The CHamoru language comes from an Austronesian family of spoken dialects; native to the Marianas Islands. This much, we have known and understood. Not much records are left for us modern speakers to refer to given that our ancestors never recorded their teachings. Hence, all we have is the grace and knowledge of the Saina (elders) who pass their expertise onto us for generations to come. Our native tongue is composed of both our own words and those borrowed from Spanish . However, there are some words in our language that we don’t have a specific word for. Rather, a new set of vocabulary is used to compensate for the missing diction. These kinds of words are what we call Chamorro-ized words.
Chamorro-ized words are, as mentioned previously, used in place of a term that doesn’t exist in its place. For instance, we have words for common items such as påpet which means paper. However, for something like, for example, bus we use bås as the CHamoru equivalent. Notice how the pronunciation of both words are generally the same. Typically, that’s the goal we as speakers aim to achieve. Its use in conversational CHamoru proves helpful and beneficial when we just need a word substitution for something we don’t know how to say. However, this shouldn’t be some lazy tactic to use for everything. Just like the word for bus, there are other words that exist in our CHamoru language that are, in this case, substitutions for other words. If you’re not sure, you can always reference a dictionary or a native speaker!
Here is a small list of other words that have been “Chamorro-ized” for conversational use. On the left will be the word in English while the right is the CHamoru equivalent. Keep in mind that the CHamoru equivalent may be pronounced the same as its English counterpart but the spelling is adjusted to match that of our own alphabet.
- Jello vs yello (ze-lo)
- Generator vs yenereta (ze-nah-ray.tah)
- Diabetes vs dåibites (dah-ee-bee-tes)
- Class vs klås (klah-ss)
- Congress vs kongresu (kohn-grehs-oo)
- Concrete vs konkrit (kohn-creet)
- Sedan vs sidan (same as English, CHamoru spelling is different)
- Habit vs håbitu (hah-bee-too)
What other words can you think of, if any?