User:Erimeyz/Beginners' Guide: Lesson Four - Simple Sentences

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Note: This beginner's guide is a work in progress. There is still a lot to be done before it gets released. Feedback from everyone is welcome, including from beginners and experienced Na'vi learners. Please add your comments on the Beginners' Guide talk page, or post to one of the Beginners' Guide threads on the Learn Na'vi forum (such as the Letters and Sounds thread), or send a forum PM to Erimeyz.

Learning to say "Hello" and "Goodbye" and that bit about demons is all well and good, but to learn Na'vi you'll have to move beyond memorizing phrases from the tourists' guide. You'll have to learn what the actual words mean, and you'll have to learn how to put them together into meaningful sentences of your own. And you'll start doing that in this lesson, right now.

Britannia Est Insula

[To teach: copulas, free word order, lack of articles, a handful of nouns and adjectives]

Here is your first Na'vi sentence:

Ikran lu apxa.

Ikran is the Na'vi word for the winged animal that the Na'vi bond with and ride. Humans biologists have named them banshees, but in this guide we'll simply use the word "ikran". Lu is the Na'vi word for is, or more generally the verb to be (including am and are). And apxa (note the ejective!) means large. So the sentence above means "The ikran is large." Pretty simple, right?

The following sentences also mean "The ikran is large":

Apxa lu ikran.
Ikran apxa lu.
Lu apxa ikran.

In fact, no matter how you arrange those three words into a sentence, it still means "The ikran is large." This demonstrates one of the most interesting features of Na'vi: it has free word order. In simple sentences like these the words can be arranged in any order without changing the meaning of the sentence.

This is not the case in English. The ikran is large is a statement, Is the ikran large is a question, The ikran large is is ungrammatical nonsense, and Large the ikran is is from a different movie. But in Na'vi, any combination of those words is grammatical and they all have the same meaning.

Try reading some more sentences:

Neytiri mawey lu.
Neytiri is calm.
Tsu'tey txur lu.
Tsu'tey is strong.
Lu ikran alaksi.
The ikran is ready.
Lu alaksi Tsu'tey.
Tsu'tey is ready.
Txur lu Neytiri.
Neytiri is strong.
Mawey ikran lu.
The ikran is calm.

Copulas Are Easy

Linguists call a word like lu a copula. A copula links two things together, establishing their equivalence. In the sentences above lu links a noun (like Tsu'tey) with an adjective (like txur, strong). But lu can also link two nouns, like this:

Neytiri lu taronyu.
Neytiri is a hunter.
Tsu'tey tsamsiyu lu.
Tsu'tey is a warrior.
Lu ikran swirä.
The creature is an ikran.

By now you may have noticed something: we've translated ikran as both the ikran and an ikran, but in neither case was there a Na'vi word for "the" or "an" in front of ikran. That's because Na'vi doesn't have any words for "a", "an", or "the" (which we call articles in English). Consider this sentence:

Lu tawtute skxawng.

Tawtute means human and skxawng means moron. So the sentence means The human is a moron. Right? Well, yes, but it could also mean any of the following:

"Who's the moron that broke my spear?" Lu tawtute skxawng. The human is the moron.
"Why did some moron break my spear?" Lu tawtute skxawng. The moron is a human.
"Why would a human break my spear?" Lu tawtute skxawng. A human is a moron.

In English, the choice of articles and the choice of word order carry subtle differences in meaning. In Na'vi, that meaning is conveyed by context, i.e. the rest of the conversation and circumstances surrounding any single sentence. To choose the correct translation from Na'vi into English (for example: lu ikran swirä: the creature is an ikran or the ikran is a creature) you have to understand the context of the sentence. If you don't have any context, than any choice is correct, although some will sound better than others (e.g. the creature is the ikran sounds awkward on its own).


Neytiri A Na'vi woman's name
Tsu'tey A Na'vi man's name
ikran banshee
tawtute human
skxawng moron
taronyu hunter
tsamsiyu warrior
uniltìranyu dreamwalker (avatar pilot)
vrrtep demon
'itan son
'ite daughter
eyktan leader
karyu teacher
'eylan friend
toktor doctor (human scientist)
txur strong
mawey calm
txen awake
sevin pretty
pxan worthy
alaksì ready

[More to come...]

Go on to Lesson Five.