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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 dated March 2010 - July 2010. To access past information please see:

Tag Question

Quoted by Prrton, March 1, 2010 ([1]).

Tewti, ma Prrton! Txantsana tìkangkem, txantsana aysäfpìl.

[As you can guess, säfpìl = idea, thought -- sä.FPÌL]

Lu awngar aytele apxay a teri sa'u pivlltxe...

« Teri » does not cause lenition. "Sa'u" is a short plural (short for aysa'u, of course): Literally: We have many matters that (we) may speak about THEM (or: THOSE THINGS)--i.e., we have a lot to talk about.

For the equivalent of "isn't that true?" "¿verdad?" "n'est-ce pas?" etc. let's go with "kefya [ke.FYA] srak?" or, as an equivalent shorter form, "kefyak?" (Derived, as we discussed, from "ke fìfya srak?")

Good Luck!

Quoted by Prrton, March 2, 2010 ([2]).

[Prrton asked how to express "Good Luck"] Since si-constructions take subjects in the unmarked (non-ERG.) case and objects in the dative, it would be:

(Fìtxeleri) Ngaru lrrtok! (sivi (Nawma Sa'nok))

For the shorter version, I like: Lrrtok ngar! It’s easier to pronounce.

A slightly different version: Aylrrtok ngar. (with an understood “livu”)

Cf. the all-purpose holiday or celebrational greeting: Ftxozäri aylrrtok ngaru. (Smiles to you on your celebration. That appeared on JC’s birthday cake several years ago.)

So this results in

  1. [whatever needs the luck]-ri/ìri ngaru lrrtok!
  2. [whatever needs the luck]-ri/ìri lrrtok ngar!
  3. [whatever needs the luck]-ri/ìri ngaru lrrtok sivi Nawma Sa'nok! (If the lottery winnings are at stake!)

Dual and Vocative

Quoted by Will Txankamuse, March 6, 2010 ([3]).

The dual forms are expected with things that naturally come in pairs. So if you’re talking about your eyes, ears, feet, or hands, you should use those forms. “My eyes” is therefore “oeyä menari,” not “oeyä aynari.” (I know a little Hebrew, and I think that’s the case in Modern Hebrew as well.) But what if you wanted to say, “Many eyes were staring at him”? There I’d use the regular plural; “many two eyes” doesn’t make sense. (But I should ask my Israeli friends what happens in that case in Hebrew.)

I agree that to say “I have two cars,” the dual shouldn’t be enforced.

[Will asked how to express the following]

Q: How many children do you have? (not using dual, because I don't know the answer)

A: I have two.

Q: How old are they? (now are you using the dual for 'they', or can you use the plural?)

As to pronouns, your hypothetical conversation is right on the beam: Once you’ve established that there are two kids, you should use the dual form. A useful guideline is this: If it’s natural to say “both” in English, then it’s likely you should use the dual in Na’vi. In the case of your conversation, the last speaker could have said, “How old are they both?” So s/he would probably use “mefo” for “they.”

I myself have trouble remembering to use the dual form when two people are involved, especially in the first person. One thing I’ve found that helps is that if I can substitute “we two” or “the two of us” or “you and I” for “we,” then I know I should use the dual form. Same for the second person forms (“you two”) and third person forms (“those two”).

As for the inconsistency in using the vocative ... well, let's just say that consultants like me don't have "creative control," and sometimes a bit of back-fitting is necessary. With the vocative, I've modified the rule so that it's obligatory when you're talking to people (including Eywa!) but optional when talking to animals. I think you get the point. ;-)

Luke, Write and Tanhì

Reported by Prrton and Roger, March 7 2010, in the same forum post.

Quote from: Paul Frommer
Lu mengeyä kelku na'rìngä luke kxu atxan a fì'u fmawn asìltsan lu nìngay. Nìlaw Nawma Sa'nok lrrtok soli mengar.
ta P.
[kxu = harm; luke = without (ADP-)]

Reported by Roger:

A couple tidbits in a mostly English email:
For "write" let's use pamrel si rather than lì'rel si. The former seems more appropriate for an alphabetic orthography.
I don't have a word for bioluminescent freckle, but I love the idea of using tanhì. Consider it done.
And what's been reported as "tomorrow" in the following, though given the context it might mean "upcoming day":
I'm not going to be much in touch tomorrow, but I hope to be back in communication by Monday, or Tuesday at the latest.
Trrayri livu nìsìlpey aylrrtok atxan ta Eywa awngaru nìwotx.

kxener and kì'ong

Quoted by Skxawng, March 9, 2010 ([4]).

As you know (I hope), I had nothing to do with the "Activist Survival Guide," which was written and published without my knowledge. Many of the so-called Na'vi terms in the body of the book are incorrect/misued. The Na'vi-English Dictionary, however, is actually my work, but it's an early, out-of-date version of the glossary that I never thought was going to be published. Since then I've made some changes, and one word that's been changed is kxener.

At one point the movie people needed some words for Pandoran foods for a certain scene (which didn't make it to the final cut), so I came up with a few terms. It wasn't important to figure out exactly what kinds of foods they were, so I simply glossed the terms as "kind of fruit or vegetable." I think there were about a half-dozen of those. Later, when the scene wasn't used, it seemed a pity to have these perfectly good words with such vague and not-very-useful meanings, so I reassigned all of them. Of the words in the ASG, "kì'ong" (stress on 2nd) now means "slow," and "kxener" (stress on 1st) means . . . smoke.

Participial Infixes

Quoted by wm.annis, March 13, 2010 (on the forum).'

Aylì’u apawnlltxe nìltsan!
-us- and -awn- are parallel infixes--active and passive participles respectively.
ioang apuslltxe
lì'fya apawnlltxe

A Collection

Quoted by Wm.annis, March 14, 2010 (forum post). Comments by Frommer on the translation of a Coyote tale.'

This would be a good place for the “indefinite o.” You can optionally add an o to nouns to show indefiniteness—an N, one N, some N. (The case endings follow the o.) Useful in contexts where the def./indef. status isn’t clear. (Cf. one kid’s comment to another when Jake first visits Hometree: “Txopu rä’ä si, lu ketuwongo nì’aw.” Also cf. tsengo ‘somewhere, ’ tuteo ‘someone’) Here, without the –o the opening could be read, “It was the day when . . .”

Encounter, meet by chance = ultxarun. (Cf. ultxa si hu = meet with s.o. intentionally).

Nang is always sentence-final and appears with nìtxan.

Mì is like en in Spanish—either ‘in’ or ‘on.’ Back (body part) = txal.

“I wish” or “Oh that . . .” is nìrangal (rangal ‘wish’ v.) followed by the present imperfective subjunctive –irv- for present counterfactuals or the present perfective subjunctive –ilv- for past counterfactuals.

Better: Pìsyeng oe ngar. The two future markers have alternate forms with s: -ì(s)y- and -a(s)y- . The s-forms are used optionally to indicate determination to bring something about rather than a simple prediction about the future. (I used them occasionally but probably shd. do so more.)

Spark = txepvi. (-vi is a formative along the lines of what Kirk and Britton have suggested. It’s related to “child” (cf. ’eveng, ’evi; also cf. Malay/Indonesian “anak”) and is used loosely for the spawn of s.t. bigger. So sparks are the children of the fire. (Cf. also Na’vi!)

Lefpom is nfp (not for people)—use it for “happy story,” “joyous occasion,” etc. For people: nitram. For internal states (happy, sad, hot, cold, hungry, thirsty, . . .) use ’efu + ADJ, as in Eng. “I feel cold.”

Tok is actually a transitive verb (!): to be in a place is to occupy that place and thereby change its nature. (2) With krr, txan is the opposite of yol. Cf.: Yola krr, txana krr, ke transten. “It doesn’t matter how long it takes” (a Moat line that I don’t think made it to the final cut).

When asked about how to indicate simultaneous action, "she ran away laughing."

I’ve been using tengkrr plus –er-

A comment on some vocabulary, and the use of negation.

Chase = fewi, catch = stä’nì. Don’t forget ke along with kawkrr.

Pronunciation of oe

Quoted by Ftiafpi, March 22, 2010 (forum post).

Ngeyä tìpawmerì oe seiyi irayo.

Yes, you're right: the "oe" element in personal pronouns is sometimes pronounced in two syllables ("oh-eh") and sometimes one ("weh").

The general rule is that all vowels in a word are pronounced separately. The most extreme of example of this (so far!) is meoauniaea, which has 8 distinct syllables, all gliding smoothly from one to another.

But with the "oe" words, which are among the most common in the language, it's probable that more compact pronunciations evolved. People contract and shorten words all the time, especially the ones they use most frequently. In English, for example, "I am" is usually "I'm" in casual speech: two syllables have become one. The difference is that in English we change the spelling and punctuation to go along with the streamlined pronunciation while in Na'vi we don't. But the principle is the same.

So in careful, formal speech, "oeru" might be 3 full syllables. (And note that in honorific style, it's definitely 3: oheru.) But in ordinary conversation, "oeru" is normally "weh-ru."

The rule for these pronouns is as follows:

If the "oe" element comes at the end of the word, pronounce the two vowels separately; otherwise pronounce them as "weh." So oe and moe have two syllables and ayoe has three, but oel has one. However, in the dual and trial forms prefixed with m and px respectively, the vowels of oe are ALWAYS pronounced separately. So, for example, oel is one syllable but moel and pxoel are two.

Sìlpey oe tsnì fìtìoeyktìng* law livu ngaru set.

Trr lefpom livu ngar.

ta P.

 *Tìoeyktìng = explanation, which contains the root oeyk 'cause' -- two syllables, stressed on the second: o.EYK. So tìoeyktìng should have four syllables: tì.o.EYK.tìng. I bet, though, that in casual speech on Pandora it's pronounced in three, as if it were tì.WEYK.tìng. Guess we'll need a native informant to find out for sure! :-)

Followup, quoted by Wm Annis

Ngey 'upxareri irayo. (As you probably know, dropping the -ä on the genitive pronouns is colloquial and informal.)


Quoted by Wm.annis on March 23, 2010 (forum post). The reference is to Why is this night...

Quick comment re "nìfya'o letrrtrr":

I gather this has caused some consternation. If so, that's not surprising, since on the surface it looks as if an adjective as modifying an adverb. As you've realized, the bracketing is really nì-[fya'o letrrtrr], so it's not as weird as it seems--provided, as you say, you accept that an affix can be applied to a phrase. (I was trying without success to think of places that English does that, along the lines of "He answered very in-your-facely" or "That was an out-of-the-boxish solution.")

But it's a useful construction, since it's completely productive: if you can modify fya'o with an adjective, you can turn that phrase into a manner adverbial with nìfya'o. True, there is overlap between one-word adverbs and these constructions, but that's not unusual: in English we can say "She spoke clearly" or "She spoke in a clear way." (For the first sentence, though, nìlaw is ambiguous just as "clearly" is in English: Poe poltxe nìlaw means either "She spoke clearly" or "Clearly, she spoke." However, Poe poltxe nìfya'o alaw can only mean "She spoke clearly.")

With the limited lexicon we currently have, it's natural for people to try to use the derivational affixes freely to fill gaps. But in fact they aren't freely productive, which is why forms with tì-, sä-, le-, and nì- need to be listed in the lexicon. It's not a given that any particular root can take these affixes, and even when the form exists, the meaning won't necessarily be predictable. (E.g. tìrol means 'song' rather than 'singing.' And in English, "ordinarily" does not mean "in an ordinary manner.") But you don't have that problem with a nìfya'o adverbial--the process is always productive and always interpreted as a manner adverbial.

Misc Answers

Quoted by roger on Marh 23, 2010 (forum post).

When asked which of several defs of 'responsible' kllfro' is:

Yes, it is a compound, and the first element is indeed kll 'ground.' But I haven't yet decided on what the fro' part means.

The idea is to be responsible for someone or something--that is, having s.o. or s.t. as your "job, duty, or area of concern" (as my desk dictionary puts it).

The line in the original script was Moat's, when she tells Neytiri that she (Neytiri) will be the one to ensure Jake's progress in learning the ways of the Na'vi:

Pori zene kllfrivo' nga. 'He is your responsibility.'

On what happens with infixing stressed syllabic C's:

In a case like frrfen, where the stress is on frr, the ipfv remains frrfen:

frrfen (stress on 1st) + ‹er› --> *ferrrfen > frrfen

When the stress is not on the pseudovowel, however, it drops:

plltxe (stress on 2nd) + ‹ol› --> *pollltxe > poltxe

When asked about ay sometimes being a diphthong, and sometimes V+C:

Keep in mind that ay, ey, aw, ew are diphthongs as well as VC's. (In tsawl, for example, you know the aw is a diphthong, because if it weren't, you'd have a syllable ending in two C's, which is prohibited.)

So the syllabification will tell you which you have. For example:

tswayon is tsway.on, indicating that the ay is a diphthong. But #ayo# is #a.yo#, indicating that the y is a consonant. [sorry, word not released yet. F asked Wm to hold off a bit]

(I'm not sure there's much consequence to these distinctions--the pronunciations seem pretty much the same.)

Similar things hold for w.

[...] In general, the tendency with VCV is to syllabify as V.CV rather than VC.V (assuming there's a choice--i.e., that C is one of the consonants that can appear in syllable-final position).

So the default is V.gV, as in,, etc.

For 'egeg, the word may have originated as a reduplicated form: *'eg'eg < 'eg + 'eg, which would favor '

Same with kagagag, which is clearly onomatopoetic: kag + ag + ag (a bang with two echos), hence If you separated it as, it would lose the echo effect.

I'd asked about the pattern of the seder, where if I had done it, I would have had contrasting topic constructions:

As for fìtxon vs. fìtxonìri, I considered your version but decided against it: all those "-ìri's" sounded too sing-songy to me. Since fìtxon, unadorned, can be used adverbially (i.e. 'tonight'), I think the form without the ending is justifiable.

So instead of:

As for all other nights, we do X; as for this night, we do Y

we have instead:

As for all other nights, we do X; (but) tonight we do Y

Both versions seem OK to me.

Declension with Diphthongs and Deixis

Quoted By Wm.annis on March 24, 2010 (forum post).

I asked, First, I say that "For declension, the diphthongs count as consonants." I'm 95% certain this is true (kifkeyit, etc.)

No, not quite. I hadn't written up the rule, but this is what I've been doing with diphthong-final N's, which feels right in my mouth and ear:

  • A: -ìl
  • P: -it, -ti
  • D: -ru, -ur
  • G: -ä
  • T: -ri

(I think I've been consistent, but if you come across places I haven't, please let me know.)

Sorry to give you a headache with this. One generalization is that the single-C allomorphs are out. Other than that, I guess it's some from Column A, some from Column B. Maybe you can find a way to convey this without having to take up space with another chart.

For the record, I went through the lexicon and found 19 diphthong-final N's:

  • -AW: fpxafaw, swizaw, taw, tìsraw
  • -AY: holpxay, nguway, reypay, tìngay, tsray, txampay, way, yemfpay
  • -EW: fahew, flew, txantstew
  • -EY: kifkey, kxeyey, tìrey, vey

(20 if we count tìletìngay. <g>)

I asked, Second, I say that the near demonstrative is "fì-" (pl. "fay-", or just "fì-" with lenition); the distant demonstrative is "tsa-" (pl. tsay- or just "tsa-" with lenition).

I worry about the distal deixis prefix, because you have given us sa'u as a plural of tsa'u.

OK, except that for the plurals, there's no fì-/tsa- plus lenition option. That is,

  • fìketuwong 'this alien'
  • fayhetuwong 'these aliens'
  • tsaketuwong 'that alien'
  • tsayhetuwong 'those aliens'

But not *fìhetuwong, *tsahetuwong. (The nice thing about short plurals is that they save you a syllable; here that doesn't happen, so there's no raison d'être for the short forms with demonstratives.)

The plural of the stand-alone demonstrative pronoun tsa'u is (ay)sa'u, which follows the regular rules.

I don't see anything worrisome here, but if I'm missing something (which is entirely possible), let me know.

When I asked for clarification about the pronouns,

Right. With the pronouns, the order of elements is ay+tsa+'u rather than the expected tsa+ay+'u, etc.

If and Whether

Reported by Will Tsankamuse March 24, 2010 (forum post).

You ask a good question. "Whether" is an important word. And your analysis of "Tell me if you want to live"--that is, that it has two distinct meanings--is right on the money.

You're right--you can't use "txo" for all instances of English "whether."

Here are some examples:

(1) He asked whether Sally left.

That's an indirect question. The direct version, of course, is:

(2) He asked, "Did Sally leave?"

[BTW, as you probably know, some speakers of non-standard English use similar structures for direct and indirect questions. Those speakers would say, instead of (1),

(3) He asked did Sally leave.]

Anyway, in Na'vi we only use the direct form. So the sentence becomes:

(4) Polawm po san srake Säli holum sìk.

And no "whether" is required.

As for "Tell me whether you want to live (or not)," there's a different structure:

We use "ftxey . . . fuke," as in:

Piveng oer ftxey nga new rivey fuke. (Fuke is stressed on the 2nd syllable: fu.KE)

"Ftxey," which is also the verb "choose," is here a conjunction corresponding to "whether." And "fuke" clearly means "or not," which you can't omit in Na'vi.

"Ftxey . . . fuke" can also be used in direct questions. For "Are you coming?" we usually say:

(5) Srake nga za'u?

But there's another version, which corresponds more closely to "Are you coming or not?"

(6) Ftxey nga za'u fuke?

Hope that's all clear!

Intentional Future Details

Quoted by roger, March 29 2010 (forum post).

With the negative added, it's a matter of scope: Is it (a) INTEND [NEG V] or (b) NEG [INTEND V]?

So far I've used the det. fut. only as (a). Examples from the video-game dialog:

Tafral ke lìsyek oel geyä keye'ugit.
'Therefore I will not heed your insanity.'
Ayoe ke wasyem.
'We will not fight.'
Ke zasyup lì'Ona ne kxutu a mìfa fu a wrrpa.
'The l'Ona will not perish to the enemy within or the enemy without.'

As for the second person examples, the det. fut. without anything else should indicate the intention of the speaker (since you can't get inside someone's head to assess their determination): Ga kasyä shd. be: I am determined that you will go. (Alternatively, it could be the case that the determinative is only used with the 1st person--but that would eliminate some useful sentences.)*

I like your idea of using the evidential with the determinative for the other reading. In the same way, when we use experiential expressions with other than the 1st person, we're implying a "seems" or "appears," right? So "I'm tired" is straightforward, but "You're tired" is odd unless it means "I perceive you as tired (although I can't be sure if that's true)" or "You seem/appear to be tired."

April 6 Miscellany

Quoted by Prrton, April 6 2010 (forum post).

Frakrr is "always" in the sense of "at all times," as in "He's always late."

"Forever" is different. The "poetic" meaning is "until the end of time," which would be:

tì'i'avay krrä

Stress: tì'I'avay KRRä

'i'a is the verb "end, conclude" (not to be confused with 'ia "lose oneself in a spiritual sense")

tì'i'a is the noun "ending, conclusion"

vay, as you know, is the ADP "up to"

I think { tì'i'avay krrä } has a nice lilt.

Another meaning of "forever" is "constantly" or "incessantly," as in "She's forever grousing about her work." For that you can just use nìlkeftang.

Hope that helps!

In response to a translation for the sentences, "I have many friends. There are some who are in the USA and are young students, and also some others who are in all other territories of the world who are not young at all."

Oeru lu eylan apxay. Lu suteo a tok Yu.E.Seyti ulte lu 'ewana aynumeyu, ulte kop suteo alahe a tok frakllpxìltut kifkeyä ulte ke lu 'ewan kaw'it.

[ke . . . kaw'it: 'not . . . at all']

(Note, by the way, that the stress in {kaw'it} is on the second syllable: kaw'IT.)


Quoted by roger, April 18, 2010 (forum post).

I've gone back and forth on that one, but I ultimately decided on ayyerik. I don't think the distinction has much consequence for the spoken language--ayyerik and ayerik would sound pretty much the same--so it's really a matter of spelling conventions. I prefer ayyerik because it clearly identifies the plural marker--cf. (1) ayyerik ayawne, and (2) ayerik ayawne. (2) would be harder on readers--in the first word, they'd have to recognize the a as a truncated plural marker, while in the second, it's the "modifier a." So I prefer (1).

Written Na'vi

Quoted by Kemeoauniaea, April 27, 2010 (forum post)

Kaltxì, ma Kemeoauniaea--
Mesìpawmìri atxantsan seiyi oe ngar irayo. Pxiset ke lu oeru krr fte tì'eyngit tivìng, slä fmayi oe 'iveyng ye'rìn. Tsakrrvay, ngeyä tìmweypeyri irayo.
ta Pawl

Double Negatives Required

Quoted by Prrton, May 2, 2010. (forum post)

Is double negation required for the sentence:
«Ke’u lu ngay» ??
Must it be:
«Ke’u ke lu ngay»
in order to be grammatically/semantically correct?
Or, is it acceptable with a non-negated verb, but «Ke'u ke lu ngay» is 95% better?

Quote from: Paul Frommer in response via e-mail

It really should be "Ke'u ke lu ngay."
"Ke'u lu ngay" isn't grammatical. (I think I've been consistent in that.)

Si Constructions

Quoted by Tirea Aean, May 6, 2010 (forum post).

Hello, Dr. Frommer. Syaw fko oeru Tirea Aean ta I would like to make this quick, because I know you are supremely busy. I love the Na'vi language with much passion. There is just something about "noun si" constructions that is bugging me. They are supposed to be intransitive, right? I saw this in one of our documents on
"...and when a sentence has an si verb, the object takes the dative ending: Oe uvan si ay+au-ru. I play the drums..."
For one, I thought that since uvan=game, then uvan si=to play a game. not play as in play the drums. Am I correct about this?
Also, is that statement about si constructions using dative as a direct object true? I always thought that the dative was for indirect objects...or am I misunderstanding?
Krrìri ngengeyä seiyi oe ngengar irayo ma nawma karyu!

Quote from: Paul Frommer in response via e-mail

Kaltxì ma Tirea Aean,
Ngeyä 'upxareri seiyi oe irayo.
"Si constructions" are unusual, I know. So let me try to clarify them a bit for you:
It is correct that they're syntactically intransitive, with the "object" in the dative. One of the clearest examples is with "srung si," which as you know is the verb "help." In English, "help" is transitive--A helps B, and B is the direct object. But in Na'vi, it's more along the lines of "A engages in or performs help for (the sake of) B." So "I help you" is "Oe srung si ngaru"--literally, "I do helping to you."
Some si-constructions correspond to intransitives in English, and these don't take a dative: examples are "kelku si" (dwell) and "tìkangkem si" (work). But "kavuk si" (betray) works like "srung si":
Po kavuk soli awngar.
He betrayed us. (More literally, he engaged in betrayal to us.)
That said, the example with "uvan si" isn't accurate. You're right--"uvan si" is "play" in the sense of playing a game, not in the sense of playing an instrument. Some languages have the same word for both senses of play, but many, like Na'vi, do not. (We don't yet have a word for play in the instrumental sense, but it's on the list. <g>)
Thanks again for your question.
Sìlpey oe, ngeyä tìtslamur srung soli nì'it.
Eywa ngahu.
ta Pawl

History of Tsaw

Quoted by NeotrekkerZ, May 6, 2010 (forum post).

Quote from: Paul Frommer in response via e-mail:

Tsa isn't used by itself. Like fì-, it's only a prefix: tsatute 'that person,' tsakilvan 'that river.'
Tsa'u and tsaw ARE used alone--they're pronouns, meaning 'that thing' or just 'it.' And they're used interchangeably. (There's no form tsau.)
There are other such pairs as well. For example, the object form of 'that thing' or 'it' is either tsa'ut(i) or tsat.
Well, the development of tsaw from tsa'u is as follows:
In fast speech, the glottal stop was likely to drop, yielding tsau. The -au- combination then quickly turned into a diphthong. That is,
tsa'u > tsau > tsaw
(Note that au > aw did not happen with the word for drum, au, which retains two syllables.)
That said, the other forms don't have the diphthong. So it's tsal, tsat(i), tsar(u), not *tsawl, *tsawt, *tsawr. In other words, these forms have gone one step further, losing the diphthong: aw > a.
All of that, I think, is pretty natural.

Word Order Issues

Reported by omängum fra'uti, May 12, 2010 (forum post).

Don't expect too much this week as he's busy with CSU related stuff (You know, his day job?) but I did get a few tidbits from this weekend.

First was about word order. In the lessons I made recently I had been giving translations of OSV order as passive sentences in English. He wasn't entirely happy about that, not because it can't be the case, but because it wouldn't always be. As an example, he could not think of a case where "You are seen by me" would be used in English conversations, although syntactically and grammatically there is nothing wrong with it. On the other hand, "Ngati oel tse'a" would be perfectly natural in Na'vi.

However, he still doesn't really have any sort of clear guidance as to when you would use the different word orders.

Second is something that I have played devils advocate against for awhile, merely pointing out that we don't know. However, I can stop that now as we know. In "si" constructs (Excepting cases where the assisting noun is contextual) it is always "noun si". (From examples like "tsakem rä'ä si", I'd imagine adverbs like rä'ä and possibly also ke could be slipped in between, but no comment on that as I hadn't asked.) So the "si irayo" form is the exception to the rule, rather than a counter-example. Then again, irayo isn't a true noun anyway.

Life, Death, and Gerunds

Quoted by tigermind May 16, 2010 forum post

In response to e-mail questions about words for life and death, Dr. Frommer wrote:

...thanks for the interesting questions about life and death. :-) You're right: At this point there's an asymmetry in the lexicon when it comes to the words for life and death, with two roots for death but (so far) only one for life. Thanks for pointing that out. I'll definitely take your suggestions into consideration as I expand the vocabulary. Here's how things stand at the moment:


The verb 'to live,' as you know, is simply rey. Tìrey has been functioning as both the abstract concept of life ("Life should be joyful") and as an individual's own particular life, as in Oe tsole’a palulukanit atsawl frato mì sìrey, "I saw the biggest thanator I had ever seen (lit., the biggest thanator in [my] life)."
Tìrusey is the gerund form, corresponding to "living" as a subject or object: "Living here is pleasant. I like living here."
Note that the tì__us__ form is a general way to form gerunds, and it's entirely productive--that is, you can apply it freely to any verb and you'll get the corresponding gerund. That's in contrast to the tì__ form, the meaning of which is not always predictable. For example, tìrol means "song," not "singing." For the latter, you can use tìrusol, or for the abstract concept, tseo tìrusolä. That's why tì__ forms need to be listed in the lexicon, whereas tì__us__ forms don't.


To die, as you know, is terkup. Tìterkup is death in the abstract sense: "Death is inevitable."
I thought I had used kxitx somewhere in the Avatar or video game dialog, but I checked and apparently I hadn't. In any event, I was thinking of kxitx as referring to the event of an individual's death: "His death was calm and peaceful."
By the way, "dead" is kerusey--i.e., not (or non-) living: "Hetuwongìl awngeyä swotut ska’a, fte kllkivulat keruseya tskxet."
Nga pamrel soli san sleykivu utralìl lì'fyayä leNa'vi pxaya ayvurit atxur sìk. Faylì'u alor oeru teya si nìtxan, ulte ke tswaya' oel sat kawkrr.
ta Pawl
N.P.-- ...Txo oeyä aylì'umì keyey lu: Since it's not certain there are keyey, use the subjunctive, livu.

Near, Distant and Irregular Adverbs

Quoted by roger, May 17 2010 forum post

Stative verbs do take infixes. (Lu is the quintessential stative verb, and needless to say we have lolu, livu, etc.) So do verbs of location: tok allows tarmok, tolok, and so on.
So how do alìm "far away, at a distance" and asim "nearby, at close range" relate to the verbs lìm "be far" and sim "be near"? Well, the first thing to note is that alìm and asim are adverbs, not adjectives. I used alìm only once in the Avatar background dialog:
'Ì'awn alìm! "Stay back!"
(Whether or not you can hear this in the final cut I don't know.)
Sim and asim parallel lìm and alìm but don't appear in the dialog.
Note that since they're adverbs, alìm and asim do NOT have alternate forms *lìma and *sima.
Now how did these forms arise historically? Perhaps like this:
'Ì'awn nìfya'o a lìm > ? 'Ì'awn nìfya'o alìm > 'Ì'awn alìm
(I'm not sure about the intermediate step. Could be that it was reanalyzed nì+[fya'o a lìm] > nì+[fya'o alìm]
In any event, these a-adverbs shouldn't be considered the result of a productive process in the contemporary language. They're historical artifacts that have to be listed in the lexicon. The productive adverbial affix remains nì-.

The Dual sounds of "u"

Quoted by omängum fra'uti, May 20 2010 (forum post).

We have two pronunciations listed for the letter "u". That being "u" and "ʊ", with no explanation why. Well, I have an explanation why.

Open syllables always use a tense "u" pronunciation. Closed syllables can be either tense "u" or lax "ʊ". There is no rule for which to use in closed syllables. So tsun, for example, can be either "tsun" or "tsʊn", but "lu" is always "lu", never "lʊ".

Losing and registers

Quoted by omängum fra'uti, May 21 2010 (forum post).

But something caught my eye... He gave the example of its use as "Tìkan tawnatep!" - target lost.

There's no typo there. It's an unattributed passive participle. So a follow up question later and I got a nice gem of a response.

Quote from: Karyu Pawl
The explanation is that this is in a clipped, military register, just as the English translation is.

Of course the correct Na'vi would be "Tìkan atawnatep" or "Tìkanit oel tolatep". There are other markers of the military register as well, but the only hint I got on that was...

Quote from: Karyu Pawl
the shortening of the genitive pronouns: oeyä --> oey [pron. wey], ngeyä --> ngey, etc.

It's worth noting that Frommer created the military register for the video game. Despite the big battle scene in Avatar, there was not really a huge amount of military commands.

Txe'lanit Hivawl

Quoted by Prrton, June 18 2010 (forum post).

(Note: there is much vocabulary explained in this post. This wiki page is focused on the grammar in it. Wm.annis)

Fwa with adpositions

Na’vi gerunds (e.g. «tìyusom, tìnusäk» “eating, drinking”) do not take direct objects. So to say “without beginning to cry” the reguar verb phrase «sgnä’i tsngivawvìk» takes «fwa» (or «a fì’u») and the regular adposition «luke» is added to the correct side of «fwa» or «a fì’u».

Not all adpositions make sense with «fwa». Be careful.

Sngä’i as a modal verb

In this particuar case, «sgnä’i» is used modally. That requires that «tsngawvìk» carry the invix «•iv•» to become «tsngivawvìk».

The contrast between fwa/tsawa, furia/tsaria

There is a full set of «tsa-»-based conjucntions that corresponds to the «fì-»-based patterns.

fwa futa furia
tsawa tsata tsaria

The most common and “default” formation is via a form in «fì-», however, when the topic being discussed is something that has been previously established between the speaker and listener, «tsa-» can indicate this distinction. In this example, all references to the trash being/not being taken out are in something «tsa-» (because they have been discussed/rehashed between these two (speaker and listener) over and over again. However, the speaker getting upset enough to cry about it is new, so “without starting to cry” is in «fwa» and not «tsawa». You are not required to make this distinction. This is a subtlety of the language available to those to whom this kind of granularity is important. The choice of «tsawa» over «fwa» is subjective and at the speaker’s discretion.

Lam oer, _____ vs. Lam oer fwa _____

K. Paul used «lam oer, _____________» to me in a note. I had never seen this without «fwa», so I asked him...

Is there anything wrong with «lam oer» taking «fwa» to link it to “whatever seems...”?

Quote from: K. Pawl
No, that’s fine.
Lam oer fwa po lu kanu nìtxan. OR Lam oer, po lu kanu nìtxan.
My thinking here is that over time, lam oer could have evolved into a kind of adverbial, almost like “seemingly,” just as sìlpey oe can have the force of “hopefully.”

Alo & Fralo

alo = time / turn / instance (c.f. Spanish «vez» compared to «tiempo» or French « fois » compared to « temps ».)

Quote from: K. Pawl
It's like this definition of time given in my desk dictionary:
"one of a number of repeated or recurring actions or instances. 'Cowards die many times before their deaths.' (Shakespeare, Julius Caesar).
(1) Alo amrr poan polawm, slä fralo* poe poltxe san kehe.**
"He asked five times, but each time she said, 'no.'"
*fralo 'each time, every time' [FRA.lo, obviously from fra+alo]
**If the quoted speech ends the utterance, the final sìk is optional.
(2) Ayupxareri angim nìhawng lu alo oeyä!
"Now it's my turn for a message that's too long!"

This is the same «lo» of ’awlo and melo (once, twice), but notice the stress shifts to «lo» in «aLO».

Numbers take nouns in the SINGULAR.

Quote from: K. Pawl
NOTE: I'm not sure I ever made this clear anywhere:
When you quantify a noun with a number, you use the SINGULAR form, not the plural.
So '8 nantangs' is nantang avol or vola nantang, NOT *aynantang avol.