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The Micronesian languages are descended from the Austronesian language group. The most important indigenous languages are: Marshallese on the Marshall Islands, Palauan on Palau, Chamorro on Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, Gilbertees on Kiribati and Nauru on Nauru. There are also many languages and dialects on the remote islands, sometimes spoken by as few as a hundred people. The major languages developed independently of each other and are therefore completely different.

English is spoken throughout Micronesia but often only serves as a means of communication between the different states. On each individual island, the use of their own language dominates.

Spanish has never completely replaced Chamorro on Guam, although 75% of the words of modern Chamorro originate from Spanish. Despite its pronunciation, Chamorro is very similar to Spanish. Chamorro was first written down by the Spanish missionaries, who used their own language as the basis for pronouncing Chamorro words. Chamorro has a unique sound similar to "dz", spelled "y" in Spanish and "j" in English. These two spellings of Chamorro words are still used today.

On Guam, English and Chamorro are the official languages and both are also used in government publications and taught in the schools. English is becoming increasingly important. However, the Chamorro people are increasingly pressing for a revaluation of their own language. For example, in 1998, the Spanish name of the capital, Agaña, was changed to Hågatña. Changing all place names was planned for 1999.

Some examples, first Spanish, then Chamorro:



Galbraith, K. / Micronesia
Lonely Planet

Levy, N. / Micronesia handbook

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated April 2024
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