Monday, August 08, 2005

Philippines: Singular or Plural?

I was looking for materials for my NTT studes (ESL lessons), when I chanced on this website that promised to be an English Language website. On one of the lessons, the author tried to explain the use of Definite Articles. He explained: (Italics his)

Remember the rule that countries with two or more parts to their name need
a definite article. This is also true if one part of the country's name is
left unstated:
The Philippines (the Philippine islands) will get richer soon.

Ok, I spotted something wrong with this example and emailed the webmaster:
To whom it may concern,
The Philippines - is not an unstated form of "The Philippine Islands"
its official name is "The Republic of the Philippines".FYI.
Respectfully, Nelson

from which I got a reply:
Thanks for your point. You are quite right of course in the offical name.
But I think we say "Philippine islands" (no plural) when the reference is
to the seveal thousand islands that make up "The Philippines".

- which just made me a bit annoyed so i replied:
My point is that the word "islands" is not part of the name of my country.
The sample sentence above is referring to the country, not the thousands
of islands that will be getting richer soon (hopefully). Nel

But as resilient as a cheap tsinelas, his reply was:
The reference may be misleading, but the point referred to is the plural 's'
in "The Philippines" - your country is called this with the plural because
it refers to islands, not states as for example in "The United States" - it
may or may not be part of the official name, but the 's' on the end of the
word is because it is a plural. chris

Its getting dumber, so I decided that I'll just give my final comment and leave it all up to him: (putragis na to marunong pa sa may ari eh)

First you misquoted the Philippines when you referred to it as "the Philippine islands"in your sample sentence. Then you miss the point that it is a singular noun and not plural .
I assure you, "Philippines" and "The Philippines" is a singular noun, and the "s" is part of the name. if we were communicating 50 years ago I would have agreed with you that "The Philippines" would equally mean "The Philippine Islands", but its 2005 and that's not the case anymore. "The Philippine Islands" is a historical title, a reference to what the country was known before. If you would insist, then we should go back to calling Belize as British Honduras, or Ghana as Gold Coast, or Singapore back to the Stratis Settlements.

Official Name:
Republika ng Pilipinas
short form: Pilipinas
int'l long form: Republic of the Philippines
int'l short form: Philippines

Can you find any "Islands" in the given names above? The "s" is part of the name, not a designation of a plural noun.

You can either read the history of the country or I can point you to Steinberg, David Joel. The Philippines, A Singular and Plural Place. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 2000. Or you can view another grammar website that uses the name as an example of a singular name:

And for further clarification:
The Commonwealth of the Philippines constitution remained in effect until 1973. It marked the transition of the nomenclature of the Philippines from the colonial plural ("Islas Filipinas" and "Philippine Islands" of the Spanish and American colonial periods), to the unitary singular, "Philippines" as a sign of unity, sovereignty, and national identity. Respectfully, Nel

I havent received any reply after that, but If he still wouldnt bend to reason...there's always the all-reliable pinoy way to settle a dispute -a brawl. ..which can lead to "ubusan ng lahi", to international the US invading the Philippines and since we only have WWII planes against the Stealths and Raptors hence we can always smile and say Mabuhay Ser!! "Welcome to the Philippine Islands". kamote.

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