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A documentation and description of the Arta language


Language Arta
Depositor Yukinori Kimoto
Affiliation Kyoto University
Location Philippines
Collection ID 0411
Grant ID SG0380
Funding Body ELDP
Collection Status Collection online
Landing Page Handle


Summary of the collection

This collection documents Arta, a severely endangered Austronesian language spoken by 11 Negrito people living in Nagtipinan, Quirino Province, Philippines.


Group represented

Arta is an Austronesian language spoken by indigenous Negrito people living in the Province of Quirino in the northern part of the large northern Philippine island of Luzon. Negrito people are the minority groups in the Philippines, differentiated from other Filipinos by their phenotypic characteristics such as curled hair, shorter height, and darker skin. They are considered to be the aborigines of the Philippines whose ancestors migrated into these islands over 20,000 years ago, one of them is the group who call themselves Arta, or Edilod.

According to one of the project’s language assistants, it is estimated that there were more than 100 Arta households half a century ago. This indicates a sharp decline in the population. There are several factors to cause the current language endangerment. One possible factor might be that they were killed by tamaraws or Mindoro dwarf buffalo (Bubalus mindorensis), which lived near the community half a century ago, and frequently attacked Arta houses.

They estimate that 100 households declined to 20 households when they decided to move away from the place Disubu. Later on, in the process of movement from Disubu, near Echague of Isabela province, through Aglipay to Nagtipunan in Quirino province, they intermarried with other ethnolinguistic groups such as Ilokano, Nagtipunan Agta, Casiguran Agta, and Kankanaey, which causes Arta people to switch their own language to the “majority” languages.

Although the Arta people have intermarried with other ethnolinguistic groups, they have continued their traditional lifestyle as hunter-gatherers. Rather than planting rice, they plant cassava and several kinds of taro and yam, go fishing near the river, and hunt for wild pigs, deer, and monkeys in the mountains. They earn money by selling wood, vines, and charcoal to obtain rice, vegetables, medicines, and other daily essentials in the town.


Language information

Arta is currently spoken by eleven fluent speakers, undoubtedly one of the most seriously endangered languages in the world.

Arta is a language-isolate within the Northern Luzon branch of Malayo-Polynesian (or perhaps a language-isolate within Malayo-Polynesian). In fact, in most of the Northern Luzon languages, Proto-Austronesian *R is reflected as /g/ or /l/, whereas in Arta (as in Ilokano) the sound is reflected as /r/, as seen in Proto-Austronesian *RamuC > /ramut/ ‘root of plants’ in Arta. This indicates that the language must have several reflexes and sheds light on the reconstruction of proto-languages. Typologically, the language has several unique features as well. It belongs to so-called a “Philippine-type language”; there are at least four voice contrasts of: actor, patient, location, and theme, with actor voice affixes differentiated according to their aspect, volitionality, reciprocity and external-visibility. Predicates take various kinds of enclitics whose functions are difficult to identify. The enclitics carry pragmatic information defined vis-à-vis speaker’s expectation, politeness, realis/irrealis, mirativity, and so on.


Collection contents

When completed, this collection will include

  • seven hours of video-recordings of monologues (e.g. descriptions of culture and lifestyle, narrations of specific events, and procedural narratives on house-building) and interactive and conversational discourse (e.g. from discussions on how has lifestyle had changed compared to several decades ago, how to hunt wild pigs) spoken in Arta
  • time-aligned transcriptions, translations into Ilokano (the lingua franca used in Quirino Province) and English and notes on grammar and vocabulary
  • a sociolinguistic survey on the Arta language
  • a descriptive grammar in the form of a PhD dissertation
  • a textbook for elementary educational purposes with basic vocabulary and expressions


Collection history

In 2012–2014, Yukinori Kimoto spent half of each year working in the Quirino province. During his research, he collected over 1,000 different roots through lexical investigations, video-recorded five hours of narrative data, prepared time-aligned annotations, and built a lexical database.

The materials in this collection were gathered between 2015 and 2016 during the fieldwork for Yukinori Kimoto’s Small Grant from ELDP.


Other information

The annotated video data will also be deposited in the language archiving system in Kyoto University.


Acknowledgement and citation

To refer to any data from the collection, please cite as follows:

Kimoto, Yukinori. 2017. A Documentation and Description of the Arta language. Endangered Languages Archive. Handle: Accessed on [insert date here].

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