Reference Point Constructions, the Underspecification of Meaning, and the Conceptual Structure of Palauan er

The Palauan grammatical morpheme er is a preposition-like word whose wide variety of uses seem unrelated to each other and whose semantic function (if any) is obscure. Reminiscent of English of in signifying an intrinsic relation between two entities, the meaning of er appears to be even more schematic and context dependent. It is argued that er's basic conceptual structure, and therefore its meaning, resides in its designation of an abstract reference point construction in which its object serves as a reference point with respect to which other entities (either things or relations) are construed to be located in some kind of physical or abstract domain. Consequently, the meaning of er is highly schematic and underspecified. Its apparently unrelated senses are related to each other in reflecting instantiations of this construction when construed against different backgrounds in particular contexts.