The main purpose of this book is to offer a comprehensive description of the Palauan language which will be of use to speakers of Palauan and to linguists alike. I have attempted to make my explanations as simple and clear as possible, in spite of the fact that the data to be analyzed are often discouragingly complex. To achieve this, I have taken special pains to define difficult concepts at length, and to illustrate these concepts with copious examples. I have presented the material in such a way that there is a gradual build-up in complexity, with later analyses depending on, or assuming an understanding of, earlier ones. If the general reader masters the material as he goes along, he should have little difficulty in grasping some of the later, more difficult analyses. Such analyses are, unfortunately, necessary because the structures to be explained are themselves so complex; in many cases, if I had chosen to present an oversimplified, watered-down description of the data, I would not have been able to capture some of the essential phonological and grammatical principles that uniquely characterize the Palauan language.
After an introduction to the sounds and spelling of Palauan in chapter 1, I go on to describe some of the basic Palauan parts of speech (nouns and verbs) in chapters 2-5. In chapters 6-11, I describe the salient features of Palauan morphology (i.e., word formation) and explain the many complex rules which interact with each other when verbs and nouns are derived. Finally, in chapters 12-25, I talk about the major syntactic constructions and grammatical processes of Palauan. Although the great majority of discussions are intended for the general reader, in a few places I have included discussions or remarks of a highly technical nature which are meant for readers with some degree of linguistic training. When these discussions appear as a section of the text or xviiias a note, the number introducing the section or the note has been preceded with an asterisk (*). General readers can disregard such materials without losing the train of the discussion. As they proceed through the text, all readers will find the extensive cross-referencing of considerable assistance; as further aids in using the book, a list of phonetic and orthographic symbols, a glossary of linguistic terms, a brief bibliography, and an index have also been appended.
I am grateful to Dr. Helen Wilson, who offered me invaluable assistance in conducting interviews and writing preliminary versions of some of the chapters. If it had not been for the unflagging interest of my two principal informants, Masa-aki Emesiochel and Masaharu Tmodrang, in this research and for their strong determination to make a description of the Palauan language available to the Palauan people, this book would never have been possible. I thank them profoundly for their patience and cooperation. I am also indebted to the many people in Palau, in particular to the teachers and administrators of the Palau High School, who helped me in numerous ways to bring this research to completion. Finally, I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to Dr. Donald Topping, Director of the Social Sciences and Linguistics Institute of the University of Hawaii, who provided the crucial initial inspiration for this volume and who painstakingly reviewed the manuscripts, offering innumerable suggestions for improving organization, style, and content; and to Dawn Reid, who gave so much of her time typing the original drafts.