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).

Postpositions appear with pronoun prefixes attached to them.

(1)
Sha’áłchíní b ch’iyáán ’íishłaa.
1-children 3-for food 3-1-cook.P
I cooked for my children.

In example (1), sha’áłchíní bá is a postpositional phrase, meaning ’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. 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 -ká (’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 a language

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.

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

’Ayóigo deesk’aaz --- ’áyąą (’áyaańda) dah dinítsiz.

terribly cold no.wonder up 2-shiver.NI
listenloadingplaying

It’s terribly cold - - no wonder you’re shivering.

’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

’Áádę́ę́’ nánísdzáago łį́į́’ ni’deeshjoł.

from.there 1-return.p-GO horse 3-for pl-1-feed.F

-ghą́ą́h

listenloadingplaying

attaching to, hitched to, connected to

-ii’, yi’

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

-jį’

-tsi

listenloadingplaying

first, ahead, in front in space or time

-zánághah

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

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

Beehaz’áanii bik’ehgo baa hwiiníst’įįd.

laws 3-according-to-GO 3-about 3-discuss.P
listenloadingplaying

He was tried according to the law.

Ch’óóshdą́ą́dą́ą́’ Bilagáanaa bizaad doo diists’a’ da. K’ad éí t’ááshxǫǫd t’áá bee yáshti’.

formerly English NEG 1-understand.I NEG | now TOP at.least just 3-with 1-speak.I

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.

Da’ dichinísh nínízin?

Q hunger-Q 2-feel.NI

Daniel hahgosh hidilníísh?

Daniel when-Q 3-start.work.I

daoo’aal

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

Dá’ák’ehdi t’ah ńt’éé’ t’óó ’ayóigo nahachagii bizhiin yijiłgo yiiłtsą́.

field-at still past many grasshoppers swarm 4-move.along.Prog-GO 3-1-see.P
listenloadingplaying

To my surprise, I saw a swarm of grasshoppers moving along a field.

de, deg

Dibé bighan báátis dah yiishte’.

Sheep corral 3-over up 1-climb.P

Dibé tóógóó dínóshkaad.

sheep water-toward 3-1-start.herd.O

Díí tsin ’ał’oh neel’ą́.

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

These sticks aren’t the same length.

Dííshjį́į́góó shizhé’é łáháda b ná’ahiistsééh.

nowadays 1-father seldom 3-with RECP-1-see.R

Doo ’ííłta’go biniinaa t’áá ’ałtsojį’ t’áá shídin hazlį́į́’.

neg 1-go.to.school.P-GO 3-because every-up.to just 1-without 1-become.P
listenloadingplaying

I got left out on everything because I did not go to school.

Gohwééh doo ndi łikan da.

coffee NEG but 3-taste-good.NI NEG
listenloadingplaying

The coffee doesn’t even taste good.

Gohwééh nayiisnii’ídiísh b bééhózin?

coffee 3-3-buy.P-at-Q 3-with 3-know.NI

Gohwééh t’áá bizhání ’éí doodaii’ ’abe’ bgo daats’í nínízin?

coffee only TOP or milk 3-with-GO perhaps 3-2-want.NI

Ha’a’aahjíísh ’éí doodago ’e’e’aahjíísh nighan?

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

haa’í

háadi

Hoozdodę́ę́’ Łééchąąłgaii bee nááshdááłgo Kinłánídi da’jiyání góne’ sédáago shiyaa haalwod lá.

Phoenix-from greyhound.bus 3-with 1-return.Prog-GO Flagstaff-at cafe into 1-sit.SPN-GO 1-under 3-run.P DISC

Jooł nits’ą́ą́’ nídiish’aah.

ball 2-away.from up-begin-1-lift.I
listenloadingplaying

I’m taking the ball away from you.

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

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

Naakidi tsin sitą́ądi daats’í kinaaldá b ’ahééniijéé’.

two mile 3-run.pl.P-at maybe purberty.ceremony 3-with RECIP-1dpl-run.pl.P
listenloadingplaying

We (pl.) ran about two miles with the girl who was running in the puberty ceremony.

Nichidí lá háadi nííníłbą́ą́z?

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

Nidlóóhísh doodaii’ dooísh nidlóoh da?

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

Níká ’adeeshwoł biniiyé níyá.

2-for 1-run.F 3-purpose.of 1-came.P
listenloadingplaying

I came to help you.

néishjį́į́h

R mode-1-become black, get sunburned.R

Obi-Wan Kenobi, shíká ’ajoolwod.

Obi-Wan Kenobi 1-after indef-4-run.P
listenloadingplaying

Obi-Wan Kenobi helped me.

Ronshą’ saadísh neiiłkaah?

Ron-Q word-Q 3-3-investigate.I

What about Ron, is he investigating words? / Is Ron studying words (too)?

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

Shilééchąą’í bił na’nishkaadgo jooł bá ’abíńjíshhałgo yikéé’ náádiilwo’.

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

When I’m out herding with my dog I bat fly balls for him and he chases them.

Shilį́į́’ tł’aaká’ii dóó shilį́į́’ biyéél bił tsodizin ’íishłaa.

1-appaloosa and 1-horse 3-saddle 3-with prayer 3-1-make.P
listenloadingplaying

With my appaloosa and my saddle side by side I made my prayer.

Shizhé’é ’azee’ál’į́į́ góne’ b yah ’i’ííbą́ą́z.

1-father hospital into 3-with in 3-push.wheel.P
listenloadingplaying

My father was wheeled into the hospital.

Shínaaí chidí b dah diilwodgo bizánághah góne’ łeezh ’adzíísi’.

older.brother car 3-with up 3-run.I-GO 3-around areal-in dust 3-trail.P
listenloadingplaying

When my older brother started off in the car he left a trail of dust around the corner.

T’ah doo sha’áłchíní haleehę́ędą́ą́’ doozhǫǫgo shibéeso (sibéeso) hólǫ́ǫ́ ńt’éé’.

still NEG 1-children 3-be.born.I-past satisfactory 1-money 3-exist.NI past
listenloadingplaying

Before I acquired a family I had plenty of money.

T’áá ’ałkéé’ ’azee’ííł’íní bił yah ’adahaadzá.

just one-behind-another doctor 3-with 3-in 1Dist-4-go.I

T’áadoo hooyání łį́į́’ shidáagi ch’éltáál.

suddenly horse 1-front-at 3-bolt.P
listenloadingplaying

All of a sudden the horse ran right in front of me.

Tooh ńlínígíí ha’naa shił ’adeezbą́ą́z ńt’éé’ tsinaabąąs nihits’ą́ą́’ k’é’éłtǫ’.

water river areal-across 1-with 3-drive.P past wagon 2dpl-away 3-break.P
listenloadingplaying

I started to ride across the river (by wagon) but it broke down on us.

Tsékooh góyaa tł’óół bee ’adanásh’nah.

canyon areal-down 3-with 1-climb.down.R
listenloadingplaying

I climb down into the canyon with a rope.

Yiską́ągo Na’nízhoozhídi, háádish ’adeeshį́į́ł ninízin?

tomorrow Gallup-at where-Q 2-eat.F 2-want.CI