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23 Relative Clauses

23.1. FUNCTION OF RELATIVE CLAUSES

In Palauan, as in all other languages, the speaker always has a choice as to how much information he will supply in the sentences which he utters. One of the most common ways of incorporating information into a sentence is to expand a noun phrase (cf. 3.6) by adding to it a sequence called a relative clause. Before discussing the grammatical characteristics of relative clauses, we will first examine their function by comparing the sentences in the pairs below:

(1)   a.   A rȩdil a mlo ȩr a kȩlȩbus.
        ‘The woman went to jail.’
         
    b.   A rȩdil ȩl silsȩbii a blai a mlo ȩr a kȩlȩbus.
        ‘The woman who burned down the house went to jail.’
         
(2)   a.   Kȩ mȩdȩngȩlii a ngalȩk?
        ‘Do you know the child?’
         
    b.   Kȩ mȩdȩngȩlii a ngalȩk ȩl dȩngchokl ȩr a bita ȩr a Toki?
        ‘Do you know the child who is sitting next to Toki?’
         
(3)   a.   Kȩ mla chuiȩuii a hong?
        ‘Have you read the book?’
         
    b.   Kȩ mla chuiȩuii a hong ȩl ngar ȩr a bebul a tebȩl?
        ‘Have you read the book which is on the table?’

In the a-sentences above, the italicized subject or object noun phrase (cf. 2.3 and 3.6) consists of a single noun, while in the b-sentences this noun phrase has been expanded by placing a relative clause (in bold type) right after the noun. The parts of the b-sentences in bold type are properly termed “relative clauses” because they relate a particular piece of information to the pre­ceding noun. Thus, in 1b, for example,

(1b)   A rȩdilȩl silsȩbii a blai a mlo ȩr a kȩlȩbus.
    ‘The woman who burned down the house went to jail.’ 451

the relative clause expresses a fact or event—namely, silsȩbii a blai ‘burned down the house’—which is being related to or as­sociated with the preceding noun rȩdil ‘woman’. By relating the fact ‘burned down the house’ to the noun ‘woman’, the relative clause of 1b serves to modify, specify, or narrow down the identity of this noun. In other words, the subject noun phrase rȩdil ‘woman’ of la is much vaguer (or less exact) in its reference than the subject noun phrase rȩdilȩl silsȩbii a blai ‘the woman who burned down the house’ of 1b, where the relative clause introduced by ȩl gives detailed information about what the woman did and thereby narrows down her identity. In the b-sentences of 23, the relative clauses which are part of the object noun phrases likewise narrow down the identity of the preceding nouns by describing specific states which are associated with them.

In the b-sentences of 13, the relative clauses have the struc­ture of ordinary sentences except that they are introduced by ȩl and do not contain any overtly-expressed subject noun phrases. Furthermore, the missing subject noun phrase of the relative clause is understood as being identical to the noun phrase which precedes (or heads) the relative clause. In these respects, relative clauses closely resemble the various types of dependent clauses which we classified in chap. 15. Two important features dis­tinguish relative clauses from dependent clauses, however. First, relative clauses must always be preceded by a noun (called the head noun), while dependent clauses are typically preceded by another clause (the independent or main clause—cf. 15.1). Second, there are no restrictions on the tense of verbs in relative clauses, whereas the verbs of dependent clauses tend to be in the present tense, even when the sentence as a whole designates an event or state in the past.

To summarize what we have said in this section, Palauan has “expanded” noun phrases with the structure head noun + relative clause. The distribution1 of such noun phrases is of course identical to that of simpler noun phrases: thus, in 1 the sequence rȩdilȩl silsȩbii a blai ‘the woman who burned down the house’ can substitute for the single noun rȩdil ‘woman’ as subject noun phrase, and in 2 the sequence ngalȩkȩl dȩngchokl ȩr a bita ȩr a Toki ‘the child who is sitting next to Toki’ can replace the single noun ngalȩk ‘child’ as object noun phrase.

23.2. DERIVATION OF RELATIVE CLAUSES

In order to account correctly for the structure and meaning of 452Palauan relative clauses, we propose that “expanded” noun phrases with the structure head noun + relative clause are simply derived from sequences in which the head noun is immediately followed by a whole sentence. In other words, the (subject) noun phrase rȩdilȩl silsȩbii a blai ‘the woman who burned down the house’ of 1b has its source in the following structure:

(4)   rȩdil [a rȩdil a silsȩbii a blai]
    (‘the woman who burned down the house’)

In order to change 4 into the actually-spoken sequence rȩdilȩl silsȩbii a blai, we delete the subject rȩdil ‘woman’ of the bracketed sentence2 because it is identical to the preceding head noun, and we insert ȩl as the relative clause introducer.3 A sequence of the form head noun + bracketed sentence such as that in 4 cannot be transformed into a grammatical noun phrase of the form head noun + relative clause unless the subject noun phrase of the bracketed sentence is identical to the preceding head noun. If this “identity condition” is not satisfied, then it is impossible to correctly derive a noun phrase of the form head noun + relative clause. Thus, a source sequence like the following (cf. 4)

(4’)   *rȩdil [a ngalȩk a silsȩbii a blai]
    (*‘the woman who the child burned down the house’)

can never be transformed into a grammatical Palauan structure because the subject (ngalȩk ‘child’) of the bracketed sentence is different from the preceding head noun (rȩdil ‘woman’). A similar condition holds in English, as the ungrammatical English “equi­valent” indicates.

In the sentences below we observe further examples of Palau­an relative clauses (italicized):

(5)   a.   A buik ȩl mle ȩr a blik er a elii a Droteo.
        ‘The boy who came to my house yesterday was Droteo.’
         
    b.   A rȩsȩchal ȩl millatȩch ȩr a mlai a mȩsaul.
        ‘The men who were cleaning the canoe are tired.’
         
    c.   Ngke ȩl ngalȩk ȩl mȩnguiu ȩr a simbung ng tȩchang?
        ‘Who’s that child who’s reading the newspaper?’
         
    d.   Ak rirȩngȩsii a ngalȩk ȩl lmangȩl.
        ‘I heard a child (who was) crying.’
         
    e.   Ak mildȩchȩmii a buik ȩl mȩlesȩb ȩr a blai.
        ‘I caught a boy (who was) setting fire to the house.’
         
    f.   Ng mȩkngit a rȩnguk ȩr a sȩchȩlik ȩl mlad.
        ‘I’m sad about my friend who died.’4 453

In 5ac the sequence head noun + relative clause functions as subject noun phrase, in 5de this same sequence functions as object noun phrase, and in 5f it appears in a cause phrase (cf. 14.5) introduced by the relational word ȩr. The relative clauses in 5 can all be derived according to the analysis given above: because the deleted subject of the relative clause would have been identical to the preceding head noun in the source structures of 5af, the italicized relative clauses of 5 are automatically understood as having subjects identical to this head noun.

23.3. PASSIVE SENTENCES AS RELATIVE CLAUSES

In all of the examples given so far, the head noun preceding a relative clause identifies the doer or agent of the relative clause if the latter is derived from a transitive sentence. Thus, in 1b, for instance,

(1b)   A rȩdil ȩl silsȩbii a blai a mlo ȩr a kȩlȩbus.
    ‘The woman who burned down the house went to jail.’

the head noun rȩdil ‘woman’ corresponds to what would be the agent in the transitive sentence from which the relative clause is derived—namely,

(6)   A rȩdil a silsȩbii a blai.
    ‘The woman burned down the house.’

In 6 the agent rȩdil ‘woman’ appears as the subject of the transitive verb silsȩbii ‘burned it down’, while the thing receiving the effect of the action—namely, blai ‘house’—appears as the object of silsȩbii. As we saw in 19.7, a transitive sentence like 6 can be transformed in such a way that the agent and the object exchange positions. In the resulting passive sentence,

(7)   A blai a lȩsilsȩbii a rȩdil.
    ‘The house was burned down by the woman.’

the object of 6blai ‘house’—has come to appear in subject position, and the agent—rȩdil ‘woman’—has been moved to the end of the sentence. Furthermore, the verb of the sentence has become hypothetical.

Now, it is possible to derive relative clauses that are pre­ceded by head nouns which identify the object of the relative clause rather than the agent. All we need to do is make sure that the relative clause of the sequence head noun + relative clause cor­responds to a passive sentence and that the abovementioned 454identity condition is met. Indeed, it is precisely because of this identity condition that head nouns referring to the object of a relative clause must be followed by relative clauses derived from passive sentences. In other words, only in a passive sentence like 7 would the subject noun phrase (which must be identical to the preceding head noun in order to form a grammatical relative clause) actually refer to the person or thing receiving the effect of the action—i.e., the object of the corresponding active sentence 6. Observe, therefore, the sentence below, in which the head noun blai ‘house’ refers to the object of the relative clause:

(8)   A blai ȩl lȩsilsȩbii a rȩdil a blil a Toki.
    ‘The house which the woman burned down/which was burned down by the woman was Toki’s house.’

The sequence head noun + relative clause of 8 is derived just like that of 4, except that the bracketed sentence is passive in form ( = 7):

(9)   blai [a blai a lȩsilsȩbii a rȩdil]
    (‘the house which the woman burned down/which was burned down by the woman’)

Just as in the case of 4, the subject blai ‘house’ of the bracketed sentence is deleted because it is identical to the preceding head noun, and ȩl is inserted as the relative clause introducer.

The sentences below illustrate additional instances of relative clauses that are derived from passive sentences:

(10)   a.   A blai ȩl lurruul ȩr ngii a Droteo a mle klou.
        ‘The house which Droteo built was big.’
         
    b.   A buik ȩl kulsa er a elii a Tony.
        ‘The boy whom I saw yesterday was Tony.’
         
    c.   A babier ȩl moluchȩs ȩr ngii a mo ȩr a sensei.
        ‘The letter you’re writing goes to the teacher.’
         
    d.   A biang ȩl lȩngilim a Droteo a mle bȩtok.
        ‘The amount of beer which Droteo drank was considerable.’
         
    e.   A kall ȩl mrirȩllii ng ngar ȩr ker?
        ‘Where’s the food you made?’
         
    f.   Ng ngar ȩr ngii a chisel a Toki ȩl kudȩngei.
        ‘I’ve got some news to tell you about Toki.’5
         
    g.   A subȩlek ȩl kbla kbo kmȩrek ȩr ngii a kmal mle mȩringȩl.
        ‘The homework which I’ve just finished was very difficult.’
         
    h.   A tȩkoi ȩl lȩbo losuub ȩr ngii a rȩngalȩk a tȩkoi ȩr a Sina.
        ‘The language that the children are going to study is Chinese.’ 455

In 19.7.3 we saw that Palauan passive sentences can also be derived by moving into subject position a noun phrase which follows the relational word ȩr in the corresponding active sentence. Thus, the subject of the following passive sentence

(11)   A delmȩrab a losuub ȩr ngii a Droteo.
    ‘(lit.) The room is (being) studied in by Droteo.’

appears in a locational phrase following ȩr in the corresponding active sentence

(12)   A Droteo a mȩsuub ȩr a delmȩrab.
    ‘Droteo studies/is studying in the room.’

As we might expect, it is also possible to have sequences of the form head noun + relative clause in which the relative clause is derived from a passive sentence like 11 and the head noun there­fore identifies the location, source, etc., of the action or event designated by the relative clause. This phenomenon is observed in the sentences below:

(13)   a.   Tia a delmȩrab ȩl losuub ȩr ngii a Droteo.
        ‘This is the room that Droteo studies/is studying in.’
         
    b.   Tia a basio ȩl lȩbilosii a bȩlochȩl ȩr ngii a Moses.
        ‘This is the place where Moses shot the pigeon.’
         
    c.   Tia a kȩdȩra ȩl lȩmlad ȩr ngii a John er se ȩr a mȩkȩmad.
        ‘This is the beach where John died during the war.’
         
    d.   A blai ȩl lȩkie ȩr ngii a rȩchad ȩr a Sina ng ngar ȩr ker?
        ‘Where’s the house that the Chinese live in?’
         
    e.   Tia kid a blsibs ȩl lȩtilobȩd ȩr ngii a beab.
        ‘Here’s the hole that the mouse came out of.’

A further type of passive sentence can be formed by moving to sentence-initial position a noun phrase which is part of a dependent clause (cf. chap. 15), an object clause (cf. chap. 16), or the like. Thus, an active sentence like the following,

(14)   A Droteo a millasȩm ȩl mȩnga ȩr a ngikȩl.
    ‘Droteo tried to eat the fish.’

which contains an object clause following millasȩm ‘tried’ (cf. 16.4) can be transformed into the passive sentence below:

(15)   A ngikȩl a lullasȩm ȩl mȩnga ȩr ngii a Droteo.
    ‘(lit.) The fish was tried to be eaten by Droteo.’ = ‘Droteo tried to eat the fish.’
The subject of 15ngikȩl ‘fish’—was originally an object in 14, 456where it follows the (imperfective) transitive verb mȩnga ‘eat’ in the object clause introduced by ȩl. When a singular noun phrase object in a dependent clause or object clause is passivized in this way, it must leave behind a pronominal trace (cf. 19.7), as the pre­sence of ȩr ngii in 15 indicates. Notice that a sentence like 15 has no acceptable word-for-word equivalent in English.

Now, a passive sentence like 15 can be used as a relative clause following the head noun ngikȩl ‘fish’ in a source sentence such as the following:

(16)   A ngikȩl [a ngikȩl a lullasȩm ȩl mȩnga ȩr ngii a Droteo] a mle bȩkȩbau.
    (‘The fish which Droteo tried to eat was spoiled.’)

By “processing” the relative clause of 16, we get the following grammatical Palauan sentence:

(17)   A ngikȩl ȩl lullasȩm ȩl mȩnga ȩr ngii a Droteo a mle bȩkȩbau.
    ‘The fish which Droteo tried to eat was spoiled.’

Relative clauses whose derivation follows the pattern of 1617 are given in the additional examples below:

(18)   a.   A tȩkoi ȩl kmȩduch ȩl mȩlȩkoi ȩr ngii a tȩkoi ȩr a Siabal.
        ‘The language which I know how to speak is Japanese.’
         
    b.   Ng kmal soak ȩl mo omes ȩr a hong ȩl Droteo a dilu ȩl kmo a Toki a milȩnguiu ȩr ngii.
        ‘I’d really like to see the book which Droteo said Toki was reading.’
         
    c.   Ng ngar ȩr ngii a ududem ȩl sȩbȩchem ȩl mȩskak?
        ‘Do you have any money you can give me?’

23.4. EQUATIONAL SENTENCES AS RELATIVE CLAUSES

As we saw in 18.6, an equational sentence is one which has the basic structure noun phrase + noun phrase. In such sentences, the subject noun phrase is equated with or included in the category of individuals or things designated by the second noun phrase. Equational sentences can serve as relative clauses, as the following types of expressions indicate:

(19)   John ȩl sensei
    ‘John the teacher’
     
    JAL ȩl kombalii ȩr a Siabal
    ‘JAL, a Japanese company’
     
    New Delhi ȩl kingall ȩr a government ȩr a India
    ‘New Delhi, the seat of government of India’ 457
     
    blik ȩl {smengt/kȩrrȩkar}
    ‘my house, which is (made of) {cement/wood},
     
    bilsȩngek ȩl chert
    ‘my boat, which is an outboard’
     
    ngȩlȩkek ȩl {rȩdil/sȩchal}
    ‘my {daughter/son}’ (lit. ‘my child who is a {girl/boy})’

The expressions of 19 are all derived from sequences of the form head noun + relative clause, where the relative clause is an equational sentence. Thus, John ȩl sensei ‘John the teacher’ has its source in

(20)   John [a John a sensei]
    (‘John the teacher’)
The bracketed equational sentence A John a sensei ‘John is a teach­er’ of 20 is transformed into a relative clause by deleting the subject John under identity with the preceding head noun and inserting the relative clause introducer ȩl. For convenience of discussion, we will apply the term appositional structure to a sequence like John ȩl sensei ‘John the teacher’, in which one noun phrase is linked to another by the word ȩl (the relative clause introducer).

By far, the most commonly-used type of appositional struc­ture in Palauan consists of a noun phrase of possession (usually a single possessed noun) followed by ȩl and another noun (cf. 3.10). Such appositional structures are used to specify the function which something serves on a particular occasion and refer primarily to categories of food and drink. Several examples, similar to those given in 3.10, are listed below:

(21)   imȩlek ȩl biang
    ‘my (drink of) beer’
     
    kȩlem ȩl udong
    ‘your noodles’
     
    odimel ȩl babii
    ‘his pork’
     
    onguled ȩl kukau
    ‘our taro’
     
    chȩrmek ȩl bilis
    ‘my dog’

The appositional structures of 21 are derived exactly like those of 45819. Thus, imȩlek ȩl biang ‘my (drink of) beer’ has a source of the form head noun + relative clause—namely,

(22)   imȩlek [a imȩlek a biang]
    (‘my (drink of) beer’)

The bracketed equational sentence A imȩlek a biang ‘My drink is beer’ of 22 is transformed into a relative clause by processes which are already familiar to us.

23.5. RELATIVE CLAUSES CONTAINING STATE VERBS

In the examples below, the relative clauses introduced by ȩl contain various types of state verbs (cf. chap. 7):

(23)   a.   A Toki a silsȩbii a blil a Droteo ȩl bȩches.
        ‘Toki burned down Droteo’s house, which was new.’
         
    b.   Ak milȩngȩtakl ȩr a bilsȩngel a Hirosi ȩl tȩlȩmall.
        ‘I towed Hirosi’s boat, which was broken.’
         
    c.   A Toki a milȩngȩtmokl ȩr a delmȩrab ȩr a Droteo ȩl kikiong­ȩl.
        ‘Toki was straightening up Droteo’s room, which was dirty.’

There is nothing unusual about the derivation of the sequences head noun + relative clause of 23 from structures of the form head noun + bracketed sentence.

Contrasting in structure with 23ac above are sentences in which a state verb (or an expression containing a state verb) precedes a particular noun and is linked to it by ȩl. Sequences of the form state verb +ȩl will be considered a type of modifier because they describe, modify, or give further information about the immediately following noun; other types of modifiers will be discussed in detail in chap. 24. For many Palauan speakers, there is no difference in meaning between sequences of the form state verb + ȩl + noun vs. those of the form head noun +ȩl + state verb (i.e., relative clauses). For some speakers, however, the sequence state verb +ȩl + noun has a different interpretation, as indicated in the examples below (cf. 23ac):

(24)   a.   A Toki a silsȩbii a bȩches ȩl blil a Droteo.
        ‘Toki burned down Droteo’s new house (not his old one).’
         
    b.   Ak milȩagȩtakl ȩr a tȩlȩmall ȩl bilsȩngel a Hirosi.
        ‘I towed the boat of Hirosi’s that was broken.’ 459
         
    c.   A Toki a milȩngȩtmokl ȩr a kikiongȩl ȩl delmȩrab ȩr a Droteo.
        ‘Toki was straightening up the room of Droteo’s that was dirty.’

While the relative clauses of 23 simply provide additional, non-essential information about the head nouns which they follow, the modifiers of 24 supply essential identifying information to distinguish the modified noun from other items with which it is implied to be in contrast. Thus, comparing 23a and 24a, we see that the relative clause ȩl bȩches of 23a provides us with a certain piece of information about Droteo’s house almost as an after­thought (i.e., the house which Toki burned down just happened to be new), while the modifier bȩches ȩl of 24a identifies or singles out Droteo’s new house (as opposed to any other houses he may own) as the one which Toki burned down. In a similar way, the modifier tȩlȩmall ȩl of 24b makes it clear that it was Hirosi’s broken boat that the speaker was towing, and not some other boat of Hirosi’s; and in 24c kikiongȩl ȩl implies that Toki was cleaning the particular room of Droteo’s that was dirty, but not any other of his rooms.

23.6. RELATIVE CLAUSES FOLLOWING chad AND klalo

Since Palauan has no series of “indefinite” words corresponding to English someone/anyone, something/anything, etc., it simply makes use of the nouns chad ‘person, man’ and klalo ‘thing’ to express these concepts. Thus, in the examples below, chad and klalo are used to refer to a person or thing whose identity is not known:

(25)   a.   Ng ngar ȩr ngii a chad ȩr tiang.
        ‘Somebody’s here.’
         
    b.   Ng mlo ȩr a stoa ȩl mo omȩchar a klalo.
        ‘He went to the store to buy something.’

The nouns chad and klalo are commonly followed by re­lative clauses, in which case we have expressions corresponding to ‘someone/anyone who…’ and ‘something/anything which…’ Observe the examples below:

(26)   a.   Ng ngar ȩr ngii a chad ȩl osiik ȩr kau.
        ‘There’s someone (who’s) looking for you.’
         
    b.   Ak rirȩngȩsii a chad ȩl mȩngitakl.
        ‘I heard someone singing.’ 460
         
    c.   A chad ȩl diak lȩmȩduch ȩl mȩngikai a mo rȩmos.
        ‘Anyone who doesn’t know how to swim will drown.’
         
    d.   Ng ngar ȩr ngii a klalo ȩl dibus.
        ‘There’s something missing.’
         
    e.   Ng mla ȩr ngii a klalo ȩl mla mȩrȩchorȩch?
        ‘Was there something stolen?’

When the third person singular emphatic pronoun ngii is followed by di ‘only, just’ and a relative clause, we get a rather forceful expression corresponding to ‘any…at all’. The following examples are typical:

(27)   a.   Ngii di ȩl chad a sȩbȩchel ȩl rullii tia ȩl ureor.
        ‘Anybody at all could do this work.’
         
    b.   Ngii di ȩl chad er a Belau a sȩbȩchel ȩl me ȩr tia ȩl klab.
        ‘Any Palauan at all can come to this club.’

Notes

    A Toki a ungil a rȩngul ȩr a Droteo ȩl mȩsisiich.
  ‘Toki is happy that Droteo is well.’

1. The concept of “distribution” is introduced in 2.1 and 2.3.

2. Recall that bracketed sentences are found only in structures which serve as the (abstract) source for sentences that are actually spoken. Bracketed sentences must be shifted, or must have some of their ele­ments deleted, when the source sentences of which they are a part are transformed into actually-spoken sentences. These concepts are dis­cussed in detail in 17.2, 17.7, and 18.2.1.

3. As we saw in 15.1 and in chap. 16, the same word ȩl also functions to introduce dependent clauses and object clauses. A further use of ȩl will be observed in chap. 24.

4. This sentence can also be translated as ‘I’m sad about my friend’s having died.’ A similar example is the following:

5. This sentence, which translates literally as ‘There’s some news of Toki which is known by me’, has a rather unfavorable connotation—that is, it implies that the news is about something bad, unusual, etc. that Toki did. 522

Additional Information

ISBN
9780824879075
MARC Record
OCLC
1053883872
Pages
450-460
Launched on MUSE
2018-09-19
Language
English
Open Access
Yes
Creative Commons
CC-BY-NC-ND
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