Documentation of Northern Alta, a Philippine Negrito language

Documentation of Northern Alta, a Philippine Negrito language

Language: Northern Alta
Depositor: Alexandro Garcia-Laguia
Location: Philippines
Deposit Id: 0422
Grant id: IGS0271
Funding body: ELDP
Level: Deposit

Summary of deposit

The project documents daily practices and past stories of Northern Alta communities which located along the rivers of Aurora province (Luzon, Northeastern Philippines). The outputs include recordings (video and audio) of monologues and some dialogues, with correspondent annotation.

The project will also include a lexical database and a sketch grammar. Additional information and updates will also be provided on the Alex Garcia's personal website: All data and metadata will be organized with Arbil.

Group represented
Philippines Negrito, Northern Alta

Language information

Northern Alta (aqn) is an Austronesian language spoken by a group of Negrito people in the Northern Philippines. It is distantly related to Southern Alta (agy).

The Negritos are considered to be the first inhabitants of the Philippines. According to archeological and genetic evidence, they arrived to the area at least 40,000 years ago, and were probably the sole occupants until the arrival of the Austronesians, about 4,000 years ago. The Negritos then entered a period of close contact with the Austronesians, who had brought their technology with them and were in a position of power, triggering a process of language shift. Today the Philippine Negrito languages are classified as Austronesian, but most of them are poorly documented and little is known about their history.

Special characteristics

As the speakers of Alta were living in the mountains of the Sierra Madre until the nineties (when they settled down in the lowlands), the collection includes a number of recordings where the speakers describe their past life, and the differences with their current lifestyle.

Other recordings include a wide range of topics which can be browsed through the ‘topic’ block, on the left of this page. Relevant topics include hunting (dog hunting, shotgun, snare traps), fresh water fishing (with goggles or iron rod), plants and usages, searching and cutting ratan, cooking, handcrafts, and some biographical recordings.

Deposit contents
This deposit contains the following datasets:
  • a set of monolingual elicitation sessions (1 - 13)
  • a set of recorded wordlists (22 - 37)
  • a collections of audio recordings (14 - 21) and (38 - 68), most of which include an additional transcription tier where the modifications of native consultants are noted
  • a collection of video recordings (sessions 70 - 160)
  • several sets of photos taken at the communities between 2013 and 2016 (sessions 111 - 118)

Metadata is organized with arbil in .imdi format. Each session bundle may include a video recorded file (mp3), a converted audio file (wav), the recorded transcription (wav), the recorded translation to Tagalog (wav), some photos (jpg), some documents (pdf). File types can be visualised on the ‘type’ block on the left of this page.

Deposit history

Legacy materials (audio sessions 1 - 69) were collected and annotated between 2013 and 2015.

Video recorded sessions 70 - 110 were collected annotated between March and July 2016, with the support of an ELDP grant.

The collection (sessions 1 to 118) was uploaded onto ELAR in July 2016.

Video recorded sessions 118 - 134 were collected in Dianed and Villa in April 2017 and subsequently uploaded onto the archive.

A new set of annotations for sessions 118 - 134 was uploaded onto the archive in April 2019. The dissertation"Documentation of Northern Alta: grammar, glossary and texts" was also uploaded during the same period

Video recorded sessions 137 - 160 were uploaded onto the archive in July 2019.

Other information

None of the data from this collection can be used in a lawsuit.

Acknowledgement and citation

Users of this collection should acknowledge Alex Garcia-Laguia as the researcher and Alex Garcia-Laguia and Marilyn Gallego as the data collectors.

To refer to any data from this collection, please cite the corpus in this way.

Garcia-Laguia, Alexandro. 2017. Documentation of Northern Alta, a Philippine Negrito language, London: SOAS, Endangereded Languages Archive. URL: Accessed on [insert date here].


Collection online
Resources online and curated


Alexandro Garcia-Laguia
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Affiliation: University of Barcelona

Deposit Statistics

Data from 2020 November 29 to 2020 November 29
Deposit hits:1
Downloaded files
Without statistics

Showing 1 - 10 of 175 Items

Fieldtrip pictures

Recorded on: 2016-03-30

Fieldtrip pictures

Recorded on: 2016-03-30

Fieldtrip pictures

Recorded on: 2016-03-30

The speakers of Alta have reported that their parents did not teach them any songs in Alta (n_alta054.42). However, one day, at a gathering with 6 women in Barangay Dianed, the ladies recalled fragments of an Alta song. They decided to sit down and collaborated to write and complete the lyrics. We recorded them singing the song two times (session 45 contains the recordings of the song, the transcription and other relevant files). Subsequently Joaquin Ramone, a composer from Spain, created a backing track for the song with the piano, so the Alta can sing the song whenever they want and teach it to the children. As karaokes are very appreciated in the communities and in the Philippines in general, and are often used as way of having fun in the weekend, we expect the recording to be used in the future. The recording of this backing track is also included in the session 45 file (nalta45_piano) and is now uploaded in the cloud and, available to the community:

Recorded on: 2014-01-13

Children song recorded by Erlinda Ganarial in Barangay Decoliat. The song is similar to the “Head and shoulder knee and toe” song.

Recorded on: 2014-01-15

This is a casual recording that was taken during a lunch break, while working on transcription at Diteki Elementary school. As Kuya Ino had referred a number of times to religious and spiritual topics, I decided to ask him some more questions related with these topics. The questions are inspired from an old paper describing the alta communities during the fifties with the title “Some Customs of the Aetas of the Baler Area, Philippines”, by Damian Amazona (1951), which explains that, back in the days, the Altas had five different divinities: Tigbalang, Lueve, Amas, Bulislis and Binangenan. Kuya Ino reacts to the questions we ask him and shares some of his knowledge with us.

Recorded on: 2017-05

Ate Beth starts by introducing herself and giving the name of her children and then starts explaining about their life in the mountains when they were living in Diminangla area. They were working with rattan there. Their houses were located in Minero. Ate Beth considers that life in the past was simple and that she felt happy then with her parents and grandparents. The community elders were bimbi Clarin and Bimbi Martin. When they would manage to hunt a pig everyone would be very happy, as they would have the chance to trade some meat and obtain some goods. She continues describing what they would plant in the past (rice, coconut and other fruits). The tools for planting were different from now, as they would use a tool name 'assab' which she has not seen anymore. Ate Beth explains that one of the problems of living in the mountains was the altitude and the fact that it was not easy to climb. Also, some locations like Nedi’di’an or Magdalenas are far away, so it is not possible to reach them and come back within a single day, one has to sleep there. It was hard to transport things because they had no carabao and they had to pull their things. In the past part of Beth’s family would also participate in lagging. She continues talking about Martin who was able to make baskets with the rattan.

Recorded on: 2016-04-14

Violeta asks Pelicito to tell a story about the time when he was young. They continue by talking about the language and saying that if they don’t speak their language, their children will not spea either and their language will disappear. They express their gratitude to their project in order to conserve the language. Pelicito says that only his child Junior can speak Alta, but the reset of them only understand the word mangan (‘let’s eat). Violeta continues explaining that the next day we will visit Barangay Dicoliat and do the same as we did in Dianed, in order to protect the Alta language. The conversation continues with the speakers talking about a legal issue, for which the lack and official document.

Recorded on: 2015-01-10

Pelicito and barangay chieftain Carmelita Muhar sit down on a bench and enjoy there betel chew, while they remember the times when hey would work on rattan together. They would go up on the nearby mountains and find the rattan stems, which would be a hard task as these mountains can be quite steep. Carmelita remembers the day when Chodi fell while carrying a bunch of rattan stems, and both speakers laugh about it. They continue speaking and state that life is becoming harder nowadays given that the rice prices have increased significantly, while at the time they were even able to plant rice. Now they can’t plant anymore given that there are too many sparrows. Pelicito explains that nowadays, they rather use snares to in order catch animals, which they have to place far away in the mountains because the wild pags are scarce. At the time, they could not go very far, because if an Alta entered the domain of the Ilongot tribe he could get killed. Pelicito and Carmelita continue explaining that the quality of the soil has decreased in the last years, but in the past they wouldn’t not need to use any chemical product in order to get big sweet potatoes and other vegetables. Finally, the describe other things that have changed in the last years, which have an impact on their lives. For example, at the time charcoal production was allowed but now it is prohibited.

Recorded on: 2017-05

Renato and Arturo talk about their ancestor’s life. While Renato’s mother would work on the rice field, his father would go hunt, also they would fish and trade it with rice. Renat o studied until grade four. He states that his family left the mountains and moved to Diteki in 1984, when he was 19 years old. Later, we ask them how they would proceed in the past when courting a girl. Renato and Arturo they spend a few minutes explaining how the thing was like. The next question (min 19) is whether life was better in the past or now. Renato explains why life was nicer in the past. Reasons include that cost of life was lower, prices were lower and barter was more profitable than now. In the past they would trade rice, alcohol and betel nut with the Tagalog people. After spending some time fishing in an area, they would trade some things and move again to another area. The conversation goes on talking about the Alta ancestral domain (min 30) and about the rights of the Alta over it. They mention that the government forbade them to plant and to produce charcoal within the domain. Renato and Arturo talk about how barter was like when they were young (min 37), and about the differences with the Alta that had a chance to attend schools and the ones who could not. Later (min 45) Renato and Arturo explain why they considered that the Alta are being oppressed by the government. They also comment about the new tribal all who was being built by the time of the recording. Min 51, they reply to the last question, what other Alta men are living in Sablang (a specific neighborhood in barangay Diteki).

Recorded on: 2015-04-15