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

’Akóyaa ’adah, t’áá baa ’áhólchįįh.

there-down down, just 3-to 2-aware.NI

’ayóí

’Éí naanishígíí haa nízahdę́ę́’ binanilnishgo hoolzhiizh?

that work-ÍGÍÍ how 3-long.N-past 3-2-work-GO time.move.P

’Ííyą́ą́dóó bik’ijį’ tsinyaagi nétį́į́ dóó ’iiłhaazh.

1-eat.P and 3-after tree-under-at.spec 1-lie.down.P and 1-sleep.P
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I ate and afterwards I lay down under the tree and slept.

-ii’

CONJ

-tis

Ayóó biká ’anáshwo’.

often 3-for 1-help.R
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I help him/her a lot.

Béésh bii’ kǫ’í bizooł dego deez’á.

stove 3-pipe up 3-extend.SPN
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The stovepipe sticks up (extends upward, rises).

bik’ídidíídis

3DO-2-wrap.it.around.it.F

Ch’ééh jiyáán náánááshdą́ą́’.

watermelon again-1-eat.R
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I ate watermelon again.

Chidí naat’a’íísh hooghan yikáá’góó ch’ét’a’ doodaii’ dził bąąhgóósh ch’ét’a’?

airplane-Q hogan 3-over-along 3-fly.P or mountain 3-side-along-Q 3-fly.P

Chidí tááségis yę́ę ninááhodoołtį́į́ł daaní.

car 3-1-wash.P past-Q 3-again.rain.F pl-3-say.NI
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I washed the car but they say rain is in the forecast.

Chidíísh bee hólǫ́ doodago ni daats’í chidí nee hólǫ́?

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

Da’ chidíísh bee hólǫ́ doodaii’ ni daats’í chidí nee hólǫ́?

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

dayííłhį́į́’

pl-3DO-3dpl-melt.it.(snow).P

didazhdiłjeeh

pl-3DO-4dpl-start.fire.I

dideidiłjeeh

pl-3DO-3dpl-start.fire.I

didideeshjah

3DO-1-start.fire.F

didołjeeh

3DO-2dpl-start.fire.I

Díkwíí shą’ ninááhai?

how.many Q 2-winter.NI
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How old are you?

dó’

haa néelą́ą́’

listenloadingplaying

how much, how many, what quantity. [mass]

haa nízahdę́ę́’ hoolzhiizh

listenloadingplaying

for how long

haa níłnééz

listenloadingplaying

how long, how tall is it

Haa’ísh neezgai?

where-Q 3-hurt.N
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Where does it hurt?

hadadínóołchał

pl-3DO-2dpl-card.it.(as.in.wool).F

hadaoołgizh

pl-3DO-2dpl-cut.it.out.P

hainiłchaad

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

Hastiin dóó ’at’ééd lá ha’át’íí ’áyiilaa?

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

What did the man and the girl make?

Háadi niyaa hazlį́į́’?

where-at 2-under area-grow.P
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Where did you grow up?

jiigish

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

k’adę́ę

Mary bimá sání yá ’ata’ halne’.

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

Mary yíká hoolne’.

Mary 3-for 3-call.P

Mósí yázhí chizhtah yiyah yílwod.

kitten woodpile.among 3-under 3-run.P

Nahóółtą́ągo tł’óo’di dizhdółjeeh le’ nízin shicheii.

it.rained-GO outside.at 4-build.fire.O wish 3-3.want.CI my.grandfather
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My grandfather wishes to build a fire outside, but it has just rained.

Ndáa’di shizhé’é diné ła’ y ’ahi’niigą́ą’go bita’ niséyá.

summer.ceremony-at 1-father man one 3-fight.P-GO 3-between 3-1-go.siP
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When a man started fighting them with my father at the War Dance, I got in between.

nisiilyá

3DO-1dpl-carry.a.ropelike.thing.around.P

Nizhónígo ha’íí’ą́ yę́ędą́ą́’ sxíiłgo da’ségis.

beautiful sunrise past quickly pl-3-1-wash.P

I quickly did my laundry during the beautiful sunrise.

Sha’áłchíní béeso ’ashladiin baa nínil ńt’éé’ t’ááła’ajį́ ’ałtso yibadooskai.

1-children money 50 3-for 2-put.PlO.P past at-once all 3-3-exhaust.P

Sháahsita’gi yihę́ęsgo tsin-ts’ósí bee yích’id.

1-point.between.shoulder.blades 3-itch.I-GO stick 3-with 3-1-scratch.P
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When I got an itch between my shoulder blades, I scratched it with a stick.

Shicheii t’áá sáhí ’átsą́ą́’ ’ałtso yoolghal --- doochǫǫł ’át’éego ’ajilghał dooleeł!

1-grandpa just himself rib whole 3-chew.P ridiculous 3-be.NI-GO SER-3-ate.DI FUT
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My grandfather ate the whole rib section by himself --- it’s absurd to eat like that!

Shimá bighangóó náshdáahgo łééchąą’í baná’ástso’.

1-mother 3-house-toward again-1-go-GO dog 3-again-1-feed.R

Shiyáázh nízaadi naalnishgo bídin sélį́į́’.

1-son far-at 3-work-GO 3-lack 1-be.SPN

t’ahdii

Táá’ daats’í shinááhaigo Hwéeldi hoolyéégóó sh dah ’adiiná níigo halne’ łeh shicheii.

three maybe 1-year.P-GO Fort.Sumner areal-be.called-toward 1-with start.off 3-migrate.P 3-say.NI-GO
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As my grandfather tells it, he was about three years old when he started off with the family on the move to Fort Sumner.

yiigish

3DO-2-make.one.cut.in.it.I

yiilzhóó’

3DO-1dpl-brush/comb.it.P

yishhį́į́h

3DO-1-melt.it.(snow).I

yíní’aal

3DO-2-chew.it.P