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.
I like to dance.
Ya-hu umegga’ Netflix.
I like to watch Netflix.
I like to eat.
Kao ya-mu kumånta?
Do you like to sing?
To say that you don’t like something, you simply have to add the negator ti at the beginning of your statement.
I like bread.
Ti ya-hu pån.
I don’t like bread.
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
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.
When the first syllable of a word has an å:
tåsi (sea) –> i tasi
måta (eyes) –> i mata
låpes (pencil) –> i lapes
When the first syllable of a word has an o:
kostat (sack) –> i kestat tokcha’ (spear) –> i tekcha’
donne’ (hot pepper) –> i denne’
When the first syllable of a word has an u:
uchan (rain) –> i ichanpulan (moon) –> i pilangupot (party) –> i gipot
The vowel/sound i 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.
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.
The Chamorro alphabet, or i atfabetu, is composed of 24 letters. The following table lists all the letters with their pronunciations.
NOTE: Those who grew up before the 1990s may have remembered the alphabet pronounced another way. This new way of pronouncing the alphabet was a shift away from the original pronunciations, which for some letters of the alphabet, was the exact same or close to the pronunciations of the Spanish alphabet. For example, the letters f, h, k, l and m, were pronounced eh-feh, ha-tsee, kah, eh-leh, and eh-meh, respectively.
The Vowels or I Buet
There are six vowels in the Chamorro alphabet.
a å e i o u
a – Pronounced like the a in tap or bat.
å – Pronounced like the a in father or papa.
e – Pronounced like the e in bed or test.
i – Pronounced like ee in feet.
o – Pronounced like the o in go, but shorter.
u – Pronounced like the oo in pool.
The Consonants or I Konsonante
There are eighteen consonants in the Chamorro alphabet including two semi-consonants: Ch, Ng .
ʹ b ch, d, f, g, h, k, l, m, n, ñ, ng, p, r, s, t, y
‘ – The glota, or glottal stop, can only be defined as a sudden stop. It’s that sound you hear when you say uh oh. The glota only follows a vowel and the addition not only changes the sound but the word’s meaning. Example: måta – eye, måta’ – raw, uncooked.
b – The letter b in Chamorro is slightly softer than its more aspirated English counterpart.
ch – The letter ch is described as a semi-consonant because it looks like two letters next to each other. However, the letter c in Chamorro does not exist. The letter ch in Chamorro is pronounced like the “ts” sound at the end of the word bats. So the word chålek, meaning to laugh, is pronounced tsah-lick, not tchah-lick.
d – Pronounced like the English d, but less aspirated.
f – Pronounced like the English f
g – Pronounced like the English g.
h – Pronounced like the English h.
k – Pronounced like the English k, but less aspirated.
l – Pronounced like the English l, but your tongue should be closer to the roof of your mouth (rather than the ridge).
m – Pronounced like the Eglish m.
n – Pronounced like the English n.
ñ – The letter ñ is pronounced like the ny in the English word “canyon.” The letter ñ was taken from the Spanish alphabet and easily adopted as many Chamorro words already had this sound (e.g. låña, meaning “oil”; danña’, meaning “to gather”).
ng – The letter ng is pronounced like the sound at the end of the word song. This may not seem so bad at first until you learn that there are Chamorro words that begin with ng. For example, the words nginge’, meaning “to smell,” and ngångas, meaning “to chew,” are pronounced NGEE-ngeeh and NGAH-ngass, respectively.
p – The letter p in Chamorro is slightly softer than its more aspirated English counterpart.
r – The letter r sounds like the Spanish trilled rr. At the beginning of words, the r may be pronounced like the English r, but trilled by other Chamorro speakers. To do this trilled sound, the back of your tongue will be widened so that it touches your molars and the tip of your tongue will be touching the ridge of your mouth as you exhale and attempt to vibrate the tip of your tongue. Or, you can just watch this How to Roll your R’s tutorial on YouTube.
s – Pronounced like the English s.
t – Pronounced like the English t, but less aspirated.
y – The letter y in Chamorro can also be considered a semi-consonant, because it is pronounced more like “dz” rather than a “yuh” sound in English.
Notes on Chamorro Letters
With the exception of foreign words that have been Chamorrocized, most words in Chamorro generally do not end in the letters B, CH, D, G, H, L, Ñ, R, and Y.
If a word sounds like it ends in a B, the word will be written as ending with a P. Same with the following letters: D as T, G as K. If you come across words that are written ending with these letters, then it is likely they were written with an older orthography. For example, the word for good maolek was often written as mauleg in older texts.
Because a lot of Chamorro letters are softer than their English counterparts, there are some pairs of letters that may sound alike and may be interchanged by speakers. These sound pairs are the letters B and P, T and D, CH and Y, and G and K.
The letters R and L are also often interchanged by native Chamorro speakers that you may hear different variations of the same word spoken. For example, the word arekla, meaning “to fix or put in order”, may sometimes be heard as alekla or even alegra.
The letter glota is never at the start of a word and always follows a vowel.
In Chamorro, there are five ways to say you, and they differ according to whether or not you’re addressing a single person or a group and what you’re trying to say. The word you in English is used to refer to one person or a group of people. In Chamorro, you have five different ways to say you and they are grouped below according to how you use them.
The English “You”
Before we go into the different categories, here is a quick example of the two types of you in English:
1. You (singular): How are you?
2. You (plural): How are you (all) doing?
Unlike English, the word for you in Chamorro is different for the singular and the plural. The word also changes according to the pronoun category, which are: Emphatic Pronouns, Yo’-Type Pronouns and Hu-Type Pronouns.
These pronouns are called emphatic because they place emphasis on the subject. Sometimes referred to as stressed pronouns, they are often used after prepositions like yan (and/with), para (for) and sin (without).
Hågu – You (singular) – Para hågu este! This is for you!
Hamyo – You (plural) – Para hamyo este! This is for you all!
Maria: Håyi para u na’gasgas i kusina?
Who is going to clean the kitchen?
Daniel: Hågu yan si Dolores. You and Dolores.
Yo’-Type pronouns are subject pronouns and they’re used in stative sentences, or descriptive sentences. They’re also used in intransitive sentences where the action is done to a non-specific object.
Hao – You (singular)
Hamyo – You (plural)
Magof hao. You are hapy.
Magof hamyo. You (both) are happy.
Manmagof hamyo. You (all) are happy.
Bumaila hao. You danced.
Kao manestudia hao? Did you study?
These pronouns are the subject pronouns in transitive sentences involving specific objects.