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

’Asdzą́ą́ Báhóózhóní yinishyée dooleeł.

woman happy 1-called.NI FUT

’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.

’Ayóo deesk’aazgo beeldléí ditánígíí biih násh’nah.

very cold-GO blanket 3-thick.NI-ÍGÍÍ 3-into 1-crawl.R

’Ałk’ésdisí naháłnii’go sitsilí dóó shideezhí ’aheełt’éego bá ’ahá níjaa’.

candy 3-1-buy.P-GO 1-little.brother and 1-little.sister RECP-equal-GO 3-for RECP-for 3-lie.aligned.PlO.NP

-zánághah

Ch’į́į́góó baa ntséskees.

fail 3-about 1-think.I
listenloadingplaying

I think about it (from many angles) without success (as in trying to hit upon a practical solution for a problem).

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

Da’ Ron saad neiskáá’?

Q Ron word 3-3-investigate.P
listenloadingplaying

Did Ron study words?

dajííshóó’

pl-3DO-4dpl-brush/comb.it.P

Daniel hahgosh hidilníísh?

Daniel when-Q 3-start.work.I
listenloadingplaying

When does Daniel go to work?

dayoodlą́ą́’

pl-3DO-3dpl-drink.it.P

Dichin bik’ee doo bííchįįd da.

hunger 3-account neg 3-become.hopeless.P neg
listenloadingplaying

On account of famine conditions have become hopeless.

didíníilkał

3DO-1dpl-start.to.herd.them.(animals).F

Díí ’ashkii Bilagáana bizaad shá bíbiyiił’aah.

this boy English 3-language 3-2-teach.I
listenloadingplaying

Teach this boy English for me.

Díí chąą’ shą’ háádę́ę́’ niníyęęzh?

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

Doo t’áá k’ad ’ííłta’ da.

NEG just now 1-go.school.P NEG
listenloadingplaying

I don’t want to go to school.

díníilkaad

3DO-1dpl-start.to.herd.them.(animals).I

Ha’ąądi dibé bighan.

areal-other.side sheep 3-corral
listenloadingplaying

The sheep corral is on the other side (of the hill).

hahí

haidoołtééł

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

haniłgéésh

3DO-2-cut.it.out.I

Hádą́ą́’sh Mary ’ólta’dę́ę́’ nádzá?

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

Hái da shą’ tsinaa’eeł ’ájiilaa lá?

who DA Q boat 3-4-make.P DISC

(I wonder) who made this boat?

Hííłch’į’go ’íinda ta’iideeshnih.

evening.GO until 1-mix.dough.F
listenloadingplaying

I will mix the dough towards evening.

jididoołhįh

3DO-4-melt.it.F

K’ad cháshk’eh góyaa tó de ’anool’ąął.

now wash down water up 3-rise.Prog

Kin Łánídi naashnish háálá ’áadi shaghan.

Flagstaff 1-work.I because there 1-live.NI

léi’

Mary ha’át’íí nayiisnii’?

Mary what 3-3-buy.P
listenloadingplaying

What did Mary buy?

Mosi ałts’si ndi nidaaz.

cat small but 3-heavy.NI

The cat is small but it is heavy.

na’ńle’dii

naa

Naalyéhé bá hooghandi t’ah doo dá’deelkaałdą́ą́’ nisingo na’ńle’dii tsį́į́ł shiisxį́ (siisxį́).

trading.post-at just NEG 3-PASS-close.I-past 1-think.N-GO dismay speed 1-3-kill.P
listenloadingplaying

Thinking that the trading post would not be closed I rushed (to get there), but I was out of luck.

Ni daats’í nił bééhózin ’éí doodaii’ nicheii daats’í bił bééhózin?

2 perhaps 2-with 3-know.CI TOP or 2-grandfather perhaps 3-with 3-know.CI

Nichidí lá háadi nííníłbą́ą́z?

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

Nichidísh háadi nííníłbą́ą́z?

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

Nichidíshą’ háadi nííníłbą́ą́z?

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

N bééhózinísh ’éí doodaii’ nicheii daats’í b bééhózin?

2-with 3-know.CI-Q TOP or 2-grandfather perhaps 3-with 3-know.CI

Sam Diné yitah naalnish.

Sam Navajo 3-among 3-work.I

Shi’éé’ kin bikáá’dóó hadah (or bidah, ’adah) ’ahé’ah.

1-clothes house 3-on-from areal-downward 3-1-toss.FFO.P

Shicheii déidiiłjeeh’ii’, hoozdohgóó nahisiitą́.

1-grandfather 3-3-built.fire.P-and warm-to 3-sit.P

Shichidí t’ahdii yá’át’ééh, ’át’ah ’índa ła’ ninááhideeshnih.

1-car still 3-good.N later one again-3-1-buy.F

Shí hanii t’éiyá Naasht’ézhí bizaad sh bééhózin.

I contrary only English 3-language 1-with 3-know.P

T’ahdiísh nahałtin?

still-Q area-rain.CI
listenloadingplaying

Is it still raining?

wónáásdóó

yididoołhįh

3DO-3-melt.it.F

yidoołbish

3DO-3-boil.it.F

Yiską́ągoósh ’adeestsił nínízingo bee na’anishí hasht’enilééh?

tomorrow-Q 1-make.F 2-want.NI-GO tool 3-2-prepare.I

yiłbéézh

3DO-3-boil.it.I

Ąąh háá’á wolyéii k’ad doo ’asht’é’égóó bik’ee ntsinisdzá.

debt 3-extend.NP 3-be.called.NI now extremely 3-on.account.of 1-???? YÁ
listenloadingplaying

I’m really fed up with bills now.