Wednesday, February 24, 2016


In a recent Chamorro word search, the Chamorro word for "door" was rendered petta.

The word is actually potta.

It's the Chamorro version of the Spanish word puerta, meaning "door" or outdoor "gate."

When we add the definite article i, meaning "the," the O in potta changes to E.

Potta, when the word stands alone or without the definite article.

But i petta, with the definite article.

Door. Potta. The door. I petta.

A big door. Un dångkulon potta. Or, un dångkulo na potta

The height of the door. I linekkå'-ña i petta.

This change is vowel is called "vowel fronting."

It is often said that vowel fronting usually does not occur with Spanish loan words.

Thus, bola (ball) is still i bola. Not i bela. Otherwise, you can end up at the baseball game rather than at the wake. Small consolation to the bereaved. Bola is "ball" or "baseball game." Bela means "funeral wake." Both are taken from the Spanish.

I todo ha' ha na' siña (the all-powerful) is still i todo ha' ha na' siña. (Todo is a Spanish word)

Yet, there are almost always exceptions to every rule.


A mentioned, potta is a Spanish loan word, yet Chamorros apply vowel fronting to the word.

The following are also Spanish loan words, and vowel fronting occurs here, too.

Hoben. I heben. Young. The young.

Kollat. I kellat. Fence. The fence.

Popble. I pepble. Poor. The poor.

Potbos. I petbos. Dust. The dust.


It is understandable why the word search game above gave us petta, instead of potta, for "door."

It is common for many people to drop the definite article with some words.

If you said these two sentences, with or without the definite article in parentheses, no one would look at you twice. Either way is fine in ordinary speech.

(I) Pettan san me'na na gaige. It's at the front door.

Maolek (i) ilu-mo. You have a good head.  (Ulu is the word for "head")

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