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9 Causative Verbs


As we saw in 5.1.1, all Palauan action verbs are either transitive or intransitive. Transitive action verbs name actions which are done to or directed at someone or something; the person who performs or brings about the action appears as the sentence sub­ject, while the person, animal, or thing which receives the effect of the action appears as the sentence object. By way of review, observe the following sentences with transitive action verbs; you should have no difficulty identifying the sentence subject and sentence object:

(1)   a.   A Toki a mirruul a kall.
        ‘Toki prepared the food.’
    b.   A sensei a chillȩbȩdii a bilis.
        ‘The teacher hit the dog.’
    c.   Ak mo omes ȩr a Tony.
        ‘I’m going to see Tony.’

Intransitive action verbs, by contrast, involve just a doer, but no receiver; in other words, they describe actions which by their very nature cannot be directed at someone or something, but which only the doer himself can pursue. Therefore, the following sentences with intransitive action verbs contain subjects, but no objects:

(2)   a.   A ngalȩk a lilangȩl.
        ‘The child was crying.’
    b.   Ak mo oureor ȩr a klukuk.
        ‘I’m going to work tomorrow.’

There is a special class of transitive action verbs known as causative verbs. As we will see below, these verbs can be identified by the presence of the causative prefix, which has quite a few 201different forms (omeȩ(k)-, ol(ȩ)-, etc.). These verbs are called causative because they involve actions in which the doer (or subject) causes or forces someone or something to perform a particular action or be in a particular state. In order to under­stand this characteristic meaning of causative verbs, compare the following two sentences:

(3)   a.   A bilis a chȩmiis.
        ‘The dog is running away.’
    b.   A Droteo a olȩchiis ȩr a bilis.
        ‘Droteo is {chasing the dog away./making the dog run away.}’

Example 3a is a simple intransitive sentence containing the in­transitive action verb chȩmiis ‘run away, escape’; this verb con­tains the metathesized verb marker -(ȩ)m- (cf. 6.2), which is infixed after the initial consonant (ch) of the verb stem chiis ‘escape’. Example 3b, on the other hand, is a transitive sentence containing the (transitive) causative verb olȩchiis, which consists of the causative prefix olȩ- followed by the verb stem chiis. The intransi­tive sentence 3a has a subject only (bilis ‘dog’), while the transitive sentence 3b has both a subject (Droteo) and an object (bilis ‘dog’). Notice that the subject of the intransitive sentence has become the object of the transitive sentence. Common to the meaning of both 3a and 3b is the information that the dog is running away, but distinguishing the two sentences from each other is the extra information given in 3b: here, the presence of the causative verb olȩchiis tells us that some person (Droteo) is making the dog run away, or causing him to run away.

The following pair of sentences can be analyzed in exactly the same way:

(4)   a.   A ngalȩk a mȩkar.
        ‘The child is awake.’
    b.   A rȩdil a olȩkar ȩr a ngalȩk.
        ‘The woman is waking up the child.’

Example 4a is a simple intransitive sentence containing the (in­transitive) state verb mȩkar ‘be awake’; the subject of the sentence (ngalȩk ‘child’) is described as being in the particular state desig­nated by the verb. Example 4b, however, is a transitive sentence which names an action: this action is denoted by olȩkar ‘wake up (someone), cause (someone) to be awake’, which is a causative verb formed from the causative prefix ol(ȩ)- and the verb stem 202kar. In this sentence, the subject of olȩkar (rȩdil ‘woman’) is doing something to the object (ngalȩk ‘child’) in order to make him wake up—that is, she is causing the child to be in the particular state designated by the corresponding state verb mȩkar ‘be awake’. Again, the subject of the intransitive sentence 4a has become the object of the transitive sentence 4b.


Since causative verbs are a subtype of transitive action verbs, they exhibit the same kinds of distinctions observed among transitive action verbs. In other words, causative verbs have both imperfective and perfective forms (cf. 5.5 and see 9.4 below), as well as ergative forms (cf. 5.4 and see 9.5 below) and hypothetical forms (cf. 4.10 and 4.10.19 and see 9.6 below). In discussing the variants of the Palauan causative prefix, we will first concentrate on the imperfective forms of causative verbs.

In order to derive the imperfective forms of causative verbs, one of the two causative prefixes omȩ(k)- or ol(ȩ)- is added to a verb stem. These prefixes are added primarily to the stems of intransitive verbs according to the following general rule: omȩ(k)-is prefixed to the stems of intransitive state verbs, while ol(ȩ)- is prefixed to the stems of intransitive action verbs. In addition, the prefix omȩ(k)- can occur with the stems of a few transitive action verbs (see below). Regardless of whether the verb stem following the causative prefix is transitive or intransitive, the derived causative verb in omȩ(k)- or ol(ȩ)- is always transitive. Further, as we will see in 9.3 below, a small number of rather exceptional verb stems can occur with both prefixes, sometimes resulting in a slight difference in meaning.

9.2.1. The Prefix omȩ(k)-

In the list below we can see some typical causative verbs whose imperfective forms are derived by prefixing omȩ(k)- to the stems of intransitive state verbs. In the right hand column, the related state verb is given for purposes of comparison:

(5)   Causative Verb in omȩ(k)-   Related State Verb
    omȩkdȩchor1 ‘make…stand’   dȩchor ‘stand, standing’
    omȩkungil ‘heal, make… better’   ungil ‘good’ 203
    omȩkbȩches ‘renovate, repair, make…new’   bȩches ‘new’
    omȩkdȩkimȩs ‘make…wet’   dȩkimȩs ‘wet’
    omȩkȩsiu2 ‘compare, imitate’   osiu ‘joining’
    omȩkoad3 ‘kill’   mad ‘dead’
    omȩkikiongȩl ‘make…dirty’   kikiongȩl ‘dirty’
    omȩkarȩd ‘light, turn on’   kmarȩd ‘lighted, on fire’
    omȩkdakt ‘frighten’   mȩdakt ‘afraid’
    omȩkdirt ‘dry out’   mȩdirt ‘dry’
    omȩkdingȩs ‘satisfy, make… full’   mȩdingȩs ‘full’
    omȩkringȩl ‘hurt, make… difficult’   mȩringȩl ‘painful, difficult’

As causative verbs like omȩkikiongȩl ‘make…dirty’ and omȩkarȩd ‘light, turn on’ show, the k of the causative prefix omȩ(k)- is deleted if it is followed by a k- initial verb stem. As we will see in some later examples, the k of omȩ(k)- is also lost if the following verb stem begins with ng. Thus, we can formulate the following general phonetic rule: the velar stop k (cf. 1.3.1) of the causative prefix is automatically deleted before another velar consonant (k or ng).

You will notice that the related state verbs given in 5 above are of several different types. Verbs like dȩchor ‘stand, standing’, ungil ‘good’, etc. are simple state verbs which do not exhibit the verb marker (cf. 7.1). Verbs like mȩdakt ‘afraid’, mȩdirt ‘dry’, and kmarȩd ‘lighted, on fire’, however, are more complex in structure, since they consist of the verb stem and the verb marker, which appears as a prefix mȩ- or as a metathesized element -(ȩ)m- (cf. 6.2).

Interestingly enough, the verb markers mȩ- and -(ȩ)m- found in state verbs like mȩdakt, mȩdirt, and kmarȩd do not appear in this form in the corresponding causative verbs omȩkdakt, omȩkdirt, and omȩkarȩd: in other words, causative verb forms like *omȩk­mȩdakt, *omȩkmȩdirt, and *omȩkmarȩd are impossible. The nonexistence of such forms is probably due to the fact that omȩ(k)-, which we have been treating as a single unitary prefix, is actually a combination of several prefixes. More specifically, if the o- of omȩ(k)- is really one of the variants of the verb marker,4 as suggested in below, then forms like *omȩkmȩdakt, *omȩkmarȩd, etc. would be prevented because they would contain a second unnecessary instance of the verb marker. 204

* Technical Discussion of the Prefix omȩ(k)-

Although we have been dealing with the causative prefix omȩ(k)-as a single unit (or morpheme), there are several facts which lead us to believe that it is really a combination of three elements. Before discussing these facts, we first need to examine the basic structure of omȩ(k)-, which is represented by the following for­mula:

(6)   Verb marker   +   imperfective marker   +   causative marker
    o   +   m   +   bȩk

As you can see, the basic structure of omȩ(k)- consists of two elements with which we are already familiar—the verb marker and the imperfective marker—and one element which is new to us—the causative marker bȩk. As discussed in 5.5, the imperfective marker has several variants—l, ng, or m—depending on the initial consonant of the following verb stem. Even though the causative marker bȩk is not a verb stem, its initial consonant b nevertheless determines the correct variant of the directly preceding imperfec­tive marker, which is therefore represented as m in 6 above. The verb marker which is part of the structure of 6 appears as o- (rather than mȩ-) as a result of dissimilation (cf. 6.1); here, the dissimilation is caused by the presence of the bilabial consonant b in the following causative marker. The actually-pronounced form omȩ(k)- is derived from the basic structure o + m + bȩk by deletion of the initial consonant b of the causative marker: this is exactly the same phenomenon which we observed in the derivation of imperfective verb forms (cf. 5.5), where the initial consonant of a verb stem is characteristically deleted following the imperfective marker (e.g. mȩ + l + dasȩchmȩlasȩch ‘carve’, + ng + chuiumȩnguiu ‘read’, etc).

There are several facts which we can bring up as evidence that the formula given in 6 correctly represents the basic structure of omȩ(k)-. First, we have already mentioned above that the non-occurrence of causative forms like *omȩkmȩdakt or *omȩ­kmarȩd (instead of omȩkdakt ‘frighten’ and omȩkarȩd ‘light, turn on’, respectively) could be easily explained if omȩ(k)- itself already contained the verb marker, as in 6: in other words, the non-occurrent causative forms would be incorrect because they would contain two instances of the verb marker—i.e., word-initial o- and word-internal -mȩ- or -m-.

Second, the formula in 6 allows us to account for certain 205ergative causative verb forms in a regular and consistent way. As we will see in 9.5 below, Palauan causative verbs in omȩ(k)-derive their ergative forms according to two different patterns. One of these patterns, which is close to becoming archaic (i.e., has nearly disappeared from standard use), results in ergative forms which begin with obȩ(k)-. For example, imperfective omȩkdakt ‘frighten’ has ergative obȩkdakt ‘be/get frightened’, imperfective omȩkarȩd ‘light, turn on’ has ergative obȩkarȩd ‘be/get lighted/turned on’, etc. As discussed in 5.4, one defining feature of Palauan ergative verb forms is that they lack the im­perfective marker and consist merely of the verb marker followed by the verb stem (e.g. + dasȩch ‘be/get carved’, + chuiu ‘be/get read’, etc.). We should therefore expect that the ergative forms of causative verbs would also lack the imperfective marker, and this is precisely the case: in other words, the obȩk- of obȩk­dakt ‘be/get frightened’, etc. consists of the following simple sequence:

(7)   Verb marker   +   causative marker
    o   +   bȩk

As the formulas in 6 and 7 clearly show, the only difference between the imperfective and ergative forms of causative verbs is that the former contain the imperfective marker, while the latter do not.

Third, as we will see in 9.4 below, the perfective forms of causative verbs in omȩ(k)- normally do not show an initial o-. For example, the 3rd pers. sg. object present perfective form (cf. 6.3) of omȩkdakt ‘frighten’ is mȩkdȩktii ‘frighten him/her/it’. The derivation of this perfective form can be explained in a plausible way if we assign it a basic form whose elements are consistent with those given in 6 and 7. Recall (cf. 5.5) that Palauan perfective verb forms of course do not contain the imperfective marker; therefore, a perfective form like sosȩbii ‘burn it’ has the basic structure verb marker + verb stem + object pronoun. The basic structure of the perfective forms of causative verbs is similar, except that the causative marker is added following the verb marker. Thus, the basic form of mȩkdȩktii ‘frighten him/her/it’ is represented as follows:

(8)   Verb marker   +   causative marker   +   verb stem   +   object pronoun
    o   +   bȩk   +   dakt   +   íi 206

By applying a sequence of phonetic rules to the basic form o + bȩk + dakt + íi, we can derive the actually-spoken form mȩk­dȩktíi, as explained below.

In 6.3.1 we noted that Palauan perfective verb forms are characterized by the fact that the verb marker metathesizes to a position following the initial consonant of the verb stem. It seems reasonable to assume that such metathesis also occurs in the perfective forms of causative verbs. In the example under discus­sion, application of verb marker metathesis to the basic form given in 8 will yield something like b + m +ȩk + dakt +íi; here, the metathesized verb marker has been moved to a position following the initial consonant b of the causative marker, and for reasons which will become clear when we discuss the next phonetic rule, we assume that the metathesized verb marker appears as -m-. Next, we apply a rule which we have already encountered in 6.2.1: the b of the causative marker, which has come to appear before the m of the metathesized verb marker, must be deleted, resulting in m +ȩk + dakt +íi. After one more rule is applied—namely, the rule reducing unstressed a to ȩ (cf. 6.4)—the actually-spoken form mȩkdȩktíi is produced. The phonetic changes described above are summarized in the follow­ing step-by-step derivation:

(9)   o + bȩk + dakt + íi   (basic form = verb marker + causative marker + verb stem + object pronoun)
    b + m + ȩk + dakt + íi   (by metathesis of verb marker)
    m + ȩk + dakt + íi   (by deletion of b before m)
    m + ȩk + dȩkt + íi   (by reduction of a to ȩ in unstressed syllable) Additional Types of Causative Verbs with omȩ(k)-

In 9.2.1 above, we listed a large number of causative verbs which are derived by prefixing omȩ(k)- to the stems of intransitive state verbs. In this section, we will look at two further patterns of derivation for causative verbs in omȩ(k)-.

A small number of causative verbs can be derived by pre­fixing omȩ(k)- to the stems of transitive action verbs. The most common examples are listed below, together with the related transitive verb: 207

(10)   Causative Verb   Related Transitive Verb (in imperfective form)
    omȩka ‘feed, make…eat’   mȩnga ‘eat’
    omȩngim ‘make…drink’   mȩlim ‘drink’
    omȩngamȩch5 ‘make…chew, make… smoke’   mȩlamȩch ‘chew, smoke’

In each of the causative verbs of 10, the velar stop k of omȩ(k)- is deleted because the following verb stem (kal6 ‘eat’, ngim ‘drink’, and ngamȩch ‘chew, smoke’) begins with another velar consonant (k or ng).

Since a sentence with a transitive verb has both a subject noun phrase and an object noun phrase, a sentence with the corresponding causative verb will contain, in addition to these noun phrases, a third noun phrase which identifies the person who is causing the action to occur. In the following transitive sentence, for example,

(11)   A rȩngalȩk a mȩnga ȩr a kukau.
    ‘The children are eating the taro.’

rȩngalȩk ‘children’ and kukau ‘taro’ are the subject and object, respectively, of the transitive verb mȩnga ‘eat’. Now observe what happens to these noun phrases in the corresponding causa­tive sentence:

(12)   A Romana a omȩka ȩr a rȩngalȩk ȩr a kukau.
    ‘Romana is feeding the children the taro.’

Here, both rȩngalȩk ‘children’ and kukau ‘taro’ have come to appear as objects following the causative verb omȩka ‘feed’; and the new subject is Romana, the person who is doing the feeding. It is also possible to have sentences like 12 in which the second object is not mentioned—namely,

(13)   A Romana a omȩka ȩr a rȩngalȩk.
    ‘Romana is feeding the children.’

This sentence says that Romana is giving the children something to eat, but it does not specify what it is they are eating.

A few causative verbs can also be derived from nouns by prefixing omȩ(k)-. The resulting causative verb, which is of course transitive, designates some action or activity which involves the related noun. For example, from bar ‘blanket’, we can derive causative omȩkbar ‘cover…with a blanket’, and from buch ‘spouse’, we can form causative omȩkbuch ‘marry (i.e., join as husband and wife), marry off, mate (animals)’. 208 Sample Sentences with omȩ(k)- Causatives

Although we have already presented some sentences in 9.1 above to illustrate the meaning and use of causative verbs, perhaps some further examples are desirable. Thus, the sentences below illustrate the use of some of the causative verbs in omȩ(k)- listed in 5:

(14)   a.   A Toki a omȩkdȩchor ȩr a ngalȩk ȩr a bebul a tebȩl.
        ‘Toki is making the child stand on the table.’
    b.   A rȩchad a mo omȩkoad a ngikȩl.
        ‘People are going to kill the fish.’
    c.   A Toki a blȩchoel ȩl mukdakt7 ȩr a dȩrumk.
        ‘Toki always gets frightened by thunder.’
    d.   A toktang a mo omȩkungil ȩr kau.
        ‘The doctor will get you better.’
    e.   A rȩkangkodang a omȩkikiongȩl ȩr a kȩdȩrang.
        ‘The tourists are messing up the beach.’
    f.   A Droteo a omȩkarȩd ȩr a olbidȩl.
        ‘Droteo is lighting the lamp.’
    g.   A kall a mo omȩkdingȩs ȩr kau.
        ‘The food will fill you up.’

9.2.2. The Prefix ol(ȩ)-

In the list below we find some representative causative verbs whose imperfective forms are derived by prefixing ol(ȩ)- to the stems of intransitive action verbs. In the column at the right, the related action verb is provided for purposes of comparison:

(15)   Causative Verb in ol(ȩ)-   Related Action Verb
    ollangȩl ‘make…cry’   lmangȩl ‘cry’
    olluut ‘give back, make… return’   lmuut ‘return, come back’
    oltobȩd ‘take out’   tuobȩd ‘go out, emerge’
    oltengȩl ‘take down (from above)’   mȩtengȩl ‘land, come down’
    oltuu ‘put into, make… enter’   tmuu ‘enter’
    olsisȩb ‘put into, make… enter’8   soisȩb ‘enter’
    olsebȩk ‘make…fly’   suebȩk ‘fly’ 209
    olsobȩl ‘save, take care of’   suobȩl ‘survive, be saved’
    oldik ‘banish’   dmik ‘go into exile’
    oliuul ‘transfer’   imuul ‘go from one location to another’
    olȩchiis ‘chase, make…run away’   chȩmiis ‘run away, escape’
    olȩkerȩd ‘unload, let off’   kmerȩd ‘get off, get out’
    olȩngelt ‘(make…) sink (in soft ground)’   ngmelt ‘sink (in soft ground), set (sun)’
    olȩngasȩch ‘raise, lift up’   ngmasȩch ‘climb, rise (sun)’
    orrebȩt ‘drop’   ruebȩt ‘fall’
    orros ‘(make…) drown’   rȩmos ‘drown’
    orrurt ‘make… run’   rȩmurt ‘run’
    orrȩchorȩch ‘(make…) sink (in water)’   ruchorȩch ‘sink (in water)’

As causative verbs like olȩchiis ‘chase, make…run away’, olȩkerȩd ‘unload, let off’, and olȩngasȩch ‘raise, lift up’ show, the causative prefix must include ȩ if the following verb stem begins with a velar consonant (k, ng) or a glottal consonant (ch). Other­wise, the causative prefix appears as ol-, except in forms like orrebȩt ‘drop’, orros ‘(make…) drown’, etc., where the l of the prefix completely assimilates to (i.e., becomes identical with) the initial r of the following stem.

As we noted in 6.2, many Palauan intransitive verbs contain the metathesized verb marker, which appears as an infix of the form -(ȩ)m-, -u-, or -o-. All of the intransitive action verbs listed in 15 above, with the exception of mȩtengȩl ‘land, come down’, exhibit the metathesized verb marker. The variants of the metath­esized verb marker found in intransitive action verbs such as dmik ‘go into exile’, suebȩk ‘fly’, and soisȩb ‘enter’ do not occur as such in the corresponding causative verbs oldik ‘banish’, olsebȩk ‘make…fly’, and olsisȩb ‘put into, make….enter’: that is, it is impossible to have causative verb forms like *oldmik, *olsuebȩk, or *olsoisȩb. The phenomenon being described here, you will recall, is exactly the same as that discussed in 9.2.1 above with reference to the intransitive state verbs of 5 and their correspond­ing causative verbs. Our explanation for the nonexistence of causative verb forms like *oldmik, *olsuebȩk, and *olsoisȩb will also parallel that given in 9.2.1: we propose that ol(ȩ)-, which we 210have so far assumed to be a single, unitary prefix, is really a com­bination of two prefixes, one of which is the verb marker. There­fore, the nonexistent causative verb forms under discussion are precluded because they would contain an extra, unnecessary occurrence of the verb marker.

* Technical Discussion of the Prefix ol(ȩ)-

Though we have been treating the causative prefix ol(ȩ)- as a single morpheme, in reality it is probably a combination of two elements. Some question exists, however, as to which elements are actually involved, and several different analyses could be proposed, each presenting its own difficulties and irregularities. Therefore, the explanations of ol(ȩ)- given below are very tenta­tive and reflect our inadequate knowledge of the structure of this prefix.

In order to explain the non-occurrence of causative verb forms like *oldmik, etc., we suggested at the end of 9.2.2 above that ol(ȩ)- actually contains the verb marker. Thus, ol(ȩ)- appears to consist of the variant o- of the verb marker and the variant -l-of the imperfective marker. Some evidence that -l- is the imperfec­tive marker is found in the fact that this consonant is missing in those verb forms whose basic structure characteristically lacks the imperfective marker. For example, the perfective forms of causative verbs in ol(ȩ)- would not be expected to contain the imperfective marker, and in fact such forms do not show -l-: thus, we have perfective ochisii ‘chase him/her/it’ from olȩchiis ‘chase’, perfective osȩbȩkii ‘make it fly’ from olsebȩk ‘make… fly’, and so forth. In addition, the ergative forms of causative verbs in ol(ȩ)-would not contain the imperfective marker, and these, too, lack -l-: thus, motuu ‘be made to enter’ is the ergative form of oltuu ‘put into, make…enter’, etc.

If we assume that ol(ȩ)- consists of the verb marker o- and the imperfective marker -l-, as described above, we run into certain problems that cannot be explained. First, we have seen in 6.1 and in above that the verb marker appears as o- only when a b appears in the following verb stem or causative marker. In many of the causative verbs listed in 15, there is no b at all, yet the verb marker invariably appears as o-. Why this should be so remains a mystery. Second, we noted in 5.5.a that the imperfec­tive marker takes the variant -l- only when it precedes verb stems which begin with the consonants t, d, s, l, or ng. This rule does 211not hold for causative forms, however, since -l- can precede k-initial or ch-initial verb stems in words like olȩkerȩd ‘unload, let off’ and olȩchiis ‘chase’. Even more strikingly, the verb-stem-initial consonant is not deleted after the imperfective marker in causative verb forms; such deletion would be expected, since, as we saw in 5.5, it is one of the general phonetic rules which accounts for the correct form of imperfective verbs.9

From the discussion above, we can see that the two elements which make up the prefix ol(ȩ)- involve certain hard-to-explain irregularities. Perhaps the most puzzling feature of ol(ȩ)-, however, is its very structure: even though ol(ȩ)- contains no special causa­tive morpheme like the bȩk of omȩk- (cf. above), but seems to consist merely of the sequence verb marker + imperfective marker, it nevertheless has a causative meaning. There is no way of accounting for this unusual fact unless we modify our analysis of ol(ȩ)- in a significant way, as suggested briefly below.

It might also be claimed that the structure of ol(ȩ)- involves a causative marker o- followed by the imperfective marker -l-.10 Under such an analysis, causative verbs in ol(ȩ)- would, rather surprisingly, not contain any verb marker at all. In addition, we would have difficulty understanding why the Palauan language would have two phonetically divergent causative markers (o-and -bȩk-). This analysis has a few advantages, however. First of all, if the o- of ol(ȩ)- were a causative morpheme, then we could explain the fact that ol(ȩ)- has a causative meaning. Second, we would have a plausible way of explaining why initial o- remains in perfective causative forms such as ochisii ‘chase him/her/it’ (from olȩchiis ‘chase’), etc. If the o- of ol(ȩ)- were the verb marker, then we would expect it to metathesize in perfective verb forms (cf. 6.3.1); but, as forms like ochisii (as opposed to, say, *choisii) show, it obviously does not. This difficulty would be avoided if the o- of ol(ȩ)- were indeed not the verb marker, but a causative marker, as suggested here. Third, if the o- of ol(ȩ)- were the verb marker, ergative causative forms like motuu ‘be made to enter’ (from oltuu ‘put into, make…enter’) would have the odd feature of containing two instances of the verb marker (m- and -o-). The structure of such forms would be more plausible, however, if we analyzed the -o- as a causative marker. Additional Types of Causative Verbs with ol(ȩ)-

In 9.2.2 above, we saw that most causative verbs in ol(ȩ)- are 212derived from the stems of intransitive action verbs. A small number of causative verbs can be derived, however, by prefixing ol(ȩ)-to the stems of intransitive state verbs. A couple of examples of this type include olȩkeed ‘bring…near’ from kmeed ‘near’ and oldak ‘put together, unify’ from dmak ‘together’.

A few verbs are formed with the prefix ol(ȩ)- even though they do not appear to have a causative meaning. Originally, they were probably derived by combining the causative prefix ol(ȩ)- with a following verb stem, but over a long period of time their meanings have evolved so as to obscure their causative origin. Some commonly-used verbs in this category include orrengȩs ‘hear, listen to’, oldingȩl ‘visit’, oltoir ‘chase’, olȩker ‘call’, and olȩngȩseu ‘help’. Sample Sentences with ol(ȩ)- Causatives

In this section we will list several sentences illustrating the use of some of the causative verbs in ol(ȩ)- given in 15 or mentioned in

(16)   a.   A rȩngalȩk a olsebȩk a kȩdam.
        ‘The children are flying kites.’
    b.   Ak mo olluut ȩr a Droteo mȩ ng diak lȩbo ȩr a chei.
        ‘I’m going to make Droteo come back from going fishing.’
    c.   A ngalȩk a orrebȩt a blatong.
        ‘The child is dropping plates.’
    d.   A Cisco a olȩkeed ȩr a bilas.
        ‘Cisco is bringing the boat near.’


A small number of intransitive verb stems allow the formation of two different causative verbs, one in omȩ(k)- and the other in ol(ȩ)-. The resulting causative verbs have slightly different mean­ings, at least for some Palauan speakers. Because there is much variation from person to person with regard to the meaning, or even acceptability, of such causative verbs, the discussion below may not apply to all speakers.

The contrast between ol(ȩ)- and omȩ(k)- often involves whether or not the act of causation is intentional. In other words, it is a question of whether or not the subject of the causative verb means or intends the action or state to come about. Note the use 213of the causative forms of suebȩk a rȩngul ‘worried’11 in the fol­lowing sentences:

(17)   a.   A sensei a olsebȩk ȩr a rȩngul a Droteo.
        ‘The teacher is worrying Droteo (without meaning to).’
    b.   A sensei a omȩksebȩk ȩr a rȩngul a Droteo.
        ‘The teacher is worrying Droteo (deliberately).’

As the parenthesized parts of the English equivalents show, ol(ȩ)- implies non-intentional causation, while omȩ(k)- involves intentional causation.

A similar distinction in meaning is found between the two causative verbs derived from songȩrengȩr ‘hungry’, as illustrated in the examples below:

(18)   a.   Ak olsȩngȩrengȩr ȩr a Toki e le ng dimlak a temek ȩl mȩruul a kall.
        ‘I’m letting Toki go hungry because I didn’t have time to prepare any food.’
    b.   Ak omȩksȩngȩrengȩr ȩr a Toki e le ng dȩngȩrengȩr.
        ‘I’m making Toki go hungry because she’s naughty.’

In 18a, the causative verb formed with ol(ȩ)- has a meaning of non-intentional causation: here, the subject (ak ‘I’) is not pur­posefully making Toki go without food; rather, there is no food available, and this situation is beyond the subject’s control. By contrast, the causative verb formed with omȩ(k)- in 18b has a meaning of intentional causation and implies that the subject is deliberately withholding food from Toki as a punishment.

The causative verbs orrael and omȩkrael, derived from the stem rael ‘road’ (cf. intransitive mȩrael ‘walk, travel’), show a somewhat different kind of meaning distinction, as illustrated in the sentences below:

(19)   a.   A Droteo a orrael ȩr a kȩrȩbou.
        ‘Droteo is leading the water buffalo.’
    b.   A Droteo a omȩkrael ȩr a ngȩlȩkel ȩl mo ȩr a ungil ȩl klȩchad.
        ‘Droteo is guiding his child towards a good way of life.’

Though some speakers can use the two causatives interchangeably in sentences like 19a-b, the majority use orrael for ‘lead (an ani­mal), drive (a boat, etc.)’ and omȩkrael for ‘guide’.


In and above, we have already had occasion to 214mention the perfective forms of causative verbs, although we did not give a complete discussion of how they are derived. In this section, therefore, we will provide the perfective forms of a representative sample of causative verbs and explain the phonetic processes which account for their derivation. Our format will follow that which we adopted in 6.3 and 6.3.13 for presenting the perfective forms of “regular” (i.e., non-causative) transitive verbs. Thus, in lists 22 and 24 below, the causative verb is first given in its imperfective form, together with an English gloss; then, four representative perfective forms will be listed in the following order:

(20) Present tense,
3rd pers. sg. object
Past tense,
3rd pers. sg. object
  Present tense,

3rd pers. pl. non-human object
Past tense,

3rd pers. pl. non-human object

We will not provide English glosses for each perfective form, since their meanings can easily be determined from the chart in 20; thus, the perfective forms omȩkdakt ‘frighten’, for instance, would have the following English equivalents:

(21) ‘frighten him/her/it’ ‘frightened him/her/it’
  ‘frighten them’ ‘frightened them’

In the list below, we observe the perfective forms of causative verbs in omȩ(k)-:

a.   omȩka ‘feed’:   b.   omȩkcharm ‘make…suffer’:
         mȩkȩlii milȩkȩlii12           mȩkchȩrmii milȩkchȩrmii
      mȩka milȩka         mȩkcharm milȩkcharm
c.   omȩkdakt ‘frighten’:   d.   omȩkdȩchor ‘make…stand’:
      mȩkdȩktii milȩkdȩktii         mȩkȩdȩchȩrur milkȩdȩchȩrur
      mȩkdakt milȩkdakt         mȩkȩdȩchor milkȩdȩchor
e.   omȩkikiongȩl ‘make…dirty’:   f.   omȩkoad ‘kill’:
      mȩkikingȩlii milkikingȩlii         mȩkodir milkodir
      mȩkikiongȩl milkikiongȩl         mȩkoad milkoad
g.   omȩngamȩch ‘make…chew/ smoke’:   h.   omȩngim ‘give drink to’: 215
      mȩngȩmȩchii milȩngȩmȩchii         mȩngȩlmii milȩngȩlmii13
      mȩngamȩch milȩngamȩch         mȩngim milȩngim

You will notice that all of the perfective forms in 22 appear to have lost the initial o- of omȩ(k)-. For practical purposes, we can simply say that this o- must be deleted as part of the correct derivation of the perfective forms under discussion; a more technical analysis such as that given in above, however, more accurately reflects the complicated phonetic processes which are at work here. Much less complicated is the derivation of the past perfective forms of 22: we merely infix the past tense marker -il- (cf. 5.3.2) after the initial m- of the perfective verb form. We should also mention in passing how the past tense forms of imperfective causative verbs in omȩ(k)- are derived: as shown in 5.3.2.a, we replace word-initial o- with ul(ȩ)-. Thus, we have, for example, omȩka ‘feed’—ulȩmȩka ‘fed’, omȩkdakt ‘frighten’—ulȩmȩkdakt ‘frightened’, etc.

The perfective forms in 22 show the effects of vowel reduction or vowel cluster reduction (cf. 1.4.4 and 6.4). Full vowels or vowel clusters which appear in stressed syllables in the imperfective causative verb are reduced, respectively, to the neutral vowel ȩ (schwa) or to a single vowel when they come to appear in un­stressed syllables in certain perfective causative forms. In the list below, compare the imperfective causative forms in the left column with the corresponding 3rd pers. sg. object present perfective forms in the right column; in the latter forms the stress always appears on the object pronoun suffix (cf. 4.9, 4.9.14, and 6.3.1), which has the form -íi ‘him/her/it’ or, less frequently, vowel + r (e.g. -ír, -úr, etc.):

(23)   Imperfective Form of Causative Verb   3rd pers. sg. object Present Perfective Form
    omȩká ‘feed’   mȩkȩlíi ‘feed him/her/it’
    omȩkchárm ‘make…suffer’   mȩkchȩrmíi ‘make him/her/it suffer’
    omȩkdȩchór ‘make…stand’   mȩkȩdȩcȩrúr ‘make him/her/it stand’
    omȩkikngȩl ‘make…dirty’   mȩkikingȩlíi ‘make it dirty’
    omȩkd ‘kill’   mȩkodír ‘kill him/her/it’

By looking at the italicized vowels or vowel clusters in each of the above pairs of verb forms, we can clearly see the processes of reduction and how they are related to the position of the stress in 216the word. In contrast to the perfective forms of 23, full vowels and vowel clusters remain unchanged in the 3rd pers. pl. object perfective forms given in 22. This is due to the fact that in such forms, the object pronoun suffix is zero (Ø) (cf. 4.9.1) and therefore the full vowels or vowel clusters in question remain stressed (e.g. mȩká + Ø ‘feed them’, mȩkchárm + Ø ‘make them suffer’, etc.).

In the list below, we observe the perfective forms of causative verbs in ol(ȩ)-:

(24)   a.   olȩchiis ‘chase’:   b.   olȩkiis ‘wake up’:
            ochisii   ulȩchisii         okisii   ulȩkisii
             ochiis   ulȩchiis         okiis   ulȩkiis
    c.   ollangȩl ‘make..cry’:   d.   olluut ‘give back, make.. return’:
            olȩngȩlii   ullȩngȩlii         olutii   ullutii
            olangȩl   ullangȩl         oluut   ulluut
    e.   olsebȩk ‘’:   f.   orrebȩt ‘drop’:
            osȩbȩkii   ulsȩbȩkii         orȩbȩtii   urrȩbȩtii
            osebȩk   ulsebȩk         orebȩt   urrebȩt

In all of the perfective forms of 24, the -l- of ol(ȩ)- has been lost; as discussed in above, this is undoubtedly due to the fact that this -l- is the imperfective marker, which of course does not occur in perfective verb forms. In order to derive the past perfective forms of causative verbs in ol(ȩ)-, we simply replace word-initial o- with ul(ȩ)- (cf. 5.3.2.a).14 The past tense forms of imperfective causative verbs in ol(ȩ)- are also derived in this way: thus we have, for example, olȩchiis ‘chase’—ullȩchiis ‘chased’, ollangȩl ‘make..cry’—ulȩllangȩl ‘made..cry’, olsebȩk ‘make.. fly’—ulȩlsebȩk ‘’, etc. If the verb stem begins with r, any immediately preceding l assimilates to the r, as in orrebȩt ‘drop’, urrȩbȩtii ‘dropped it’, etc.

The perfective forms of 24, like those of 22, show various types of vowel and vowel cluster reduction. Can you identify the types of reduction involved in the pairs of verbs below?

(25)   Imperfective Form of Causative Verb   3rd pers. sg. object Present Perfective Form
    olȩchíis ‘chase’   ochisíi ‘chase him/her/it’
    ollúut ‘give back, make..return’   olutíi ‘give it back’ 217
    ollángȩl ‘make..cry’   olȩngȩlíi ‘make him/her/it cry’
    orrébȩt ‘drop’   orȩbȩtíi ‘drop it’


Though the ergative forms (cf. 5.4) of causative verbs are not used very frequently, they are nevertheless derived according to regular patterns. Causative verbs in omȩ(k)- show two different types of ergative forms. In one type, the causative prefix omȩ(k)- is re­placed by muk-, as in the following examples:

(26)   Ergative Form   Corresponding Causative Verb in omȩ(k)-
    mukdakt ‘get frightened’   omȩkdakt ‘frighten’
    mukdȩchor ‘be made to stand’   omȩkdȩchor ‘make… stand’
    mukringȩl ‘be/get hurt/harmed’   omȩkringȩl ‘hurt, make.. difficult’

In another type of ergative formation, the causative prefix omȩ(k)-is changed to obȩ(k)-; a detailed analysis of this phenomenon was given in above. Ergative forms in obȩ(k)-, however, have almost totally fallen out of use in present-day Palauan; in other words, they have become archaic.

Causative verbs in ol(ȩ)- have ergative forms with initial mo-, as in the following:

(27)   Ergative Form   Corresponding Causative Verb in ol(ȩ)-
    mokiis ‘be/get awakened’   olȩkiis ‘wake up’
    motuu ‘be made to enter’   oltuu ‘put into, make.. enter’
    modik ‘be banished’   oldik ‘banish’

Some discussion of the structure of mo- was presented in above.


In order to derive the hypothetical forms of causative verbs, we prefix the various hypothetical pronouns (cf. 4.10 and 4.10.19). If the causative verb is imperfective, we derive the hypothetical forms by replacing the o- of the causative prefix with a hypotheti­cal pronoun: thus, the hypothetical forms of omȩka ‘feed’ are kumȩka ‘(if) I feed’, lomȩka ‘(if) he/she feeds’, etc. If the causative 218verb is perfective, however, the hypothetical form is derived by substituting a hypothetical pronoun for the word-initial mȩ- or o-: thus, corresponding to mȩkȩlii ‘feed him/her/it’, we have kukȩlii ‘(if) I feed him/her/it’, lokȩlii ‘(if) he/she feeds him/her/it’, etc.


*14. The sequence ul(ȩ)- is probably derived from o- (the verb marker prefix) followed by -il- (the past tense marker). Cf. chap.5, note 2.

1. Many speakers also use this form to express the related meaning ‘build’. Some speakers, however, distinguish between omȩkdȩchor ‘make…stand’ and omȩkȩdȩchor ‘build’. The source and function of the additional ȩ in the latter form is a mystery.

2. The full vowel o of osiu ‘joining’ reduces to ȩ in the causative verb omȩkȩsiu ‘compare, imitate’.

3. The initial m of mad ‘dead’ changes to o when the prefix omȩk- is added. This change of m to o may be due to a phonetic rule of dissimi­lation similar to that observed in 6.1 and 6.2. In other words, the m of mad dissimilates from the m in the causative prefix omȩk- and becomes o.

4. In order to avoid possible confusion in the discussion to follow, we should point out here that the sequence -mȩ- found in omȩ(k)- is not the same as the - which we have dealt with extensively as the major variant of the verb marker (cf. 6.1). The -mȩ- of omȩ(k)- does not represent a single unit or morpheme which has structural significance; as we will see in, it actually consists of one morpheme (the imperfective marker -m-) and part of another (the -ȩk of the causative marker bȩk). 504

5. Some speakers delete the ȩ of the prefix between the consonants m and ng. Thus, we sometimes have omngim ‘make…drink’ and omngamȩch ‘make…chew, make…smoke’.

6. For a discussion of the l in this verb stem, cf. 6.5.b.

7. Mukdakt is one of the ergative forms of causative omȩkdakt ‘fright­en’. See 9.5 below.

8. Though translated identically, oltuu and olsisȩb are somewhat dif­ferent in meaning; this meaning difference is parallel to that found between tmuu and soisȩb, the action verbs to which they are related. While soisȩb implies difficulty in entering (perhaps because the entrance is too narrow, etc.), tmuu is more neutral in connotation. Therefore, olsisȩb means ‘make (someone) enter with difficulty, force/push into’, while oltuu lacks the connotation of force and sim­ply means ‘put into, make…enter’.

9. Most of the observations in this paragraph are due to Jo Ann Flora (personal communication). See also Wilson 1972:153.

10. This is essentially the position taken in Wilson 1972:150–155.

11. Suebȩk a rȩngul, which means, literally, ‘his heart flies’, is one of many expressions consisting of an intransitive (action or state) verb and a possessed form of reng ‘heart, spirit’. Expressions of this kind are used commonly in Palauan to denote feelings, emotions, or character traits. See 17.4 for more details.

12. In the perfective forms mȩkȩlii and milȩkȩlii, we note the presence of the final l of the verb stem kal ‘eat’. For further discussion, cf. 6.5.b.

13. The appearance of -l- in the perfective forms mȩngȩlmii and milȩ­ngȩlmii indicates that the verb stem for ‘drink’ contains an l. This l also turns up in the related noun ilumȩl ‘drink, beverage’.

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