Monday, January 23, 2017


American universities usually have two main semesters, a fall and a spring semester, and the University of Guam follows this system.

If you wanted to translate "fall" and "spring" into Chamorro, you run into a challenge. Our language lacks terms for the SEASONS "fall" and "spring" because we lack those seasons.

But, given the great urge many people have today to promote the language and translate as much as possible into Chamorro, someone, perhaps, went ahead and looked up "spring" in a dictionary, or asked around for the word or maybe already knew of the word. Perhaps it was only for this one class offered above. I am told that others at UOG go with Fanuchånan (Rainy Season) for Fall and Fañomnagan (Sunny Season) for Spring.

What is "spring" in Chamorro?

The next thing someone should have asked is, "What kind of spring are you talking about?"

1. Water. There is, first of all, the water source called a "spring" or "fountain." The Chamorro word for that kind of spring is måtan hånom. Literally it means "face of water" and I can picture that. Just as the eyes (måta) cry tears, the earth opens its "eyes" and "cries" water (in a natural spring). There is also the word bo'bo', but that I believe refers more specifically to any burst of water from the ground, whereas måtan hånom refers to the source of water which becomes a body of water like a pool, lake or stream. Along the shore, one can often see bo'bo', fresh water leaking up through the sand and running to the sea close by.

2. Season. Second, there is the season after winter called spring. We don't have a Chamorro word for that because we don't have a season after winter, nor do we have a winter. We have twelve months of temperatures changing between 75 and 95 degrees, with many exceptions exceeding 95. If we had to talk about a season called spring, we might say primabera (if we went with the Spanish primavera) or we might use the English word "spring."  Older Chamorro dictionaries, written by people closer to the period when Spanish greatly influenced Chamorro life, include the word primabera for the season "spring."

3. Action. Then there is the verb "to spring," as in to quickly move or leap up. Chamorro has more than one word to describe that action, but ta'yok is the best word to describe a sudden leaping or springing. "To spring" can also mean to "originate," as "it sprang into being," Dokko' could be used poetically for that.

4. Object. Then there is the object "spring," as in the springs of a watch or a car. Kuetdas can be used for that (a cord wound up into a spring). Another word for the object "spring" is mueye. Both words are borrowed from Spanish.


Using måtan hånom ("spring" as in water source or fountain) to describe the season of Spring (which we don't have) would be like using the word Poddong or Tomba for the season of Fall.

If people want to invent new words or give new meanings to old words, no one can stop them. It happens all the time in languages all throughout history. But, given the state of the Chamorro language today, is it in our interest to keep things in constant flux? A Renaissance that has no brakes?

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