Idioms are phrases that have meanings different from the literal translation. Their use reflects a greater understanding of the language and for the second-language learner is one of the most difficult things to master. Imagine having to master grammar and memorize vocabulary only to learn that you’ve barely scratched the surface of your understanding.
Examples of idioms in English are:
- Break a leg – Good luck!
- Call it a day – Stop working on something.
- Once in a blue moon – Something that doesn’t occur very often.
Chamorro Phrases as Idioms
The following is a list of Chamorro idioms, along with the literal meaning and the colloquial meaning.
- matai ñålang literally means “to have died of hunger”. The phrase is used to express that someone is famished, that they’re about to die of starvation.
- maipi i pachot literally means “the mouth is hot.” The expression describes someone whose conversations appear to become reality.
- mababa literally means “open” or “to be opened”, referring to a person who may have once been timid and is starting to become more social.
- matåla’ literally means “to be hung out to dry.” Refers to an outgoing person; someone who is extroverted.
- Ha leleggua’ i kichalå-ña literally means “she is stirring her spoon.” Sometimes shortened to just ha leleggua’ gue’, or “she’s stirring herself.” The phrase refers to someone who overhears a conversation but does not fully grasp what is being said and then attempts to be part of the conversation.
- dinanche literally means “to have hit the target”, that is, a person aiming to hit something and did. This is how we express that something is “correct,” as in “not wrong.”
- mafak i platu means “the plate is broken”. It refers to a relationship that’s completely broken; one that cannot be repaired or put back together.
debi di – must, have to
To express obligation as in to say that we must or have to do something, we use the phrase debi di, which is a borrowed expression from Spanish. Debi di can also be used for expectation. In either case, we treat debi di as if it was a modal verb which never changes and almost always starts off the sentence.
MODELU: debi di + future phrase
The following describe how to use debi di.
debi di – must, have to (obligation)
I maolek na estudiante debi di u fanestudia kada dia, hånao para i klas-ña yan cho’gue i che’cho’-ña.
The good student must study every day, go to his class and do his work.
Debi di bai hu falak i post office pa’go sa’ mahuchom agupa’.
I have to go the post office today, because it is closed tomorrow.
Debi di un famaisen antes di un hånao.
You must ask before you leave.
Debi di u ekungok yo’.
She has to listen to me.
Debi di ta osge i mañaina-ta.
We must obey our parents.
debi di – to be expected, supposed to (expectation)
Esta alas 8, debi di u gaigi si Antonia gi che’cho’.
It’s already 8 o’clock, Antonia should be at work.
Debi di u magraduha esta si Jesse.
Jesse should have graduated already.
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
Kao ya-mu yu’?
Do you like me?
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
The vowel/sound i 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)
Two expressions that we use to confirm stereotypes or preconceptions are:
- Guiya muna’fatto…
+ Reason for Behavior or Quality
- Basta ki…
These expressions are used in situations where people perform actions or display qualities that support a stereotype or a preconception about the group they belong to. These groups can be anything from race to geographic location, as long as some label can be applied. To make these comments is to state that the actions and/or qualities are to be expected from them due to the fact that they belong to that group. Though it may seem that these sentences would be used only in negative circumstances, this is not the case. They can be said to state a mere fact.
- He bought the cheapest shoes in the store! Hmph! Basta ki Chinu! (on the stereotype that Chinese are cheap)
- Wow, you know all these roads here on the mainland! Basta ki mapoksai sanlagu hao. (on the fact that the person was raised in the States)
- So, she was mean to you? Guiya muna’fatto hagan Bernadita. (nothing less should be expected of Bernadita’s daughter, implying that Bernadita is the same way)