Ivatan language

Chirin nu Ibatan
Native to Philippines
Region Batanes Islands
Ethnicity Ivatan people
Filipinos in Taiwan
Native speakers
33,000 (1996–2007)[1]
  • Ivasay
  • Isamurung
  • Babuyan
Official status
Official language in
Regional language in the Philippines
Regulated by Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Either:
ivv  Ivatan
ivb  Ibatan (Babuyan)
Glottolog ivat1242  (Ivatan)[2]
ibat1238  (Ibatan)[3]

The Ivatan (Ibatan) language, also known as Chirin nu Ibatan ("language of the Ivatan people"), is an Austronesian language spoken in the Batanes Islands.

Although the islands are closer to Taiwan than to Luzon, it is not one of the Formosan languages. Ivatan is one of the Batanic languages, which are perhaps a primary branch of the Malayo-Polynesian family of Austronesian languages.

The language of Babuyan Island is a dialect. Babuyan was depopulated by the Spanish and only repopulated at the end of the Spanish era with families from Batan Island.


Ivatan is especially characterized by its words, which mostly have the letter v, as in vakul, Ivatan, and valuga. The letter e is pronounced as the schwa oun, or uh, as in Dios Mamajes, 'di-yos-ma-ma-huhs', and palek 'pa-luhk'. While related to the Northern Philippine group of languages, Ivatan, having been isolated, is most close to the two other members of the Bashiic sub-group of languages, Yami (Tao) and Itbayat, neither of which is indigenous to Luzon. Ibatan, spoken on the nearby Babuyan group of islands, is so similar to Ivatan that it is not entirely clear whether it should be classified as a dialect of Ivatan or a separate language, though each does receive its own code in ISO taxonomy.

Supporting separate listings is that Ibatan is 31% mutual intelligible with Basco Ivatan, the standard form of the language. With Basco Ivatan, more commonly known as Ivasayen, an adjective denoting the Ivasayen people who inhabit the main island of Batan, and Itbayaten, derived from Itbayat, the name for the northernmost of the three islands, is a third dialect, Isamurongen, a dialect with a vocabulary identical to Ivasayen spoken on the southern half of Batan and on the most southern island, Sabtang.

As implied, notable variation exists in spoken Ivatan although Batanes makes up roughly 200  and is home to only 18,000 inhabitants. Examination of the linguistic zones suggests that this is best explained by Batanes being composed of three islands rather than a single landmass, as these linguistic divisions roughly follow geographic ones, the notable exception being Isamurongen which is spoken on not only Sabtang, but Batan as well.

Perhaps this explanation can be seen most clearly in the differences in the dialects themselves, where lexical variation is insignificant, but phonological variation, often indicative of geographic isolation, is highly pronounced; The late advent of writing, which might have standardized pronunciation prior to divergence, could have also been a factor.

Variations in language

In the capital of Basco and the surrounding northern half of Batan, the area encompassed by Ivasayen, t is prominent, whereas in the Isamurongen zone to the south (Mahatao, Ivana, Uyugan and Sabtang) that phoneme becomes a ch.

Examples of the more visible variations of the Ivasayen and Isamurongen words and pronunciations are:

Itbayaten is sometimes also considered a dialect. 2% of the total vocabulary does not occur in Ivatan dialects. Examples of different Ivasayen, Isamurongen and Itbayaten words that have the same English translation:

The Ivatan language is basically a spoken language. Until lately, little effort was made to record the language in written form. What the young generation know about it is largely through hearing it spoken and speaking it.

Some tend to mix the Ivatan words to Filipino or vice versa in sentences, much worset is the combining or compounding of the Filipino words to the Ivatan words. One common example of this is – mapatak. This is derived from marunong (Filipino) and chapatak (Ivatan) which literally means "someone who knows" which were then compounded to form the word mapatak. This is actually the result of the influence of non-Ivatans who tend to speak the language and were then eventually adopted.

Another common mistakes that are often heard, is the mispronunciation of the Ivatan word like iskarayla – the correct is iskalayra – which means "stairs", and tumaraya – the correct is tumayara – which means "going up".

One unique characteristic of the language is its enormous street language. It is called street language because it emanated from the streets. Examples of these are: tanchew, coined from mirwa ta anchiyaw – literally means "we’ll meet again later", and nganmu, coined from jinu ngayan mu, literally means "where are you going". These are results of shortening the Ivatan phrases or sentences into one or two words depending on its usage.

Common Ivatan expressions have various origin such as:

The Ivatan language is characterized with its pidgin Spanish, spoken with the musicality of southern Chinese accent.

Similarities to other languages in the Philippines includes the presence of the glottal stop in the pronunciation of words.


The Ivatan language consists of four vowels, 21 consonants and five diphthongs.

Cultural terms of the Ivatan people





An kalilyak mu


Carry with you good teaching, always bear in mind sound advice.

There is no strong man when the sea is at its worst.

There is no current that does not bounce back.

The feces that is dropped is sure comfort.

Do not gore the peg where you are tied.

Nobody can steal your knowledge.

Grasp the opportunity because the bed bugs will carry and hide them inside the floor.

Do not eat your fingers.

No one burns the house of a good man.

Selected idioms

Stones are softer than his head.

Tomatoes do not bear eggplant.

They washed their face with what he said.

Leave him alone for his head is tangled.

Do not speak of a cavan for a measuring lime unit.


Ivatan words


Coined words are two words combined to form one new word.

Sentence Coined word Meaning Usage
Mirwa ta anchiyaw Tanchew We’ll meet again later. Street language
Jinu ngayan mu Nganmu Where are you going? Street language

Loanwords are words in the language that have been borrowed from other languages.

Loanword Origin Meaning
Telefono Spanish An instrument for reproducing sounds at a distance
Domingo; Lumingu Spanish Sunday
Lunis Spanish Monday
Martis Spanish Tuesday
Miyirkolis; Mirkulis Spanish Wednesday
Juibis; Juybis Spanish Thursday
Biyernis; Birnis Spanish Friday
Sabado; Sabalu Spanish Saturday

Similarities with other Philippine languages

  Person House Dog Coconut Day New
Ivatan Tawo Vahay Chito Niyoy Araw Va-yo
Tagalog Tao Bahay Aso Niyog Araw Bago
Bikol Tawo Harong Ayam Niyog Aldaw Ba-go
Cebuano Tawo Balay Iro Lubi Adlaw Bag-o
Tausug Tau Bay Iru' Niyug Adlaw Ba-gu
Kinaray-a Taho Balay Ayam Niyog Adlaw Bag-o
Kapampangan Tau Bale Asu Ngungut Aldo Bayu
Pangasinense Too Abong Aso Niyog Agew Balo
Ilokano Tao Balay Aso Niog Aldaw Baro
Gaddang Tolay Balay Atu Ayog Aw Bawu
Tboli Tau Gunu Ohu Lefo Kdaw Lomi

Similarities with the Tao language

  Day Home Friend Eat Drink
Ivatan Araw Vahay Cayvan Kuman Minom
Yami 雅美/達悟 Araw Vahay Kagagan Kanen Inomen

Similarities with other Austronesian languages

  One Two Three Four
Ivatan Asa Dadwa Tatdu Apat
Hawaiian Kahi Lua Kolu
Javanese Siji Loro Telu Papat
Indonesian Satu Dua Tiga Empat
Malagasy Isa Roa Telo Efatra


  Ivasayen Isamurongen Itbayaten
Room Cuarto Cuarto
Mail Tulas Turas
Water Danum Ranum
Time Oras Oras

Approval and disapproval

  Ivasayen Isamurongen Itbayaten
Good Mapia Map'pia
Of course Siyempre Siyempre
Ok Okay Okay
Pretty Mavid Mavij
Yes Oon Uwen
No Omba Engga
Nothing Arava Aralih
Perhaps Siguro Siguro

Bank, telephone and post office

  Ivasayen Isamurongen Itbayaten
Money Cartos Cartos
Telephone Telefono Telefono


  Itbayaten Isamurongen Ivasayen
Black Mavaweng Mavajeng
Blue A'sul Maanil
Brown Chocolati Chocolati
Dark Masarih Masari
Gray Mavu-avo Mavuavo
Green Birdi Berde
Light Marengang Marial
Red Mavayah Mavaya
White Mahilak Maydac
Yellow Mayuxama Mañujama

Days of the week

  Ivasayen Isamurongen Itbayaten
Sunday Domingo Lumingu
Monday Lunis Lunis
Tuesday Martis Martis
Wednesday Miyirkolis Mirkulis
Thursday Juibis Juybis
Friday Biyernis Birnis
Saturday Sabado Sabalu


  Itbayaten Isamurongen Ivasayen
Left Guri Huli
Right Wanan Wanan
Straight ahead Diricho Diricho

Cardinal numbers

    Itbayaten Isamurongen Ivasayen
0 Zero Siro; a'bu Siro; abu
1 One A'sa Asa
2 Two Daduha Dadua
3 Three Atlu Tatdu
4 Four A'pat Apat
5 Five Lalima Dadima
6 Six A'nem Anem
7 Seven Pito Papito
8 Eight Waxo Wawajo
9 Nine Sasyam Sasyam
10 Ten Sapuxu Sapujo

Ordinal numbers

    Itbayaten Isamurongen Ivasayen
1st First Ma'num'ma Manum'ma
2nd Second
3rd Third
4th Fourth
5th Fifth Ichalima Cacadima
6th Sixth
7th Seventh
8th Eighth
9th Ninth
10th Tenth
L Last Ma'nau'di Manau'di


  1. Ivatan at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Ibatan (Babuyan) at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Ivatan". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Ibatan". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
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