Thursday, August 21, 2014


Some Chamorro hymns can be confusing because some of the words in those hymns are no longer understood by modern-day speakers.

For example, I've already written about the word echongñå-mo, which has nothing to do with echong (crooked) or ñåmo (mosquito).

Here are two more examples.


In the hymn, Sångan Ånte, the line goes, "Sångan ånte i tagåhlo na misterion i attat."

Some people think the word tagåhlo means Tagalog.

"Kada måtai i Tagålo, estague' para kantån-ña."

"Every time a Filipino dies, this will be his hymn."

But the word comes from the union of the prefix tak, which means "very," and hulo', which means "high."

Tak is softened to tag, and hulo' is modified to åhlo.

So, tagåhlo means "exalted, very high, superior, lofty" and so on.

Our ancestors also used the tak + hulo' combination to form the word takhilo', which also means "very high."

We see tak used in other words, like

takpapa' = very low

taklalo' = easily angered

takkalom = deep in the inside, interior (tak + hålom)

So the hymn is saying, "Say, my soul, of the exalted mystery of the altar."


This word is used in the hymn Ma'lak na Puti'on Tåse (Bright Star of the Sea), a hymn to Mary.

The line goes, "chachalåne i batko-ko su'on mo'na gi tano'-ho ya u fåtto lalakse'."

Some people think it refers to a seamstress or tailor.

The word låkse means "to sew."  Someone who sews is a lalakse.

So someone said, "Yanggen man måtto hit gi langet, para ta fan man lålåkse ha'."

"When we get to heaven, we will just be sewing."

But the word used in this hymn is not lalakse but lalakse'.

Notice the use of the glota ( ' ) at the end.

It comes from the word guse', which means "fast, quick."

The prefix la in Chamorro means "more."

So la + tåftåf becomes lataftaf  which means "earlier."

La + chågo' bcomes lachago' which means "farther."

La + guse' becomes laguse', but this can also be shortened to lakse', both of which mean "faster."

The duplication of la (from la to lala) indicates an intensifier.  Lalakse' means "very fast."

So the line in the hymn means, "guide my boat pushing it forward to my land and it will arrive swiftly."

It's poetic language meaning, "guide my soul to heaven and I will get to heaven swiftly."

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