Tuesday, July 26, 2016


The Malesso' Bell Tower

Now how does one say "bell tower" in Chamorro?

If you go down to Malesso' and look for the signs at the bell tower, you will become very confused.

You will see it called Kampanåyu, with a U.

And you will also see it spelled Kampanåya, with an A.

Even the village name gets spelled two different ways. With an ending U, or with an ending O.

So which is it?

Well, the word is borrowed from Spanish and the Spanish word for bell tower is campanario. The word for "bell" itself is campana, which we also borrowed in Chamorro - kampåna.

Since the Spanish word campanario involved the Western Y sound in the last two syllables - RIO - the Chamorro is going to have difficulties with that since we don't have that Western Y sound. We change it to our own DZ sound represented by the Western Y letter. Thus, Yigo and Yoña are pronounced Dzigo and Dzoña.

Check out these comparisons :








So, kampanåya is a mistake. Kampanåyo is correct.

Someone on the staff didn't know this well enough to realize the mistake.

Funny thing is, the older wooden sign, with the correct spelling, was there and is still there! Nobody noticed.


This is part of the U-vs-O debate.

Chamoru? Or Chamorro?

Guåhu? Or guåho?

Since Chamorros are (in the main) used to writing in Chamorro, no system is going to be easily accepted by the great majority of people. An official orthography exists, but the majority of people writing Chamorro do not access it. Many who do have disagreements with the official orthography.

Of the small number of people who write in Chamorro (compared to the vast number of people who hardly ever write in Chamorro), many will write it as they hear it.

And the fact is that some Chamorros favor the U sound when they speak. Listen to them. 

But a good number of other people, especially the older ones, favor the O sound when they speak. Listen to them.

I'm in favor of allowing people to spell it as they speak it, for the time being, because I don't think we have arrived yet at a commonly accepted orthography. We have an official one. But not a commonly accepted one yet.

But there is a bigger difference between a U and an A, compared to a U and an O.

Malessu'/Malesso' has a minor difference between them, in my opinion, compared to kampanåyu and kampanåya.

Call a guy fulånu is the same as calling him fulåno.

But call him fulåna and there may be trouble.

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