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.

’Adą́ą́dą́ą́’ shá bíighah ’atah ’adishdiłgo ’i’íí’ą́.

yesterday 1-for 3-passing down 1-play.stick.dice.RI evening

’Aoo’, ’ashdladigóó ’oolkiłgo ’áádę́ę́’ sh ná’ílwod.

yes five-at-toward clock-GO there-from 1-with 3-return.P

’Atsį’ísh ’éí doodaii’ łóó’ísh nínízin?

meat-Q or fish-Q 3-2-want.NI

’Ayóigo deesk’aaz --- ’áyąą dah dinítsiz.

terribly cold no.wonder up 2-shiver.NI

’Ayóo łį́į́’ sh naalgeed diní, ’ííshją́ą́shį́į́ díí łį́į́chogii bikáá’ dah ńdaah!

very horse 1-with 3-buck.CI 3-2-say.NI lets.see this stallion 3-on up 2-sit.I
listenloadingplaying

You said you’re good at riding broncos; let’s see you get on this stallion!

Hágoónee’, béeso shaa ní’aah.

well money 1-for 2-give.SRO.I
listenloadingplaying

Well, all right then, give me a dollar!

-jí

designates ceremonies, religious and political institutions and lifeways

-na’

beside, at one’s side, in place of, waiting for

bik’ídínídiz

3DO-2-wrap.it.around.it.P

bik’ízhdídis

3DO-4-wrap.it.around.it.I

Bikáá’ dah ’asdáhí bikáa’gi doodaai’ ni’góó daats’í nishdaah?

chair 3-top-at or floor-on perhaps 1-sit.NI
listenloadingplaying

Should I perhaps sit on a chair or on the floor? / I wonder where I could sit, on a chair or on the floor.

ch’ééh

listenloadingplaying

in vain, futilely, try, try in vain

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.

Chidí bąąh dah sitání bąąh dah shishtįįh ńt’éé’ ’ił adaagizí doo ’éí da lá.

car license plate 3-1-put. I SSO past Sup-with screw neg that neg Disc.
listenloadingplaying

I started to put the license plate on my car when I found out I had the wrong kind of nut and bolt (or screws).

Chidíísh bee hólǫ́ doodaii’ ni daats’í chidí nee hólǫ́?

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

Does s/he have a car or do you have a car?

dadíníilkaad

pl-3DO-1dpl-start.to.herd.them.(animals).I

dajishbéézh

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

dashoołbéézh

pl-3DO-2dpl-boil.it.P

deiitł’ó

pl-3DO-1dpl-weave.it.I

didiiljéé’

3DO-1dpl-start.fire.P

Díí kwe’é biká’ígíí ’índa bik’i’diitą́.

this here 3-on.NOM until.then 3-1.understand.P
listenloadingplaying

All this writing I now understand it.

Díkwíí lá ninááhai?

how.many Q 2-winter

ha’át’éédę́ę́’

Haa níníłnééz?

what 2-tall.relatively.NI
listenloadingplaying

How tall are you?

Haash nízah kodóó nighanjį’?

how-Q 3-long.N here-from 2-home-to

Hastiin éí tsídii ła’ ’adah ’ayídzí’ą́.

man TOP bird INDEF down 3-3-knock.off.SRO.P

Háadi niyaa hazlį́į́’?

where-at 2-under area-grow.P
listenloadingplaying

Where did you grow up?

Háíshą’ tsinaa’eeł ’áyiilaa lá?

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

Háíshą’ tsinaa’eeł ’áyiilaa?

who-Q boat 3-3-make.P

John dáádílkałdóó sizį́į́ dóó ’áádę́ę́’ déez’į́į́’.

John door-from 3-stand.SPN and there-from 3-look.CI
listenloadingplaying

John is standing at the doorway and looking this way.

Kin Łánídiísh ’éí doodago Bee’eldííldahsinildi daats’í naniná?

Flagstaff-at-Q TOP or Albuquerque-at perhaps 2-go.around.CI

Na’azhǫǫshgi díkwíí shį́į́ shaa woobįįh?

hoop.and.pole.game-at how.much 1-to pass-win.I
listenloadingplaying

How much will I lose at the hoop and pole game?

Na’nishkaadgo nídíshchííyaagi hanáshyį́į́h ńt’éé’ ’iiłhaazh lá, t’ah nít’éé’ shilééchąą’í ch’ééshinísid.

1-herd.I-GO pinetree-under-at 1-rest.I past 1-slept.P DISC all.of.sudden 1-dog 1-woke.up.P

Naadą́ą́’ lá haa néelą́ą́’ nida’ak’eh biyi’ góne’?

corn Q how 3.much.N 2-cornfield 3-in there

Naaki nááhaigo shich’é’é náá’íídeeshtah, ní.

Two year.GO 1-daughter again.school.F said.
listenloadingplaying

My daughter said, “In two years, I’ll continue my studies.”

Naalyéhé bá hooghandi t’ah doo dá’deelkaałdą́ą́’ nisingo na’ńle’dii tsį́į́ł shiisxį́ (siisxį́).

trading.post-at just NEG 3-PASS-close.I-past 1-think.N-GO dismay speed 1-3-kill.P
listenloadingplaying

Thinking that the trading post would not be closed I rushed (to get there), but I was out of luck.

nidasiilyá

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

Nidlóóhísh doodaii’ doo daats’í nidlóoh da?

2-cold.I-Q or neg perhaps 2-cold.I neg

nishóóh

3DO-2-brush/comb.it.I

nisélá

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

Nizhónígo ha’íí’ą́ yę́ędą́ą́’ sxíiłgo da’ségis.

beautiful sunrise past quickly pl-3-1-wash.P

I quickly did my laundry during the beautiful sunrise.

Sha’ałchíní ayóó niłch’í naalkídi deineł’į́ ’áko ndi shí éí shináá bąą adin.

1-children very air 3-move.I 3-3.look.I however I 1-eyes 3-on doesn’t exist.

Shighandóó ndáá’góó ’ada’iisdee’go nihí ’éí t’áá yiike’.

1-home-from war.ceremony-to 3-go.away.P we.du.pl TOP just 1du-remain.behind.P

Shik’is bił ’ílyeed ’áko shį́į́ da’diidį́į́ł.

1-friend 3-with 3-drive CONJ 1-Pl-eat.F
listenloadingplaying

My friend is coming (by car); maybe we’ll eat then (when s/he gets here).

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

already some potato 3-1-peel.P

T’áá hooshch’į’ déshnish.

suddenly 1-start.work.P

Tsékooh biniit’aají łįį’hoł sizį́į́go binísá.

canyon 3-barring.to.a.point horse 4-with 3-stand.SPN.GO 3-1-caught-up.P
listenloadingplaying

I caught up with him sitting on his horse at the canyon.

Tł’éédą́ą́’ ńléí dził bine’jí ’adildííl yiits’a’ ni’.

night-past there mountain 3-behind-way thunder 3-sound.P recall
listenloadingplaying

Last night there was the rumble of thunder over on the other side of the mountain.

wohtł’ó

3DO-2dpl-weave.it.I