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Palauan Nouns

Note about this page: This is a short attempt to list some of the simple rules for Palauan nouns, especially to list an example of each of the four sets. For a much longer and comprehensive explanation, please refer to Lewis Josephs' definitive Palauan grammar book.

Palauan nouns are a bit different from English nouns since they exist in multiple forms. They can have unpossessed and possessed forms and some have plural forms. Note that the plural forms are only for nouns describing humans.


The possessed forms use pronoun suffixes to indicate ownership. Unfortunately, there are no known rules to convert a noun between its unpossessed and possessed forms. Each must be memorized independently. There are a few patterns which are typically, but not always followed. Single vowels are typically "weakened" into the weak 'E,' double vowels usually become single and infrequently reduce to weak 'E' or are deleted, and vowel clusters usually lose one of the vowels (usually the stronger one).

However, there are rules (with a few exceptions) to convert from one possessed form to another. Therefore, to learn a Palauan noun requires learning its unpossessed form, at least one of its singular unpossessed forms, as well as the rules to convert amongst the possessed forms. First, let's list what the seven possessed forms are. They correspond to the seven Palauan pronouns:

Singular Plural
1st Personmyour (inclusive)
our (exclusive)
2nd Person your your (you all's)
3rd Person his/hers/its theirs

These are similar to English with three exceptions.

Although there are no rules for converting between a noun's unpossessed and possessed forms, there are rules (with some exceptions) for converting between the various possessed forms. Possessed nouns use pronoun suffixes to indicate the possessor of the noun. Each possessed noun belongs to one of four sets: the e-set, u-set, i-set, or a-set. A noun's set is identified by the final vowel in its singular forms and 1st person plural inclusive form. For example, charm is an e-set noun since the final vowel in chermek is an e. The below table shows all possessed forms of the noun charm using italics to show the e-set pronoun suffixes which are the same across all e-set nouns.

E-set for charm (animal)

Singular Plural
1st Personchermekchermed
2nd Person chermem chermiu
3rd Person chermel chermir

I-set for oach (leg)

This table similarly shows the i-set possessor suffixes for the Palauan word for leg, oach:

Singular Plural
1st Personochikochid
2nd Person ochim ochemiu
3rd Person ochil ocherir

Notice that the 'e' in the 'emiu' and 'erir' suffixes is not included in all i-set nouns depending on the preceding letter(s). This is true for u-set and a-set nouns as well. The 'e' will be present when the preceding letters are 'ch' as in ochemiu and absent when the preceding letters are 'ng' as in 'rengmiu.'

A-set for chur (tongue)

Here are the possessed forms for the a-set noun chur (tongue):

Singular Plural
1st Personchurakchurad
2nd Person churam churemiu
3rd Person chural churerir

U-set for reng (heart/spirit)

Here are the possessed forms for the u-set noun reng (heart/spirit):

Singular Plural
1st Personrengukrengud
2nd Person rengum rengmiu
3rd Person rengul rengrir

Note that oach and chur have 'e' in their 2nd and 3rd person plural forms but reng does not.


Here are a few nouns that are exceptions to the suffix pronouns rules: chim, mlai, blai, chetil, obengkek.

Note that some nouns such as chetil and tkul do not have an unpossessed form and some, typically of foreign original, like chert and dengua do not have possessed forms.

TODO: add something here later about plural forms, prefix pronouns, and action nouns....

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