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

’Aghaa’ hooghan góne’ shijool.

wool house inside 3-lie.NCM.SPN

’Ahbínídą́ą́’ t’óó ’ahodiyeeshdláałgo biniinaa ’ólta’di doo hah níyáa da.

morning-past with pretend-1-move.Prog-GO 3-because school-at NEG quickly 1-go.P NEG

’ayóí

-á

-doondó’ --- da, doo ndi ---da, doondó’ ndi --- da

-jí + -k’ehgo

-tah, -taa-, -ta-

-zánághah

bik’ídadisoodiz

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

Ch’ah ’éí doodaii’ nák’ee sinilí łizhinígíí daats’í nee hólǫ́’?

hat or sunglasses perhaps 2-with 4-exist.NI
listenloadingplaying

Do you have a hat or sunglasses? / Maybe you have a hat or sunglasses.

Chidí daats’í bee hólǫ́ ’éí doodaii’ niísh chidí nee hólǫ́?

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

Da’iidą́ągo sitsilí bilééchąą yázhí náneeskaadí ła’ yá yiidiyiisdláád dóó yaa yiizhjaa’.

1Pl-eat.I-GO 1-brother 3-puppy tortilla some 3-tear.P and 3-to 3-3-give.P
listenloadingplaying

While we were eating my little brother tore off pieces of tortilla and gave them (one after another) to his puppy.

dadiidį́į́ł

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

Dah díníilghaazhísh ’íilnilaa?

fry.bread-Q 3-2-make.P
listenloadingplaying

Did you make fry bread?

dajiłhį́į́h

pl-3DO-4dpl-melt.it.(snow).I

daohsą́

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

dashiilbéézh

pl-3DO-1dpl-boil.it.P

Dibé tó y yáánii’á.

sheep water 3-with 3-crowd.P
listenloadingplaying

The sheep crowded at the water.

Dibé yázhí ła’ yóó’ ’ííyáá ńt’ę́ę́’ tsiyi’di bik’íníyá.

lamb one away 3-go.P past forest-at 3-find.it.P

diidííłjéé’

3DO-3-start.fire.P

Diné ła’ nizhónígo kéédahojit’į́ danihó’ní, ’áko ndi doo ’ákót’ée da.

people some 3-nice.NI-GO pl-4-3-reside.NI 3-Pl. so but NEG 4-think.CI NEG

Dlǫ́ǫ́’ ’a’ą́ą́dę́ę́’ hanoolne’ dóó naneesne’.

prairie.dog hole-from stick.head.up.out.P and 3-look.around.P

Doochǫǫł ’át’éego ha’éé’ bik’íhizhdizheeh dooleeł.

ridiculous 3-be.NI-GO 4-clothes 4-spit.P FUT
listenloadingplaying

It is ridiculous (intolerable) for a person to spit on his clothing.

díníłkaad

3DO-2-start.to.herd.them.(animals).I

dííłbish

3DO-2-boil.it.F

ha’át’éejį’

where to a point

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

haiłgéésh

3DO-3-cut.it.out.I

Háadi lá ’ádeiit’į́?

where-at Q pl-3-be

Hádą́ą́’sh Mary ’ólta’dę́ę́’ nádzá?

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

hááłgizh

3DO-1-cut.it.out.P

háínígeed

3DO-2-dig.it.out.P

jiigish

3DO-4-make.one.cut.in.it.I

jiłhį́į́h

3DO-4-melt.it.(snow).I

Joe dóó Louise dóó Kii dahataał.

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

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.

Ná’oolkiłí sits’ą́ą́’ tanáóó’nił lágo!

watch 1-away 3-1-take.apart.O don’t

Nichidí lá háadi nííníłbą́ą́z?

2-car where-at-Q 3-2-park.P

nidazhdooleeł

pl-3DO-4dpl-carry.a.ropelike.thing.around.F

nideidooleeł

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

néishjį́į́h

Iterative Mode: 1-become.black.R
listenloadingplaying

I will become black, get sunburned again and again

Shideezhí dóó sítsílí bidááh sézį́.

1-younger.sister and 1-younger.brother 2-in.front.of 1-stand.SPN
listenloadingplaying

I guard my younger sister and younger brother.

Shizhé’é nihwiiłdlaadgo bikéé’ naad’ ’adaashjaah łeh.

1-father 3-3-plow.I-GO 3-behind corn 3Pl-1-drop.I Cust.
listenloadingplaying

As my father plows it is my custom to follow along behind and drop the corn kernels.

Shí t’óó ’ááłk’iis yisháałgo shizhé’é tsékooh gódeg ha’asbą́ą́z.

1 merely SUP-alongside 1-go.Prog-GO 1-father canyon areal-up up-3-drive.P
listenloadingplaying

My father drove (a wagon) up out of the canyon with me walking alongside.

Tówónaanígóó ch’aazhdóya’ laanaa.

overseas-to 3-1-travel.O hope
listenloadingplaying

I wish to travel overseas.

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

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

Yadiizíní bitł’ááhdę́ę́’ bigháda’shéshiizh.

can 3-under-from 3-through-SUP-1-poke.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.

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’ bik’i na’ashnííł.

horse 3-on 3-1-unsaddle.I