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'Tam-Tam' means to taste

By Junhan B. Todeno

SAIPAN, CNMI (Mariana Variety, Mar 13, 2009) - The members of the group tasked to revise the Chamorro dictionary have "discovered" words not used very often by locals.

Aging Office Director Howard Macaranas and Ben Borja agreed there’s a need to dig deeper into the "essence and beauty" of the Chamorro language which has been taken for granted by the new generation. They mentioned the Chamorro word "tam-tam" which means to taste and is seldom used by locals.

Macaranas also noted variations in the way certain Chamorro words are pronounced on Rota, Tinian and Guam. There are words spoken by Rota residents that sound differently from the way they are pronounced by residents on the other Chamorro speaking islands.

Macaranas said one of the tasks of their group is to decide which word, including the pronunciation, will be considered the most formal and official.

Macaranas said they also have to list how the words are pronounced on Rota, Tinian and Guam.

Borja, however, said they are not telling Rota residents to stop using words that are not commonly used. But it is important to establish a standard, Macaranas said.

Borja said the Chamorro language should be spoken at home -- otherwise the new generation will end up not knowing their own language.

He said they have to classify each word based on how the dictionary is traditionally used.

The revision of the dictionary is a project funded by a grant awarded to the NMI Council for the Humanities by the National Science Foundation.

Borja said they want to complete the dictionary within a three-year period.

In working on the revision, Borja said he found words that have very deep and good meanings.

"It’s about time that we do something because it’s an endangered language if nothing is done," Borja said.

The first group entries for the revised dictionary was submitted last December 15.

Each team of the group was assigned to review a number of pages from the 1975 Topping-Ogo-Dunca Chamorro Dictionary.

The project was directed by retired educator and former Humanities Council Chairwoman Dr. Elizabeth D. Rechebei and University of California linguistic professor Sandra Chung.

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