and “ng” in the Filipino language.

Let’s begin.

When the Spaniards arrived in the Philippines, the Nation was writing in what the Spaniards called “Baybayin”, from the root word “baybay” or “to spell by syllables”. Since they were the conquerors they introduced their own writing system – Latin. Yes, the one you are seeing write now as the letters: abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz. The Latin Alphabet.

Problems arose when it came to the reading and pronunciation of the two Latin letters “n” and “g” (“ng”) together. Take for example the word “pangalan”. For the Filipino people of that time, the Latin letters “n-g-a” is only a single letter “nga” because that is how Baybayin and the Philippine Languages are – always CV or CCV.

When Filipinos of that period read and pronunce “pangalan” (written as-is), it was like this: pan-ga-lan. To make it easy to determine the correct pronunciation, the use of a long tilde was introduced so it was written as “pan͠galan”, telling the reader to read and say it as “pa-n͠ga-lan”. We are actually still using the syllabical system of Baybayin, that is why we were taught before of: a ba ka da e ga ha i la ma na n͠ga o pa ra sa ta u wa ya. CV/CCV is embedded in all Philippine Languages – major or minor.

The Original “ng” (n͠g)

The rule is simple: if the Latin letters “n” and “g” together (meaning “ng”) is followed by a vowel (a, e, i, o, u), a long tilde is added above like so: n͠ga, n͠ge, n͠gi, n͠go, n͠gu. Other examples are: balan͠gay [ba-la-n͠gay] (Tagalog of the Spanish word “barangay” [ba-ran-gay]) and n͠gunit [n͠gu-nit].

This was the original meaning of “ng” before the Spaniards arrived in the Philippines. It is called by linguists as “prenasalized sequence /ŋɡ/”.

The Velar Nasal /ŋ/ (ñg)

Thanks to the Spaniards, they introduced a system in our Baybayin writing script that cancels out the trailing vowel in our alphabet (ba, ka, da, nga) – the virama (cross sign). This affected our Baybayin (single) letter “n͠ga” and our pronunciations. The velar nasal /ŋ/ entered our language. It became possible to have words like “ang”, “bing”, “ping”, “pong”. In short: añg, eñg, iñg, oñg, uñg.

Other examples: “nooñg unañg siglo”, “tayo nañg lumuwas”

Early 20th Century /ŋ/ (ng) and /ŋɡ/ (ngg)

As years passed by, the use of tilde has gone out of usage. It faded away from our memories. Confusion in pronunciation and correct reading/meaning re-entered again. Thus in the early 20th Century, “ng” was changed to represent the velar nasal /ŋ/. While the prenasalized sequence /ŋɡ/ was changed to “ngg” in Latin.

So instead of the original format balan͠gay [ba-la-n͠gay], it is now balanggay [ba-la-nggay]. Instead of pan͠galan, it is now panggalan [pa-ngga-lan]. The sad thing here, we do not follow this new “ngg” format for every prenasalized sequence /ŋɡ/. When it should be: ngga, ngge, nggi, nggo, nggu – we still stick to the original: nga, nge, ngi, ngo, ngu (but without the tilde).

“nang” vs “ng”

Now we come to the meat of this article, the “nang” and “ng”. Direct to the point: the prepositional word “ng” is only a shortened form of “nang”. Back then it was written as “ng̃” (tilde above “g”). This method tells the reader that the “ng” is actually the shortened prepositional word “nang” and not some misplaced letter “n͠g”, following?

What is the difference then between “nan͠g” and “ng̃”?

That depends on the time period.

  • If before the 20th Century, then absolutely nothing. “ng̃” is only the shortened form of “nan͠g”.
  • If after the modern changes then:
    • “ng” can be the velar nasal /ŋ/; or
    • the common genitive particle /naŋ/ (as we know it today); with “nang” being the adverbial particle as we use it today.

Baybayin “(na)ng”

And if you want to write in Baybayin, then you have to write the prepositional word “ng̃” as “nan͠g” regardless if you meant the 20th Century “ng” changes or the original. The same is true with “mg̃a”, it is only a shortened form of “man͠ga” and should be written as such when writing in our original script.

The “gñ”+vowel form

Before I end this, allow me to tell you another interesting thing about our language: the “gñ”+vowel form. This is still in use to this day and examples are: Sagñay in Camarines Sur, and Ligñon Hills in Bikol. How do you read and pronunce it?

  • Sagñay is Sa-n͠gay and not Sag-nay or Sa-ñay
  • Ligñon is Li-n͠gon and not Lig-non or Li-ñon

I leave you a trivia

The word “barangay” [ba-ran-gay] is actually a Spanish word. The Tagalog translation for it is “balan͠gay” [ba-la-n͠gay] which you should know already if you were paying attention earlier. And the Filipino equivalent is… *drum roll* …is “baranggay” [ba-rang-gay]. Notice the difference between Spanish, Tagalog, and Filipino?

Is a self-confessed bibliophile and technophile other than being an early adopter, an avid gamer, a geek, nerd, role-player, anime otaku, and trekker.

His first online project was in 1998 when he launched the unofficial website for Ansalon MUD (a text-based, telnet online game) and his own community forums Laibcoms.Community. By 2003 he created his work blog GM-Yukino which grew into gameshogun™, Snoworld™, and techmagus™ over the years.

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CC BY-SA 4.0 The History of Mr. Nang and Ms. Ng by Yuki is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at Legal Notice.

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