Visiting CHamoru grammar expert previews her upcoming reference book
Visiting linguist and CHamoru grammar expert Dr. Sandra Chung offered a preview of her upcoming CHamoru grammar reference book to a classroom of professors, CHamoru teachers, and others interested in the language on Nov. 5 on the University of Guam campus.
Chung is a prominent syntactician who has studied the CHamoru language, among other
languages of the Pacific, since the 1970s and has published several scholarly volumes
and dozens of academic papers on the topic over the last 25 years. She is a professor
emerita of the University of California, Santa Cruz and former president of the Linguistic
Society of America.
Her book will refine some notions in “Chamorro Reference Grammar” — the most commonly used reference guide on the language since it was published by Donald M. Topping and Bernadita C. Dungca in 1973.
“I started using that grammar a very long time ago, and times change and so does linguistic theory and knowledge of language, and so I have a somewhat different take on some of the aspects of CHamoru grammar than Don Topping did,” Chung said in an interview with Newstalk 57 host, Andrea Pellacani.
Her work refines Topping’s assessment that the primary purpose of the focus system in the CHamoru language is to permit the speaker to place emphasis on one of the elements of the sentence.
“I suggest that Topping’s focus system actually collapses several different systems,” she said, which she has identified as actor, focal, benefactive, referential, and causative focus.
Chung is visiting as a consultant on the Documenting Endangered Languages grant that was awarded to UOG’s College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences in September by the National Science Foundation. The grant will fund a project to formally document and create a repository for the CHamoru language, and it is being carried out by principal investigators Dr. Robert A. Underwood, president emeritus of the University of Guam, and Dr. David A. Ruskin, an assistant professor of linguistics.
Chung’s reference grammar book is 80% complete, she said, and she hopes to publish it in the coming year.
“Topping was a major breakthrough, and, of course, it’s kind of dated now, so we’re waiting for Sandra to make the next major breakthrough,” said Underwood with Chung in the K57 interview. “After it’s published, people will say, ‘Did you read Topping?’ … ‘No, I read Chung.’”