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Reviewed by:
  • Handbook of Palauan grammar, vol. 1, and Teacher's manual
  • Robert E. Gibson
Josephs, Lewis S. 1997. Handbook of Palauan grammar, vol. 1, and Teacher's manual. Republic of Palau: Bureau of Curriculum and Instruction, Ministry of Education.

The Handbook of Palauan grammar (HPG) and accompanying Teacher's manual, whose content is based largely on Lewis Josephs's 1975 Palauan reference grammar (PRG), can be seen as part of a long-term effort by various individuals and institutions to assist Palauan speakers in preserving and developing their language as a viable tool of formal education and commerce. This effort dates from the late 1960s, when the University of Hawai'i and the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands Department of Education designed a project to train Micronesian linguists and develop dictionaries and reference grammars for the major languages of Micronesia. In a 1961 report, Charles Hockett pointed out the need to deal with problems of competing orthographies, as well as the dearth of material written in the vernaculars of Guam and Micronesia. His early recommendations helped to set the direction for subsequent efforts, which included the training of curriculum developers and writers of educational materials, and finally, the development of instructional materials in the mother tongues of Micronesia. For accounts of these projects, see Ramarui (1976), Topping (1975, 1981), and Gibson (1980, 1981).

Volume 1 is intended for ninth- and tenth-grade students in Palau, while volume 2 is to be aimed at eleventh- and twelfth-grade students. The HPG is intended to "provide high school students in Palau with a textbook that would enable them to study and appreciate the internal structure of their native language, much in the [End Page 436] same way that students in Japan study their mother tongue (kokugo) over a period of years." The original PRG, on which this text is based, has been used in Palau for nearly 25 years, but was intended more as a general reference tool for the interested linguist than as a pedagogical tool for use by Palauan students.

In this new volume, written with Palauan high school students in mind, much of the linguistic terminology and theoretical discussion have been replaced by a less abstract and more practical approach. In addition, Josephs has added some new material that reflects more recent work, particularly Lemaréchal's 1991 Problèmes de sémantique et de syntaxe en Palau (see review article by Josephs in Oceanic Linguistics 33:231-256). By incorporating Lemaréchal's insights into the HPG, Josephs intends to "present the language in a more natural light [than the PRG]-i.e., on its own structural terms as a member of the Austronesian language family." Most of that material, it is assumed, will be seen in the second volume, where more complex sentence structure will be covered. The accompanying teachers manual provides information, examples, and exercises that extend those found in the main text.

While the PRG was written as a reference grammar, available to anyone capable of reading the language in which it was written, the HRG was written specifically for Palauan high school students. However, it is obvious that the HRG was based rather closely on the PRG. Thus the organization of the material in the HPG (and much of the text itself) is very close to that of the PRG. While many sections were extensively revised in order to simplify the reading level, and others were expanded, much of the text appears to be nearly identical. Thus, in the lesson concerning Palauan verbs, the PRG (112) reads, "Whereas nouns make reference to human beings, concrete things, abstract ideas, and the like . . .", while in the HPG (185), the related sentence begins, "While nouns refer to human beings, concrete things, abstract ideas. . . ." Much of the text evidences this sort of similarity. Presumably, modifications such as these are meant to simplify the reading level of the text.

As promised in the preface, the language is described in nontechnical terms. The organization of topics follows the original PRG closely. Volume 1 includes sections on each of the following: spelling; nouns; noun possession; verbs; verb markers and related verb forms; state verbs; complex nouns; causative verbs; reciprocal...


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