The development of an orthography for any language is a difficult and lengthy process. It involves the making of choices in areas where historians, linguists and educators may legitimately disagree. The preparation of an orthography for the Chamorro language was no exception and, in fact, generated numerous discussions, some of which were emotionally-charged.
The Chamorro language has been written in a variety of ways in the 300+ years it has been in print. In that time, there have been changes in the sound system, varying colonial administrations and several studies of the language. While we can all argue that Chamorro may be written in various ways, we must all agree that it should follow only one system if it is to survive in the future. The Kumision I Fino Chamorro after five years of discussion, countless meetings, several consultants and numerous public hearings presents this orthography as the official system to be used when writing Chamorro. By law, all agencies of the Government of Guam are enjoined to follow it. Hopefully, out of a desire to see the language prosper, all individuals and organizations on Guam will seek to use it voluntarily.
Two points must be made clear about orthographies. The first is that an orthography only organizes how a language is spelled. It does not change the language nor does it recommend to individuals how a language should be used. It only explains how words are spelled. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, is that having an orthography is useless if it is not used. If Chamorro is to be preserved, it must be seen in print and it must be written in a uniform fashion.
Ginen hami gi Kumision yan todu siha i petsonas ni’ hagas manayuda gi fotmasion i utugrafiha, en prisesenta este na dokumentu para i usun-miyu ni’ pupbliku. Yanggen guaha hafa na kuestion pat puntu ni para u malaknos put este na asunto, pot fabot a’agang hami gi Kumision. Mansetbienten i pupbliku yan i fino’ Chamorro ham.
This entry was adapted and reprinted with permission from the Department of Chamorro Affairs, , Government of Guam. Hale’ta: Chamorro Heritage, 1983 Chamorro Orthography.
Rule 1: Proper Names
Names of people will retain their spelling.
Family names which have never been written before will be Chamorroized in spelling.
Proper names will not conform to Rule 9 and 10.
Place names that are of Chamorro origin will be Chamorroized in spelling.
Inarajan – Inalahan
Ritidian – Litekyan
Newly named places with no known Chamorro names will retain their written name.
Months, days, and numerals shall conform to Chamorro spelling rules.
Rule 2: Capitalization
Proper names of people, places, animals, things, institutions and organizations, titles, days of the week, months of the year and the beginning of sentences will be capitalized.
The affixed forms of proper names shall be capitalized.
um + Sablan = Sumablan
in + Sablan = Sinablan
um + Afaisen = UmAfaisen
in + Afaisen = InAfaisen
um + Angoco = UmAngoco
in + Angoco = InAngoco
N.B. The affixed forms of proper nouns beginning with vowels will have both affix and the name capitalized.
When the plural subject marker (man – is affixed to a proper name, m will also be capitalized.
man– + Chamorro = ManChamorro
man– + Juan = ManJuan
The conventional practice of capitalizing pronouns relating to the divinity itself will be followed.
Rule 3: Choice of Alphabetic Symbols and Corresponding Sound
The following list of consonants and vowel symbols and their corresponding sounds will be used in Chamorro spelling. They are given here in alphabetical order. Example words are given to illustrate the phonetic value of each of the spelling symbols.
/ ? /
open (note: the same symbol a is used to represent two sounds.)
The letter c, j, q, v, w, x, z, ll, and rr will be used in the spelling of proper names only.
The glottal stop will be used in alphabetizing words.
Rule 4: Diphthongs
The diphthongs in the writing system will be treated as sequence of vowels.
The most common diphthongs are as follows:
All the letter combinations of the above listed diphthongs shall be treated as diphthongs, unles the glottal stop is distinctively heard between the two vowels.
A sure text of diphthong is when both vowels reduplicate.
The letter h rather than the glottal stop ´ shall be used in spelling of non-diphthong combinations of io, ie, ia, and iu, which are sometimes confused with diphthongs.
Rule 5: Consonant Symbols in Final Position
The following consonants will not appear at the end of a word: b, ch, d, g, h, l, ñ, r, y
The consonants—b, d, g, and l—may appear at the end of a syllable only when the consonant is geminate, i.e., when the following syllable of the same word begins with the same sound.
N.B. Chamorro and Barrigada are not geminate. Rule 1 applies.
Rule 6: Unstressed Vowels in Open Syllables in CVCV and CVC
The letters i and u will be used to represent unstressed vowels in open syllables (where C = consonant, V = vowel)
The same rule applies to unstressed vowels in open syllables of poly-syllabic words except when the preceding is o or e.
In the case of dångkolo, etc. the first o results from the preceding consonant cluster ngk (cf, Rule,6B); the final o results from the preceding o through vowel harmony.
The unstressed vowels in open syllables following a sequence of consonants will be represented by e and o.
tatte, listo, ho’ye, halla, hamyo
N.B.The sounds represented by some of the vowels above may appear to be misrepresented (i.e., tatte
instead tatti). However, all of the examples under Rule 6 are unstressed vowels when their pronunciation may vary.
The “true” sounds are assumed to exist thus the vowels are stressed as in tatte-ku.*
The letter a (ae) will be used in unstressed open syllables in both the CVCV and CVCCV constructions.
The following blends/digraphs will be considered as one consonant for spelling purposes.
Rule 7: Unstressed Vowels in Closed Syllables
The vowels, e, o and a, will be used to represent the unstressed vowels in closed syllables, i.e., syllables which end with a consonant.
Rule 8: Stressed Vowels
All vowels will be used to represent stressed vowels in both closed and opened syllables when the quality of the sound in the word is clearly that which is associated with the vowels.
Rule 9: Spelling of Borrowed Words
English, Spanish and Japanese words which have been assimilated into Chamorro will be spelled according to the general rules for Chamorro spelling. The spelling will reflect the changes in pronunciation.
Recently borrowed English words will retain their English spelling and will be placed in single quotation when in print. When an English word contains Chamorro affixes, then it will be spelled according to the general rules for Chamorro spelling. Examples of the latter type are:
on a picnic
Rule 10: Consonant Alternation
When the pronunciation of consonants changes due to affixation, the spelling will be changed accordingly to represent the change in pronunciation. Most of the changes in consonants are used by the affixation of the prefix man–
man– + po´lo = mamo´lo
man– + taña = manaña´
man– + kåti = mangati
man– + såga = mañåga
man– + chålek = mañalek
man– + fegge’ = mamegge’
to make a footprint
N.B. In some dialects of Chamorro the sounds are not assimilated. For example, in Rota, it is usually mansaga instead of mañaga.
The following are examples of poly–syllabic words in which the initial consonant of the baseword is not deleted:
man– + pachakåti = manpachakåti
man– + pagamento = manpagamento
man– + pendehu = manpendehu
man– + pentura = manpentura
man– + piligru = manpiligru
The pronunciation of the first person singular possessive pronoun hu is determined by the stem to which it is attached. For example, it is pronounced tu when it follows a stem ending with t, as in pachot–tu, my mouth. It is pronounced su when it follows a stem ending with s, as in lassas–su, my skin. And, it is pronounced ku when it follows a stem that ends withh a vowel preceded by two consonants, as in leblu–ku, my book. However, for purposes of spelling, only hu and ku will be used.
Rule 11: Excresent Consonants
When additional consonants are added through affixation, they will be represented in the spelling system. The underlined in the following are examples of excrescent consonants.
n – elepblo n + måmi = lepblon–måmi, our book
n – såga n + ñaihon = såganñaihon, stay a while
g – hånao g –i = hanågue, for someone’s behalf
y – sångan i –i = sanganiyi, tell for someone
´– a ´ + ågang = å’ågang, be calling
Note: Rule 6 applies here
Rule 12: Superfluous Consonants
When the pronunciation of the consonant t before ch is predictable, and a mid-vowel follows ch, only ch will be written.
Rule 13: Geminate Consonants and syllable-final h
Although the pronunciation of geminate consonants and syllable-final h varies among different speakers of Chamorro, they will be included in the spelling.
Rule 14: Vowel Harmony
When the pronunciation of a vowel is changed due to vowel fronting, this change will be reflected in the spelling
When the syllable construction (cvc) of a word is changed through affixation, the vowel changed – raising – will be reflected in the spelling in consistence with Rule 8.
CVC – CVCV – Rule 8
fugo’ = fugu´i
toktok = toktuki
When the syllable construction of a word is changed through semantics construction the vowels change – lowering – will be reflected in the spelling in consistence with Rule 7.
CVCV – CVCVC – Rule 7
suni + n = sunen–måmi
låhi + n = låhen Maria
N.B. Vowel lowering occurs when excrescent consonant n is added to words that have CV structure at the end. (see above).*
Rule 15: Free Words
All content words (adjectives, verbs, nouns) will be written as a separate word in Chamorro.
The following function words (articles, particles, etc.) will be written as separate words in Chamorro:
from, which (relational term) woman
(located at) John
dångkolo na taotao
hu tungo´ ha´
i already know
nangga fan, un råtu
wait a minute, please
para u hånao
he will go
para bai hu hånao
i will go
Exceptions: The word gof functions as an intensifier and derivational prefix.
Ha gof li´e´i patgon.
He/ She sees the child very well.
Ha gofli´e i patgon.
He/She loves the child very much.
The words gai and tai function both as derivational prefixes and as a function words.
Tai taiguenao macho’gue-ña i che’cho’.
That’s not the way to do the work.
Tai magagu i patgon.
The child does not have clothes.
Have mercy on me.
Gai salape´ i palao’an.
The woman has money.
Function words sen, sin, tai, and gai. The spelling of these words change when they are infixized with –um – and prefixed with man–.
sen + –um– = sumen = sumen dångkolo
sin + –um– = sumin = sumin magågu
tai + –um– = tumai = tuimai salape´
gai + –um– = gumai = gumai salape´
man– + sen = mansen = mansen dångkolo
man– + sin = mansin = mansin maga´gu
man– + tai = mantai = mantai salape´
man– + gai = manggai = manggai salape´
For the purpose of spelling, these function words should not be combined with any other content word.
manggai kareta – – prefixed function manggai, content word, kareta
Rule 16: Affixes
The following list contains prefixes of Chamorro which will be written as part of the word to which they are attached:
touch each other
e– & o –esapataos
shop for shoes
fa’ – fa´na´an´
ga’ – ga´maigo´
likes to sleep
ha – hapoddong
prone to falling
hat – hattalom
ka – kama’gas
having some authority
ke – kehatsa
about to lift
ma – mataitai
was read (passive marker only)
man – manaitai yu´
I prayed ( Indirect object marker)
man – manhaspok
They are full (plural subject marker)
mi – misalape´
lots of money
to make clean
san – sanme´na
toward the front
tai – taiguenao
tak – takhilo´
way up high
talak – talakhiyong
look towards the outside
way up front
Note: The classifiers na´, ga´, gimen and iyo will be written as separate words or with a clitic when used with a possessive pronoun.
gimen – hu kafe
thing belonging to a child
The following infixes –um– and –in– will be written as part of the word:
hugåndo = humugåndo
huyong = humuyong
na´i = nina´i
magof = minagof
Reduplicated syllables and infixes will be written as a part of the word even though the resulting words may contain an unusually large number of letters. Words will be divided on the basis of the rules presented in this paper, not on the basis of length. Some examples of the long words resulting from multiple affixation and reduplication are given here:
ma’añao = manachachama’ñao
ge’hilo’ = na’lage’hilulu’i
guaiya = manmangguaguaiya
The syllable, la is frequently inserted into Chamorro words that represent sounds as in kalaskas –pangpang–,´palångpang påkpak, paspas–palaspas.
The following list contains the suffixes of Chamorro which will be written as part of a word to which they are attached. The first item on the list is called discontinuous affix. The prefix fan– is dependent upon the suffix –yan to give a complete meaning of the word.
fan– –yan = fanbinaduyan
place of deer
–yan = fama’gasiyan
place for washing
–on = guaså’on
–yon = guaiyayon
–ñaihon = såganñaihon
stay for a while
–guan = pinalakse’guan
slip of the tongue
–ña = bunitaña
–i = sangani
to tell to someone
–yi = sanganiyi
to tell to someone for someone’s behalf
–an = minigu’an
having secretions from the eye
N.B. The –an suffix has an allomorph variant –guan as in paguan ( from pao + –a) This is not the same as the –guan suffix. Other suffixes also have allomorphs variants. The most common is –gue for the suffix –i as in hanågue.
Rule 17: Clitics
The clitics will be used to show the special relationship that possessive pronoun directional words and others have with the stem to which they are attached.
our (ind.) watch
our (exc.) watch
your (plural) watch
on your way over go to
bring it on your way over here
drop it on your way there
N.B. The same mark used to represent a clitic will also be used to hyphenate syllables when breaking a word.