Thursday, October 17, 2013

I Fino'-ta

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The Chamorro language is as old as we are. It is an Austronesian language, which means it bear similarities to many languages throughout the Pacific and Southeast Asia. It connects us to those cultures even up until today. Here below is a short history of our language.

Gof ti kabales este, lao para Hamyo ni' taitiningo' put i lenguahi yan i estoria-na, este un tinana' ha'. Puede ha' ya-mu, yan nina'malago' hao nu mas. 

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In Ancient times the ability to use the Chamorro language creatively distinguished one above all others. At large gatherings, those who could recall in vivid details the glorious history of their family, twist phrases to make an opponent seem silly in debate, or create in a spontaneous moment a song that would evoke all sort of emotions, were considered to be the height of Chamorro society.

The first grammar book for the Chamorro language was created by Pale' San Vitores. He became fluent in Chamorro and used this to his advantage in the early days of Spanish colonization. 
From the Spanish, the Americans, to the Japanese the language has always offered a sanctuary for the Chamorro people, a means of expressing themselves, whether it be their frustration or finding their freedom.

The Kantan Chamorrita or spontaneous singing style was a integral part of how Chamorros passed the time and interacted with each other. Through their songs in the language Chamorros could broach topics, such as love or sexuality, that the Catholic priests had made taboo. 
The Americans tried consistently during the prewar period to ban the Chamorro language, however Chamorros refused to give it up. In the 19th and 20th centuries the Catholic Church began to play a central role in preserving the Chamorro language, by publishing prayer books in Chamorro. At a time when the US Navy was prohibiting the Chamorro language and compelling Chamorros to give it up, the Catholic Church and in particular Pale’ Roman De Vera were encouraging them to hold on to it.

During the Japanese period, Chamorros used their language as a means to mock the Japanese, sometimes to their faces. Chamorros would poke fun at the Japanese to their faces in Chamorro, but be smiling and appear friendly the entire time. The Japanese, not able to understand assumed the words must be respectful.

During the Spanish, Japanese and American periods the language remained primarily oral, although it was beginning to be published. The oldest recorded instance we have of a document written in the Chamorro language is from 1798. Because of the lack of formal education and orthography, the spelling was at times creative and other times modeled after the Spanish. This has caused some problems when Chamorros themselves tried to organize a more systematic and standardized way of spelling Chamorro words. 
Although today there are efforts to use the language in its pre-colonial form, without the influence of Spanish or English words, the Chamorro language as it is today represents well the history of the Chamorro people. It contains their ancient Austronesian elements that have persisted for thousands of years. It contains the influences of those who have claimed the lands of Chamorros and in many ways attacked their language and culture. The language is a symbol of the survival, beautiful scars and all, of the Chamorro people.

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