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16 Object Clauses


In 5.1.1 we pointed out that Palauan transitive verbs name actions which involve a doer and a receiver. The receiver—the person, animal, or thing affected by the action in question—appears as the sentence object following the transitive verb. You should have no trouble identifying the noun phrases which function as sentence objects in the examples below:

(1)   a.   Ak milsa a Droteo ȩr a party.
        ‘I saw Droteo at the party.’
    b.   A buik a mo omȩka ȩr a bilis.
        ‘The boy will feed the dog.’
    c.   Ak lilengir a mlil a Droteo.
        ‘I borrowed Droteo’s car.’
    d.   A John a milȩngitakl a chȩlitakl ȩr a Siabal.
        ‘John was singing Japanese songs.’

The transitive verbs in 1 can only take concrete nouns as objects; thus, all of the objects in the examples above can be easily per­ceived by one or more of our five senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell).

There is an important class of Palauan transitive verbs which can take both concrete objects and objects describing actions or activities. Compare the a- and b-sentences in the examples below:

(2)   a.   Ak mla mo mȩrek ȩr a subȩlek.
        ‘I have finished my homework.’
    b.   Ak mla mo mȩrek ȩl mȩruul a kall.
        ‘I have finished preparing the food.’
(3)   a.   A Droteo a milsuub a tȩkoi ȩr a Merikel.
        ‘Droteo was studying English.’
    b.   A Droteo a milsuub ȩl mȩruul a mlai ȩr a demal.
        ‘Droteo learned how to make canoes from his father.’ 325

While the objects of mo mȩrek ‘finish, stop’ and mȩsuub ‘study, learn’ in the a-sentences above are concrete (subȩlek ‘my home­work’ and tȩkoi ȩr a Merikel ‘English’), the objects of these same verbs in the b-sentences designate certain actions or activities—preparing food, making canoes—rather than things. In the a-sentences, the objects of mo mȩrek ‘finish, stop’ and mȩsuub ‘study, learn’ are simply noun phrases, preceded by the word a (cf. 2.6), and, if appropriate, by the specifying word ȩr (cf. 2.7). By contrast, the italicized objects in the b-sentences have the structure of dependent clauses, as we will see below.

In discussing the grammatical characteristics of Palauan dependent clauses, we mentioned in 15.1 that dependent clauses are incomplete or deficient in two important respects. First of all, dependent clauses never contain an overtly-expressed subject; and second, the verb of the dependent clause can be in the present tense, even when the verb of the preceding independent clause is in some past tense and the whole sentence therefore designates a past action or event. Both of these features are observed in the italicized portions of 2b and 3b above: there is no subject fol­lowing ȩl where we would expect one, and the verb directly fol­lowing ȩl is in the present tense, even though both sentences describe past activities. In spite of the fact that the italicized por­tions of 2b and 3b therefore lack subjects and marking for the past tense, speakers of Palauan nevertheless have no difficulty interpreting them. Thus, just as in the case of the various de­pendent clauses described in chap. 15, Palauan speakers auto­matically know that the understood subject of mȩruul ‘make, prepare’ in the italicized portions of 2b and 3b is identical to that of the preceding clause. In 2b, for example, it goes without saying that the person who prepared the food (i.e., the understood sub­ject of mȩruul a kall ‘prepare the food’) is the same person who recently finished that very same activity—namely, the subject of the first clause ak ‘I’. Furthermore, speakers know that the acti­vities described by the present tense forms of mȩruul ‘make, prepare’ in the italicized portions of 2b and 3b really took place in the past, at time points identical to those of mla mo mȩrek ‘has finished’ and milsuub ‘learned’.

From the discussion above, we can see that the italicized portions of 2b and 3b should be analyzed as dependent clauses since their complete interpretation depends on information about the subject and the tense which is found in the preceding indepen­dent clause. In order to distinguish them from the many other 326types of dependent clauses examined in chap. 15, we will identify the dependent clauses of 2b and 3b as object clauses. An object clause is therefore a subtype of dependent clause which is used in “object position” immediately following certain transitive verbs like mo mȩrek ‘finish, stop’ and mȩsuub ‘study, learn’. If we compare the a- and b-sentences of 2-3 above, we can see that an object clause designating an action or activity can substitute for or replace a “simple” noun phrase object denoting something concrete.

One further grammatical characteristic of object clauses should be mentioned here. As we saw in chap. 15, many Palauan speakers can use past tense verb forms in purpose clauses, instru­ment clauses, and the like. By contrast, object clauses cannot contain past tense verb forms under any circumstances. Therefore, a sentence like the following is impossible (cf. 2b):

(4)   *Ak mla mo mȩrek ȩl mirruul a kall.

16.2. OBJECT CLAUSES FOLLOWING omuchȩl AND mo mȩrek

In this and the following sections, we will examine some of the most commonly used verbs which can be followed by object clauses. Most of these verbs also take concrete objects naming persons or things. In this section we will show how object clauses are used following the transitive verbs omuchȩl ‘begin’ and mo mȩrek ‘finish, stop’. Sentences containing the sequence omuchȩl/ mo mȩrek + object clause simply tell us that the subject begins or finishes a particular activity; the activity which is begun or finished is of course expressed by the words of the object clause.

In the examples below, the object clause following omuchȩl ‘begin’ has been italicized:

(5)   a.   Ak mo omuchȩl ȩlmȩngiis ȩr a klioklȩr a klukuk.
        ‘I’m going to begin digging the hole tomorrow.’
    b.   A Droteo a ulȩmuchȩl ȩl mȩsuub a tȩkoiȩr a Merikel er se ȩr a mȩkȩmad.
        ‘Droteo began to study English during the war.’

As the examples above show, an object clause can be followed by a relational phrase: thus, the temporal phrases ȩr a klukuk ‘tomorrow’ and er se ȩr a mȩkȩmad ‘during the war’ (cf. 14.6) designate the time at which some activity will begin or did begin.

The transitive verb omuchȩl ‘begin’ can also have a concrete noun phrase as object, as in the sentences below: 327

(6)   a.   Kȩdȩ mo omuchȩl ȩr a blai ȩr a klukuk.
        ‘We’ll begin (to build) the house tomorrow.’
    b.   Kȩ mo omuchȩl ȩr a urerem ȩr oingarang?
        ‘When are you going to begin your work?’

When omuchȩl is used as a transitive verb, as in the examples of 5 and 6 above, its subject must always be animate (or living)—usually a human being. It is also possible for omuchȩl to be used as an intransitive verb, in which case its subject will be inanimate (or non-living). The intransitive use of omuchȩl is observed in the sentences below:

(7)   a.   A meeting a mo omuchȩl ȩr a euid ȩl klok.
        ‘The meeting will begin at seven o’clock.’
    b.   A kȩrrȩkȩriil ȩr a Droteo a ulȩmuchȩl er a elii.
        ‘Droteo’s trial began yesterday.’

Since omuchȩl is an intransitive verb in the sentences of 7, these sentences of course do not contain any object noun phrases.

As we saw in 13.6, the special verbal expression mo mȩrek ‘finish, stop’ consists of the directional verb mo ‘go’ and mȩrek, a difficult-to-analyze form of the verb mȩrkui ‘finish.’ The sequence mo mȩrek always appears as a unit, and it functions as a transitive verb. In the sentences below, mo mȩrek ‘finish, stop’ is followed by an object clause, which has been italicized:

(8)   a.   Ak mlo mȩrek ȩl rȩmurt ȩr a eai ȩl klok.
        ‘I stopped running at eight o’clock.’
    b.   Ak mlo mȩrek ȩl mȩsuub a tȩkoiȩr a Merikel ȩr tia ȩl mlo mȩrek ȩl rak.1
        ‘I finished studying English last year.’
    c.   Ak mla mo mȩrek ȩl mȩruul ȩr a blai.
        ‘I’ve finished working on the house (for today).’
    d.   A Droteo a mla mo mȩrek ȩl bȩchiil.
        ‘Droteo is no longer married.’2
    e.   Kȩ mla mo mȩrek ȩl omȩngur?
        ‘Have you finished eating?’
    f.   Kȩ mla mo mȩrek ȩl mȩlamȩch a dȩkool?
        ‘Have you finished smoking your cigarette?’
    g.   A Droteo a mo mȩrek ȩl mȩngiis ȩr a klioklȩr a klukuk.
        ‘Droteo will finish digging the hole tomorrow.’

The examples in 8 show us many interesting facts about the form and meaning of mo mȩrek ‘finish, stop’. As we saw in 13.6, the form of mȩrek does not change when this verbal expression 328is put in the past tense. Instead, the past tense marker -l- is infixed into the directional verb mo to give mlo mȩrek, as observed in 8ab. Examples 8cf show that the auxiliary word mla (cf. is simply placed before mo mȩrek to indicate recent past time; and in 8g we see that mo mȩrek, which contains the present tense form of the directional verb mo, can be used to denote a future event (cf. 13.4), as evidenced by the accompanying temporal phrase ȩr a klukuk ‘tomorrow’.

As the English equivalents for the sentences of 8 indicate, the sequence mo mȩrek + object clause always refers to the stop­ping or finishing of something on a particular instance or occasion. In 8f, for example, the speaker is asking someone on a particular occasion (say, before a class is to begin) whether or not he has finished smoking. Such a question is quite different in meaning from the following:

(9)   Kȩ mla choitii a omȩlamȩch ȩl dȩkool?
         ‘Have you quit/given up smoking cigarettes?’

As opposed to 8f, 9 asks the person addressed whether he has quit or stopped the habitual action of smoking. In 9, the object of mla choitii ‘has quit’ (cf. imperfective mȩngoit ‘quit, throw away’) is a noun phrase containing the derived action noun omȩ­lamȩch ‘(action of) smoking’ (cf. 8.6); the structure of sentences like 9 will be examined further in 17.8.3

The verbal expression mo mȩrek ‘finish, stop’ need not be followed by an object clause as in the examples of 8 above; thus, as the examples below illustrate, mo mȩrek can also take a con­crete object (cf. 2a above):

(10)   a.   Kȩ mla mo mȩrek a kall?
        ‘Have you finished (preparing) the food?’
    b.   Ke mla mo mȩrek ȩr a skuul?
        ‘Have you finished your schooling?’
    c.   Ak mla mo mȩrek ȩr a urerek.
        ‘I’ve finished my work/job (for the day).’

When mo mȩrek is used as a transitive verb, as in 8 and 10 above, its subject must be animate (usually human). But when mo mȩrek is used intransitively, as in the following sentences, its subject will be inanimate:

(11)   a.   A meeting a mo mȩrek ȩr a etiu ȩl klok.
        ‘The meeting will end at nine o’clock.’ 329
    b.   A chull a mla mo mȩrek.
        ‘The rainy season has ended.’


In 7.4 we noted that the small class of Palauan transitive state verbs can be identified by the following two features: first, like all other transitive verbs, they can take objects; and second, like all other state verbs, they have past tense forms derived with the auxiliary mle ‘was, were’. Two transitive state verbs—mȩduch ‘know how (to), be skilled at’ and mȩtitur ‘not know how (to), not be capable of’—can be followed by concrete objects as well as object clauses. In the sentences below, these verbs appear followed by concrete objects:

(12)   a.   Ak mȩduch ȩr a ochur.
        ‘I’m good at math.’
    b.   Ak mȩtitur ȩr a misil ȩr a sidosia.
        ‘I don’t know anything about (fixing) car motors.’

When mȩduch ‘know how (to), be skilled at’ and mȩtitur ‘not know how (to), not be capable of’ take object clauses, they express the subject’s ability or lack of ability, respectively, to do some activity or task. The following sentences illustrate these verbs in both the present tense and past tense followed by object clauses:

(13)   a.   Ak mȩduch ȩl omȩkall a sidosia.
        ‘I know how to drive a car.’
    b.   A Droteo a mle mȩduch ȩl mȩlȩkoi a tȩkoi ȩr a Siabal e ng di ng mla obes.
        ‘Droteo used to know how to speak Japanese, but he has forgotten.’
(14)   a.   A John a mȩtitur ȩl mȩngikai.
        ‘John doesn’t know how to swim.’
    b.   Ak mle mȩtitur ȩl mȩlȩkoi a tȩkoi ȩr a Siabal er se ȩr a taem ȩr a mȩkȩmad.
        ‘I didn’t know how to speak Japanese at the time of the war.’

In 13.5 we saw that the directional verb mo ‘go’ can be used as an auxiliary word preceding state verbs to designate a change of state. Since mȩduch ‘know how (to), be skilled at’ and mȩtitur ‘not know how (to), not be capable of’ are state verbs, they can also occur with mo to denote a change of state. Note the following examples: 330

(15)   a.   Ak mle mȩtitur ȩl mȩngikai e ng di ak mla mo mȩduch.
        ‘I used to be unable to swim, but (now) I’ve learned how.’
    b.   A rubak a mle mȩduch ȩl mȩlȩkoi a tȩkoi ȩr a Ruk e ng di ng mla mo mȩtitur.
        ‘The old man used to know how to speak Trukese, but (now) he’s no longer able to.’


In this section, we will look at two more verbs which allow con­crete objects as well as object clauses. Since there is nothing un­usual about the grammatical behavior of these verbs, we will simply list examples without comment.

In 16 below, the transitive verb mȩlasȩm ‘try’ is followed by a concrete object, while in 17 it takes an object clause:

(16)   a.   Kȩ mla mȩlasȩm ȩr a sasimi?
        ‘Have you tried out/tasted the sashimi?’
    b.   Kȩ mȩlasȩm ȩr ngak?
        ‘Are you challenging me?’
    c.   Kȩ mla mȩlasȩm ȩr a Droteo?
        ‘Have you tried (to ask/consult) Droteo?’
    d.   Kȩ mla chesȩmii4 a mlim?
        ‘Have you tried out/checked your car?’
(17)   a.   Ak millasȩm ȩl mȩnga ȩr a ngikȩl.
        ‘I tried to eat the fish.’
    b.   Kȩ mla mȩlasȩm ȩl omȩkall a sidosia?
        ‘Have you ever tried driving a car?’
    c.   Ak mla mȩlasȩm ȩl mȩruul ȩr a subȩlek, e ng di ng kmal mȩringȩl.
        ‘I’ve tried to do my homework, but it’s very difficult.’
    d.   Kȩ mla mȩlasȩm ȩl mȩlȩkoi ȩr a John?
        ‘Have you tried talking to John?’

The transitive verb mȩsuub ‘study, learn’ is used with a con­crete object in 18 below, and with an object clause in 19 (cf. 3a vs. 3b above):

(18)   a.   Ak mo mȩsuub ȩr a reksi er a Belau.
        ‘I’m going to study Palauan history.’
    b.   A Satsko ng milsuub a ngarang?
        ‘What was Satsko studying?’ 331
(19)   a.   Ak milsuub ȩl mȩluchȩs a tȩkoi ȩr a Siabal er se ȩr a mȩkȩmad.
        ‘I learned how to write Japanese during the war.’
    b.   Kȩ milsuub ȩl omȩkall a sidosia er oingarang?
        ‘When did you learn to drive a car?’


So far we have only seen object clauses whose unexpressed subject is understood to be identical to that of preceding transitive verbs such as omuchȩl ‘begin’, mo mȩrek ‘finish, stop’, mȩduch ‘know how (to), be skilled at’, mȩtitur ‘not know how (to), not be capable of’, mȩlasȩm ‘try’, and mȩsuub ‘study, learn’. There are some cases, however, in which the unexpressed subject of the object clause is understood differently, as in the example below:

(20)   A Toki a milȩngȩtakl ȩr a Helen ȩl mo ȩr a bulis.
    ‘Toki persuaded Helen to go to the police with her.’

In 20, the subject (Toki) influenced some other person (Helen) to do a particular action (i.e., go to the police). In other words, the action of going to the police was carried out by the person persuaded (Helen) rather than the person doing the persuading (Toki). Therefore, the unexpressed subject of the object clause ȩl mo ȩr a bulis ‘go to the police’ is not identical to Toki, the subject of milȩngȩtakl ‘persuaded’, but rather to Helen, the noun imme­diately following milȩngȩtakl. The verb milȩngȩtakl in 20 thus appears to be followed by a succession of two objects, the first one naming the person influenced or affected by the persuasion and the second one—an object clause—describing the action pur­sued as a result of the persuasion.

In the sentences below, we observe an over-all structure identical to that of 20 above. This “two object” structure is typical with the verbs olȩngȩseu ‘help’, olisȩchakl ‘teach’, and oldurȩch ‘tell, ask’. In other words, these verbs not only involve a person who is helped, taught, or asked (the first object), but also some kind of an activity which the person is helped, taught, or asked to do (the second object). For purposes of clarity, we have italicized the first object in the examples below; the person referred to by this object is, of course, the understood subject of the following object clause. Note, in addition, that the first object will be ex­pressed by an object pronoun suffix (cf. 4.9) if a perfective form of olȩngȩseu, olisȩchakl, or oldurȩch is used: 332

(21)   a.   Ak ullȩngȩseu ȩr a Toki ȩl mȩruul a subȩlel.
        ‘I helped Toki do her homework.’
    b.   Ng sȩbȩchem ȩl ngosukak5 ȩl mo chosbȩrbȩrii a blik?
        ‘Can you help me paint my house?’
    c.   Ak ngilsutȩrir a rȩsȩchȩlikȩl mȩngȩtmokl ȩr a blai.
        ‘I helped my friends clean the house.’
    d.   A rubak a ullisȩchakl ȩr a Droteo ȩl mȩlasȩch a mlai.
        ‘The old man taught Droteo how to carve canoes.’
    e.   A rȩchad ȩr a Arabia a uldȩrchȩtȩrir6 a rȩchad ȩr a Siabal ȩl mȩkodȩtȩrir a rȩchad ȩr a skojo.
        ‘The Arabs told the Japanese to kill the people at the airport.’
    f.   Ak uldȩrchii a John ȩl mȩkodir a Toki.
        ‘I told John to kill Toki.’
    g.   A sensei a uldȩrchak ȩl mo ȩr a Guam.
        ‘The teacher told me to go to Guam.’


  Present Past
3rd pers. sg. object choitii chilitii
3rd pers. pl. (non-hum) object chȩmoit chiloit

Some simple sentences containing the imperfective and perfective forms of mȩngoit followed by a concrete object include the following:

     a.    Ak mo mȩngoit ȩr a komi.    ‘I’m going to throw away the trash.’
    b.   A Toki a chilitii a Droteo.   ‘Toki divorced Droteo.’
    c.   Ak chilitii a skuul er a elii.   ‘I skipped school yesterday.’
    Person and Number of Object Present Past
      1st ngosukak ngilsukak
      2nd ngilsukau ngosukau
      3rd ngilsuir ngosuir
      3rd pers. (hum) pl. ngosutȩrir ngilsutȩrir

The set of object pronoun suffixes observed in the above perfective forms is identical to that illustrated in 4.9.4, ex.53, except that the 3rd pers. sg. obj. suffix is -ir (cf. 4.9.4, ex. 54).

    Person and Number of Object Present Past
      1st odȩrchak uldȩrchak
      2nd odȩrchau uldȩrchau
      3rd odȩrchii uldȩrchii
      3rd pers. (hum) pl. odȩrchȩtȩrir uldȩrchȩtȩrir

Since oldurȩch is a causative verb in torm, its perfective forms follow the patterns for causative verbs described in 9.4. 3rd pers. (hum) pl.

1. Notice that the temporal phrase ȩr tia ȩl mlo mȩrek ȩl rak ‘last year’ happens to contain an occurrence of the past tense form of mo mȩrek. Cf. chap. 14, note 27.

2. In 8d, the object clause following mla mo mȩrek contains the state verb bȩchiil ‘married’ (cf. buch ‘spouse’). Therefore, a word-for-word translation of this sentence would be something like ‘Droteo has finished being married.’

3. The transitive verb mȩngoit ‘quit, throw away’ has the following perfective forms:

4. This is the 3rd pers. sg. object present perfective form of mȩlasȩm ‘try’. The appearance of the full vowel e ([ε]) in the first syllable is quite unusual (cf. 6.3.1–2).

5. Some of the present and past perfective forms of olȩngȩseu ‘help’ (past: ullȩngȩseu) are listed below:

6. Some of the present and past perfective forms of oldurȩch ‘tell, ask’ (past: ulȩldurȩch) are given below:

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