A visiting linguist shares her work regarding CHamoru grammatical rules, saying that a 50-year-old reference source for CHamoru grammar needs refining and updating to reflect trends in linguistics.

Dr. Sandra Chung, a celebrated linguist was on Guam to discuss her take on CHamoru grammar rules. While the discussion was highly technical, Dr. Robert Underwood was in attendance, and shares more about grammar rules for the native tongue

"A set of grammatical rules exists already," noted Underwood. "It's just they're kind of waiting to be formatted, clarified and so in the history of the CHamoru language, there's been a series of grammars the last done about 50 years, 45-50 years ago and that's basically the one that we're using today."

Underwood is referencing Topping and Dungca's "Chamorro Reference Grammer" - what has been the go-to for indigenous grammar rules - but Chung, in her discussion, says Topping and Dungca's work needs updating.

"Dr. Chung has been working on her own reference grammar and it's just formatted differently and I think clarifying it and also with more recent findings in the field of linguistics, it's a little bit complicated, but sometimes people think that a set of grammatical rules is somehow going to change the language - it's supposed to reflect the language," he clarified.

Underwood and Chung both shared how CHamoru is unique in that the use of affixes - which are placed at the beginning, end or in the body of a word to modify its meaning. Examples of CHamoru affixes are -yi, -fa', -ha, man and ma - just to name a few.

"The whole series of affixes and there's eighteen of them in CHamoru are used to create different forms of rules and nouns and you can take a verb and turn it into a noun, you can take a noun and turn it into a verb simply by modifying it through an affix. That's real creative CHamoru," he said.

We asked Underwood to explain how affixes enable CHamoru words to fluidly change from nouns to verbs - something that is unique to our language. "For example, if I said 'I rode a Ford over here' - you can say in CHamoru 'Fi-nord yu magi'. I've literally Forded my way here. Which you can say in English, but it's very awkward. But in CHamoru, it's very natural and it shows you really know your CHamoru," he said.

"'I hit the ball' in CHamoru you change the verb 'hit' in order to indicate whether it's a specific ball or just any ball. Whereas in English, you say 'I hit the ball' or 'I hit a ball.' In CHamoru you say 'hu panak i bola' or you can say 'mamanakyu bola' - it's an entirely different verb form," he said.

Chung says her research is 80% complete and she plans on presenting her final findings on Guam.