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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