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Navajo Grammar Basic, Diné bizaad, Athabaskan or Athabascan

Navajo Grammar Basic: [OBJECT]- [POSTPOSITION]- [VERB] is the basic sentence structure. In most cases, a noun is the OBJECT which begins the Navajo sentence. The VERB is always at the end. Remember, the VERB contains everything, i.e. tense&subject&action. Navajo is a heavy verb language. Now when a POSTPOSTION is needed, it combines a personal prefix SH, N, B, NIH, Y (me, you, it/him/her, and us/you plural respectively) with an appending postposition -ił, -aa, -ikʼi, -ee, -itsʼą́ą́, -ichʼįʼ (with, about, on, by means of, away from, towards, respectively). Based on the prefixes & postpositions is an array of combinations: Shił, shaa, shikʼi, shee, shitsʼą́ą́, shichʼįʼ (with me, about me, on me, by means of me, away from me, towards me); Nił, naa, nikʼi, nee, nitsʼą́ą́, nichʼįʼ (with you, about you, on you, by means of you, away from you, towards you); Bił, baa, bikʼi, bee, bitsʼą́ą́, bichʼįʼ (with it/him/her, about it/him/her, on it/him/her, by means of it/him/her, away from it/him/her, towards it/him/her); Nihił, nihaa, nihikʼi, nihee, nihitsʼą́ą́, nihichʼįʼ (with us/you two, about us/you two, on us/you two, by means of us/you two, away from us/you two, towards us/you two).

The POSTPOSITION joins the OBJECT and VERB - this is the basic grammar. Diné bizaad SHIŁ yáʼátʼééh: [shił yáʼátʼééh] with me, it is good. Translation: I like the Navajo Language (Diné bizaad). Dibé BAA áhólyá: [baa áhólyá] about it/them, you take care of. Translation: You take care of the sheep (Dibé)!

B - Prefixed Pronoun for He/She/It. I love Navajo for this reason, and many more!!! In other languages you find clictics for him/her/it. B covers all three - him/her/it. [Bił yáʼátʼééh] Based on the topic you have three options: He likes it, She likes it, It likes it. English forces you to use he, she, or it. For us, this still works in todayʼs world. Also, we donʼt have masculine or feminine articles. There no distinction.

November 12, 2018



Useful Links.

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUUzC_qjHvQ. HERE daybreakwarrior is actually explaining POSTPOSITION (bitsʼááʼ) to also explain basic grammar and uses an English verb / Navajo verb combination i.e. Navlish. This is a great way for beginners to understand sentence structure incorporating postposition. At 1 minute into the video, daybreakwarrior says, "that's basically how you make simple sentences in the Navajo language."

  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_3hnHAwLPo&t. HERE is the best video I've seen on POSTPOSITION and covers subject/object agreement. Navajo language uses POSTPOSITION rather than preposition. I would watch this over and over to understand sentence structure.

  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxO7lCvOhlU&t. HERE is pronunciation of difficult Navajo sounds. The glottal stop is what makes Navajo sound uniquely Navajo. If you want to sound like a native speaker, this is absolutely necessary.

Other resources. As far as learning the language goes, the best guide is "Conversational Navajo: With Workbook" with Workbook Spiral-bound – December, 1995 by Garth A.Wilson (Author).

Once you wrap your head around the grammar it's less intimidating. The structure I just outlined above is difficult for most people to grasp right away.


Some remarks:
- -iką́ should be -íká
- b- stands for 'they' too
- nih- doesnʼt stand for 'they' but for 'you (plural)', in addition to 'we'.


I'm heavily in support of Navajo Literacy. Recently I came across a medical terminology book which had all the words parsed by syllables. Initially, I think this is necessary for beginners since Navajo is extremely tonal.

Syllables: cvc&cv

yá 'á t'ééh (cv&cv&cvc) - hello

doo da (cv&cv) - not

'a hé heeʼ (cv&cv&cvc) - thank you

tsxííł go (cvc&cv) - you hurry!

naal tsoos (cvc&cvc) - paper

ʼii si nił tsʼąąʼ (cv&cv&cvc&cvc) - you listen!


’íísíníłts’ą́ą́’ or in my dialect, ’ííníłts’ą́ą́’. tsxį́įłgo - hurry, it can be used as a command but if you want to be direct and imperative you say, "tsxį́įłgo ’ánít’į́".


Thank you very much for you explanations! So you are a native Navajo speaker?

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