Chamorro is a Malayo-Polynesian language of Guam and the Northern Marianas; for a language spoken by fewer than 100,000 people, it’s got an impressive web presence. There’s, with forums, a library of texts related to Chamorro history, recipes, and of course a language section, which has the following charming disclaimer:

About the spelling—well, we’re at a loss about this one! Hopefully some day the Chamorus of Guam and the Chamorros of the Northern Marianas will agree on a single standard for spelling Chamorru words and we can all breathe a big sigh of relief. Until then, we’ll just take the middle road and use whatever spelling we feel like at the particuliar moment of writing—this way, no matter what school of spelling you subscribe to, you’ll at least find some words spelled correctly and everyone should be at least partially happy! Oh yeah, about the pronunciation—you may recognize it as the “Pre-War Tamuning” dialect, or you may not. As Herman says, “I could say it just fine until I started thinking about it!” has a Chamorro language site with “short and easy lessons on the Chamorro language.” And the Chamorro Bible site has scanned copies of bilingual Bibles, along with audio files read by a woman with a clear, pleasant voice—try the start of the gospel of John (you can choose mp3 or RealAudio, for streaming or download).

You know, I’ve had a copy of Donald Topping’s Chamorro Reference Grammar for thirty years, and this is the first time I’ve really looked at it. Glad I hung on to it.


  1. I’m amazed by the radical phonological changes in comparison to Philippine languages that some Spanish words have undergone in Chamorro.
    In Tagalog, for example, “libro” shifted stress to the last syllable. But in Chamorro, the word is “lepblo.” “Papel” is the same in Tagalog but “pappet” in Chamorro.
    Of course, Tagalog has its share of radical changes. asikaso, umpisa, sugal, sambalilo, and dasal for hacer caso, empezar, jugar, sombrero, and rezar.

  2. I was trying to come up with something witty and/or comedic to add about their ‘charming disclaimer’. But really, all I can say is: Holy crap that’s funny!
    The interesting thing is, however, that this indecision on the part of two speech communities is a sign that an orthographic accord is imminent. Much effort will be required to reach a consensus, following which an established standard will undoubtedly occasion longevity and vitality for the Chamborro language(s). Change is good *nod*.

  3. … err… Chamorro, rather.

  4. The Chamorro “community” is one of the largest linguistic/ethnic groups in Micronesia, but their language is among the most endangered, despite all the money put into revival projects. Of all the Micronesian dictionaries and grammars compiled during the 1970s (and a little before and after), Chamorro is one of the few still being reprinted. (Pohnpeian is another.)
    I don’t know what it is about Micronesian orthographies, but none but Pohnpeian seem to have won wide acceptance.

  5. “The interesting thing is, however, that this indecision on the part of two speech communities is a sign that an orthographic accord is imminent.”

  6. What is Caxton?

  7. Caxton:
    “The English language was changing rapidly in Caxton’s time, and the works he was given to print were in a variety of styles and dialects. Caxton was a technician rather than a writer, and often faced dilemmas of how much to standardise the language in the books he printed. (He actually wrote about this subject in at least one of his books.) His successor Wynkyn de Worde faced similar problems. However Richard Pynson, who started printing in London in 1491 or 1492, was a more accomplished stylist; he also favoured Chancery Standard, the language of London government. Pynson therefore helped to nudge the printed language towards standardisation.”

  8. i live i n dededo ingam.
    gam is no good

  9. It took me a minute, but I think I’ve deciphered Hi’s comment: for “gam” read “Guam.”

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