Chamorro is a
language, spoken on the Mariana islands (especially Guam and Saipan) by about
47,000 people (about 35,000 people on Guam and about 12,000 in the
The numbers of Chamorro speakers have declined in recent years, and
the younger generations are less likely to know the language. The
influence of English has caused the language to become endangered.
On Guam (called "Guåhan" by Chamorro speakers, probably from either
the word guaha
, meaning "have", or the word
, meaning "fish", or perhaps a portmanteau
of both), the number of native
Chamorro speakers have dwindled in numbers in the last decade or so
while in the Northern Mariana Islands, young Chamorros still speak
the language fluently. Various representatives from Guam have
unsuccessfully lobbied the United States to take action to promote
and protect the language.
It is still common among Chamorro households in the Northern
Marianas, but fluency has greatly decreased among Guamanian
Chamorros during the years of American rule in favor of (a largely
) American English
, which is commonplace throughout
the inhabited Marianas.
Unlike most of its neighbors, Chamorro is not a Micronesian
language. Rather, like
, it constitutes a possibly
independent branch of the Malayo-Polynesian languages
origins are thus somewhat obscure. A 2008 analysis of the
Austronesian Basic Vocabulary Database
suggested at 85%
confidence level that it is closest to the Central-Eastern
Modern and contemporary Chamorro has also been studied as related
to Spanish language. Many Chamorro nouns, adjectives, prepositions,
numerals, and verbs are of Spanish origin, as a result of a
language contact for centuries. Under a historical point of view,
it may be considered a mixed language, even if it is now an
independent and unique language.
Note that the letter Y is pronounced more like 'dz' (an
approximation of the regional Spanish
pronunciation of "Y"/"LL" as ); nor
are N and Ñ always distinguished. Thus the Guamanian place name spelled
pronounced 'dzo-nia', not 'yo-na' as might be expected.
also that Ch is usually pronounced like 'ts' rather than 'tsh' and
that A and Å are not always distinguished in written Chamorro
(often being written simply as 'A'). R in Chamorro is pronounced
like like Spanish, and Chamorro also has a trill which is spelled
Chamorro has geminate consonants
which are written double (GG, DD, KK, MM, NGNG, PP, RR, SS, TT),
AI and AO, plus OI, OE,
IA, IU, IE in loanwords; penultimate
, except where marked otherwise with an acute accent
, as in asút
"big". Unstressed vowels are limited to , though
they are often spelled A E O. Syllables may be
consonant-vowel-consonant, as in che’lu
"lie face down", gatus
(old word for 100),
"Agana", though B D G are not distinguished from P
T K in that position .
Chamorro is an agglutinative
, grammatically allowing root words to be modified by a
number of affixes
. For example,
"talked awhile (with/to)", passivizing
, root verb sangan
, directional suffix
"to" (forced morphophonemically
to change to e
with excrescent consonant n
, and suffix ñaihon
short amount of time". Thus Masanganenñaihon gue'
was told (something) for a while".
Chamorro has many Spanish loanwords
and other words have Spanish etymological
roots (e.g. tenda
"shop/store" from Spanish
), which may lead some to mistakenly conclude that
the language is a Spanish
: Chamorro very much uses its loan words in a Micronesian
way (eg: bumobola "playing ball
" from bola
"ball, play ball" with verbalizing infix
of first syllable of
Chamorro is predicate-initial, head-marking language. It has a rich
agreement system both in the nominal and in the verbal domains. The
following table gives the possessor-noun agreement suffixes:
||-hu / -kku
|1 incl du/pl
|1 incl du/pl
Chamorro is also known for its wh-agreement
in the verb: these agreement
morphemes agree with features (roughly, the Grammatical case
feature) of the question
phrase, and replace
the regular subject-verb
'Juan washed the car.'
'Who washed the car?'
Chamorro basic phrases
|Kao mamaolek ha' hao?
||How are you? [lit.: Are you doing
|Håfa tatatmånu hao?
||How are you?[formal]
||What is your name?
|Na'ån-hu si Chris
||My name is Chris.
|Ådios [Spanish introduced]
|Put Fabot [Spanish introduced]
||And so you will follow
|Buenas dihas [Spanish introduced]
|Buenas tåtdes [Spanish introduced]
|Buenas noches [Spanish introduced]
|Si Yu'os ma'åse' (:
||Thank you (lit: God have mercy)
|Buen probecho [Spanish introduced]
Current common Chamorro uses only number words of Spanish origin:
unu, dos, tres, etc. Old Chamorro used different number words based
on categories: "Basic numbers" (for date, time, etc), "living
things", "inanimate things", and "long objects".
||Old Chamorro: Basic Numbers
||Old Chamorro: Living Things
||Old Chamorro: Inanimate Things
||Old Chamorro: Long Objects
- The number 10 and its multiples up to 90 are: dies(10),
benti(20), trenta(30), kuårenta(40), sinkuenta(50), sisenta(60),
sitenta(70), ochenta(80), nubenta(90)
- Similar to Spanish terms: diez(10), veinte(20), treinta(30),
cuarenta(40), cincuenta(50), sesenta(60), setenta(70), ochenta(80),
- Aguon, K. B. (1995). Chamorro: a complete course of
study. Agana, Guam: K.B. Aguon.
- Chung, Sandra. 1998. The design of agreement: Evidence from
Chamorro. University of Chicago Press: Chicago.
- Rodríguez-Ponga, Rafael (2003). El elemento español en la
lengua chamorra. Madrid: Servicio de
Publicaciones, Universidad Complutense.
- Topping, Donald M. (1973). Chamorro reference grammar.
Honolulu: University of
- Topping, Donald M., Pedro M. Ogo, and Bernadita C. Dungca
(1975). Chamorro-English dictionary. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.
- Topping, Donald M. (1980). Spoken Chamorro: with
grammatical notes and glossary, rev. ed. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.
- Hunt, Mike (2008). "Speaking Chamoru Moru Moru". San Roque,