Friday, February 19, 2016


Not too many years ago, it was a cause for chuckling among younger people to hear an elderly Chamorro matron ask a new face, "Who's your name?"

Many older Chamorros, when switching to English, were still thinking in Chamorro. In Chamorro, we ask a person  "Who is your name?" "Håye i na'ån-mo?"

This sounds strange to English speakers from abroad, but it's all a matter of perspective.

The fact is that different languages have different ways of asking for a person's name.

In many European languages, one asks "What do you call yourself?"

In Turkish, there are two different questions regarding someone's name. Asking for someone's first name is expressed differently from asking that same person's last name.

In Chuukese and Saipan Carolinian, one asks "Where is your name?"

For Chamorros, a person's name answers the question WHO (håye) s/he is.


But, for Chamorros, a thing's name answers the question WHAT (håfa) it is.

So, when asking the name of a thing or a place, the question is "What is its name?" "Håfa i na'ån-ña?"

Håfa i na'ån-ña este na lugåt? What is the name of this place?

Håfa i na'ån-ña ayo na klåsen håyo? What is the name of that kind of wood?

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