The Department of Linguistics was established on 28 August 1922, with Prof. Trinidad H. Pardo de Tavera as the first Chair. It was created with the following mandates: (1) to be the center of research on Philippine languages; and (2) to aid in the development of the national language, which the country did not have at that time.
Courses in Philippine Linguistics began to be offered to students in 1923. Only two courses were taught at this time, both by Prof. Otto Johns Scheerer: Philippine Linguistics 101 (History and Methodology of the Comparative Study of Languages) and Philippine Linguistics 102 (History of the Exploration of Oceanic Languages).
One of Scheerer’s students was Dr. Cecilio Lopez, the first Filipino linguist. During the Academic Year 1924-1925, the Department began teaching language courses in Chinese (Mandarin) and Japanese. The name was changed from the Department of Philippine Linguistics to the Department of Oriental Languages. The Department was divided into three sections: Philippine Linguistics, Chinese (Mandarin), and Japanese.
The offering of courses in Philippine Linguistics was temporarily halted in 1937 when Dr. Lopez was appointed in the Institute of National Language as its Secretary and Executive Officer. Dr. Lopez returned in 1945 after the war.
In 1938, four courses on Tagalog Literature were placed under the Department of Oriental Languages. Lope K. Santos became a faculty member of the Department and taught subjects on Tagalog language and literature from 1938 to 1941.
In 1950, after his stint as Fellow under the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, Dr. Lopez returned, bringing with him a new trend in linguistics—American Descriptivism—which he learned at the University of Michigan and Yale University. Courses in American Linguistics were included in the newly-instituted master’s program of the Department which began in 1952. In 1952-1953, a number of American linguists from the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) also taught American Linguistics courses for the MA degree, producing its first graduate in 1955.
In 1959, Dr. Ernesto Constantino joined the roster of faculty after finishing his PhD in Linguistics in Indiana University Bloomington, further strengthening the stronghold of American Descriptive Linguistics in the Department.
Because of the fast growth of linguistics and the increase in number of students taking linguistics courses, especially in descriptive linguistics, the Department of Oriental Languages was renamed Department of Oriental Languages and Linguistics in 1961.
Dr. Lopez retired in 1963 and Dr. Constantino replaced him as Chair. From this point, the number of faculty members has been steadily increasing, with diverse specializations within the field.
The PhD in Philippine Linguistics program began in 1970 and produced its first graduate in 1977.
In 1973, the Department was renamed again, from Department of Oriental Languages and Linguistics to Department of Linguistics and Asian Languages. Following the demand of many students who became interested in the discipline, the undergraduate program of BA Linguistics was instituted in 1975. This completed the trifecta of degrees granted by the Department—BA, MA, and PhD in Linguistics.
In 1977, the following goals of the Department were set:
- to continue developing the Department as the primary center of studying and archiving languages and dialects in the Philippines;
- to contribute to general and theoretical linguistics based, first and foremost, on the study of languages and dialects in the Philippines;
- to provide significant, relevant, and direct support in identifying, clarifying, and ultimately solving linguistic problems in the Philippines, especially in education and national communication and integration; and
- as a secondary goal, to improve the teaching of the national languages of Asia in accordance with the needs of the Filipino people.
Under the leadership of then Chair Dr. Jonathan C. Malicsi, the Department installed the first Philippine Linguistics Congress in 1978 with the theme, “Trends in Philippine Linguistics.”
In 1983, the Department became a part of the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy (CSSP) when the College of Arts and Sciences was divided into three colleges—College of Arts and Letters (CAL), College of Science (CS), and CSSP. During this time, the Department was renamed from Department of Linguistics and Asian Languages to Department of Linguistics, which is its current name. Despite the name change, Asian language courses are still taught in the Department.