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  • Writer's pictureThe Katig Collective

Agta, Dupaninan

Updated: Nov 17, 2022

Agta, Dupaninan [duo] is a Northern Cordilleran language spoken by about 1,400 semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers in Cagayan and Isabela. Dupaninan communities can be found on coastal and inland locations, being present on both sides of the Sierra Madre mountain range and along the Pacific coast (Robinson, 2008). Robinson (2011) forwards that the language can be divided into its northern and southern dialects, although no clear boundaries separate the two. She also suggests that there seems to be a dialect chain ensued by the migration of Agta, Dupaninan individuals.

Agta, Dupaninan's endangerment

Agta, Dupaninan is classified as a threatened language (EGIDS 6b) in Ethnologue (Eberhard et al., 2022). This status is also reflected in UNESCO’s Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger where Moseley and Nicolas (2010) state that 13 of the endangered and extinct Austronesian languages are spoken by the Negritos, mentioning languages such as Agta, Arta [atz], Atta, Ayta, and Alta among others. Agta, Dupaninan is no longer learned by children in five of the extant speaking communities, and this is primarily due to the extent of their integration with the Ilocano population (Robinson, 2011). Even in the more isolated communities where children are more accustomed to speaking in Dupaninan, they often respond in Ilocano [ilo] when elders converse with them in their own language.

Marriage patterns of communities also affect language vitality. Until the 1980s, almost all Agtas married other Agtas in their own communities. It was during the mid-1980s when exogamous heterogeneous marriages became more common (i.e., Agta women marrying non-Agta men from the lowlands) (Headland, 2003).

Works about Agta, Dupaninan

Despite her extensive dissertation (2008) on Agta, Dupaninan, later published as a grammar book with a wide collection of vocabulary and texts, Robinson (2011) acknowledges that resources on the language are scarce. She comments that while there exists a decent amount of anthropological literature about the Dupaninan culture, there is still a “paucity of linguistic material available on Dupaninan” (p. 7). Some other works that mention the language are Nickell’s (1985) article which used Dupaninan data to promote a short-lived linguistic framework, Reid’s (1994) examination of the non-Austronesian lexical elements of the Philippine Negrito languages, and Robinson and Lobel’s (2013) work about the Northeastern Luzon subgroup of the Philippine languages.


Eberhard, D. M., Simons, G. F., & Fennig, C. D. (Eds.). (2022). Agta, Dupaninan. Ethnologue: Languages of the world (25th ed.).

Hammarström, H., Forkel, R., Haspelmath, M., & Bank, S. (Eds.). (2022). Spoken L1 language: Dupaninan Agta. Glottolog 4.6.

Headland, T. N. (2003). Thirty endangered languages in the Philippines. Work Papers of the Summer Institute of Linguistics, University of North Dakota Session, 47(1), 1-12.

Joshua Project. (n.d.). Agta, Dupaninan in Philippines. Retrieved January 7, 2022, from

Moseley, C., & Nicolas, A. (Eds.). (2010). Atlas of the world's languages in danger (3rd ed.). UNESCO Publishing.

Nickell, T. L. (1985). A partial stratificational analysis of Eastern Cagayan Agta language. In P. B. Griffin & A. Estioko-Griffin (Eds.), The Agta of northeastern Luzon: Recent studies (pp. 119-146). University of San Carlos Publications.

Open Language Archives Community. (n.d.). OLAC resources in and about the Dupaninan Agta language. Retrieved January 8, 2022, from (n.d.). Dupaninan Agta of Philippines. Retrieved January 7, 2022, from

Reid, L. (1994). Possible non-Austronesian lexical elements in Philippine Negrito languages. Oceanic Linguistics, 33(1), 37-42.

Robinson, L. (Collector). (2006). Dupaningan Agta recordings. Collection LR1 at PARADISEC Catalog.

Robinson, L. C. (2008). Dupaningan Agta: Grammar, vocabulary, and texts [Unpublished Doctoral dissertation, University of Hawai'i at Manoa]. ScholarSpace.

Robinson, L. C. (2011). Dupaningan Agta: Grammar, vocabulary, and texts. Pacific Linguistics Press.

Robinson, L. C., & Lobel, J. W. (2013). The Northeastern Luzon subgroup of Philippine languages. Oceanic Linguistics, 52(1), 125-168.

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