On the Use of Hyphen on Written Filipino

Hyphens are an important element in the use of the Tagalog language. While some of its uses can be considered old-fashioned and does not contribute to efficient writing, its other functions still serve some useful purposes that are essential to make meanings clear of to make the written work easier to read and understand. I consider myself a modern writer and yet I still find myself using hyphens when writing in the Tagalog language.

Hyphens as Part of Written Style

Style is the term used to denote elements in the written form that defines the overall impact that the work makes on the reader. It includes all considerations that make up the written work appeal to the reader. It includes how the work is structured, its conformity with generally accepted grammatical rules, and of course how the work is punctuated.

Hyphen is a punctuation mark used primarily to denote some kind of relationship between two elements in the written work. If you will study the rules of grammar of the Tagalog language, you will undoubtedly be introduced to the different uses of hyphens in the written form of the language. As a Filipino, I have studied about them when I was on my primary and secondary levels of education which happened a long, long time ago. So much so that I may have forgotten some of the lessons taught to us by the Filipino teacher.

Uses of Hyphens in Tagalog

If my memory serves me right, one of the many uses of hyphens was to separate the figures from the word ika when writing the date, time and other numbers. For example we express July 29, 1953 as ika-29 ng Hulyo, 1953 and we say 2:00 in the afternoon as ika-2:00 ng hapon. The fraction one-third is expressed as isang-katlo and chapter 20 is said as ika-20 kabanata. Hyphens are also used to join words that are repeated and to combine two different words together to come up with a new one. Examples include isa-isa, tayo-tayo, bantay-salakay and isip-bata.


Not Using Too Much Hyphens as Personal Style

Writers develop their own style of writing by giving full consideration to the appeal their written works would would have on their readers. I happen to think that using ika and hyphenating fractions makes my writing a little bit ugly and makes it less appealing to read. And that if I remove the hyphens, I found out that nothing in the meaning of the sentence has changed, only that the grammatical rules have been violated.

But there is a better way of avoiding the need for the hyphen altogether and that is to use the English way of expressing these ideas. So then I can write a Tagalog sentence that goes like this:

Noong Miyerkules, Hulyo 29, 1953, sa humigit-kumulang na ika 2:00 ng hapon ay may ipinanganak na bata.

Now, compare this with the traditional way of doing it:

Noong Miyerkules, ika-29 ng Hulyo, 1953, sa humigit-kumulang na ika-2:00 ng hapon ay may ipinanganak na bata.

I just think that too much punctuation does not blend well with making your work more attractive and appealing to the reader. So I can use my preferred way, showing it as my personal style, and let the reader decide whether he likes my style or not. Of course you should not do this if you're a student because your work will be considered grammatically wrong. But, tradition is still so powerful and punctuation rules have been set up and adhered to by editors so you might find out that your so-called personal style had been wiped out by the mighty editors that live on a higher plane than you are.

Using Hyphens on Repetitive Words

Using hyphens on repetitive words accomplishes two things. First it serves to indicate that the words joined by the hyphen is to be considered one word and that its meaning is different from the case on which the word is not repeated. Secondly, it makes the written work easier to read. In other words, it breaks the monotony of repetition by putting in a space on which the words can breathe. Filipinos have been used to seeing hyphens on these words that in their minds, the repeated word without the hyphen simply do not exist.


Using Hyphens to Create New Words

This is an important use of hyphens in Tagalog that we simply cannot do without and it involves using hyphens to integrate two words together to come up with a totally unique idea. Not using hyphens in this case will muddle the thought of the sentence rendering it unintelligible. And your editors won't be happy either if you forget to use your hyphens when doing this.

Okay, this has been our little foray into the use of hyphens in written Tagalog. We saw that using hyphens with ika in Tagalog can make your work less appealing but your editors might not allow you to remove them from your work. Don't forget to use hyphens when using repetitive words and when using words that have been formed using two different words.