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  5. Navajo Lesson 6


Navajo Lesson 6


Welcome back to another Navajo lesson, this time focusing on general language skills as opposed to verbs.

We'll start off by looking at a couple of common things you might say about yourself/ask others which haven't been covered yet. The first is age.

First we need to learn our numbers and how to use them. These are all in the course itself so I won't repeat them all here. The thing to understand about numbers in Navajo is that they can all essentially act as verbs. Observe this sentence:

  • Shimósí táá'. = I have three cats. (lit. My cats [are] three)

Here the number 3 (táá') behaves like a stative verb, similarly to 'hólǫ́', meaning 'it is three'. The combination possessive + stative gives you the equivalent of 'to have'.

This construction is used to express age by saying (sb. has X number of years).

  • John naakitsʼáadah binááhai. = John is 12 years old.

This is not a perfect translation, because the 'nááhai' technically means 'the winters have passed', not 'the years have passed', but this is how age is expressed in Navajo. For babies, you could also use 'nídeezid' (the months have passed):

  • She'awéé'* hastą́ą́ bińdeezid. = My baby is 6 months old.

*The 'she'' here is a case of the possessive pronoun assimilating a little weirdly prior to an ''a'. All other possessive pronouns behave the same way with 'awéé''

To ask someone's age, use the question word 'díkwíí':

  • Díkwíí ninááhai? = How old are you? (lit. How many are your years?)

  • Naadįįdį́į́ʼ shinááhai. = I am 24 years old.

Note: I mentioned in a previous lesson that Navajo verbs don't inflect according to number. This is mostly true, however there are a number of nouns, mostly kinship terms, which take '-ké' as a pluralising suffix. This can sometimes alter the noun itself slightly:

  • Atsóí --> Atsóóké = maternal grandchildren

  • At'ééd --> At'ééké = girls

  • Aye' --> Aye'ké = man's sons

  • Ach'é'é --> Ach'é'éké = woman's daughters

There is also the following completely irregular plural:

  • Asdzání/Asdzą́ą́ = woman --> Sáanii = women

The next topic in this lesson is work. To talk about your job you will undoubtedly need the verb 'to work'. Here is the paradigm for said verb in the imperfective:

  • naashnish = I work

  • nanilnish = you work

  • naalnish = he/she works

  • neiilnish = we (2) work

  • naałnish = you (2) work

  • nideiilnish = we work

  • nidaałnish = you (pl) work

  • nidaalnish = they work

Combined with the postposition '-á', you can say for whom one works:

  • Shimá Tó Dinéeshzhee'di ólta' bá naalnish. = My mother works for Kayenta school. (Tó Dinéeshzhee'di - fringed by fingers of water = Kayenta, AZ)

  • T'áá hooghandi naashnish. = I work from home.

We will now combine the two sections of this lesson to learn how to say how long you worked somewhere.

  • K'ai'* azee’ál’į́įdí yá naalnishgo naaki nááhai. = Kai has worked for the hospital for two years.

*K'ai' is a girl's name which literally means 'willow tree'.

Let's deconstruct this sentence. Because both Subject and Object are mentioned in the first clause, the prefix 'y-' is attached to the postposition '-á' (for, on behalf of). Attached to 'naalnish' (he/she works) is the subordinating clitic '-go', making it clear where the clause ends. The second clause simply means 'two winters have passed', referring to Kai's working at the hospital (azee’ál’į́).

Just to build on this construction, if there is no subordinate clause for the 'nááhai/nídeezid' to refer to, the postposition '-ee' will be needed:

  • Áadi tseebíí nihee nídeezid. = We (or you for that matter) were there for eight months.

'-ee' is a new postposition translating roughly as 'with' or 'by means of'. In this case it is used to refer to time spent.

To finish off we will learn what I feel is the most important things for beginners in a new language to learn. How to ask 'how to say X'.

First, a set phrase you should learn is the following:

  • Shíká adíílwoł. = Can you help me?

Requests in Navajo can seem a bit rude and abrupt as the literal translation of this phrase is 'you will help me' (future mode), however just because the English translation of a phrase sounds rude does not mean it is so in the original language.

'T'áá shǫǫdí' means please, but is not typically used with requests but rather with favours.

  • Dinék'ehjí hait'áo ... ájíniih? = How do you say ... in Navajo?

'-k'ehjí' is a suffix which means 'in a language' (e.g. Bilagáanak'ehjí = in English). 'Hait'áo' is the question word 'how'. 'Ájíniih' is the verb 'to say' conjugated in the 4th (indefinite) person, as in 'how does one say ...'

To finish off, what if you don't hear the answer properly, or simply want to double-check?

Again, the verb 'to say' is used, but this time in a different mode and aspect. Here the semeliterative aspect (meaning 'once again') is used. This aspect can be easily recognised by the presence of the prefix 'náá-'. Note also the reappearance of the postposition '-ee' (in this case referring to the thing being repeated):

  • Bee ánáádí'ní. = (you) Say it again.

  • Bee ánáádoh'ní. = (you 2) Say it again.

  • Bee ánáádadoh'ní. = (you pl) Say it again.

  • Ákót'é! = That's it!, That's right!

February 5, 2019



Thank you for these lessons! :-)


Superb! Thank you very much!!!!!

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