Category: Language Lessons

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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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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“You” in Chamorro

You

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.

Emphatic 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

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)

 

Stative Sentences

Magof hao. You are hapy.

Magof hamyo. You (both) are happy.

Manmagof hamyo. You (all) are happy.

 

Intransitive Sentences

Bumaila hao. You danced.

Kao manestudia hao? Did you study?

 

Hu-Type Pronouns

These pronouns are the subject pronouns in transitive sentences involving specific objects.

Un – You (singular)

En – You (plural)

Un kanno’ i mansana. You ate the apple.

En lachai i sitbesa. You all finished the beer.

Featured Image Photo by YesManPro from Pexels.
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How to say “Happy Birthday” in Chamorro

happy birthday to you

There are few ways to say “Happy Birthday” in Chamorro. One way is felis kumpleaños, which comes from the Spanish birthday greeting feliz cumpleañosAnother way is to say biba kumpleañoswhich roughly translates to something like “hurray, it’s your birthday!” or “yay, your birthday!” In Chamorro the word kumpleaños is used to mean both birthday and anniversary as the word itself is understood literally from its components, kumple, to complete, and años, meaning years. Another greeting you can use is biba ha’ånen mafañågu-mu, which is “hurray for the day of your birth!”

Try using a birthday greeting with someone:

Felis kumpleaños, ____________________.

Chamorro English
nåna mother
tåta father
nånan biha grandmother
tåtan bihu grandfather
tia aunt
tiu uncle
prima cousin (female)
primu cousin (male)
amiga / amigu / ga’chong friend
guinaiya-ku my love
korason-hu my heart
asagua-hu my husband/wife (lit. “my spouse”)
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How to say “I miss you” in Chamorro

i miss you

To say “I miss you” in Chamorro, you say “Mahålang yu’ nu hågu.”

I miss you mahålang yu’ nu hågu.

I miss you very much. gof mahålang yu’ nu hågu.

I miss you so much. sen mahålang yu’ nu hågu. (NOTE: sen here is like gof but a greater degree.)

 

Miss You (Singular vs. Plural)

The hågu in the phrase above is you singular. If you wanted to say “I miss you (all)”, you would have to say mahålang yu’ nu hamyo, where hamyo is the plural you.

hågu (second person singular pronoun)

hamyo (second person plural pronoun)

Examples

Håfa tatatmanu hao, Mom? – Mamaolek ha’, lao mahålang yu’ nu hågu.
How are you, Mom? – Still doing well, but I miss you.

Gof mahålang yu’ nu hamyo!
I miss you guys so much!

 

To Miss Someone Specific

To say that you miss a specific person, you will use the particle as instead of nu. Look at the following examples:

Mahålang yu’ as Chris.
I miss Chris.

Mahålang yu’ as nanå-hu.
I miss my mom.

Mahålang yu’ as nanå-hu biha.
I miss my grandmother.

Related Examples

Mahålang ham nu hågu.
We miss you. (The we here refers only to two people.)

Manmahålang ham nu hågu.
We miss you. (The we now refers to three or more people.)

Mahålang yu’ nu guiya.
I miss him/her.

Kåo mahålang hao nu guahu?
Do you miss me?

The following are other examples to express that you miss something. By now, you should’ve noted that mahålang yu’ is i miss and what follows depends on the object.

Mahålang yu’ nu Guam.
I miss Guam.

Mahålang yu’ nu i che’lu-hu låhi.
I miss my brother. (Literally, “I miss my male sibling.”)

Gof mahålang yu’ nu i fina’tinas nanå-hu biha.
I really miss my grandmother’s cooking.

Know how to say “I love you”  in Chamorro? Click here to find out how.

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