The University of Guam will begin work to formally document and create a repository for the CHamoru language through a grant awarded to the College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences, according to the university. The Documenting Endangered Languages grant is the first-ever National Science Foundation grant awarded to the liberal arts college and will fund a project titled “Developing CHamoru Language Infrastructure: Goggue Yan Chachalani Mo’na I Fino’-ta (Embrace and Make a Way Forward for Our Language).”
“This is a major step toward documenting key grammatical features of the CHamoru language in a formal way,” said Robert A. Underwood, co-principal investigator of the project and president emeritus of the University of Guam.
The grant will provide $275,000 toward the project, which seeks to provide an in-depth understanding of the underpinnings of the CHamoru language as spoken by remaining first-language CHamoru speakers and to develop a CHamoru cadre of language documenters drawn from university students and language educators in Guam.
The project will select 10 individuals for whom CHamoru is their first language and who are acknowledged experts in the language. Over the course of three years, these individuals will identify traditional terms and cultural practices related to five specific cultural areas. They will also be asked to produce speech samples to be archived.
The grant will build a local repository at the Micronesian Area Research Center as well as formal linguistic tagging and archiving at the University of Hawaii. The Kumision i Fino’ CHamoru will be a primary partner, maintaining a working repository on the CHamoru language as part of its sponsorship of a Language Revitalization Center.
“This project will simultaneously generate new information and collect existing data in a way that is useful for linguists, the CHamoru community, and academics studying endangered languages,” said David Ruskin, an assistant professor of linguistics at the university and co-principal investigator of the project. “The project will create an audio and video snapshot of how people actually speak and use the CHamoru language today, preserving that knowledge for future generations.”
The documentation from the project will be accessible to the community through an archive created at the Micronesian Area Research Center at the University of Guam as well as through a YouTube channel, podcast, and social media.
CHamoru is spoken by about 58,000 people and is the native and spoken language of the Chamorro people, who are the indigenous people of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, both US territories.