Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Linachi grammar

I've already gotten some wonderfully annoying responses from my last post where I was complaining about the seriously undiscussed contributions of fluent speakers of Chamorro to the loss of the language.

I should be use to this sort of thing by now, after all, each time I publish a zine and there is Chamorro somewhere in it, I get a flood of emails from concerned citizens who take from their busy schedules of saving the Chamorro people and language, to tell me all the things wrong or bad about my Chamorro. If these were actually mistakes or typoes, then the correcting might actually be welcome, but it usually never is. (oh and if there is a typo, its treated as if I don't know how to speak the language, according to one speaker who went back into my writings from like years ago, he confronted me with "sinangan Maria" and told me he had no idea what this meant. Well if he had noticed that it was a typo and not my actual grammar, maybe he could have saved us both some grief. Because if you see it as typo instead of some pathological error, then its really really easy to figure out what it means.).(I'm not perfect though, and I know very well that my Chamorro is very rough. But properness has never mattered much to me in anything, so why should language be any different?)

The emails always let me know that they just want to help and make sure I speak the language and write the language properly, at which point they proceed to push on me their personal preferences for Chamorro language all the while slashing apart mine.

There was one incident recently which cemented in my head that when people talk about proper grammar, be very very wary. Be wary of anyone who says that they are teaching you to speak the proper way, because it just might not be so at all, and the problem is, if you are learning, you have no way of really knowing if they are actually helping you or just don't like the way you talk.

This incident I'm about to relate just made it clear to me, that grammar needs to be rethought, because there are too many inconsistencies for someone to just say "here's proper grammar."

In the last zine I put out in July, there was an article there on i difunton Angel Santos who passed away in 2003. I titled it Fanhasso Si Anghet.

To date I've received emails from more than a dozen different Chamorro linguistic good samaritans telling me that Fanhasso Si Anghet is incorrect. Based on this fact alone, one might think, well then saying Fanhasso Si Anghet must be incorrect, all those people are telling you its wrong. Nope, sorry, its not that simple.

True all the emails I got did tell me it was wrong, but the emails also gave me four different ways of saying it "correctly" most of them insisting that the one way they said it was the correct way.

Accordingly, fanhasso Si Anghet was supposed to be each one of these alone and all of them at the same time.

Hasso Si Anghet
Fanhasso As Anghet
Fanmanhasso Si Anghet
Fanmanhasso As Anghet

(and naturally I was given English translations as to what each meant, and people's translations of them and what they were supposed to me, of course varied a great deal. Some saying that this was plural, others saying it wasn't. Some saying that this was an imperative, others saying this one is the imperative. (not using the word imperative, but saying its a command)).

Why do people cling to certain grammatical rules when there is so much diversity in the language? It makes no sense to me, except selfishness and the love of correcting people. Each person must have gotten a kick out of telling me that this one way, or these two ways were correct and the way I had said it was not. But then someone else would tell me the exact opposite.

It must take alot of denial to say that there are particular proper ways of speaking Chamorro, thus denying these inconsistencies. Or you can do as most people do and say, "you can say that, but its not proper," which of course if you actually think about it, makes no sense whatsoever.

I have so many problems with this mentality. Because this mentality is very much colonial, because it relies on the idea that our language is dictated by some abstract principles and not the people who actually speak it. So often people tell me that a way of saying something is just completely wrong, so I often ask, how many people do I have to show you that use this way of speaking before it right? Before its proper? Does it have to be like this? Is our language supposed to be a pissing match? I should hope not.

To end this rant, the most aggrivating thing about this nonsense, is that I get more emails about grammar and spelling issues, then the actual content of the zine on a regular basis. Its good to know that there are people out there preserving our language and making sure its "proper." Now if only they could get around to actually teaching the language to someone, then we'd be in good shape. I can say this though, because the people who do hassle me, they are never actual teachers of Chamorro. They are always people who talk endlessly about what we can do, but you rarely see them doing anything but talking. People who are on the front lines of language transmission, they probably realize that there is more important work to be done then hassling me about every tiny little nit picking detail.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I just want to say, if you would listen to people with your ears rather than your mouth, maybe you'd understand what they're talking about...

Even though you say that the 4 ways you wrote down conflict with each other, they are all valid ways of writing it... but they all have slightly different meanings.
Hasso si Anghet = Remember Angel (to a single person)
Fanhasso as Anghet = Think about Angel (to a single person)
Fanmanhasso si Anghet = Remember Angel (to a group of people)
Fanmanhasso as Anghet = Think about Angel (to a group of people)

Fanhasso si Anghet doesn't make sense to a Chamorro speaker. It's like saying in English Think (then abrubtly changing the subject of the sentence) Angel.

I know that you won't even consider any of these things, because apparantly, you have already mastered the Chamorro language, and there is no way you could ever be wrong...

Anonymous said...

I just want to say, if you would listen to people with your ears rather than your mouth, maybe you'd understand what they're talking about...

Even though you say that the 4 ways you wrote down conflict with each other, they are all valid ways of writing it... but they all have slightly different meanings.
Hasso si Anghet = Remember Angel (to a single person)
Fanhasso as Anghet = Think about Angel (to a single person)
Fanmanhasso si Anghet = Remember Angel (to a group of people)
Fanmanhasso as Anghet = Think about Angel (to a group of people)

Fanhasso si Anghet doesn't make sense to a Chamorro speaker. It's like saying in English Think (then abrubtly changing the subject of the sentence) Angel.

I know that you won't even consider any of these things, because apparantly, you have already mastered the Chamorro language, and there is no way you could ever be wrong...

Sahuma Minagahet said...

If you read what I said, different people translated the same sentences into difference things. Meaning people told me that a sentence such as "fanhasso as Anghet" would be either a plural or a singular audience. You have a tendency to not actually read anything I write down, and so it really really wastes both of our time when you decide to lecture without knowing what the hell you or I am talking about.

Anonymous said...

Most fluent Chamorro speakers are not grammarians, they try to explain something but their explanation ends up contradicting itself... That doesn't mean that the Chamorro language doesn't have rules. It just means that a "linguistic good samaritan," as you put it, couldn't word it to meet your cha'cha' needs...

BTW, I've read what you've writen and found it to be lacking in support. You claim that most of the "corrections" people have given were merely personal preference in language, but how so? The only example you gave is "Fanhasso as Anghet." But that only showed that you were too caught up in your own preconceived notions about Chamorro to consider anything else but your own "personal preference" for Chamorro.

Things like "Fanhasso si Anghet" vs. "Hasso si Anghet" are not "personal preference." "Personal preference" would be "Hanao magi" vs. "Sigi magi."

Oh, and the reason you probably get more e-mails concerning the Chamorro language is probably because no one wants to argue with you on the points you're making. Not necessarily because they agree with you... but probably because you send out the feeling that everything you say must be true. Eventually, if you keep up this ranting about how you shouldn't be corrected in your Chamorro because it's your personal preference to it, no one will be concerened with you anymore. Even if you make obvious mistakes in Chamorro, they wouldn't bother to correct you after a while, because inaktaktak hao yan ti ya-mu ma sangani...

Sahuma Minagahet said...

Of all the annoying people I've met recently, you have the be the most pathetic of all (if this is Gadao, and I assume this is).

First of all you obviously don't read anything I write, because if you did then you wouldn't write half of the things you do and you'd save us both some time and energy.

You called me chacha' about language? You have brought tears to my eyes with your silliness and lameness, I guess I should thank you for that. If anything, I am probably one of the least chacha' people about language, which means if you want to speak a certain way I won't impose my own way of speaking on you.

Chamorro has rules, but all rules have exceptions, verbs such as "hasso" being an obvious example. I am perfectly aware of these rules, but what you refuse to acknowledge are the exceptions which take place constantly all the time. And me? I'm just someone who doesn't mind exceptions to rules.

One rule being that you do not use vowel harmony on Spanish loan words. The problem with this is that we already use vowel harmony on Spanish loan words, especially when using -in-. For example, komprende, you don't say kinomprende, you say kinemprende. So, I'm fine with this exception, and so if someone wants to use vowel harmony on something else, great! But I won't tell anyone that you do not use vowel harmony on Spanish loan words, because its a rule and that's it. Which is basically what you and others have said. (well you said that it wouldn't be spelled like that if it was correct, which seriously made me laugh my ass off once again.)

I told you long ago that you need to step out of your comfort zone for Chamorro and you obviously never did. Because only then would you have been able to read and understand anything I've written.

And please please stop lecturing me, it gets very annoying. I could have stopped to lecture you when you first came onto the board, especially about your Chamorro spelling, which doesn't conform to "proper" orthography (although you decided to criticize me about my spelling, I couldn't believe that)

I said go and speak whatever you want, I'm not going to stop you. Teach whatever you want, and I will do the same.

But you are the obesessive one about this stuff, I mean come on. How many times can you repeat yourself on "fanhasso Si Anghet?" I know what all of those things mean, or are supposed to mean. I continually mention that because its a perfect example of how much variation there is in the language. If you thought more about this, then maybe you wouldn't be so annoying.

For example, as evident from the emails I received people conceive of what fanhasso means differently. Some said that it is an imperative (fan+hasso) while others gave it a concertized meaning similar to hasso. So for some I did too much, for others not enough, and for some I was just wrong. If you actually paid attention to the ways that people speak then you would see these smalls things. I collect them, write them down and remember them, because for me that's the beauty of the language, not your uniform "proper" form, which is abstracted away from the way people talik. But for me its recognizing the beautiful exceptions to rules and the differences in the ways people talk and think about their language.

Your comment that "there is no way I could ever be wrong" shows the limits of your intelligence. If that is what you have to resort to to make yourself feel better or make you feel like you've scored a big debate point, then I really really do pity you. Read what I say, I have hardly mastered Chamorro, and I will openly admit to it, but what pisses me off so much are people such as yourself who will say they haven't mastered Chamorro, but then proceed to lecture as if they have. I have been wrong many many many times, and will continue to be wrong many many many times and if you caught something which was a real error, then I will admit to it and correct myself. But if you pay any attention to anything I say, my point has always been that it is not that simple, and people such as yourself are the ones who really really fuck things up.

Why do you get so defensive about this? I've already told you why I do, but what about you? Is it because you're one of the beautiful defenders of proper Chamorro? Don't make me laugh, when you are out there actually ensuring language survival as opposed to lecturing me all the time maybe I'd give you that, but at present, you have done nothing to make me believe that you are much use to the Chamorro people.

Good lord, how much of my time and your time have you wasted with this? What is it that you want me to admit? Would you like me to admit that my Chamorro is not perfect? Sure, esta. Hell I'll even say it sucks, magof? Can you move on now? Please? I get emails from morons like you all the time, and I'd really rather argue with people who have more intelligent or interesting things to say.

I'm really really sorry that it came to this, but you made it clear early on that you wouldn't read or listen to anything I said. I have no problem with the way you speak Chamorro, and I have no problem with you passing on the language as you see fit, but for example, if you are teaching it to someone, you would do better if you did actually think about some of the things that I've said.

For example, if someone is learning vowel harmony, don't say that you either use it for all words or you only use it for non-Spanish words. Offer the learner the choice. Because there is a rule as you've made clear, but there are also a number of exceptions to that rule, and so it would be your preference if you imposed on that learner the rule of "don't use it for Spanish loan words."

Anonymous said...

Sahuma, maybe you should take some of your own advice and actually read what others write. I never said that you were chacha' about the Chamorro language. I said you have very chacha' needs in it. When I said it I was refering to how you were complaining about the difference in explanations of the several different "corrections" to your statement, just because people couldn't word it so that you were completely satisfied with their explanation. I'm sorry if I confused you as to how I was calling you chacha'. I know that you are not chacha' when regarding how the language is spoken.

But do you enjoy putting words into other people's mouths? Because I never said that "it would be spelled like that if it was correct." I was agreeing with you on how the language is changing. I said that while people might say something like "i kistumbre" or "nalang hu'" the writen language still preserves the old ways of "i kostumbre" and "nalang yu'." I don't think that I gave those particular examples, but I said that the writen language doesn't spell things the way you might say them in modern Chamorro. I wasn't saying that writen Chamorro is the way Chamorro should be or exactly how it is spoken today. How is that even when I am on your side on this issue, you end up trying to argue against me still?

The reason I get so defensive about stuff like "fanhasso si..." is because it's not only my arguements for the language, but the arguements of several of the man amko'. When I first saw it, I wasn't sure of it (even though I wouldn't personally say it like that, I was trying to give you the benefit of the doubt). I started to ask around, I actually asked around 4 different man amko', none of them said that "fanhasso si..." made sense. I was just letting you know what I have learned from my elders, but you insist on trying to degrade their take on the language because it was coming through me. You say crap like, "people... who will say they haven't mastered Chamorro, but then proceed to lecture as if they have" without even thinking about where their knowledge comes from.

From the very start of our conversations, I was trying to offer an explanation as to why people were saying some of the things they said. I don't understand why you started out with the stance that all people who try to give reasonings for things (opposed to what you say) must be stupid and trying to make you speak like them. I'm not trying to make you speak like me. While I did give you some personal anecdotes I was only trying to present a different point of view to you.

I shouldn't have said "if you would listen with your ears..." because I still hold the position that I do not have animosity towards you. I have gotten very frustrated in trying to let you know what others are thinking (my own opinions included at times), but still do not want to insult your intelligence or knowledge about Chamorro. I hope we can continue to discuss things without having to resort to personal insults...

Sahuma Minagahet said...

I apologize Gadao that I did resort to personal insults, but I really don't think that this conversation can continue. You have certain perceptions of how a language works which make it impossible. All we'll do is run around in circles each citing evidence which proves us correct. Saying I asked people and they said this "..." and then you saying you asked people and they said the opposite. It is an empty endeavor, you are not going to convince me of anything and I'm not going to convince you.

For example, you've said that most speakers of Chamorro aren't educated in Chamorro and thus can't teach it in the way I would hope. But that's not true at all, that's the consequence of the language being passed down in poor ways and people have colonized perceptions of what Chamorro is supposed to be as a language.

Look at the ways in which people use Chamorro? Its not a language which people use for anything and everything, its mostly relegated to certain social spheres, kicking back, partying, religious activities. This isolation of Chamorro to only certain topics and certain spheres is part of the mindset where we don't think our language is a real language. This goes far beneath whether or not we say "Chamorro is a real language" but our belief and our ability to act on that belief. If we truly believe it is a real language then it should be used for everything, not just kicking back.

This goes into how people trasmit the language and how its treated. We constantly treat Chamorro as a very very very static thing and very limited, which is what I can't stand. The fact that Chamorro language is felt to be a think used for non-serious topics always makes it a thing to be transmitted in non-serous ways. So people don't even reflect on their language, because for them its not really a language.

The fact of the matter is, contrary to popular belief, any fluent speaker of a language can explain its grammar. Can explain and understand the processes of making words. Its hard wired into our brains, if people say they don't know how, then there are other factors involved. They don't want to explain it, or they don't really believe that they know what they know.

But because so many Chamorros deep down don't really see it as a real language, they never get to this point of reflection. A word is a word and that's it.

If you see a handful of words with a similar prefix, then the prefix will gain a meaning based on its differences and similarities to other words. So if Tan Jose knows the words epanglao, eguihan, e'ayuyu', and others, they may not use the word prefix, but they will know what that "e-" does and can do to other words.

The manamko' have this, but there are other ideological influences which keep them from trasmitting this, or other people who just don't think to ask, because they assume that the ability to speak about grammar is a modern thing.

This may be a very unpopular or disrespectful thing to say, but the current linguistic state of affairs on Guam, means that regardless of any sentimentality we might have, the previous generations of Chamorro speakers are bad teachers. The fact that my grandmother was a good teacher to me, doesn't mean that I should forget that she didn't teach my mother to speak Chamorro.

There are three reasons why I make this point, all of which point to larger issues of colonization, but does not by any means absolve the culpability the older generations have.

First: they have progressively narrowed the places of life where Chamorro is supposed to be used (for example, before World War II, a group of elite Chamorros published a newspaper in which they would discuss social and economic issues in English and in Chamorro) that sort of thing is unlikely to happen nowadays because of the way Chamorro has been relegated to only certain activities and thus if you try to discuss those issues more than one person will say "let's just do this in English, its easier" or just switch to English. Next in my opinion they did not transmit the oral aspects of the language as exemplified in kantan Chamoritta, which would have kept the language alive. As those songs were replaced by American tunes, the oral and fluid aspects of the language were slowly taken out as well and not passed down, instead leaving us with very rigid ideas of how Chamorro is supposed to be spoken. (for example, from listening to not just old Chamorros, but old Chamorros speaking about older Chamorro or how people who were considered exceptional in Chamorro spoke, I get the sense that saying something like "unprudent" is incorrect didn't really exist in Chamorro then. The rules were less rigid and thus prefixes weren't only fixed on certain words but more open to newer word formation)
Third, they just did not teach it. They kept it from their children and grandchildren, and despite the changes that have taken place in Guam, people continue to not teach the language. There are so many people out there who speak great Chamorro who are not teaching it to their children and have not taught it to their children. Are we just supposed to act like this is fine? Its not a big deal? Language loss is very much the fault of those who can speak Chamorro, always blaming it on the "kids" is just another way of scapegoating themselves from the fact that generations of Chamorros were bad at passing on the language.

This of course doesn't make them bad people or anything, but what bothers me is how people just continue to ignore the ideological constraints that they dealt with and have passed on to people which continues to constrain Chamorro.

Don't feel the need to let me know what other people are saying about the language, I already know. I am fully aware that most people react badly to what I am saying, but that's perfectly fine with me. I am interested in protecting what I love about Chamorro, and so for me that doesn't mean fixing or defending certain grammatical forms (which is what people usually accuse me of, that I'm defending bad grammar). What as I've said, I want to do is keep Chamorro an open language, which means not defending certain grammars but defending people's rights to different ways of speaking.

What has been lost in the way we see our language is that its supposed to be "our" language, not my language. So when people tell me that creativity has to wait until after they are fluent and know the grammar, I laugh, because that is just not how people learn languages at all. There is always creativity at every step, that's why we speak a language differently and not uniformly. The differences come out in the learning, not after someone has learned sufficiently to be dubbed fluent. That simple mentality has killed off our language so much, and practically no one is willing to admit to this point or even discuss it.

It is not that you must attain my level of language before you can have your own language, but I will tell you what I know in order that we can share what is our language.

I'd intended to this be a short comment, but as usual got carried away.

Even though I've brought out alot of different points, I still feel that it would be pointless to discuss this issue any further.

This doesn't mean that we can't have discussions on other topics, but intensely discussing the language like this is obviously useless. It just makes us antagonistic towards each other and then we have trouble reading what each other says and we just get progressively more and more defensive/offensive.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you that we have fundamental disagreements on certain topics. Putting those aside, I agree with you on many other topics.
You pretty much restated some of the stuff that I posted on the forum, and I'm glad that we can agree on a few things.

I would really like to see Chamorro be used for more than just "fiesta talk" and used for everything in life. I usually try to talk only in Chamorro to my relatives, regardless of the topic. The only issue is the lack of words in Chamorro. I'm curious as to how you think we should add words to Chamorro. Should we take more words from Spanish? "Chamorroize" Enlglish words? Or just make up words that sound Chamorro so we can use them? (this is not sarcastic in the slightest, I'm actually curious) I'm only talking about brand new concepts and inventions that Chamorro doesn't have words for.

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