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Monday, April 21, 2014

Community involvement stressed in study of Chamorro

Dr. Matthew Wagers of the University of California Santa Cruz, right, talks briefly about his research project on the Chamorro language during the Rotary Club of Saipan meeting at the Hyatt Regency Saipan yesterday. Looking on is Rotary secretary Dick Cody. (Clarissa V. David) A linguistics professor from the University of California Santa Cruz stressed the importance of involving the community in a research project about the Chamorro language.

Dr. Matthew Wagers, guest speaker at the Rotary Club of Saipan meeting, said yesterday that while it does not appear significant for a speaker of the language to study it, it is important “on a practical level” to do so and learn about the language’s structure and complexity.

Wagers, who is on his second visit to the CNMI, is part of a research project that delves into the Chamorro language which is interconnected to the Chamorro Dictionary revision project.

Together with Manuel F. Borja and Sandra Chung, Wagers also held a presentation sponsored by the NMI Humanities Council as part of its Community Lecture Series at the American Memorial Park yesterday.

“We’re trying to solicit questions and feedbacks from the community… It’s really important that the community members are involved,” Wagers told the Rotarians during the meeting.

According to Wagers, the project team meets periodically with working groups from Saipan, Tinian, and Rota to study and understand the variations of different Chamorro words.

“Chamorro is a really interesting language,” said Wagers, who can now read and understand Chamorro. “It has a complicated syntax in putting words together.”

Asked about the origin of the Chamorro language, Wagers said it belongs to the Austronesian language which originated “probably” from Taiwan. He noted that the Chamorro language has word borrowings from other languages, including Spanish, English, and Japanese.

Wagers said that studying how the Chamorro language comprehension works will allow people to know if it is applicable to general theories of human understanding, whatever the size or the socioeconomic relation of the language is in contrast to other languages.

“They’re all human languages and they all need to tell us about how to learn the language and how we use it,” he added.

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