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

’Ashkiísh ’at’ééd yiyiiłtsą́?

boy-Q girl 3-3-see.P
listenloadingplaying

Did the boy see the girl?

’Ayóo łį́į́’ sh naalgeed diní, ’ííshją́ą́shį́į́ díí łį́į́chogii bikáá’ dah ńdaah!

very horse 1-with 3-buck.CI 3-2-say.NI lets.see this stallion 3-on up 2-sit.I

’Áádóó níléíjigo daaníigo t’óó ’áajigo sh dah ’adiilwod.

and.then over.there-toward pl-3-say.I-GO just that.way-toward 1-with start.off 3-drive.P

’áko ’índa

CONJ

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

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

-gi

Ashkii tó nílinígíi yiih dzółhaał.

Boy flowing.water-ÍGÍÍ 3-in 3-3-fall.O

bik’ídidiidis

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

bik’ídisoodiz

3DO-2dpl-wrap.it.around.it.P

Ch’iyáán nináhíłnihgo haa nízahjį’ ’ánádįįh?

food 3-2-buy.R how 3-long.N-up.to 3-become.none.R
listenloadingplaying

When you buy groceries, how long do they last?

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).

Ch’óóshdą́ą́dą́ą́’ Na’nízhoozhídi kééhasht’į́ ńt’éé’.

formerly Gallup-at 1-live.I past
listenloadingplaying

I used to live in Gallup. I lived formerly in Gallup.                                                                                                                                                                        

Chidí bąąh dah sitání bąąh dah shishtįįh ńt’éé’ ’ił adaagizí doo ’éí da lá.

car license plate 3-1-put. I SSO past Sup-with screw neg that neg Disc.
listenloadingplaying

I started to put the license plate on my car when I found out I had the wrong kind of nut and bolt (or screws).

Chidí daats’í bee hólǫ́ doodaii’ niísh chidí nee hólǫ́?

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

didadołjeeh

pl-3DO-2dpl-start.fire.I

dideidííłjéé’

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

didoołjéé’

3DO-2dpl-start.fire.P

Díí yihahígíí biyi’, háísh tówónaanígóó ch’aa deeyá?

this year.IGII within who overseas.GOO travel 3-going.F-Q

Dííshą’ látsíní háádę́ę́’ naa ninídee’?

this-Q bracelet where-from 2-to 3-arrive.PlO.P

Doo ’áłah deiidleeh da.

NEG together pl-1dpl-meet.pl.I NEG

Dooshą’ gah t’áá gééd náshdááh lá.

ensure rabbit just without 1-return.I DISC
listenloadingplaying

I’ll see to it that I don’t return without a rabbit.

Gólízhii dégo dasidoo’į́įgo da’oołzhish nỉ.

skunk up-GO pl-3-look.I-GO pl-3-dpl-dance.I
listenloadingplaying

Skunk said, all of you,look up and dance.

Ha’a’aahdę́ę́sh naaghan ’éí doodago e’e’aahdę́ę́sh naaghan?

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

Ha’át’éegosh náníldzid?

why-Q 2-fear.I
listenloadingplaying

Why are you afraid?

Ha’át’éegoshą’ ’ayóo náníldzid?

why-Q very 2-fear.I
listenloadingplaying

Why are you afraid?

Ha’át’íísh neidiyoołnih nínízin?

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

hadeishgizh

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

hahgo

listenloadingplaying

when [future]

haidínóołchał

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

haniilchaad

3DO-1dpl-card.it.(as.in.wool).I

háádóó

listenloadingplaying

where from (specifically)

hádą́ą́’

listenloadingplaying

when [past]

K’os hóle’!

cloud 3s-become.O
listenloadingplaying

I wish for clouds

Na’ashǫ́’ii doo baa nijit’į́į́ da.

snake NEG 3-with 4-bother.O NEG
listenloadingplaying

Do not bother snakes. (YM 1987: 130)

Na’nízhoozhígóósh díníyá?

Gallup-to-Q 2-go.SP

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
listenloadingplaying

When a man started fighting them with my father at the War Dance, I got in between.

Nichidí háadish nííníłbą́ą́z?

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

Nichxǫ' doo ájíníi da.

stop NEG 4-say.thus.NI NEG
listenloadingplaying

Stop, don’t say it!

nizhdooleeł

3DO-4-carry.a.ropelike.thing.around.F

Ńléí dziłtsį́į́góó diit’ash.

there mountain-base-toward start-1du-go.du.I

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
listenloadingplaying

When I got an itch between my shoulder blades, I scratched it with a stick.

Shi’dizhchį́į́ yęędą́ą́’ ’éí tsinaabąąs dahólǫ́ nt’éé.

1-pass-born.P past TOP wagon 3-with pl-3-drive.I pl-be.NI past
listenloadingplaying

Wagons were around during the time I was born.

Shik’is b ’ílyeed ’áko shį́į́ da’diidį́į́ł.

1-friend 3-with 3-drive CONJ 1-Pl-eat.F

Shiye’ éí naaki béeso yideená chidí yésį́.

1-son TOP two money 3-exchange.for car 3-stand.SPN
listenloadingplaying

My son is standing, guarding the car for two dollars.

t’áá gééd

T’áá ká chidí ba’óó’ááł lágo.

NEG car 3-3-borrow.O LÁGO

Tł’éédą́ą́, yá’át’ééhgo iiłhaaz. Night.last good.GO 1-sleep.P

Night.last good.GO 1-sleep.P

Yéego nihee nahóółtą́ągo yá’át’ééh doo yę́ę ’áko shį́į́ naadą́ą́’ dadinóosééł.

hard.GO 1pl-on 3-rain.P.GO 3-good future wish then maybe corn 3pl-grow.F

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.

ʼAtʼééd doo bzhǫ́ǫ da dooleeł.

girl NEG 3-with 3-happy.NI NEG 3-become.F