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from the PALI edition of the Marshallese-English Dictionary
(in which references to the MRG have been updated)

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7. Finding Words in the Dictionary

Many words in the language are not listed as the headword of an entry. In general only the simplest and most basic form of a group of grammatically related words has been chosen to serve as the headword of the entry that covers them all. The more complex words that are formed by adding affixes or by reduplication are shown in the grammatical key of the entry, and some are exemplified in the sentences given. For example, the following words are all included in the entry that has the headword ttā:

1. ettāū, ettāiṃ, ettāin,etc.
tōtāū, tōtāiṃ, tōtāin,etc.  
'my, your, his, etc. lowness (W)'
'my, your, his, etc. lowness (E)'
2. ettā, rōttā, etc.'it is short, they are low, etc.'
3. kōttā
'cause to be low'
'cause something to be low'
4. rūttā 'lowly person'
6. ettāin
'lowness of (W)'
'lowness of (E)'
8. ettāḷọk 'lower'
9. ettātata 'lowest'
'low (postposition) (W)'
'low (postposition) (E)'

The numbers preceding the examples are those that appear in the grammatical key of the entry to refer to the various forms.

The changes in form that will give a dictionary user the most trouble are those that occur at the front end of a word. These are of three main types: (a) the addition of a prefix to the headword, (b) a double consonant at the beginning of the headword, and (c) words that begin in w or y. The first two types are illustrated above: the (2) forms of ttā involve subject pronoun prefixes such as e- and rō-, and the (3) forms involve the causative prefix, which has the form kō- with this word. And since the headword ttā begins with the double consonant tt, there are different W and E forms for (1), (6), and (11).

7.1. The Causative Prefix ka-, kā-, ke-, kō-, ko-.

If a word that cannot be found in the dictionary begins with a k and one of the above vowel sounds, there is a good possibility that the k and the vowel are a prefix which has been added to the basic form of the word, which follows. This prefix often has the meaning 'to cause to' or 'to cause to be', and is thus called "the causative prefix":

deḷọñ 'enter' kadeḷọñ 'cause to enter; put in'
wōtlọk 'fall' kọwōtlọk 'cause to fall'
būromōj   'sorrow'kabūromōj   'cause to be sad; sadden'
ememej 'memory'   keememej 'remember'
jerbal 'work'kōjerbal 'use'
dik 'small' kadik 'make small'

Since many words like those in the second column are not listed as headwords in the dictionary, they must be found by looking for the word without the prefix, the form in the first column. An entry with a headword like one of those in the first column will have grammatical Code 3 if it can form a word together with the causative prefix, and the 3 will be followed by any special information about the causative form, if there is more than one form, or if it is irregular in some way. Quite often the entry will also contain an example sentence illustrating a use of the causative form.

Some causative forms double the first consonant of the headword. For example, there are two causative forms for deḷọñ 'enter':

Iar kaddeḷọñ aō ṃaak ilo pāān.
'I deposited my money (indefinite amount) in the bank.'

Iar kadeḷọñ ṃaak ko aō ilo pāān.
'I deposited my money (definite amount) in the bank.'

If one is trying to find the first form (kaddeḷọñ) in the dictionary, it will be necessary to remove both the causative prefix and the first d (kad-) and look for the word under the remainder (deḷọñ). As part of the entry headed by deḷọñ, one finds the following: 3(inf kaddeḷọñ, tr deḷọñ). This means that the first form is the causative infinitive (used to refer to an indefinite object), and the second is the causative transitive form (used for definite objects).

7.2. Other prefixes.

Another common prefix has the shape ri-, rū-, or ru- as in rieọñōd 'fisherman', rūkaki 'teacher', and ruwa 'sailor', and is used to form these and other PERSON NOUNS (MRG page 139). Only a few of the most common such nouns are listed as headwords, and the number 4 in the Grammatical Key labels other words that can have this prefix added to form person nouns. Thus if a person noun cannot be found under the letter r including the prefix, it can probably be found by looking for the remainder of the word, without the prefix. Since a number of person nouns have their first consonant doubled when this prefix is added, it may be necessary to look under the single consonant. For example, rūttariṇae 'soldier' will be found under tariṇae, not under ttariṇae.

The other derivational prefixes of the language do not form as many different words as do the causative and person prefixes, and the authors have attempted to include all words containing these prefixes as headwords to their own entries. Such prefixes include the negative prefix ja- (or j plus another vowel) (MRG page 161) as in jowan 'lazy', the instrumental (MRG page 169) le- as in leinjin 'use an engine', and the possessed (MRG page 255) ṇa- as in ṇakijen 'to feed'.

7.3. Double Consonant Words.

There are many words that begin with i or e followed by a double consonant in the pronunciation of the Rālik dialect, such as illu 'angry' or eṃṃan 'good', for example. In the pronunciation of the Ratak dialect, these same words do not begin with i or e, but have the identical consonants separated by a vowel: lilu, ṃōṃan Instead of listing each of these words at two different places in the dictionary, under i or e for the Rālik pronunciation, and under the consonant that appears twice for the Ratak pronunciation, they have been listed only once under the CONSONANT that appears twice, but in a form that is not exactly like either pronunciation. The form used as the headword contains the letters that are common to both the Rālik and Ratak pronunciations, but omits the vowels that are different. Thus eṃṃan and ṃōṃan can both be found under ṃṃan, and illu and lilu under llu, just as in the example above the entry for ettā and tōtā was headed by ttā. This same dialect-neutral form is also used in example sentences so that readers of either dialect can give the word their customary pronunciation.

There is an additional complication for some Rālik users of the dictionary concerning words that begin with ROUNDED double consonants, as for example the words which are pronounced and written kukure 'play' and kokwaḷ 'sennit' in the Ratak dialect. Some Rālik speakers spell the first word ikkure and others spell it iukkure, inserting an extra u before the k's to show how the vowel changes its sound before these rounded consonants. Similarly, for the second word, some Rālik speakers spell it ekkwaḷ and others spell it eokkwaḷ, inserting an o. Rālik speakers attempting to look up such words must ignore not only the i or e at the beginning, but the u or o that follows as well. Thus these two words are listed under kkure and kkwaḷ. However, the Rālik dialectal spellings that follow such headwords contain the extra u's and o's as they were put there by the computer following the spelling conversion rules.

The most common pattern for forming distributive verbs (MRG page 162) involves the doubling of the first consonant and reduplicating the final syllable of a word. Most such distributives are not given as headwords, but are listed under the form without consonant doubling or reduplication. Thus a word such as kkijdikdik (W: ikkijdikdik, E: kūkijdikdik) 'teeming with rats' will be found together with the Grammatical Key Code 5 under kijdik. Thus it is a good general rule to look for any word with double consonants under the single consonant if it cannot be found under the double.

7.4. Words That Begin in w.

Many words that begin with the w phoneme and have u, ū, o, ọ, or ō as the first vowel have often been spelled in two different ways, with or without the w:

wōnṃaanḷọk   or   onṃaanḷọk  'go forward'
wōrwōr or oror 'fence'
wūtdikdik or utdikdik 'to sprinkle'

The tendency has been to write the w when the next consonant in the word is light, but to omit the w when the next consonant is heavy:

Light Second Consonant     Heavy Second Consonant
wōp 'a tree' ob 'chest'
wōj 'toward you' otobai 'motorbike'
wōmak 'to duck' uṃ'earth oven'
wōn 'who' oṇān 'its price'
wūllepān 'his uncle' uḷutḷūt 'plump'
wūddik 'tiny' urur

This is the pattern that has been followed for the headwords in this dictionary, although other common spellings and cross references are given for the common exceptions to the pattern. [The w phoneme has generally been written before all the other vowels (i, e, ā, and a) regardless of the second consonant.] Thus, if a word beginning with w cannot be found under w, the reader should look under o, ọ, or u. If a word often spelled with o or u at the beginning cannot be found under these vowel letters, the reader should look under wo-, wu-, or wū.

7.5. Words That Begin with y.

The y phoneme at the beginning of words is generally not shown in writing before the vowels i, e, or ā. Before u and ū it is written as an i, and before o, ọ, ō, and a it is written as an e, as in iu 'coconut apple', iūñ 'yes', eo 'the', eọr 'carve', 'me', and eakeak 'skin ulcer'. When the y phoneme is at the beginning of a word before a (or ā), there have been some differences in spelling practices, although the most common pattern has been to show the y as an e preceding the a when the next consonant is heavy (but not rounded), and to write the a as an ā when the next consonant is light:

Heavy Second Consonant     Light Second Consonant
eaab 'no' ām 'to tip'
eake 'about it' āj 'weave'
eañ 'north' āne 'islet'
eaḷ 'coconut milk' āl 'shave'

Two exceptions to this pattern are words in which the second consonant is r or t, as in ār 'lung' and āt 'name', where even though r and t are heavy consonants, the light pattern of the second column is followed. There is also some tendency not to follow this pattern when the second consonant is k, (a heavy consonant), as in ākil 'to peel' and ākūt 'delouse'. The pattern is usually followed if the k is at the end of the word or followed by another consonant, but ā is often written when a vowel follows. This is well illustrated by the spellings of the two pronunciations of the transitive verb meaning 'to unload something': eaktuwe vs. ākūtwe. The best rule to follow in looking for words that begin in ya is to look in both places: under ā, and under ea. (And although many such words have also been spelled with simply e [as in elikin vs. ālikin 'after'], the reader should remember to look for them under ā or ea in this dictionary.)

7.6. Vowel Changes.

Finally, some problems in locating words may be caused by changes in vowel letters brought about by the use of new vowel letters such as and ū, or by the more regular use of letters such as ā for the sounds they stand for. The reader may be thinking of the causative prefix in its basic shape of ka- and not be thinking of how its vowel sound changes before a word such as wiin 'to win' to form a word such as kọwiinin 'award'. Or the reader may not think of how its sound changes before the number emān 'four' to give kein kāāmān 'the fourth'.

Such changes usually involve a move of one square to the right or left (or up or down) in the basic vowel chart of the language (MRG, top of page 39), and it may be well to keep this chart in mind as a means of remembering possible vowel changes.

                     Unrounded Rounded
High      i ū u
Mid e ō o
Low ā a

The examples given above of the causative prefix show right-left change among the low vowels. The third person plural subject pronoun prefix of verbs, which varies between re-, rō-, and ro-, is an example of right-left change among the mid vowels, as in reitok 'they come', rōṃṃan 'they are good', and rokkut 'they are close together'. The person prefix which varies between ri-, rū, and ru- as discussed in section 7.2 is an example of left-right change among high vowels.

Change between high and mid vowels is caused by several of the rules of the language discussed in MRG 2.5.3 beginning on page 78. Examples of different forms of the same word with changes caused by these rules are pet-piten 'pillow', ōn-ūnen 'nutrition', and ob-ubōn 'chest'. Change between mid and low vowels is caused by several other rules, especially the low-vowel dissimilation rule (MRG 2.5.5 on page 92), as shown by the following pairs: māj-mejān 'eye', bar-bōran 'head', and ḷọñ-ḷọñan 'canoe roller'. Because of these many possible changes, it is well to try to find a word one is looking for with a neighboring vowel in the chart if it cannot be found containing the first expected one.

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