The Chamorro language across islands and generations (CNMI, 2014)

In September, 2014, we gave a series of community presentations in the CNMI at:

  • Ufisinan Mayot Luta/Office of the Mayor on Rota
  • American Memorial Park on Saipan
  • Tinian Public Library

Our goal was both to talk about some of the generational and geographic differences in how Chamorro is understood, based on the experiments we conducted in Summer 2013 (more details below).

Slides: The Chamorro language across islands and generations
Video: Part 1, Part 2 (Rota Mayor’s Office)

Many thanks to the office of Melchior T. Mendiola and Tita A. Hocog on Rota, The NMI Humanities Council and Eulalia S. Villagomez on Saipan, and Florine M. Hofschneider and Gineftao i Manmo’na on Tinian for their assistance in planning these presentations. Special thanks to Ike Mendiola of Rota for camera work and video editing.

How does the Chamorro language differ across islands and across generations? Everyone knows there are differences in the Chamorro words people know and how they pronounce them, but what about the grammar?  In this presentation, we talk about some of our recent psycholinguistic experiments on Saipan, Tinian and Rota. In these experiments, we investigated how people understand relative clauses. Unlike English, which has only one word order for relative clauses, Chamorro has three. This makes Chamorro a good language for investigating how speakers comprehend complex sentences. Our results reveal some interesting linguistic differences across the three islands, but they also show that speakers’ ability to understand relative clauses is fully maintained across the generations. Finally, we ask for the community’s help in identifying other differences in Chamorro grammar that we could investigate.