Friday, September 30, 2011

Leksion Chamoru: Prefix ya-

Ya- is the "superlative prefix" according to the dictionaries and grammar books, but it's actually a lot simpler than it sounds. Ya- is used with location and direction words, along with a reduplication of the final syllable, and is used to mean the "most" in that direction. Here are some examples:
  • Hulo' = Up, above, etc...
    Ya- + hulo' => Yahululo' (reduplication of final syllable) = Highest place, farthest up.
  • Mo'na = Front, before (preposition), ahead, etc...
    Ya- + mo'na => Yamo'nana (reduplication) = Front-most, farthest up front.
  • Håya = South (in Guam), East (in Saipan)
    Ya- + håya => Yahåyaya (reduplication) = Southernmost/Easternmost, farthest South/East.
Here are some examples of sentences comparing the stem/root words with the "superlatives."
  1. Hulo':
    • Po'lo i yabi gi hilo' i estånte. = Put the key on top of the shelf.
    • Po'lo i yabi gi yahululo' na estånte. = Put the key on the top (highest) shelf.
  2. Mo'na:
    • Gaige yo' gi me'na. = I'm in front (at the front).
    • Gaige yo' gi yamo'nana. = I'm at the very front (farthest up front).
  3. Håya:
    • Må'pos gue' håya. = He went south/east (southward/eastward).
    • Måtto gue' gi yahåyaya. = He arrived at the southernmost/easternmost point.
Note: This whole construction came about because of the way Chamorro "articles" work (i/si/iya). In modern Chamorro we use iya as the article for places, but we normally only use it with proper place names (i.e.: iya Guåhan; iya Kalifotnia; iya Amerika, etc.). In older Chamorro iya was pretty much used for any location it seems. So, if we use this idea we get terms like iya hulo' (the high place), iya mo'na (the front place), and iya håya (the south place), which through the process of reduplication/intensification turn to iya hululo', iya mo'nana, and iya håyaya. Through common usage and pronunciation we dropped the initial "i" from iya and combined it with the stem/root to get yahululo', yamo'nana,  and yahåyaya.

Pronunciation of the new words seems a little tricky, because the technical explanation would be that the stress falls on the "ante penultimate" syllable (3rd to last syllable). If we consider the above note, it makes it a lot easier to understand, because we're essentially saying two words in one:
  1. I yahululo'
    => Iya hululo' => EE-dza WHO-loo-loo'
  2. I yamo'nana
    => Iya mo'nana => EE-dza MOH'-nuh-nuh
  3. I yahåyaya
    => Iya håyaya => EE-dza HA-dza-dza
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