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Category: Beginning Chamorro Grammar

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.

Expressing “to have” something

If we want to say we “have” something, we follow this pattern:
Guaha OBJECT-(possessive pronoun).  The possessive pronoun used is how you inform who your subject is. Look at the following examples.

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 “nothing is there”, 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.

Some related words:

guinaha – wealth, possessions

mangguaha – to describe a family or group as having wealth

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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 in Chamorro

Vowel Harmony, also referred to as vowel fronting, 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 also the definite object marker.

The following sound changes occur in the first syllable of a word when it is preceded by the object marker 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 ichan
pulan (moon)→ i pilan
gupot (party) → i gipot

Other cases

The vowel/sound also occurs when using the preposition gi, meaning “at/on/in”, the negator ti, or the pronouns in (“we”, excl.) or en (“you” plural). So if a word is preceded by gi, ti, in or en, the vowel harmony rules apply.

gupot → gi gipot (at the party)

mo’na (ahead, before) → gi me’nå-hu (in front of me)

gof (very) maolek → ti gef maolek (not too good)

chule’ (to take) → ti in chile’ i karetan-måmi (we didn’t take our car)

sodda’ (to find) → kåo en sedda’ i yabi? (did you guys find the key?)

Okay, so that’s it, right? These are all the cases? If you thought yes, then you’d be wrong, because just for kicks, we’re going to include one more way. (At least, until we discover another case then it’s REALLY over.)

The last way is when you use the affix in. (And yes, I realize it’s also the pronoun.) But no surprise that the rules also apply with this because it has an “ee” sound, so the sound that follows has to adjust.

tuge’ (to write) → tinige’ (writing)

tuhong (hat) → tinihong (to wear a hat)

konne’ (to take/catch) → kinenne’ (a catch)

sodda’ (to find) → sinedda’ (to be found by someone)

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UM Verbs in Chamorro

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:    
kånta -> kumånta -> kumakant. ;     kanta (2 syllables)    to sing
hugåndo -> humugåndo -> 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.
Kumåkanta yo’.        I’m singing.
Humugågando 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:
Humånao siha.  They went. (2)

Manhånao siha. They went. (3+)

When the prefix man is attached to words that start with a specific sound, certain changes can occur that may result in a completely new word. Look at the following examples.

 maN         Verb Initial Result Example
 manbmb man + baila -> mambaila
 manpmp man + peska -> mampeska
 manfmam man + faisen -> mamaisen
 mantman man + ta’yok -> mana’yok
 mansmañ man + såga -> mañåga
 manchmañ man + chochu -> mañochu
 mankmang man + kåti -> mangåti
 mangmangg man + gimen -> manggimen

List of UM Verbs

kånta – sing
baila – dance
kåti – cry
tånges – weep
chålek – laugh
chefla – whistle
chochu – eat
gimen – drink
dåndan – to make music
såga – to stay, to reside
ekungok – to listen
o’mak – to bathe
nangu – to swim
kuentos – to talk
peska – to fish
pasehu – to cruise
hugåndo – to play
hånao – to go
tohge – to stand
essitan – to jest
liliko’ – to go around
ta’yok – to jump
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The Chamorro Alphabet

The Chamorro alphabet, or i atfabetu, is composed of 24 letters. The following table lists all the letters with their pronunciations.

I Atfabetu

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 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, LÑ, 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 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.

 

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