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By Gemma Q. Casas

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (April 25, 2001 - Marianas Variety/PINA Nius Online)---After studying the Chamorro language for 20 years, a linguist has written the first book ever about the correct usage of the Marianas language.

Professor Sandra Chung of the University of California presented the book to officials of the Board of Language Policy Commission and the Joeten Kiyu Public Library.

"My aim was always to write a book about the Chamorro language to be able to bring it to the attention of linguists in America and all over the world," Chung said.

Over the past 27 years since she first heard about the Chamorro people, Chung had received three grants from the National Science Foundation to help her in her historic effort.

"It’s a very complicated language and different from English. It really reveals something about the human language in general not just about the Chamorro people," she said.

"In my book, I discussed two things about the Chamorro language. One is about the sentence structure. The word order in a sentence is usually verb-subject-object, not subject-verb-object like in English," she added.

Chung visited Saipan in 1978 to begin her research. She would stay here for almost one month and then return to California.

Since 1978, she has made 10 trips to Saipan to study the Chamorro language.

Since the Northern Marianas became part of the U.S. over 20 years ago, the number of indigenous-descent people who can speak either Carolinian or Chamorro has since dwindled, especially among those born between 1980 to the present.

About 500 copies of the book have already been printed and sold in the Untied States. Several copies were also donated and distributed here.

Chung, who can speak seven languages including Latin and French, developed her fascination with the Chamorro language in 1974 when she became friends with Northern Marianas residents studying abroad.

Tomokane said the declining use of the Chamorro language among locals should not be tolerated because it is part of their unique ancestral heritage.

"This book would help us make the Chamorro language more evident in our daily lives. It should be maintained even though we believe that English is more important for us to learn," she said.

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