From Learn Na'vi Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Na'vi language canon is the complete collection of information about the Na'vi language provided by authoritative sources, namely Paul Frommer and the creators of Avatar (James Cameron and Twentieth Century Fox).

The canon comprises two things:

  • words and phrases spoken or written in Na'vi
  • descriptions of the linguistic elements of Na'vi such as orthography, morphology, syntax, and grammar

The Na'vi words and phrases from canonical sources are presented or linked to on the Corpus page (where copyright allows). Documentation, explanation, and analysis of Na'vi linguistics are presented on other Learn Na'vi wiki pages (Phonology, Morphology, Grammar, etc.). This page serves to document the canonical sources themselves. The majority of the examples on this page come from email correspondances with Frommer.

This page includes information from the year 2013. To access past information please see:

Ftärpa and Skiempa

Reported by Markì and Wm.annis in this forum post, Jan 12 2013.

Email from Frommer to Markì:

OK, regarding mìn and kìm:
Mìn is an intransitive verb meaning 'turn' or 'rotate.' So:
Mìn ne ftärpa.
'Turn to the left.'
Kunsìpìri txana tìmeyp lu tsyal a mìn.
'The gunship's main weakness is the rotor system.'
Kìm is a transitive verb meaning 'spin'--i.e. spin something:
Pol rumit kolìm.
'He spun the ball.'
As you see, kìm is roughly equivalent to the causative of mìn, meykìn: to spin something is to make the thing turn.
Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any more questions.

Email to Wm.annis about the same matter:

Of course, mìn ne skiempa is well formed too. (Stress on the 1st syllable: SKI-em-pa.)
Ftärpa and skiempa should be in the dictionary. They aren't in my spreadsheet, so I'll add them there too.


Reported by Wm.annis in this forum post, Jan 26 2013.

I asked K Pawl if he happened to have a quick example of how pänutìng should be used from either the game or movie dialog that didn't make it into the final cut. He sent this in reply,

Quote from: K Pawl
From the movie:
TSU'TEY: Neytiriti fkol pänutolìng oeru!
'Neytiri was promised to me!'

So now we know for sure it's transitive.

Comparisons and Gerund

Reported by Plumps in this forum post, Jan 31 2013.

We know that we can handle ‘I am as fast as you’ with the ‘A lu nìftxan ADJ na/pxel B’. Is this also possible with other verbs? E.g. Oe tul nìftxan nìwin na nga ‘I run as fast as you’?

Yes, that’s fine. Here, nìftxan is used before an ADV, not an ADJ, but that’s perfectly OK.

The same question with unequal comparisons: Our paradigm there is ‘A to B lu ADJ’. Is this also possible with other verbs? Like 'Oe to nga tul nìwin ‘I run faster than you’.


And if the particle to behaves like , it should theoretically be possible to use it with a case ending, right? Like Oel to ngal yerikit taron nìltsan ‘I hunt yerik better than you’ ?

That seems fine to me as well.

With the superlative, we have examples of lu ADJ frato, N a-ADJ frato, V frato but not ADV frato. So these should be correct: Po lu win frato. ‘S/He is the fastest.’ (faster than all) Oel tsole’a fwampopit awin frato. ‘I saw the fastest Tapirus.’

Those are all OK.

Nga oer tsranten frato. ‘You matter the most to me.’

Yes, that’s OK. But I’m wondering now about the “V frato” examples. Have you come across others in this category, besides tsranten? Whereas frato is freely used with all (scalable) adjectives and adverbs, I think its use with verbs should be quite restricted. For example, what would it mean to say, “Pol yerikit taron frato”? You need an adverb here, I think: “Pol yerikit taron nìltsan frato”—He hunts yerik better than anyone, or, the best of all.

Is po tul nìwin frato ‘s/he runs the fastest’ also correct?

Sure, that’s fine.

And concerning gerund formation of compound verbs.

As to the gerund with compound verbs: good question! I hadn't given that consideration. But the answer is clear in my mind: it's tìyomtusìng, not *yomtìtusìng.

I don’t know if you can provide me with a short answer whether we could use kelsar (kel.SAR, from ke+l(e)sar) to mean ‘useless, in vain’?

Tsalì'u alu kelsar kosman lu nì'aw!

Clarification of 'ekxinum

Reported by Markì in this forum post, Feb 28 2013.

Paul, in an email to me on clarifying definition of 'ekxinum:

The trouble here is with English. Let's look at a parallel example:
Now as you know, som is hot, wew is cold. So somwew literally means hot-cold. So when we say somwewpe, we're asking, "What's the hot-cold?" In other words, what's the degree of hotness or coldness?
Of course English has a nice word for that: temperature. So that's the idiomatic translation for somwew.
'Ekxinum is exactly parallel. 'Ekxin is tight, um is loose. So 'ekxinum literally means tight-loose. When we say 'ekxinumpe, we're asking, "What's the tight-loose?" In other words, what's the degree of tightness or looseness? Trouble is, English doesn't have a nice word for that which would correspond to temperature. (At least I can't think of one.)
In any event, I guess a clearer translation of 'ekxinum would be "degree of tightness or looseness." In other words, where is it on the tight-loose scale?

Fìpo and lapo

Reported by Markì in this forum post, Mar 28 2013.

From Karyu Pawl:
Fìpo and lapo are a pair. Currently they're glossed "this one (person or thing)" and "other one (person or thing)" respectively. The original sentence from the Avatar script (which didn't make it into the film) was this, where Jake is discussing the gunship's rotor system: "See, when this one goes this way, the other one goes the other way." I used fìpo and lapo there, clearly for inanimates. Rethinking this years later, I think it could still be justified, as in the way some people use "guy" colloquially for objects rather than people. For example, if you're trying to assemble some piece of furniture you bought at Ikea and there's a part that doesn't seen to fit anywhere, you can hold it up and ask, "Where does this guy go?

Honorifics in the third person

Reported by Prrton in this forum post, Apr 02 2013.

I asked about it in the context of the Na’vi belief system and got this in response via e-mail today (02 April 2013):

From Pawl:
I've thought of the honorifics as being first and second person only, mainly for ceremonial use although they inevitably get extended to non-face-to-face contexts. I don't think the Na'vi need honorific third-person pronouns. If talking about rather than to Eywa, they can substitute Nawma Sa'nok for variety. Or maybe even just Sa'nok if the context is clear.

So there you have it. There are no 3rd person honorific pronouns. It's official. You can show respect by using the entity's name or a metaphorical title (i.e. by NOT using a pronoun).

Fnetxum, ke

Reported by Blue Elf in this forum post, Apr 23 2013.

Approximately month ago there was discussion about fnetxum and ke in dictionary thread. As no solution was found, I asked our biggest authority, Paul. Here are his answers:

From Blue Elf to Pawl:
About a month ago there was small discussion about fnetxum, which is defined as "allergic" (adjective). However we do not understand why it is adjective. Seems that words is created as fne-txum, literally kind/type of-poison, so base word is noun and result should be noun as well, as this is productive process.
Sample sentence is
Oeri lu X fnetxum -> I'm allergic to X (but literal translation sounds strange: As for me, X is allergic. More logical would be IMHO:
X-ri oe lu fnetxum - > As for X I'm allergic)
However, this type of sentences allows two usages:
X<noun> lu Y<adjective>
X<noun> lu Y<noun>
This supports idea that fnetxum could be noun, with meaning like "allergen (thing which causes allergy)":
Oeri lu X fnetxum. = "I am allergic to X" -> As for me, X is allergen
Our discussion lead to no result, and probably nobody else sent you question about this matter; so I dare to do this. Can you give us explanation why fnetxum is adjective and if it wouldn't be more appropriate to change it to noun?
From Pawl:
About fnetxum: You're absolutely right--it's not an adjective, it's a noun. The label in the dictionary is wrong. I'll notify Mark Miller about that. As you realized, fnetxum basically means "kind or variety of poison", but it's also used to mean "allergen". A literal translation of "Oeri lu X fnetxum" would be, "As for me, X is an allergen", but of course a much more idiomatic translation into English is "I'm allergic to X".
From Blue Elf to Pawl:
And one more simple question: In our community dictionary I noticed ke is defined as an adverb, although IMHO it should be particle (to create negative verbs). Is it correct? This question also wasn't solved in discussion.
From Pawl:
As for ke, well, I admit it's an unusual adverb. But dictionaries typically treat negative particles as adverbs. In a way, the negative element comments on or modifies the verb. If you say, for example, "He does not swim," you're saying "In what way does he swim? In no way at all!" So we can consider ke as an adverb modifying the verb. Of course it has other uses as well. Perhaps a more complete designation would be, "ADV, PART". I'll think about that.

Use of Agentive case and Ambiguity

Reported by Tirea Aean in this forum post, Apr 29 2013.

From Tirea Aean to Pawl:
So my mate Neytiri was teaching someone and came across a crazy ambiguity:
"I like this thing that I can see" vs. "I like that I can see"
"Oeru sunu fwa oe tsun tsive'a"
but which does it mean? It seems ambiguous.
Tsmukan Kemaweyan discovered a similar ambiguitiy in October:
"I like this thing that I understood" vs. "I like that I understood"
"Oeru sunu fwa oe tslolam."
In this case, he argued that using -l on oe would maybe break the ambiguity:
"Oeru sunu fwa oel tslolam" (I like the thing which I've understood)
"Oeru sunu fwa oe tslolam" (I like that I've understood)
What do you think? IS it possible to use the "Oel Teylut New Yivom" exception in order to use this in the first case?:
"Oeru sunu fwa oel tsun tsive'a" (I like this thing that I can see")
I've said that using -l with tsun feels wrong in this case and in any case except the exception outlined in the Na'viteri post.
Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated, as always.

From Pawl:
You're right to point out that "Sunu oeru fwa oe tsun tsive'a" is ambiguous.
(As Kemaweyan pointed out, "Sunu oeru fwa oe tsive'a" is NOT ambiguous: it can only mean "I like (the fact) that I see." If you want to say, "I like the thing I see" or "I like what I see," it has to be "Sunu oeru fwa oel tse'a.")
I think that in most cases, context will determine which of the meanings is appropriate. But I agree that there has to be a way to disambiguate when there's the danger of miscommunication.
Like you, I don't like using -l with tsun, so that's not an option for disambiguating the sentence.
I don't want to come up with an answer that i haven't considered carefully, so let me take a bit more time on this, and as soon as I have something I'm happy with, I'll get back to you, OK?

From Tirea Aean to Pawl:
Just checking up on the status of the ambiguity thing. Have you had any free time to think about it?
Personally, I was thinking that some options might be:
a) make a rule where in this instance, fwa and fì'u a are slightly different:
Oeru sunu fwa oe tsun tsive'a
(I like the fact that I can see)
Oeru sunu fì'u a oe tsun tsive'a
(I like this thing that I can see)
b) include some patient, like tsat:
Oeru sunu fwa oe tsun tsive'a
(I like the fact that I can see)
Oeru sunu fwa oe tsun tsive'a tsat
(I like this thing which I can see it)
But of course, there is still possible ambiguity in that last one:
I like this thing which I can see it / I like the fact that I can see that thing.
This really is a crazy ambiguity. Maybe this has to be one of those unsolvable ambiguities where context is the solution. Ambiguous sentences as you have said must exist if a language is to feel natural.
All natural languages have some ambiguity.
What do you think?

From Pawl:
[...]I really don't think it's a serious problem. As you've said, ambiguity is a fact of life in all natural languages. Actually, it's sometimes a plus, in that it allows for multiple layers of meaning and also artistry in language--for example, puns and "double entendres."[...]
Just one quick thing for now. When I was thinking about this, something in English dawned on me. I'll leave it to you to ponder. :-)
Consider this sentence:
The fact that she told me is hard to accept.
See the connection?

From Tirea Aean to Pawl:
S1: she tells me a fact. To accept it is difficult.
S2: She tells me something. This situation is difficult to accept.

From Pawl:
To elaborate a bit on the interpretations:
1. I never thought she'd tell me. But she did. She told me. That's hard for me to accept.
2. She told me a fact. That fact is hard for me to accept.
So would you agree that this is very similar to the Na'vi ambiguity?
When I realized that, i said to myself, "If English isn't seriously impaired by such an ambiguity, Na'vi shouldn't be either."
One thing is surprising, though: The English sentence is ambiguous in writing, but in speaking we make a distinction. (See if this feels right to you.)
1. The fact that she TOLD ME is hard to accept.
2. The FACT that she told me is hard to accept.
Interesting, huh?

Double Dative and more

Reported by Blue Elf and Plumps in this forum post, May 17 2013.

At the Euroavatar in Berlin Plumps lead some Na'vi lessons every day and on the Thursday Paul came among us. There was question about double dative (like in well-known phrase from the movie: Lu oeru aylì'u frapor) and Plumps asked if it is possible to use double dative in sentence like "I wrote letter to you" as there is no space for confusion. Paul agreed on this and gave us these examples:

Oe pamrel si ngar 'upxarer. -> I write message to you.
Oe pamrel soli ngaru 'upxarer san Oe zaya'u trray (sìk). -> I wrote to you message "I'll come tomorrow".

Note that using of alu is not correct here: Oe pamrel soli ngaru 'upxarer *alu san Oe zaya'u trray.

Nga pamrel soli 'upxarer pesur? -> to whom (what person) you wrote message?

Also there was question how to say: Sun shines. Pawl said that Tsawke lrrtok si is good way to express it.

In other news:

Quite as expected, the genitive of fko is fkeyä. I asked him about the range of ta for the sentence ‘You may make your bow from the wood of hometree’. He said, ta would be fine for that. He liked tolätxaw nìprrte’ as ‘welcome back’ very much. I wasn’t sure who came up with that but I had the feeling Pawl wanted to know so that he can put it in his excel sheet. Does anybody remember who came up with that? He said the most natural way to form the questions for the middle voice (how does this drink taste/smell?) would be with pefya / fyape, although he wasn’t entirely opposed to putting -pe+ on the nouns (’ur, sur, zir, fahew, pam) For lack of a better word he used kxu letokx for ‘violence’ in the radio play. Mind you, in time he may come up with a new root for that.

Ordinals & nume

Reported by Plumps in this forum post, Jun 05 2013.

I asked Pawl whether putting - on ordinals — as we see in nì’awve — would be productive

From Pawl:
I don't see why there shouldn't be nìmuve, nìpxeyve, etc. I think they're fine.

Second, I asked about the transitivity of nume ... and I feared as much.

From Pawl:
As for nume, I've been thinking of it as intransitive, in the sense of 'acquire knowledge or understanding.'
So to learn X, you use nume with X in the topical:
For example, here's some film dialog they asked me for that was never used:
You must learn to hunt with a bow and arrow.
Tsko swizawfa a tìtaronìri zene fko nivume.

So, nume is intransitive ... huh, quelle surprise!

Na'vi details from Avatarmeet 2013

Reported by Ftiafpi in this forum post, Jul 27 2013.

+ ordinal numbers is productive up to a "to be determined" point. i.e. Twenty-seventh isn't used often in English.

+ ay will generally turn into fay+ especially in rapid or casual speech but in formal or precise speech it may be fìay+.

However, fra + ay will always be fray+.

Frayhelutral lor lu.
Every of the Houses are beautiful.

Ohenga Pawl confirmed this word and we saw were it appears in the film during Norm's "a little formal" speech. He implied that he forgot about it in the film and also implied that any other honorific pronouns do not exist. I have to ask him about the construction mentioned in horen. Finally, he wanted to confirm if ohenga was indeed in his dictionary.

Tsala is confirmed unless otherwise stated by karyu Pawl. He didn't want to commit 100% to something without thinking a tiny bit more about it but saw nothing wrong with tsala.

Negative and Opposite adjectives / adverbs

Reported by Blue Elf in this forum post, Aug 12 2013.

From Pawl:
Here are some pairs we already know about:
teng 'same, equal'
eyawr 'correct'
tsuktswa' 'forgettable'
lesar 'useful'
lefpomtokx 'healthy'
lekin 'necessary'
letsunslu 'possible'
keteng 'different'
keyawr 'incorrect'
ketsuktswa' 'unforgettable'
kelsar 'useless'
kelfpomtokx 'unhealthy'
kelkin 'unnecessary'
keltsun 'impossible'
So from these examples we can derive a rule:
To form the negative of an adjective, use the negative prefix ke-. Note, however, that for le- adjectives, *kele... > kel... There are also some idiosyncrasies:
for example, keltsunslu is usually reduced to simply keltsun. Also, *keeyawr > keyawr by the general rule that two identical vowels coalesce into one.
This is a productive process when there aren't separate lexical items in the dictionary like the ones you pointed out: tsawl ~ hì'i, koak ~ 'ewan, etc. So there's no *ketsawl, *kehì'i, *kekoak, *ke'ewan, just as in English we don't have *unyoung, *unold, *unbig, *unsmall.

Now I found unsolved problem - how to form "impatient"? By rule: ke + lemweypey > *kelmweypey. Question sent back to Paul.

From Pawl:
here too, a couple of dictionary entires point the way to the rule:
nìkelkin 'unnecessarily'
nìktungzup 'carefully, firmly'
In the first example, - is added to a negative adjective to form a negative adverb.
In the second, - is added to a negative verb: + (ke + tungzup). That is, "in a way that doesn't drop" or (in fractured English) undroppingly. :-)
So negative adverbs generally start with + ke, since they're usually built up from - along with a negative adjective or verb. But contractions occur. For example, + ke usually becomes nìk-, as in nìktungzup.
So what would "impatiently" be? Well, remember that maweypey is a verb meaning "be patient." "Be impatient" is simply ke maweypey.
The adverb "patiently" is derived this way: + maweypey = nìmaweypey > nìmweypey. (The unstressed a has dropped.)
In the same way, the adverb "impatiently" is derived as follows: + ke + maweypey = nìkemaweypey > nìkemweypey. (Again, the unstressed a has dropped, which means the e of ke cannot drop.)

And it's time for update. *Kele- > kel- rule was precised:

From Blue Elf to Pawl:
how to create "impatient"?
we have le+maweypey > lemweypey. According rules you gave me I should just add ke-, and if le- is present, it changes to kel-.
So, ke+lemweypey > *kelmweypey, what breaks rules for syllable creation.
From Pawl:
Yes, you're right. That is an additional little detail to consider.
The same problem occurs in "impatiently." As I mentioned yesterday, I derived that word like this:
In the same way, the adverb "impatiently" is derived as follows: + ke + maweypey = nìkemaweypey > nìkemweypey. (Again, the unstressed a has dropped, which means the e of ke cannot drop.)
The question here is what happens to the underlying form *nìkemaweypey. There are two unstressed vowels that are eligible for dropping:
I feel pretty certain that as the language evolved, one or the other of these vowels would drop. But which one?
If the e drops, we get nìkmaweypey.
If the a drops, we get nìkemweypey.
Either of these developments could be justified. I went with the second form, which sounds more natural to me. So it's the a of mawey that dropped.
The situation with the adjective form is similar.
The underlying form is *kelemaweypey. Again, the two unstressed vowels eligible for dropping are:
If the e drops, we get kelmaweypey.
If the a drops, we get kelemweypey.
Again, I went with the second form. This has the advantage of giving us the nice pairs lemweypey/kelemweypey.
So a more accurate form of the "kele-" rule is:
*kele- > kel-, unless it would create an impermissible consonant cluster, in which case it remains kele-.

Pronunciation of oe words

Reported by Plumps in this forum post, Aug 29 2013.

In Tìtstewan’s Pronoun Guide, and looking at the Dictionary, the question came up of how to pronounce the words connected with oe (stress and whether oe is treated as one or two syllable(s)).

Here is what I got from Karyu Pawl:

oeng o.ENG.

The stress on the second syllable "feels" right here: it puts the emphasis on "I and YOU," and it contrasts better with oe.

After that oe becomes we- before case endings:

oengat(i) we.NGAT / we.NGA.ti

oengeyä we.NGE.yä

oengar(u) we.NGAR /

oengari we.NGA.ri

This stress on the ‘you’-part of inclusive forms is also applied to the trial (which, I recognised, are not listed in the Dictionary yet). So,

pxoeng pxo.ENG

pxoengal pxo.e.NGAL

pxoengat(i) pxo.e.NGAT / pxo.e.NGA.ti

pxoengeyä pxo.e.NGE.yä

pxoengar(u) pxo.e.NGAR /

pxoengari pxo.e.NGA.ri

The exclusive trial forms (pxoe, pxoel etc.) are stressed on the first syllable.

And what we already got right is that all forms of the long plural (except for ayoe of course) are pronounced aywe-

The pronunciation of oe as we- before suffixes is applied to combinations with adpositions as well, to which he said:

Even in careful speech, oeru and oehu are pronounced "weru" and "wehu."

Prefer X to Y

Reported by Plumps in this forum post, Oct 04 2013.

A few days ago, I asked about this construct in the Intermediate Section.

I got a response from K. Pawl about that:

So . . . preferring X to Y.
I thought about that a lot, but in the end I think the simple solution that you gave is the best one:
Oel payti nulnew to swoat.
(I prefer to separate X and Y by nulnew, since it avoids the possible ambiguity of what the to attaches to.
My analysis was something like this:
Nulnew, obviously, comes from nì'ul + new, 'want more.'
So how would you say, "I want X more than Y"? Here the "more" applies to a verb.
Well, a related construction would be,
Oe ngato yom nì'ul. 'I eat more than you (do).'
So similarly, 'want more' would be:
Oel X-ti to Y-ti new nì'ul.
But new nì'ul > nulnew.
So we have:
Oel X-ti to Y-ti nulnew. Or: Oel X-ti nulnew to Y-ti.

The adverb marker nì- and 'e' of a root word

Reported by Titstewan in this forum post, Oct 09 2013.

I've asked Pawl about *nìeyawr, because it was not clear how we should write that word. I've mentioned in my e-mail "[...] if the stress be on ‘e’, ‘ì’ from nì- drops, and if the stress be not on ‘e’, ‘e’ drops."

From his mail:
You've done a very nice job of analysis! What you've determined about nì- being added to a root that starts with e is absolutely correct. It does indeed depend on the stress.
If the stress is on the e, the e "overpowers" the ì of -, which then drops. So, as you've noted,
*nìetrìp > netrìp
But if the e is unstressed, then the ì of - overpowers the e. So:
*nìeyawr > nìyawr
You've determined the rules correctly!
There are some exceptions, though. For example, in the Weaving Song, there's this line:
Katot täftxu oel nìean nìrim 'I weave the rhythm in yellow and blue'
Here the unusual word nìean 'in blue' has remained in its original form, without becoming *nean.