Monday, July 6, 2009

Leksion Chamoru: The prefix chat-

Chat- is similar to the English prefixes "dis-," "un-," "in-," "mis-," "anti-," etc., but all rolled into one. It is a prefix which gives a negative or derogatory inclination to words. Here are some examples:

  • Hinasso = A thought or a memory
    Chat- + hinasso => Chathinasso = A worry or a concern.
  • Fino' = To speak, to articulate.
    Chat- + fino' => Chatfino' = To curse, to bad-mouth.
  • Måsa = Cooked, ripe.
    Chat- + måsa => Chatmåsa = Premature, unripened, uncooked.
There are several instances where the derived word's meaning isn't obvious:
  • Li'e' = To see.
    Chat- + li'e' => Chatli'e' = To fail to see something clearly.
    But it also means:
    Chat- + li'e' => Chatli'e' = To hate, to detest, to abhor.
  • På'go = Pleasant, beautiful.
    Chat- + på'go => Chatpå'go = Ugly, unpleasant, disagreeable, contrary to beauty, offensive to look upon.
  • Såga = To stay, to dwell.
    Chat- + såga => Chatsåga = Difficult, hard.
The prefix chat- is another prefix which forces the primary stress of the word to fall on the first syllable. So for some of the examples above:
  • Chatfino' => CHAT-fee-new'
  • Chatli'e' => CHAT-lee'-ee'
  • Chatsåga => CHAT-suh-gah'


  1. Hafa Adai, good lesson. Just a little tidbit: pågo=pleasant or beautiful, a synonym to "asentadu."

    Hence, gefpågo=beautiful and chatpågo=ugly

    The village of Chalan Pågo was mistakenly thought to mean "now road" when it really means "beauty lane"

  2. Thanks for the comment, I'll make the change. Just as a side note too, I've also heard some elders say that Chalan Pågo was named because of the pågu (wild hibiscus) trees. I'm not sure how I would ever go about proving such a claim, but I like both your and their explanations.

  3. Yes, I've heard that too, but I totally forgot to mention it. Both are very plausible. The origin of place names on Guam is a very interesting subject. One thing I always thought strange is that Chalan Pago is the only village on Guam with "Chalan" in the name. In Saipan there is Chalan Kanoa.

    More common in the old names is "As" i.e. As Namo or As Ge'us.