Introduction to Navajo Questions

Any competent speaker of any language will be able to form questions. This resource is a combined grammar and lexicon of Navajo questions. We provide a description of three kinds of questions along with glossed examples and audio recordings of them. We think this resource will be useful to students and teachers of this language, and to professional linguists within and outside Navajo communities.

We distinguish three distinct kinds of questions: Yes/no questions, Content Questions, and Alternative Questions. We treat Tag Questions as a subtype of Yes/no questions. For this project we draw on previous work by Fernald & Perkins (manuscript), Young & Morgan (1987), Young, Morgan & Midgette (1992), and others cited in References [link].

The three kinds of questions are exemplified below:
(1)
Da’ Na’nízhoozhígóó díníyá?
Q Gallup-to 2-go.F
Are you going to Gallup?
(A yes/no question)
(2)
Mary ha’át’íí nayiisnii’?
Mary what 3-3-buy.P
What did Mary buy?
(A content question)
(3)
’Atsį́’ísh ’éí doodaii’ łóó’ísh nínízin?
meat-Q TOP or fish-Q 3-2-want.NI
Do you want meat or fish?
(An alternative question)

Example (1) is a yes/no question, which has ‛yes’ or ‛no’ as an answer. Questions like this are used to ask whether a particular statement is true or not. In this example, the statement being asked about is Na’nízhoozhígóó díníyá, which means ‛You are going to Gallup’.

Content questions, like example (2), do not have simply ‛yes’ or ‛no’ as an answer. Rather than supplying a statement and asking whether it is true or not, they have the effect of providing a statement with some missing information, and they ask what that information is. In (2), the idea is that Mary bought something, and the question asks what that something is.

Alternative questions present the addressee with a choice between two or more options. Note that the English gloss in example (3) can be understood as either a yes/no question (if the intonation is rising on fish) or an alternative question (if the intonation is falling on fish). In Navajo, the sentence is an alternative question for which the appropriate answer will indicate which one of the choices is desired.

Glossing conventions and a note on morphology are here [link].

An example search has returned 50 entries

’Adą́ą́dą́ą́’ísh tł’óo’di nanilnishgo nee ’ałní’ní’ą́?

yesterday-Q outside-at 2-work.CI-GO 2-with noon

’Ak’ah kǫ’ dishtłi’go sédá.

candle 3-1-cause.burn.NI-GO 1-sit.SPN

’Ashkii yázhí bee’eldǫǫh yik’ee ’ádadeeznih.

boy little gun 3-on.account.of REFL-3-hurt.P
listenloadingplaying

The little boy hurt himself with the gun.

’Áko ’índa ’ákǫ́ǫ́ dah diiyá.

after.that to.there start 1.go.I

’át’ahígo

’Áłah ’aleehdi hastiin léi’ t’óó yááłtih yiits’a’.

meeting-at man INDEF just 3-talk.Prog 3-be.heard.I

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.

bik’ídidoohdis

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

Ch’ééh jiyáán hooghangóó dah dii’ągo shee nikihoníłt.

watermelon home-toward up 3-1-move.SRO.P 1-with area-start-rain.P
listenloadingplaying

When I set out for home with the melon it started to rain on me.

Chidí diił tsį́į́h.

car start going.I

Start the car.

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

car-Q 3-with 4-exist.NI or you perhaps car 2-with 4-exist.NI

Chʼééh jiyáán doo łikan da, wóóyą́ą́ʼ.

watermelon NEG sweet NEG 3-3-eat.O
listenloadingplaying

The watermelon does not taste good. Don´t eat it.

Díí tsídii bit’oh yisdádeeshjoł, ’áko shį́į́ kónááhoot’éhé tsídii ła’ náábít’oh dooleeł.

this bird 3-nest 3-1-save.F-NCM then maybe next.year bird some again-3-nest future
listenloadingplaying

I’ll save this bird nest (from destruction) and it will probably serve another bird next year.

Dlǫ́ǫ́’ ba’áán góne’ yahadeeshnii’go dlǫ́’áyázhí shishhash.

prairie.dog 3-hole into down1-3.to.reach.out.hand prairie.dog-little 1-bite.P

doo ’asht’é’égóó

doodaii’

or

dooshą’ --- lá

Dooshą’ gah t’áá gééd náshdááh lá.

ensure rabbit just without 1-return.I DISC

Glǫ́ǫ́’ ’akǫ́ǫ́ náájilwood.

Prairie Dog LOC-there It. 4-2-run.I
listenloadingplaying

The Prairie Dog went over there.

Ha’a’aahdę́ę́sh naaghan ’éí doodago e’e’aahdę́ę́sh naaghan?

east-from-Q 2-home TOP or west-from-Q 2 home

Ha’át’íí lá neidiyoołnih lá?

what DISC 3-3-buy.F DISC

What is she going to buy?

Haa nízahdę́ę́’ hoołtį́į́ł?

how 3-long-from rain.Prog

Haaʼísh niʼnis´bąąs?

where-Q 3-1-park.F
listenloadingplaying

Where should I park?

hadiiltééł

3DO-1dpl-carry.him/her.up.out.of.something.F

hadínéeshchał

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

hahí

Haidą́ą́’ ’a’áán góne’ naashnish ńt’ę́ę́’ --- doo shił yá’áhoot’éeh da.

winter-past mine.shaft inside 1-work.I past neg 1-with 3-good.N neg

Hastiin nééz doondó’ ndi ’alzhish da.

man tall NEG but 3-dance.DI NEG

Háát’i’ le’!

up-3-extend.P LE’

listenloadingplayingSpeaker: Irene SilentmanlistenloadingplayingSpeaker: Conan Gene

(Let my ears) stick up.

Joe dóó Louise dóó Kii dahataał.

Joe and Louise and Kii pl-3-sing.CI

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

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

How much corn is in your cornfield?

Naakaii bizaad jółta’ le’ dzinízingo dzizdá.

mexican language 4-read.I wish 4-wish.O-GO 4-sit.P
listenloadingplaying

She is wishing he could read Spanish.

nideizlá

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

niyą́

3DO-2-eat.it.I

Níyolgo t’áá ’áko niishch’ił.

wind-GO immediately 3-blink.U
listenloadingplaying

When it’s windy, I usually blink.

Shidá’í éí t’óó chaha’oh ła’ nijó’aah laanaa ní.

my.uncle TOP just arbor one 4-build.O hope 2-say.P
listenloadingplaying

My uncle said, “he wishes he could build a shade house.”

Shilééchąą’í b na’nishkaadgo jooł b ’abíńjíshhałgo yikéé’ náádiilwo’.

1-dog 3-with 1-herd.CI ball 3-for 3-1-bat.R-GO 3-after 3-run.R

Shínaaí shíká ’adoolwoł nisin ńt’éé’ ’áłt’ąą t’áadoo níyáa da.

1-older.brother 1-for 3-run.F 1-want.NI but after.all NEG 3-come.sg.P NEG

shíníłbéézh

3DO-2-boil.it.P

t’áá gééd

T’áá ká jinóół’į́į́’

Neg 4-see.O
listenloadingplaying

Don’t let one see it.

Tʼáadoo baa nitsinikeesí, tʼóó ’íízoh.

NEG 3-about 2-think.I just 2-write.Prog

Yas naanáásmasgo wónáásdóó ’ayóó ’áníłtsxo silį́į́.

snow 3-1-roll.around.Prog soon more large 3-become.P

I was rolling the snowball around and it got very large.

yiyííłhį́į́’

3DO-3-melt.it.(snow).P

Yiłką́ą́dą́ą́’ n’diish’na áádóó ’olta’goo dah diiyá. (YM 1987:764)

Dawn.last 1-got.up and school.GOO off.to 1-walk.P
listenloadingplaying

At dawn, I got up and took off for school.

Yootóodi níyáago shik’éí daostse’ laanaa nisin.

Santa.Fe-at 1-arrive.P-GO 1-relatives 3-1-see.O wish 1-want.CI

yóó’

Ła’ damóo yę́ędą́ą́’ dah ’iyétł’ónée, k’ad ’ałníí’góó ’eeshtł’óół.

one Sunday past up 3-1-set.P-past now middle-toward 1-weave.Prog

Łį́į́’ ’áhidiníłnáago sizį́.

horse Recip-3-opposite-GO 3-du-stand.SPN
listenloadingplaying

The horses stand facing in opposite directions.