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

’Abe’ yistiní hazhóó’ógo ni’ ninishtłeeh ńt’éé’ nááłhęęsh.

ice.cream carefully stop 3-1-stop.carry.I past 3-fall.P
listenloadingplaying

I was carefully putting down a scoop of ice cream when it fell.

’Ahwééh yishdlį́į́h ’áádóó naanishgóó yishááh.

coffee 3-1-drink.U and.then work-toward 3-1-go.U

’Ashiiké yázhí nináádaa’né.

boys young pl-3-play.R
listenloadingplaying

The boys are playing again.

’Ashiiké yázhí ła’ chidí yikáá’dę́ę́’ ’adah ’adoogoh.

boys little INDEF car 3-on-from down 3-fall.F
listenloadingplaying

One of little boys might fall off the front of the car.

’Ashkii nishłínę́ędą́ą́’ łah yoostsah bik’íníyá.

boy 1-be.NI-past once ring 3-1-find.P
listenloadingplaying

Once when I was a boy I found a ring.

’ayóo

’Ałk’idą́ą́’ tł’oh naadą́ą́’ dant’į́įhgo łį́į́’ doodaii’ béégashii da há hada’ał’éés ńt’éé’.

long.ago grass corn 3-ripen.I-GO horse or cow etc. 4-for 3-stomp.I past

-dóó

from a specific location or point in space or time

-niiyé

for the purpose of, to

Asdzą́ą́ yázhí bichidí doondó’ naalnish da.

woman little 3-car not.even but 3-work.P NEG

bik’ídeediz

3DO-1dpl-wrap.it.around.it.P

bik’ídiidis

3DO-1dpl-wrap.it.around.it.I

Chidí ’ániidígíí naháłnii’ nít’éé’ bee lą́ą́ shąąh háájil.

car new-ÍGÍÍ One 3-1-buy.P-GO 3-with many 1-on 3-charge.P

Chidí binaashnish yę́ę ’áádóó t’óó ni’ kwíishłaa.

vehicle 3-1-work.CI past and.then just stop 1-stop.P
listenloadingplaying

I was working on the vehicle and then I just let it be.

Chidí bits’ą́ą́’ niiltłago t’óó yíyooyił.

car 3-from 3-stop.P-GO just 3-3-push.Prog

Chidí tááségis yę́ę ninááhodoołtį́į́ł daaní.

car 3-1-wash.P past-Q 3-again.rain.F pl-3-say.NI
listenloadingplaying

I washed the car but they say rain is in the forecast.

daohsą́

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

didideeshjah

3DO-1-start.fire.F

Díí chąą’ shą’ háádę́ę́’ niníyęęzh?

this manure-Q where-from 3-ooze.P

Díí nanise’ hiná.

this plant 3-alive.NI

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
listenloadingplaying

I stuck my hand into a prairie dog hole and a little prairie dog bit me.

doo ’ashohodoobéézhgóó

doo deighánígóó

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’át’éegoshą’ t’áadoo díníyáa da?

why-Q neg 2-go.sg.P NEG

Ha’át’íí neidiyoołnih nínízin?

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

haa nóolin

what does it look like

hadajishgizh

pl-3DO-4dpl-cut.it.out.P

hadazhdééłbįįd

pl-3DO-4dpl-fill.something.up.with.it.P

hah

Haidą́ą́’ ’a’áán góne’ nishishnish ńt’éé’ --- doo sh yá’áhoot’éeh da.

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

hazhniłchaad

3DO-4-card.it.(as.in.wool).I

Há’át’íísh hastiin dóó ’at’ééd ’áyiilaa?

what-Q man and girl 3-3-make.P

Háadi niyaa hazlį́į́’?

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

Where did you grow up?

Háágóósh díníyá?

where-to-Q 2-go.I

Kingóó ’anááda’iisdee’.

town-to again-pl-3-go.R
listenloadingplaying

Everyone went to town again.

Kintah góyaa yishááł ńt’éé’ béeso ńdiiłtsooz

areal-down 1-go.Prog past money 3-1-pick.FFO.P
listenloadingplaying

I was walking down the street when I found a dollar bill.

Mary bimá sání yá ’ata’ halne’.

Mary 3-grandmother 3-for indef-between 3-talk.DI
listenloadingplaying

Mary is translating for her grandmother.

Mary ha’át’íí nayiisnii’?

Mary what 3-3-buy.P

Naalyéhé hooghandi tł’oh hániikai ńt’éé’ ’áníídí yee’ ’ásdįįd lágo ’áadi niikai.

trading.post-at hay 1dpl-go.pl.P past recently very 3-disappear.P DISC-GO there 1dpl-go.pl.P
listenloadingplaying

We went to the trading post after hay only to find that the supply had just run out.

naohłé

3DO-2dpl-carry.a.ropelike.thing.around.I

Neeznáadigóó ’oolkiłgo ’áłah ’aleeh daaní.

ten.at-toward time-GO meeting pl-4-say.NI

Nimá yázhí bighangóó díílwoł dóó ’áájí ’awéé’ baa ’áhólyą́dooleeł.

your aunt 3-house-to 2-run-and that-way baby 3-for 2-care.CI FUT

niłbéézh

3DO-2-boil.it.I

néishjį́į́h

Iterative Mode: 1-become.black.R
listenloadingplaying

I will become black, get sunburned again and again

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

already some potato 3-1-peel.P

T’ááłáhádi neeznádiin dóó ba’aan táá’

one hundred and 3-beyond three

Tł’éédą́ą́’ásh nahóółtą́ kééhót’ínígi?

night-past-Q rain.P 2-live.NI-at

wohtł’ó

3DO-2dpl-weave.it.I

yiilbéézh

3DO-1dpl-boil.it.I