Guam English: Emergence, Development and Variation - PhDData

Access database of worldwide thesis

Guam English: Emergence, Development and Variation

The thesis was published by Kuske, Eva Anina, in September 2022, University of Bern.


This dissertation explores the emergence, development and internal variation of the English variety
spoken in Guam. The island located in the North-Western Pacific Ocean has a diverse colonial
past, with each colonial ruler (Spain, the U.S. and briefly Japan) enforcing their national language
on the inhabitants. As a result of ongoing close contact to the most recent colonial power, the U.S.,
the inhabitants have undergone a shift from speaking their indigenous language, Chamorro, as a
first language to speaking English (almost) monolingually. This shift was likely promoted by
language policies making English an official language to be used in the government and in
education, the high presence of American media, but also a change toward positive attitudes
regarding the language of the colonizer. It was particularly the WWII-generations that regarded
English as the vehicle for economic success and decided to raise their children in English.
Although the socio-historic circumstances that likely led to this shift in language use have
been well-documented, no research describes the influence of these changes on Guam English. I
intend to bridge this gap in research by providing a general linguistic description of Guam English,
as well as a more detailed analysis of the short front vowels KIT, DRESS and TRAP, including
developmental patterns and inter-speaker variation. I employ the apparent time model, analyzing
approximately 45 min long sociolinguistic interviews. The corpus includes 89 socially stratified
Guam locals, males and females of different levels of education, ranging in age from 16 to 91 of
three ethnic groups, Chamorros, Filipinos and Caucasians. A special focus is put on the indigenous
community, the Chamorros, for the analysis of the short front vowels.
I find that the language shift from the indigenous language to English is reflected in the
phonological, morpho-syntactic and lexical structure of Guam English: while the oldest segment
of the population, locally referred to as the Manåmko’, speaks English as a second language and
shows a multitude of substrate language influence, the younger generations not only lack a
majority of those substrate-related features, but show developmental tendencies toward the variety
of their colonial power, the U.S. This includes the use of more standardized features, but also signs
of convergence toward a regional, ethnic variety of American English. The latter development is
noticeable in a range of linguistic features that younger Guam English speakers share with regional
or ethnic communities of the U.S. mainland: Realizations of the short front vowels KIT, DRESS
and TRAP resemble that of ethnic California speakers. KIT and DRESS are retracting in apparent time and TRAP remains in its low-back position, lacking a clear nasal split. Though Guam’s
English-speaking community generally follows those generational tendencies, there is much
internal variation, as the population is stratified in regards to their ethnicity and educational
backgrounds. A broad spectrum of acrolectal and basilectal speech is found in all age groups.
With this research, I hope to shed light on a previously under-researched variety of English that
emerged as a result of colonial contact to the U.S. In describing the variety in detail, I am able to
compare it to the developmental trajectories of other World Englishes. This includes positioning
Guam English in various models suggested by scholars, such as Schneider’s (2007) Dynamic
Model, to better systematize developmental patterns of World Englishes. In this regard, previous
research has mainly focused on Britain as a linguistically influential colonial power, whereas we
know very little about Englishes emerging out of colonial contact to the U.S.

The full thesis can be downloaded at :

Read the last PhD tips