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Learn Na'vi From Paul Frommer

The Na'vi language comes strictly from one true source - James Cameron and Paul Frommer. This section focuses on the Na'vi Language Grammar Sketch from the man himself, Paul Frommer. Also includes articles/interviews on the Na'vi language and a Na'vi to English Javascript translator.



AMZ's Na'vi Translator

From James Cameron's Avatar: An Activist Survival Guide. We have converted the definitions into this Javascript drop down box. Highlight a Na'vi word and the translation will appear below.



TRANSLATION:


Select Na'vi word

touch

one

one individual

together

first

worst

attack

beat (rhythmic)

level

child

kid (affectionate form of "child")

remain, stay

spiral

English language

bit, small amount

son

daughter

remembrance

unfold, blossom

what (thing)

message

which, that

vision

ready

far away, at a distance

child's name

child's name

large

light

atokirina, seeds of the great tree

request

land

drum (made of skin)

sign, omen

they

to the others

you

we (exclusive)

we (inclusive)

blue

brain

pay attention, quit goofing off

brainworm

pass (a test)

before, in front of

lead

leader

Plant species (Warbonnet)

“World spirit” – guiding force and deity (equivalent to Gaia); Eywa PN

good-bye, Eywa (be with you)

with (by means of)

smell

“Alien” (i.e. non-Na’vi)

this (thing)

this way, like this

this (action)

this one (person or thing)

here, this place

peel

mighty

one

news, something to report

test

try

quiet (= be quiet)

they

hold off, suspend action

send

challenge (ceremonial)

for the sake of

well-being; peace

medusa (animal)

enter

everything

everyone

stop

so that

so that not, lest

study

from (direction)

easy

choose

or

path, way

how

guide

so (or “in that case”)

part

done, finished

protect, shelter

small

funny (strange)

danger

with (accompaniment)

wind

leave, depart

stringed instrument

Thundering rocks, Stairway to Heaven (floating mountains)

mountain banshee

by, via, following

animal, beast

thank you

baby carrier/sling

across

go

hello

ride out

see (spiritual sense)

valid

teacher

rhythm

never

bad, evil

no one

not

nothing

no (before a noun)

no

home

live, dwell

Hometree (tree for living in)

what (action)

model, represent, exemplify

dead

alien

alien

insanity

species of fruit or vegetable

world (physical, solid)

spin

need

seven

leg

knee

thread

among

service

good-bye, see you again soon

be responsible

dig up

stand

territory

ground

time

take/consume time

when

gunship

drive out

middle, midpoint

center (or place in the middle)

boom

forbidden

perhaps, maybe

species of fruit or vegetable

tail

other

seem, appear

other one (person or thing)

change

clear, certain

dangerous

Slinger (predatory creature)

colleague

word

close to

release, let go

smile

be (am, is, are)

why

ride

calm

they (those two)

eyes (two)

honor

weak

in

ear

turn

away (position)

agree

we two (exclusive)

voice

proper, fair, right

cut

two

take, bring

mated

like, as

forest

the People (name for themselves)

particle for surprise or exclamation

viperwolf

eye

watch out, be careful

great, noble

to (direction)

get down! (literally, “to the ground!”)

back (direction)

burn, consume

away (direction)

want

you

worm

true

you (honorific form)

create

only

alone (as one person)

first

small amount, a bit

more

grab

like us (pronounced nayweng)

easily

passionately, with all heart

too, excessively

well

again

look at

truly

enough

continually

much

fast

all (of), in toto, completely

longer (time)

learn

I

we two (you and I)

I (deferential or ceremonial form)

clan

clan leader

Blue Flute Clan

know

nose

arrive

particle for disparagement

Dry Mouth Bringer of Fear (Thanator)

Direhorse

sound

music

promise (a thing to someone)

badge

ask

what (before a noun)

how

what (action)

when

why

tell

where

who

what (thing)

wait

ancestor

speak

he, she

he

she

group of people, party

worthy

fresh, appealing as food

many

like, as

sharp

arm

elbow

do not

meaning

interpret

child’s name

alarm cry

pattern

live

move, shift position

yellow

seed

stingbat

sing

mind

please

mother

saying; quote

mommy

teaching, instruction

that (after ftu only)

daddy

father

now

pretty

lip

blue flower

do, make

and

unquote

clever (thing)

good

destroy

moron

but

become

begin, start

beginning, start time

dim (of a person)

hot

capture

captive

marker for yes-no questions

yes

dance

help, assistance

examine

almost

track, lock up

moment

creature

arrow

sacred

sacred place

call

from (various uses)

from above

weave

weaver

strike

suffice, “do”

trunk (of a tree)

star

hunt

hunter

sky

dive

duck

Sky Person

particle used in full names

cord

as (= same way as)

while (= same time as)

die

grant

full

beetle larva(e)

test

stopping

protection

evil

example

need

joint, hinge

give

listen (usually pronounced: tìm mikyun)

look (usually pronounced: tìn nari)

truth

walk

spirit

spirit path

spirit animal

life

song

strength

than; comparative mark

be at, occupy a space

doctor

body

rain

last shadow (great leonopteryx)

day

that (thing)

bond (neural connection)

matriarch

that (action)

then, at that time

war

war party

warrior

apology

that (as object)

there, that place

that person

sun

big (in stature)

see (physical sense)

place

where

art

four

thirty-two (octal: 40)

bow (weapon)

bow and arrow

rock, stone

training, exercise

understand

false

Got it. I understand.

sibling

brother

sister

that

kill

matter, be of import

brave

can, be able

fly

wing

spear

run

allow

who

person

male (person)

female (person)

great (in quantity); much

wise, much-knowing

heart

matter (subject)

awake

fire

halt

butt, rear end

leave, abandon

if

forgiveness

if not, or else

night

fear

poison

strong

and

meeting

dream

Dream Hunt

avatar; dreamwalker body

dreamwalker

tree

Tree of Voices

spread, proliferate

sixteen

demon

branch (of a tree)

song

songchord

show

outside

dinner, served meal

soon

hexapede

straight

bind

long (of time)

eat

feed

wash

pull

come

bring

finger

must

year

save

safe place, refuge

offence, insult

English to Na'vi Quick Hits

Below is a list of English to Na'vi translations for the more popular words in the Avatar universe.





animal, beast

ioang

creature

swirä

Direhorse

pa’li

hexapede

Yerik

Great Leonopteryx

toruk

medusa

fpxafaw

mountain banshee

ikran

Slinger

Lenay’ga

stingbat

riti

sturmbeest

talioang

Thanator

palulukan

viperwolf

nantang





blue flower

seze

branch (of a tree)

vul

forest

na’rìng

Plant species (Warbonnet)

Eyaye

seed

rina’

seeds of the great tree

atokirina’

species of fruit or vegetable

kì’ong

species of fruit or vegetable

kxener

tree

utral

trunk (of a tree)

tangek





home

kelku

Hometree
(tree for living in)

Kelutrel

land

atxkxe

live, dwell

kelku si

safe place, refuge

zongtseng

territory

kllpxìltu

Thundering rocks
(floating mountains)

Iknimaya

Tree of Voices

Utral Aymokriyä

world (physical, solid)

kifkey





Alien (i.e. non-Na’vi)

faketuan

ancestor

pizayu

avatar

uniltìrantokx

Blue Flute Clan

Omatikaya

brother

tsmukan

child

’eveng

clan

olo’

clan leader

olo’eyktan

daughter

’ite

demon

vrrtep

doctor

toktor

dreamwalker

uniltìranyu

father

sempul

female

tutee

group of people

pongu

guide

fyawìntxu

hunter

taronyu

leader

eyktan

male (person)

tutean

matriarch

Tsahìk

mother

sa’nok

person

tute

sibling

tsmuk, tsmuktu

sister

tsmuké

Sky Person

Tawtute

World spirit

Eywa



NA'VI PHRASES
Source: wikipedia.org


Fìskxawngìri tsap’alute sengi oe.

"I apologise for this moron."

fì-skxawng-ìri tsap’alute s‹eng›i oe
this-moron-top apology make‹?› I
__________________

Fayvrrtep fìtsenge lu kxanì.

"These demons are forbidden here."

f-ay-vrrtep fì-tseng-e lu kxanì
this-pl-demon this-place-? be forbidden
__________________

Oeri ta peyä fahew akewong ontu teya längu.

"(Eew,) my nose is full of his alien smell."

oe-ri ta pe-yä fahew a-kewong ontu teya l‹äng›u
me-top from s/he-gen smell attr-alien nose full be‹pej›
__________________

Kìyevame ulte Eywa ngahu.

"See you again, and may Eywa be with you."

k‹ìy›‹ev›ame ulte Eywa nga=hu
See‹imm›‹?› and Eywa you=with
__________________

Ayftxozä lefpom ayngaru nìwotx!

"Happy Holidays to you all!"

ay-ftxozä le-fpom ay-nga-ru nì-wotx
pl-holiday adj-well_being pl-you-dat adv-all
__________________

Mipa zìsìt lefpom ngaru!

"Happy New Year!"

mip-a zìsìt le-fpom nga-ru
new-attr year adj-well_being you.sg-dat
__________________

Lì’fya ngeyä sìltsan leiu nìtxan.

"Your (use of) language is very good!"

lì’-fya ngeyä sìltsan l‹ei›u nì-txan
speak?-way your good be‹approb› adv-great
__________________

’Awve ultxari ohengeyä, Nawma Sa’nok lrrtok siveiyi.

"May the Great Mother smile upon our first meeting."

’awve ultxa-ri ohe-nga-yä nawm-a sa’nok lrrtok s‹iv›‹ei›i
first meeting-top I.form+you-gen great-attr mother smile make‹sjv›‹approb›
__________________

Oeyä ikran slivu nga, tsakrr ayoeng ’awsiteng mivakto.

"Be my banshee and let's ride together."

oe-yä ikran sl‹iv›u nga tsa-krr oe+nga ’aw-si-teng m‹iv›akto
I-gen banshee become‹sjv› you that-time I+you one-make-same ride‹sjv›









By Benjamin Zimmer | Source: upenn.edu

From Paul Frommer: "Given the interest that’s already been shown in Na’vi, I’m grateful to Ben Zimmer for the opportunity to post a few highlights of the language to Language Log.

As will be apparent, the information below is not intended to be anything like a complete description; the Phonetics and Phonology section is the most complete, but the Morphology and Syntax sections are mere sketches.

Given my contractual obligations, a more thorough treatment awaits another venue. But I hope this sketch will answer a few questions and perhaps serve to counterbalance some of the erroneous information that has made its way to the Internet."






Na’vi has 20 consonants, 7 vowels, 4 diphthongs, and 2 syllabic “pseudovowels,” rr and ll


1. Consonants - The consonants are (in the “official” Na’vi transcription)

Ejectives:

px

tx

kx

Voiceless Stops:

p

t

k

Affricate:

ts

Voiceless fricatives:

f

s

h

Voiced fricatives:

v

z

Nasals:

m

n

ng

Liquids:

r, l

Glides:

w

y

Note the following:

- The red consonants can occur as the first element of a syllable-initial consonant cluster.
- The green consonants can occur in syllable-final position.

Note also:

- px, tx, kx, ts, and ng are digraphs representing the three ejectives, the affricate, and the velar nasal respectively.
- In the “scientific” transcription, ts is replaced by c and ng by g. For commercial purposes, however—and also for ease of reading by the actors—the “official” transcription is preferred.
- The letters b, d, j, and q never appear in Na’vi.




2. Vowels, Diphthongs, and “Pseudovowels”

Vowels

Na’vi has a 7-vowel system

i , ì

u

e

o

ä

a

Vowels

Transcription and phonetics

i

[i]

ì

[I]

o

[o]

ä

[æ]

u

[u] or [U]

a

[a]

e [e]  Note: always lax

Diphthongs

Na’vi has 4 diphthongs: aw [aw], ew [ew], ay [aj], ey [ej].




3. Syllable structure and phonotactic constraints

Every syllable has a single vowel or diphthong at its center. Each vowel or diphthong in a word corresponds to a separate syllable. A single vowel or diphthong may be a syllable by itself.

Within syllables, Na’vi vowels and diphthongs can be preceded by either one or two consonants. They can also be followed by one consonant. That is, the syllable structure is (C)(C)V(C), where V represents a vowel or a diphthong. Restrictions on which consonants can occur in which positions are given below.

Initial consonants

Any consonant can occur at the beginning of a syllable.

Consonant clusters

Clusters of two
consonants can occur, but only in syllable-initial position and only in the following combinations:


f, s, ts +  {p, t, k, px, tx, kx, m, n, ng, r, l, w, y}

There are thus 39 possible initial C-clusters, all of which are attested in the lexicon.

Final consonants

Only certain consonants occur in syllable-final position. These are:

Ejectives:

px

tx

kx

Stops:

p

t

k

Nasals:

m

n

ng

Liquids:

r, l

Pseudovowels

In CV syllables, the liquids l and r can replace the vowel. When they are syllabic they are lengthened (the r is very strongly trilled, the l always front and “light”) and written ll and rr respectively.

Note: Sequences of stop + liquid, though they cannot occur initially, may be found medially. In such cases, however, a syllable boundary intervenes. Example: ikran ‘banshee’ divides as ik-ran, not *i-kran.



4. Vowel clusters

Na’vi allows unlimited sequences of vowels in a word. If no glottal stop intervenes, the vowels in such clusters glide smoothly from one to another. Each such vowel represents a separate syllable.

Examples: tsaleioae (6 syllables), meoauniaea (8 syllables)




5. Phonetic detail and phonology

Voiceless stops are unaspirated. In final position they are unreleased. Na’vi r is a flap, as in Spanish pero or Indonesian surat. Word stress in Na’vi is unpredictable and distinctive. Stress must thus be specified for each word. (In learning materials only, the stressed syllable in a word is underlined.)

E.g. tute ‘person’, tute ‘female person’

Lenition. Following certain adpositions and prefixes, initial consonants mutate as follows:

px, tx, kx

>>>

p, t, k

p, t/ts, k

>>>

f, s, h

Glottal stop:

>>>

Ø

8 C’s participate in rule: px, tx, kx, ’, p, t, ts, k              12 C’s do not: f, s, h, v, z, m, n, ng, r, l, w, y







1. Nouns

Nouns are inflected for case and number but only rarely for gender.

Number

Number (singular, dual, trial, plural) is indicated by prefixes, each of which triggers lenition:

Short plurals: When the plural marker ay- is prefixed to a word beginning with a lenitable consonant, it may be dropped after lenition has occurred.

Example : The plural of tokx ‘body’ is ay+tokx. Thus we have :

*aytokx ? aysokx ‘bodies’

But now the plural is marked redundantly, first by the prefix itself and second by lenition of the initial consonant of the singular. So the ay- may be optionally dropped, yielding tokx ‘body’ vs. sokx ‘bodies’.

Case

Nouns and pronouns take six cases (counting Topical as a case): Subjective, Agentive, Patientive, Genitive, Dative, Topical. The case system is tripartite—i.e., it distinguishes between intransitive subjects (S), transitive subjects (A), and objects (P). Case morphemes are suffixes, generally with several allomorphs. Changes to the noun base sometimes occur with the Genitive.

The Topical form of a noun or pronoun establishes a loose semantic connection to the clause and has a wide range of uses. It may be translated along the lines of “with regard to,” “as for,” “turning to,” “concerning,” etc., but it can also appear where a genitive or dative might be expected.

Example:

Oeri

ta

peyä

fahew

akewong

ontu

teya

längu.

I-TOP

from

his

smell

alien

nose

full

is-NEG-ATTITUDE

‘My nose is full of his alien smell.’




2. Pronouns

Like nouns, pronouns exist in singular, dual, trial, and plural forms. In the first person dual, trial, and plural, a distinction is made between inclusive and exclusive forms.




3. Verbs

Verbs are inflected for tense, aspect, mood/dependency, and speaker attitude, but not for person or number. Verb inflections are effected exclusively through infixes, which are of two types—first position and second position.

With monosyllabic verb roots, first-position infixes simply come before second-position ones. With multisyllabic roots, however, first-position infixes occur in the penultimate syllable and second-position ones in the final syllable.

First-position infixes indicate tense, aspect, or mood; there are also participial and reflexive infixes in this position, the latter being in “pre-first” position so it can co-occur with other first-position infixes. Second-position infixes indicate speaker attitude—positive orientation, negative orientation, or uncertainty/indirect knowledge. Many of these infixes are optional on the sentence level. (In discourse, however, overt indication of tense or aspect may be required.)

Aspect is perfective or imperfective. Tense has five points on the time line: present, past proximate, past general, future proximate, future general. Verbs can be inflected for tense alone, aspect alone, or a combination of tense and aspect.

Selected examples:

Root: taron ‘hunt’

Note: English translations are only approximate and represent one of several possibilities.

Tense only:

taron

‘hunt’

tìmaron

‘just now hunted’

tayaron

‘will hunt’

Aspect only:

teraron

‘be hunting’

tolaron

‘have hunted’

Both tense and aspect:

tìrmaron

‘was just now hunting’

Many more such forms exist. Including second-position infixes:

tìrmareion ‘was just now hunting (and the speaker feels positive about it)’

tayarängon ‘will hunt (and the speaker feels negative about it)’

In the last two examples, the root is indicated in red. Such forms raise an interesting question: To what extent can a root be obscured by inflections and still be recognizable? When Na’vi listeners hear tìrmareion, for example, do they immediately recognize it as a form of the verb taron? By the same token, are speakers able to produce such forms spontaneously? I’d like to think the answer to both questions is yes, but the matter requires further study; we need more samples of discourse from Pandora!




4. Adjectives

Adjectives are invariant and undeclined. A derivational prefix forms adjectives out of other parts of speech.




5. Adpositions

These can either precede or follow their heads with no semantic distinction; in the latter case, they’re bound to the noun or pronoun. E.g., ‘with you’ = hu nga or ngahu.

Certain adpositions, when in pre-nominal position, trigger lenition. There’s no predicting which do and which don’t—they simply have to be learned. (Adpositions are marked in the lexicon as either ADP+ or ADP-.)

Because of the “short plural” phenomenon, ADP+ adpositions can yield ambiguous structures. Example: mì ‘in’ is ADP+; does mì sokx mean ‘in the body’ or ‘in the bodies’? The language has developed ways of dealing with these potential ambiguities.



SYNTAX

The most notable aspect of Na’vi syntax is the freedom of word order. The case system allows all 6 sequences of S, O, and V. Additionally, adjectives, genitives, and relative clauses can either precede or follow their heads.

Nouns and adjectives are tied together by the morpheme a, which comes between them and is attached as a bound morpheme to the adjective. For example, ‘long river’ is either ngima kilvan or kilvan angim.

There’s obviously a lot more to say about syntax—for example, how the language handles subordination and complementation. That will be for another time.



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