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.
- ngalek, child; ngelekek, my child; rengelekek, my children.
- charm, animal; chermek, my animal (pet). Note there is no plural form.
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:
|your (you all's)
These are similar to English with three exceptions.
- English has three 1st person singular pronouns for his, hers, its whereas Palauan has just one.
- English has only one 1st person plural pronoun for ours. Palauan has two: the inclusive form includes the listener; the exclusive form excludes the listener.
- English has the same pronoun for both 2nd person singular and plural, you, whereas Palauan has distinct pronouns for each.
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)
I-set for oach (leg)
This table similarly shows the i-set possessor suffixes for the Palauan word for leg, oach:
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):
U-set for reng (heart/spirit)
Here are the possessed forms for the u-set noun reng (heart/spirit):
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.