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

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

’Adeesdíilgo dibé sits’ą́ą́’ dah diijéé’.

3-thunder.P-GO sheep 1-away.from start-3-run.Pl.P
listenloadingplaying

When thunder rumbled the sheep stampeded on me, ran away from me.

’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

’Anít’i’ ńtłóo’go biniinaa béégashii t’óó yigháníkah.

fence 3-loose.P-GO 3-because.of cow just 3-through-3-go.pl.P
listenloadingplaying

Because the fence is slack (loose), the cows go right through it.

’Aoo’, shí dó’ t’áá ’ákwíinisin.

yes 1 also just 1-think.so.NI
listenloadingplaying

Yes, I think so too.

’Asdzą́ą́ Báhóózhóní yinishyée dooleeł.

woman happy 1-called.NI future

’ááłk’iis

listenloadingplaying

’Ííshją́ą́ díí ’atoo’ béésh bii’ kǫ’í bikáá’ dah séką́.

don’t forget this stew stove 3-top up 1-put.P.OC

’Óshą́ą́’ laanaa’ dichin shi’niiłxį́.

1-eat.O wish hunger 1-3-kill.I

’Óshą́ą́’ laanaa’ dichin shi’niiłxį́.

1-eat.O wish hunger 1-3-kill.I

*Nidlóóhísh doodaii’ doo sha’shin nidlóoh da?

2-cold.X-Q or NEG perhaps 2-cold.X-Q NEG

-áátis

over, up and over, over the top

-ee

-jí

-jį’

-nánii

-ne’

-ni

Bá’ólta’ísh Jáan ’éí doodaii’ Mary daats’í yich’į’ haadzíí’?

teacher-Q John TOP or Mary perhaps 3-to 3-talk.P

Ch’ééh jiyáán náánááshdą́ą́’.

watermelon again-1-eat.R
listenloadingplaying

I ate watermelon again.

ch’ínígóó

listenloadingplaying

everything possible without result, failure in spite of every effort, to no avail

Dibé yázhí bitsį’ bíchą́ yídéeshni’.

lamb 3-meat 3-crave 3-addicted.NP

Díí mósí yázhí hooghangóó nááshtééł.

this cat little home-towards 3-1-carry.Prog

Díí tsin ’ał’oh neel’ą́.

this stick RECIP-less.than 3-reach.NP

doo ’ashohodoobéézhgóó

doo yéé --- -í

doochǫǫł --- dooleeł

Ha’át’éegosh náníldzid?

why-Q 2-fear.I
listenloadingplaying

Why are you afraid?

Ha’át’íísh neidiyoołnih nínízin?

who-Q 3-3-buy.F 2-think.NI

What do you think s/he is going to buy?

hahgo

listenloadingplaying

when [future]

Hak’az ’ayóo bich’į’ sidziil.

cold really 3-towards 1-strength

Háadi lá ’ádeiit’į́?

where-at Q pl-3-be
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Where are we (pl)?

háádóó

listenloadingplaying

where from (specifically)

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

Mary ha’át’íísh nayiisnii’?

Mary what-Q 3-to.buy.I
listenloadingplaying

What did Mary buy?

Na’nízhoozhígóó deeyá, ya’?

Gallup-toward 2-go.sg.F Q

Na’nízhoozhígóósh díníyá?

Gallup-to-Q 2-go.SP

Naakaii Bito’gi béégashii bee łá’í ’ídlínígíí bee ’anishtah.

mexican water-at cow 3-with one-unify.P-COMP 3-with 1-among.NI
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I’m a member of the Mexican Springs Cattle Association.

Nichidí háadi-sh nííníłbą́ą́z?

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

Where did you park your car?

Ńléí dził bighą́ą́’dóó łid yót’ááh yít’i’.

over.there mountain 3-over there smoke to.rise.up into-I.
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There’s a column of smoke rising into the sky from the mountaintop.

Shimá sitsilí bibéésh bee hane’í bits’ą́ą́’ náádii’ą́.

1-mother 1-little.brother 3-cellphone 3-away.from 3-3-return.P

Shíká ’anilyeed, Obi-Wan Kenobi.

1-for 2-run.F Obi-Wan Kenob

T’áá ní’áłtsé hooghandi nánísdzá.

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

Tó dílchxoshí sits’ą́ą́’ wóódlą́ą́’ lágo.

soda 1-from 3-1-drink.O don’t
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I hope you don’t drink my soda.

Tł’éédą́á’ dibé ch’íníjéé’ yiists’ą́ą́’ ’áádóó t’óó ńléí tsé deez’áhí bizánághah góne’ ’ahosoolts’ą́ą́’.

last.night sheep out-3-run-Pl.P 3-sound.P and then merely there rock point 3-around areal-in out-are
listenloadingplaying

Last night the sheep got out of the corral and the sound they made disappeared around the point of the ridge.

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

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

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

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

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

Łahda sibéeso (shibéeso) ’ádin łeh.

sometimes 1-money 3-not.exist.NI usually
listenloadingplaying

At times, I have no money.

Łį́į́’ hooghangóó nooshkaałgo táá’ shits’ą́ą́ bizánághah góne’ ’ałhaa’eekai.

horse hogan-GO 3-1-herd-Prog-GO 3-1-away-from around areal-in-3 3-run.P.Pl
listenloadingplaying

I was chasing the horses home when three of them took off around the bend.