The Dialectology of Cebuano: Cebuano, Bisaya, Binisaya

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In common/everyday parlance, Bisaya is the term used to refer to Cebuano. Whenever a person or a language is called Bisaya (lang. Binisaya), it is a common notion or it would immediately refer to Cebuano despite the fact that there are many languages in the Visayas which in general are called Visayan or Binisaya. Is Bisaya any different from Cebuano? How do they differ?
This impression probably came about in 1948, when Cebuano speakers comprise one fourth of the Philippine population. This however had gone down to 22% in the 1995 Census and the result of the 2000 census is still debatable.
There are many languages categorized as Binisaya (Visayan)- Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Waray etc. They are separate languages because they are not mutually intelligible and that the syntax and morphology are different although they are of the same subgroup. Their speakers are called Bisaya. If in Aklanon, Hiligaynon, Kinaray-a and other languages in the Western Visayan region, it is pronounced with the stress on the penultima [bɪˈsʌjʌɁ] whereas in Cebuano, Surigaonon and other languages in the Eastern Visayas, it has the stress on the ultima [bɪsʌˈjʌɁ] (Zorc, 1975:6 [footnote]). The language is not exclusive to the Visayas islands since their extent includes that of Mindanao and other areas in Luzon. According to Alzina (Zorc 1975:9), the Visayan region before includes Masbate, Southern Sorsogon and the northeastern part of Mindanao or the Surigao peninsula. The inclusion of Surigao is further attested by an account of V. de Napoles.
This situation can be compared to that in Bicol. Bicol has four main groupings, each with its own set of languages but each grouping and each language is identified as Bicolano.
Bisaya, therefore, is a generic word. It is used like the word Filipino; Cebuanos are Filipino, Tagalogs are Filipino, Ilocanos are Filipino, but not all Filipinos are Cebuano, not all Filipinos are Tagalog, not all Filipinos are Ilocano. Similarly, not all Bisaya are Cebuano, not all Bisaya are Ilonggo, not all Bisaya are Waray, but the Cebuanos, Ilonggos, Warays are Bisaya. As used by a Cebuano, Bisaya is interchangeable with Cebuano. To someone in Bacolod, Bisaya is interchangeable with Ilonggo (Hiligaynon). To someone in Tacloban or Samar, Bisaya is interchangeable with Waray but Cebuano, Ilonggo and Waray are not interchangeable (Atty. Faelnar; personal communication). Another observation is that, for the people in the academe and non-Cebuano speakers, the language is called Cebuano but for the native speakers the language, it is called Binisaya. If the speakers want to speak the language, they would say MagBinisaya lang ta or Binisay-on lang nato ‘Let’s speak/talk in Binisaya’.
 The identity Bisaya is not exclusive to the Philippines because it also refers to some minority tribes in Sarawak, Brunei and Sabah. The discovery of Bisaya [bɪsʌˈjʌɁ] tribes there, as evidenced by articles from the Sarawak Museum Journal and the Sabah Society Journal (Zorc, 1975:55), stirred a flurry of studies on their relationship with the Philippine Bisaya and the origin of the Bisaya people. However, the Bisaya in Borneo belongs to the Dusunic group (Prentice 1970: 377, as quoted in Zorc 1975:56), whereas Philippine Bisaya is subgrouped under the Central Philippine languages. Also, the Sultan of Brunei was identified by Western writers as Bisaya (Dr. Tiu; p.c).
As to the origin of the word Bisaya, there are many possibilities, as quoted in Zorc (1975; 52-55). It is said to have an Indic or Austronesian origin. It may be derived from the Sanskrit vijaya ‘victory, victorious’; visaya ‘subject(s), dominion, territory, country, kingdom’; vaicya ‘third caste’ or sahaya ‘slave’. Another theory is that it came from vicara ‘thought, thinking’. This word is used for ‘speak’ in Banton (Bantuanon subgroup), Odionganon and Sibalenhon, in opposition to languages which use *sarita [sariˈtaɁ] like Tagalog salita. As for the Malayo-Polynesian etymology, it is proposed that there is an *-aya root which means ‘chap, person’ or *daya which means inland or upriver. Another theory involves the root *saˈyaɁ ‘happy, carefree’.
As to the difference between Binisaya and Bisaya, these are the definitions by Mr. Edgar Godin, Associate Editor of the Bisaya Magasin.
Bisaya – pungan (noun) – usa ka tawo kun linalang nga lumad sa Kabisay-an; katawhan sa Isla sa Kabisay-an; o natawo ug nanimuyo sa bisan diing dapit sa nasod o kalibotan kansang ginikanan kaliwat og Bisaya kun taga Kabisay-an og kagikan. (is a noun; a person native to the Visayas; born or living anywhere in the world whose parents are from the Visayas); therefore referring to the person
Binisaya1. pungan (noun) – lengguwahe o pinulongan sa katawhan sa Kabisay-an; 2. pungway (adjective) – iya sa o kalabot sa mga Bisaya, sama sa lihok, kinaiya, proseso o pamaagi, ubp. (noun: language by the people in the Visayas , 2. Adjective, those of the Visayans, i.e movement, ownership, processes etc. ); therefore referring to the language and those that are of the Visayan people.
Also, Binisaya serves as a cover term for different languages in the Visayas and their dialects in Mindanao and also some languages in Mindanao.
In summary, Cebuano and Binisaya as a language and Cebuano and Bisaya as a people are interchangeable.