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Palauan Numbers

The following is a brief set of notes for Palauan number words. For a longer exploration, please refer to Chapter 24 in the Joseph Grammar Book. Another reference is a set of slides prepared by Asa Timarong and Jay Watanabe for a 2012 presentation.

Palauan has different words for different numbers depending on what is being counted. For example, there are different words for the number three depending on where it refers to humans, or animals, or units of time, or long objects, or bunches of bananas, or rafts of logs tied together. Also, there is a separate word for the number three for when someone is counting as for example a child might do while jumping rope. Finally, there are separate words for numbers when they are used to indicate relative order corresponding to the English words first, second, third. Note that many contemporary Palauans no longer use all of the unique numbers; for example, the number words unique for bunches of bananas, long objects, rafts of logs tied together are typically not used, instead, most contemporary Palauan speakers use the set of numbers reserved more generally for non-living things.

Although this is complicated, there are some simplifications. The first is that the unique numbers, depending on what is being referred to, do not go above ten. Above ten, there is just a single set of numbers. A second simplification is that most of the number words share a common stem. For example, the common stem for the 'two' words is '-ru.' The words for humans and units of time are the same except that humans has a 't' in front. Here is a table of the common stems:

2, -ru6, -lolem
3, -de7, -uid
4, -ua8, -ai
5, -im9, -tiu

A final simplification is that the multiples of ten between 20 and 100 basically add a 'ok' prefix to the above stems in such a way that the 'ok' prefix has the meaning of multiplying the stem by ten. For example, 'okai' is 'ok' plus '-ai' resulting in 80 (10 times 8).

Without further ado, here are the numbers used for humans, units of time, animals and non-living things, long objects, bunches of bananas, and rafts of logs tied together. Notice that 1-3 have unique forms for each, but beyond that they begin to converge. From 20 onward, they are all the same.

HumansUnits of
Time
Animal
Objects
Long
Objects
Bunches of
bananas
Rafts
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
90
100
1000
10000
ta
teru
tede
teua
teim
telolem
teuid
teai
tetiu
teruich
lluich
okede
okoua
okeim
okolem
okeuid
okai
oketiu
dart
telael
mang
ta
eru
ede
eua
eim
elolem
euid
eai
etiu
teruich
lluich
okede
okoua
okeim
okolem
okeuid
okai
oketiu
dart
telael
mang
chimo
teblo
klde
kloa
kleim
kllolem
kleuid
kleai
kltiu
tacher
lluich
okede
okoua
okeim
okolem
okeuid
okai
oketiu
dart
telael
mang
teluo
eruo
edeuo
euaiuo
eimuo
kllolem
kleuid
kleai
kltiu
tacher
lluich
okede
okoua
okeim
okolem
okeuid
okai
oketiu
dart
telael
mang
teliud
ereiud
edeiud
euaiud
eimiud
elolemiud
euidiud
eaiud
etiuiud
teruich el uid
lluich
okede
okoua
okeim
okolem
okeuid
okai
oketiu
dart
telael
mang
sesakt
eresakt
edesakt
kloa
kleim
kllolem
kleuid
kleai
kltiu
tacher
lluich
okede
okoua
okeim
okolem
okeuid
okai
oketiu
dart
telael
mang

Here are the Palaun words for first, second, third, etc., listed as Ordering, and the words for counting. Notice that these sets only go to 10.

OrderingCounting
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
kot
ongeru
ongede
ongeua
ongeim
ongelolem
ongeuid
ongeai
ongetiu
ongeteruich
ta
oru
ode
oua
oim
malo
uid
iai
itiu
machod
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