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  • Writer's pictureThe Katig Collective

Alta, Northern

Alta, Northern [aqn] is a Meso-Cordilleran language primarily spoken by Negritos in the province of Aurora (Reid, 1994). According to Headland (as cited in Eberhard et al., 2022), there are 250 speakers of the language in 2010 but a more recent study by Garcia Laguia (2018) cites information obtained from the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) through personal communication that the number reduced to 106. No formal surveys have been conducted to determine or validate the current number of speakers.

The language is classified as threatened (EGIDS 6b) in Ethnologue, meaning that it is used for communication within all generations but is losing speakers (Eberhard et al., 2022). Garcia Laguia (2018) reports that Northern Alta is no longer learned and spoken by children, although some can understand it. He also notes that the youngest speakers are over 40 years old already.

Domains and views

Although Northern Alta is supposedly used at home, other languages such as Tagalog [tag] and Ilocano [ilo] are also spoken within this domain. There is also a tendency for households to adopt the language used by fathers who usually seek employment opportunities in other provinces (Garcia Laguia, 2018). In general, speakers have neutral attitudes toward the language (Eberhard et al., 2022), with some children probably having negative views due to bullying and discrimination experienced at school (Hirai, 2015). And although some speakers appear indifferent to the language’s current condition, they acknowledge the decline in the number of speakers and do not favor language loss (Garcia Laguia, 2018).

Recent developments in language documentation resulted in positive community impacts. An ELAR blog post (2020) reports that three Northern Alta communities received printed copies of the grammar composed by Alexandro Garcia Laguia after conducting research in the area from 2017 to 2018. It also mentions that the young Altas, now involved in cultural activities, developed more positive views regarding their language along with the feeling of being appreciated and respected.

Works about Alta, Northern

Through an Endangered Languages Documentation Programme (ELDP) grant, Alexandro Garcia Laguia (n.d.) produced a collection of 19 hours of video recordings, 13 hours of transcription, a grammar, a lexical database, and a metadata structure of the language which can be accessed at the Endangered Languages Archive webpage.


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

Garcia Laguia, A. (n.d.). Alex Garcia Laguia personal webpage.

Garcia-Laguia, A. (2017). Documentation of Northern Alta, a Philippine Negrito language. Endangered Languages Archive.

García Laguía, A. X. (2018). Documentation of Northern Alta: Grammar, texts and glossary [Doctoral dissertation, Universitat de Barcelona]. Dipòsit Digital.

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

Headland, T. N. (2010). Why the Philippine Negrito languages are endangered (pp. 110-118). Oxford University Press.

Hirai, H. (2015). The indigenous peoples in Luzon. In Indigenous communities in the Philippines: A situation analysis (pp. 6-20). Yuchengco Center, De La Salle University.

Open Language Archives Community. (n.d.). OLAC resources in and about the Northern Alta language.

Reid, L. A. (1994). Possible non-Austronesian lexical elements in Philippine Negrito languages. Oceanic Linguistics, 33(1), 37-72.

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