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

Ch’éénísh’į́įgo náá’deeshtł’óół nissin.

out summer.GO 1-again.weave.F 1-desire
listenloadingplaying

I want to weave again when summer returns.

’Abe’ yistiní hazhóó’ógo ni’ ninishtłeeh ńt’éé’ nááłhęęsh.

ice.cream carefully stop 3-1-stop.carry.I past 3-fall.P
listenloadingplaying

I was carefully putting down a scoop of ice cream when it fell.

’Asdzą́ą́ Báhóózhóní yinishyée dooleeł.

woman happy 1-called.NI FUT

’Ashkii bi’éé’ hazhó’ó ’ayíyiischid dóó ’ólta’ góne’ yah ’ííyá.

boy 3-shirt nicely 3-3-tuck.in.P and 3-go.P
listenloadingplaying

The boy tucked his shirt in nicely and went into the classroom.

’Ałk’idą́ą́’ ch’iyáán ’ ádayiilaa léi’ ła’ ’ánáádeiilyaa.

long.ago food pl-3-3-make.P Indef. some again-pl-3-1dpl-make.P

’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

’Ałk’idą́ą́’ tł’oh naadą́ą́’ dant’į́įhgo łį́į́’ doodaii’ béégashii da há hada’ał’éés ńt’éé’.

long.ago grass corn 3-ripen.I-GO horse or cow etc. 4-for 3-stomp.I past

’áłt’ąą

listenloadingplaying

after all, in spite of that, “darn if”, unfortunately

-aa

-ii’, yi’

inside of, within, at the interior of a solid object

Asdzání ní’jookąąhgo kintahdi nijighá.

woman-NOM Rep-3a-beg.I-GOtown-at about-3a-walk.I
listenloadingplaying

A lady is walking around in the city asking for help.

Béésh ’áłts’ózí bee ’atsidí bee ’aháníłne’.

wire hammer 3-with 3-1-beat.P
listenloadingplaying

I beat the wire in two with a hammer.

Béésh bii’ kǫ’í bizooł dego deez’á.

stove 3-pipe up 3-extend.SPN
listenloadingplaying

The stovepipe sticks up (extends upward, rises).

Bich’ijí nishłį́.

3-toward-side 1-be.NI
listenloadingplaying

I’m on his side.

bik’ídidoohdis

3DO-2dpl-wrap.it.around.it.F

Britain bikéyahą́ą t’áá ’ałtso ’ahíi’nilgo kéyah United States wolyéhígíí bilááh ’áníłtsxo ńt’éé’.

Britain 3-land just all 3-combine.P-GO land United States 3-call.NI-COMP 3-beyond 3-size.NI past
listenloadingplaying

All of the territories of Britain put together is larger than the United States.

Ch’óóshdą́ą́dą́ą́’ shichidí naaki. K’ad ’éí t’ááłá’í.

formerly 1-car two now it one
listenloadingplaying

I used to have two cars. Now I have only one.

Chidí nahideeshnih ndi shibéeso ’ádin.

car 3-1-buy.F but 1-money 3-none.NI

Da’ chidíísh bee hólǫ́ doodaii’ ni daats’í chidí nee hólǫ́?

Q car-Q 3-with 4-exist.NI or 2 maybe car 2-with 4-exist.NI

dadołhį́į́h

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

dajííyą́ą́’

pl-3DO-4dpl-eat.it.P

dazhdííłhį́į́’

pl-3DO-4dpl-melt.it.P

Dibé nee hólǫ́, ya’?

sheep 2-with 3-exist.NI Q

dizhdííłjéé’

3DO-4-start.fire.P

Díí ’abíní dibé tóógóó neeshkał.

this morning sheep water-to 3-1-herd.Prog

Díí tł’éé’ ’índa hazhó’óó ’iideeshwosh.

this night only.then uninterrupted 1-sleep.F
listenloadingplaying

I will sleep well tonight.

Díídó’ doo ákót’ée daásh łí?

this-DÓ’ neg indef-how-3-be.NI neg-ÍSH ŁÍ

Díkwíí jį́ lá nanilnish?

how.many Q days 2-work.I

Díí tł’óół yílééł.

this rope 3-2-carry.SFO.Prog

Gah bikéé’ yishwoł.

rabbit 3-following 1-run.Prog

Ha’át’íí biniinaa náníldzid?

what 3-cause 2-fear.I

haa néelą́ą́’

listenloadingplaying

how much, how many, what quantity. [mass]

Háadi lá dibé nidahaniih?

where-at Q sheep pl-3-pass-sell.CI

Háadi lá lį́į́’ naakai?

where-at Q horse 3-walk.pl.I

Hái da shą’ tsinaa’eeł ’ájiilaa lá?

who DA Q boat 3-4-make.P DISC

Háí lá sis ligái ííł’įįh?

who-Q belt silver 3-make.U

Háísh ’átsą́ą́’ jóyą́ą́’ laanaa nízin?

Who ribs 4-eat.O hope 3-3-want.CI
listenloadingplaying

“Who would like to eat ribs?”

Na’ashǫ́’ii doo baa nijit’į́į́ da.

snake NEG 3-about 4-bother.O NEG
listenloadingplaying

Do not bother snakes. (YM 1987: 130)

Naaltsoos bikáá’ na’aníshí bikáa’gi si’ą́.

book desk 3-on-at up 3-lie.SRO.SPN

Nichxǫ' doo ájít’į́į da.

stop NEG 4-act.thus.I NEG
listenloadingplaying

Stop, don’t do it!

Níwo’jį’ nídiidááh.

move-to 2-get.up.I

Náhíínááłgo yadiizíní niłjizh.

around-2-go.I-GO can 3-2-crush.Prog

Shicheii t’áá ’íiyisíí hastihgo biniinaa kónááhoot’éhí doo na’ádódlíi da.

1-grandfather very 3-old.N-GO because next.year NEG 3-expect.live.NP NEG
listenloadingplaying

Since my grandfather is very old he doesn’t expect to be alive next year at this time.

Shíká ’anánílwo’ doodago’ t’áadoo shaa nánít’į́ní!

1-after indef-help.R or just-neg 1-about 1-2-bother.NI-neg

Shíká ’anilyeed.

1-for 2-run.I
listenloadingplaying

Help me. / You’re helping me. (lit. You’re running for me.)

Shínaaí shikétł’á ’iiyilgo łį́į́’ bikáá’ hasis’na’.

1-older.brother 1-foot-bottom 3-3-boost.P-GO horse 3-top up-1-crawl.P
listenloadingplaying

My older brother boosted me and I got up on the horse’s back.

shoołbéézh

3DO-2dpl-boil.it.P

T’áadoo hosh niyą́ní.

T’ÁADOO cactus 3-2-eat.I-Í
listenloadingplaying

Don’t eat cactus.

T’áá ní’áłtsé hooghandi nánísdzá.

thus you first home-at 1-arrived.Rev. P
listenloadingplaying

I got home before you did.

wohtł’ó

3DO-2dpl-weave.it.I