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Category: Beginning Chamorro Grammar

Asking Questions in Chamorro

Asking Questions is a good way to learn new things in Chamorro, and is essential in daily life.

Kåo siña hao fumino’ Chamoru?
Can you speak Chamorro?

Månu na sumasaga hao?
Where do you live?

Håfa kumeke’ilek-mu?
What do you mean?

Yes/No Questions

In Chamorro, to ask a question that can be answered with hunggan or åhe’ is easy. You simply have to start off the question with the marker kåo.

StatementQuestion
Chumochu i patgon.
The child ate.
Kåo chumochu i patgon.
Did the child eat?
Asut i kareta.
The car is blue.
Kåo asut i kareta?
Is the car blue?
Lunes på’go.
Today is Monday.
Kåo Lunes på’go.
Is today Monday?
Ya-mu na’italianu.
You like Italian food.
Kåo ya-mu na’italianu?
Do you like Italian food?

Question Words

When asking questions that require a response beyond hunggan or åhe’, you’ll need to start off your question with a question word or phrase. Here is a list of some common Chamorro question words.

ChamorroEnglishChamorroEnglish
håyiwhohåfawhat
ngai’anwhenmånuwhere
sa’ håfawhytaimanuhow
kuånto, akuåntohow muchkuåntohow many
ginen manufrom wherepara håfafor what
para månuto wherepot håfaabout what

Here are some examples of Chamorro interrogative sentences.

Taimanu un fa’tinas i titiyas-mu?
How did you make your titiyas?

Para månu hao?
Where are you going? Where are you off to?

Ngai’an i fiestan San Jose?
When is the San Jose fiesta?

Månu na sumåsåga hao på’go?
Where do you live now?

Håyi i na’ån-ña?
What’s her name?

Kuånto un fåhan na gimen?
How many drinks did you buy?

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guaha and taya’

Guaha is used to indicate existence or possession. Tåya’ indicates non-existence or non-possession.

guaha – there is / there are

tåya’  – there isn’t / there aren’t

Examples showing existence and non-existence:

Guaha klas Chamoru gi Lunes yan Mietkoles.
There’s Chamorro class on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Guaha siette dias gi semåna.
There are seven days in a week.

Guaha dosse meses gi un año.
There are twelve months in a year.

Tåya’ klas gi Lunes sa’ Labor Day.
There is no class on Monday, because it is Labor Day.

Tåya’ taotao gi gima’ Yu’us.
There are no people in church.

Tåya’ ti un tungo’.
There is nothing you don’t know.

Examples showing possession and non-possession:

Guaha karetå-hu.
I have a car.

Guaha che’lu-ña palao’an.
He has a sister.

Guaha gima’-måmi.
We have a house. 

Tåya’ salåppe’-ña.
She has no money.

Tåya’ gimen-ta.
We have no drinks.

Kåo tåya’ maleffå-mu?
Did you forget anything? (lit. “Was there nothing you forgot?”)

Everyday Expressions: Tåya’ guaha! Literally meaning “there’s nothing!”, that is, there is no problem or issue, or something is of little consequence, and is the equivalent of the English expression “it’s no big deal!”

Examples of tåya’ guaha as a response:

MARIA:   Are you sure I can borrow your book?

LOLA:    Ai, tåya’ guaha! Oh, no big deal!

Or, asking for assurance:

MARIA:    Tåya’ guaha, if I use your computer?
                   No big deal if I use your computer?

LOLA:        Guse’ ha’. (or Tåya’ guaha!)
                    Just go right ahead.

Guaha and tåya’ are also used in other ways. It is often used with the linking particle na and can take on different meanings depending on what follows. 

With na, guaha and tåya’ can mean that there is/are “some” or “none” of something.

For example:

Guaha na taotao ti yan–ñiha matågo’.
Some people do not like to be told what to do.

Guaha na flores manggof paopao.
Some flowers are very fragrant.

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How to Express Likes and Dislikes in Chamorro

Bearded man likes music.

Learning how to express likes and dislikes is a great way to show your fluency in Chamorro. To do this you say ya followed by a possessive pronoun. For example, -hu is the possessive pronoun “my” in Chamorro and usually follows a word. For example, “my car” is kareta-hu. The verb “to like” is somewhat irregular in Chamorro as it requires you to use a possessive pronoun as demonstrated below.

Ya-hu.            I like.

Ya-mu.           You like.

Ya-ña.             He or she likes.

Ya-ta.              We like. (inclusive)

Yan-måmi.    We like. (exclusive)

Yan-miyu.      You (all) like.

Yan-ñiha.        They like.

 

To say you like an object, you simply use one of the phrases and then the object.

Ya-hu    +     OBJECT

To say “I like eggs”, you would say: Ya-hu chåda’.

Here are more examples:

Ya-ña si Maria åbas.
Maria likes guava.

Kao ya-mu titiyas?
Do you like titiyas?

To say that you like doing something, you would again use one of the phrases and then say use the completed form of a verb.

Ya-hu bumaila.
I like to dance.

Ya-hu umegga’ Netflix.
I like to watch Netflix.

Ya-hu chumochu.
I like to eat.

Kao ya-mu kumånta?
Do you like to sing?

Dislikes

To say that you don’t like something, you simply have to add the negator ti at the beginning of your statement.

Ya-hu pån. 
I like bread.

Ti ya-hu pån.
I don’t like bread.

 

More Examples

Ya-hu maigo’. 
I like to sleep.

Ti ya-ña si George manestudia.
George does not like to study.

Ti yan-ñiha manekungok.
They do not like to listen

Kao ya-mu yu’?
Do you like me?

 

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Vowel Harmony

Vowel Harmony is a linguistic term that refers to the constraints that certain vowels have on what other vowels may be next to them. In Chamorro, the constraint is on the vowel i, which is the definite object marker.

The following sound changes occur in the first syllable of a word when it is preceded by i.

  1. When the first syllable of a word has an å:
    tåsi (sea)  –> i tasi

    måta (eyes) –> i mata
    låpes (pencil) –> i lapes

  2. When the first syllable of a word has an o:
    kostat (sack) –> i kestat
    tokcha’ (spear) –> i tekcha’
    donne’ (hot pepper) –> i denne’

  3. When the first syllable of a word has an u:
    uchan (rain) –> i ichanpulan (moon) –> i pilangupot (party) –> i gipot

The vowel/sound also occurs in the preposition gi, meaning at/on/in, and the negator ti, so if a word is preceded by either of these words, the same vowel harmony rules apply.

gupot –> gi gipot (at the party)

gof (very) maolek –> ti gef maolek

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UM Verbs

UM verbs are a class of verbs that use the Yo’-type pronouns as the Subject pronouns – when the pronoun is the subject of the sentence. They are called UM verbs here because the affix um is used to conjugate these verbs. There are actually two affixes that are used to conjugate UM verbs, the first is UM and the second is MAN. Both will be explained here.

To conjugate with UM, there are two cases you must look for:

1) If the verb begins with a vowel simply prefix the verb with um and you have your first conjugation.

Example:   o’mak  -> umo’mak          to bathe

2) If the verb begins with a consonant, you insert um into the first Consonant-Vowel pair in the first syllable.

Example:   kati -> kumati      to cry

The forms umo’mak and kumati are the “completed” forms of the verbs.

Umo’mak yo’.    I bathed. / I showered.

Kumati yo’.    I cried.

To conjugate the “continuous” form of the verb, the verb needs to undergo reduplication. Reduplication is when we repeat a syllable in a word.

1) With vowel-initial words, we simply need to reduplicate the vowel, but separating the duplicates with a glottal stop.

Example:  o’mak -> umo’mak -> umo’o’mak

2) If the word begins with a consonant, we take the syllable that is the second to the last syllable in the word.

Example:    kanta -> kumanta -> kumakanta          ;     kanta (2 syllables)    to sing
hugando -> humugando -> humugagando    ; hugando (3 syllables)    to play

NOTE: If the syllable contains more than just a consonant and vowel pair (like GAN in hugando), you need to duplicate only the first consonant-vowel pair.

The forms umo’o’mak, kumakanta, and humugagando are the “continuous” forms of the verbs.

Umo’o’mak yo’.        I’m bathing.
Kumakanta yo’.        I’m singing.
Humugagando yo’.  I’m playing.

Dual Case

When a plural pronouns is used with a verb conjugated with um the pronoun refers to only TWO people.

Examples:

Bumabaila ham.    We are dancing.   (Someone and I are dancing.)

Bumabaila hit.   We are dancing.    (You and I are dancing.)

Bumabaila hamyo. You two are dancing.

Bumabaila siha.  They (2) are dancing.

Plural Case

To express the subject refers to three or more people, we use the plural prefix MAN.

Example:
Humanao siha.  They went. (2)

Manhanao siha. They went. (3+)

 maN          Verb Initial  Result  Example
 man b mb  man + baila -> mambaila
 man p mp  man + peska -> mampeska
 man f mam  man + faisen -> mamaisen
 man t man  man + ta’yok -> mana’yok
 man s mañ  man + såga -> mañåga
 man ch mañ  man + chochu -> mañochu
 man k mang  man + kåti -> mangåti
 man g mangg  man + gimen -> manggimen

UM Verb List

  • kånta
  • kåti
  • baila
  • tånges
  • chefla
  • gimen
  • o’mak
  • ekungok
  • kuentos
  • peska
  • pasehu
  • hugåndo
  • hånao
  • tohge
  • essitan
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