Introduction to Navajo Postpositions

This is a lexicon of Navajo postpositions and postpositional enclitics.

Postpositions are pretty much the same as prepositions in English but a postposition appears after its noun phrase object rather than before it. Postpositions tend to be short words with meanings that indicate information about location, direction, or timing of an event described by the verb in the sentence, or about the kind of role played by the noun phrase in the event.

There is a relatively small number of postpositions, so by memorizing them, language learners can quickly improve their comprehension of Navajo.

This lexicon includes 14 postpositional enclitics and 75 postpositions based on Young & Morgan (1987:25-26).

In example (1), sha’áłchíní bá is a postpositional phrase, meaning ‘for my children’.

(1)
Sha’áłchíní b ch’iyáán ’íishłaa.
1-children 3-for food 3-1-cook.P
I cooked for my children.

The postposition is -á, and the pronoun prefix is b-. This is a third person prefix, which is why the gloss underneath bá has a 3 in it. The meaning of -á is ‘for’, and this is also indicated in the gloss. Also, the sh in the word sha’áłchíní, ‘my children’, is a first person pronoun prefix. This pronoun prefix also appears inside the verb ’íishłaa. Note that the gloss is 3-1-cook.P; this indicates that the word means ‘I cooked it’: 3-1 in the gloss indicates that the subject of the verb is first person (‘I’), and the object is third person (‘it’). For a guide to glossing, click here.

The first person prefix appears again on the postposition -ił (‘with’), in the example below:

(2)
Chidí k’asdą́ą́’ sh ’adah ch’éélwod.
car almost 1-with down off-3-go.P
The car almost ran off (the road) with me.

Postpositional Enclitics do not have pronoun prefixes, and instead attach directly onto another phrase. In the example below, the enclitic is -di (‘at’). It is attached directly to Na’nízhoozhí (‘Gallup, New Mexico’). There is no pronoun prefix:

(3)
Ch’óóshdą́ą́dą́ą́’ Na’nízhoozhídi kééhasht’į́ ńt’éé’.
formerly Gallup-at 1-live.I past
I used to live in Gallup.

In the example below, the enclitic -gi is attached to the postpositional phrase tsé biká (‘on the rock’). The pronoun prefix bi- is attached to the postposition -káá (‘on’), not to the enclitic:

(4)
Tsé bikáa’gi béésh dah si’ą́.
rock 3-on-at knife up 3-sit.SNP
The knife is on the rock.

Note that both -di and -gi are glossed as ‘at’. The enclitic -di is used for more general locations, and -gi is used for more specific ones.

The postpositional enclitics in this lexicon are, from the list in YMM (1992:938-09):

-dą́ą́’
past time
-dę́ę́’
from a general location or point in space or time, also out of, off of
-di
at a general location
-dóó
from a specific location or point in space or time
-ę́ę-dą́ą́’ =yę́ędą́ą́’
back when
-gi
at a specific location
-góó
to, toward, along, on, with a numeral it indicates a date
-í-jígo
over in the direction of the place where
-jigo
toward, northward
-jí
designates ceremonies, religious and political institutions and lifeways
-jí
on the side of, in the direction of, in the manner of
-jí-k’ehgo
in the manner of
-jį́’
up to, as far as
-k’eh -jí
in the way(s) of

The pronoun prefixes, which can appear on postpositions, are shown below:

singular dual-plural
1st person shi- nihi-
2nd person ni- nihi-
3rd person yi-/bi-
4th person ho-
unspecified ’a
reciprocal ’ahi-
reflexive ’ádi-
area ha-; ho-; go-

In using these prefixes, the final vowel sometimes changes due to the sound that comes next (e.g. shi-ałchiní → sha’áłchíní; ni- ’asdzą́ą́ → ne’asdzą́ą́; bi- ’awéé’ → be’ewéé’ / be’awéé’).

An example search has returned 50 entries

’Ach’ą́ nisin ndi shidíbé nído’ahígíí ’ádin.

meat.hunger 1-want.NI but 1-sheep 4-butcher.F 3-1.none.NI

’Ahbínígo ch’éshááh ’áádóó sodiszįįh.

morning-GO 1-go.out.U and.then 1-pray.U

’Asdzą́ą́ Báhoozhóní yinishyé.

woman happy 1-called.NI

’Ashdladi oolkiłgo ’áko shį́į́ ’índa ákǫ́ǫ́ diikah.

five.at time-GO only until then there 1dpl-go.pl.I
listenloadingplaying

At 5 o’clock only then we’ll leave for there.

’Ayóo deesk’aazgo beeldléí ditánígíí biih násh’nah.

very cold-GO blanket 3-thick.NI-ÍGÍÍ 3-into 1-crawl.R

’Ałk’idą́ą́’ Naayéé’ Neizghání ha’a’aahjigo ’atsiniltł’ish bił dah yizdéél jiní.

long.ago Monster Slayer east-to lightning 3-with up 3-move.SFO.P 4-say

’Áshįįh Bii’ Tóógóó náádísdzáago dziłghą́ą́’ hanáádeesh’nah.

Salt.Lake.City-toward again-1-go.F-GO mountain-back again-1-climb.R

’Ííshją́ą́ ’at’ééd yázhí hooghandę́ę́’ ch’idoogááł.

certainly girl little house-from out-3-walk.F

-á

Asdzą́ą́ yázhí bichidí doondó’ naalnish da.

woman little 3-car not.even but 3-work.P NEG

Beehaz’áanii bik’ehgo baa hwiiníst’įįd.

laws 3-according-to-GO 3-about 3-discuss.P
listenloadingplaying

He was tried according to the law.

dadiidį́į́ł

pl-3DO-1dpl-eat.it.F

daohtł’ó

pl-3DO-2dpl-weave.it.I

dayoodlą́ą́’

pl-3DO-3dpl-drink.it.P

Dichin nínízin ya’?

hungry 2-want.NI Q

Dííshą’ látsíní háádę́ę́’ naa ninídee’?

this-Q bracelet where-from 2-to 3-arrive.PlO.P

Díkwíí shą’ ninááhai?

how.many Q 2-winter.NI

doo deighánígóó

Doo hanii ni ’ałdó’ nilį́į́’ bik’i dah ’íníił da.

NEG contrary 2 also 2-horse 3-on up saddle 3-2-put.PlO.I NEG

Dooládó’ shį́į́ ’adą́ą́dą́ą́’ shich’ohoos’ni’ da kintah góyaa yishááł ńt’éé’ béeso naadiinígíí ńdiiłtsooz.

wow probably yesterday 1-lucky.P town areal down 1-go.I Past money twenty-NOM 3-sit.FFO.P
listenloadingplaying

Boy oh boy, I was in luck yesterday --- I was walking down the street and found a twenty dollar bill.

Doondó’ ’ółta’ da.

NEG 3-go.school.NI NEG

Ha’ąądi dibé bighan.

areal-other.side sheep 3-corral
listenloadingplaying

The sheep corral is on the other side (of the hill).

haa yit’é (hait’é), haa yit’éego (hait’éego)

listenloadingplaying

how is it, what is its condition

hadeizgeed

pl-3DO-3dpl-dig.it.out.P

hajííłgizh

3DO-4-cut.it.out.P

haniilchaad

3DO-1dpl-card.it.(as.in.wool).I

Hastiin dóó ’at’ééd ha’át’íí ’áyiilaa?

man and girl what 3-3-make.P
listenloadingplaying

What did the man and the girl make?

Háágóó lá Bíl doogááł nízin Jáan?

where-toward Q Bill 3-go.sg.F 3-want.CI John

Hádą́ą́’sh Mary ’ólta’dę́ę́’ nádzá?

when-past-Q Mary school-from 3-return.P

K’aa’ísh ’aní’á biyaa doodago daats’í báhátis ’ayiist’oh ?

arrow-Q bridge 3-under or perhaps 3-over 3-3-shot.P

k’ad

k’asdą́ą́’

K’idadeelyáá nit’éé’ t’óó daazgan, háálá doo nahałtin da.

1pl-plant.P past just 3pl-dry.SPN, because NEG 3-rain.CI NEG

lágo

listenloadingplaying

negative particle used with the optative mode

Nanise’ígíí ch’iiyáán daohsą́ ’áko bee nihits’íís bitah ya’ádahoot’ééh dooleeł.

plant-ÍGÍÍ food pl-2-eat.I so 3-with 2pl-body 3-among pl-3-good.NI future

Ne’eshłééh. T’áá ká nóólk’oł.

2-1-copy.I 2-blink.O

Nédáá dóó bikáá’adání bik’i ndinís’eez.

1-sit and table 3-on 1-place-1-foot.P
listenloadingplaying

I sat down and put my feet on the table.

nidasiilyá

pl-3DO-1dpl-carry.a.ropelike.thing.around.P

Nimá yázhí bighangóó díílwoł dóó ’áájí ’awéé’ baa ’áhólyą́dooleeł.

2-auntie 3-house-toward 2-run.F and there-at baby 3-to 2-care.CI FUT

Shilééchąą’í bikéé’ yishááł.

my.dog 3-following 1-go.Prog
listenloadingplaying

I’m walking along behind (following) my dog.

Shínaaí chidí b dah diilwodgo bizánághah góne’ łeezh ’adzíísi’.

older.brother car 3-with up 3-run.I-GO 3-around areal-in dust 3-trail.P
listenloadingplaying

When my older brother started off in the car he left a trail of dust around the corner.

T’áá ’íídą́ą́’ ła’ nímasii bik’ééłgizh.

already some potato 3-1-peel.P

T’áá ch’ééh ’ásht’į́įgo bįįh biyaaghah ’eelwod.

just in.vain 1-act.NI-GO deer 3-around.corner 3- run.away.P
listenloadingplaying

I was still trying (to get a bead) when the deer went around a corner and disappeared.

Tł’éédą́ą́’ mą’ii léi’ shidááh gónaa ch’élwod.

last-night coyote there 1-before areal-around 3-move-rapidly.P
listenloadingplaying

Last night a coyote crossed my path.

wohtł’ó

3DO-2dpl-weave.it.I

yishóóh

3DO-1-brush/comb.it.I

Yiską́ągo níléí hódahdi ’ółta’di ni’dí’néeshtįįł nissin.

tomorrow that up.at school-at 1-teach.F 1-want.CI

Łééchąą’í ’ałch’į’ yiil’aad.

dog RECIP-toward 3-1du-sic.P
listenloadingplaying

We sicced the dogs on each other.

Ńló bik’ee hooghan góne’ yah ’aniidzood.

hail 3-on.account.of house areal-in 3-in 1Pl-flee.P
listenloadingplaying

We took refuge from the hail by fleeing into the house.