Monday, July 18, 2011


A local cultural association (Ginen i Hila' i Maga'taotao Siha) recently put on a wonderful story-telling presentation.  Members re-told the stories heard originally from people living before, during and after World War II.  It was delightful for me to see and hear Severina Atalig's performance, in which she portrays a man from Luta (Rota) telling the story of life on our neighboring island during Japanese times.  Listen for strong elements of the Rotanese pronunciation I enjoy hearing.

People seem to fixate on only one trait of the Rotanese way of speaking Chamorro : the sing-song accent.  But this is not prominent at all in Severina's delivery.  What is noticeable in her speech is the Rotanese use of the "a" instead of the "å" which is said by Guam and Saipan Chamorros.  The "a" sounds like "apple," whereas the "å" sounds like "awesome."

Severina says, for example, "pa'go" whereas Guam and Saipan Chamorros say "på'go."  Some other words to look out for is when she pronounces : klase, katbon, tangantangan, ma guaddok, ma apapase, la'la', tatanom, brabo, grasias, tatte, mama'nanague, hatsa, salappe, libiano - all said with the "a."

Luta Chamorros do say the "å," for example, when she says "papåya."

I knew only one woman in Humåtak (Umatac) who had the old, pre-war Humåtak accent, which, like Luta, was sing-song.  She has passed away now.  But both Luta and Humåtak were less overwhelmed by Hispanic and Filipino immigrants during Spanish times, so I believe these two places conserved the original Chamorro accent.  So did, perhaps, Pågo, Inalåhan and Malesso'.  But in the case of Pågo, that village shut down and the few remnants moved to Hagåtña and Sinajånña.  Inalåhan and Malesso' both were said to have had the sing-song accent before the war, but these two villages were also settled by many Hagåtña people in the 1880s, so I think the original accent weakened.  Saipan was mainly settled by Hagåtña Chamorros in the late 1800s, so they, too, carried with them there the Hagåtña accent.

So, in my opinion, when I hear the Luta accent, or when I heard Tan Ana's accent in Humåtak, I am hearing the sound of my ancestors, or at least something close to it.

En Español

Representación de cuentos dada en el idioma chamorro donde se oye el acento chamorro de la isla de Rota.

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