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

’Adą́ą́dą́ą́’ ’íítseedgo bee na’anishí hasht’enáshdlééh?

yesterday 1-make.P-GO tool 3-1-put.back.I
listenloadingplaying

Yesterday, I did silverwork, and now I’m putting my tools away.

’Adą́ą́dą́ą́’ shá bíighah ’atah ’adishdiłgo ’i’íí’ą́.

yesterday 1-for 3-passing down 1-play.stick.dice.RI evening

’Atiin bąąhgóó béésh halne’é tsin bá ’adaaz’á.

road 3-along side telephone pole 3-for 3Pl-stand.upright.SPN
listenloadingplaying

The telephones are upright along the road for the phone line.

’Atiin bąąhgóó béésh halne’é tsin bá ’adaaz’á.

road 3-near phone pole 3-for 3-stand.upright.NP
listenloadingplaying

The telephones are upright along the road for the phone line.

’Awéé’ bimá bit’ah sitį́.

baby 3-mother 3-undercover 3-lying.SPN
listenloadingplaying

The baby is lying under the same covers with its mother.

-’ąą

-doondó’ --- da, doo ndi ---da, doondó’ ndi --- da

-ísh

listenloadingplaying

enclitic for yes/no questions

-jí

-k’i

-tis

Bee ’atiní ’éí doo ’ashohodoobéézhgóó bee ’azk’az.

freezer TOP extremely 3-with 3-cold.SPN

Béégashii yáázh ła’ shibee’í’diidłííd bik’i niní’ą́.

calf one 1-cattle.brand 3-on 3-1-put.NP
listenloadingplaying

I put my cattlebrand on a calf.

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

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

Does s/he have a car or do you have a car?

Damóo yę́ędą́ą́’ dziłghą́ą́’dę́ę́’ shádí dóó ba’áłchíní bił ’adaashkai.

sunday past-time mountain top.of-from 1-elder.sister and 3-children 3-with downward-1-go.Pl.P
listenloadingplaying

Last Sunday I accompanied my older sister and her family down from the mountaintop.

deishbéézh

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

Díidí háísh bichidí?

this who-Q 3-car
listenloadingplaying

Whose car is this?

Díí chąą’ shą’ háádę́ę́’ niníyęęzh?

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

Díí chizh shá ’ałk’íniishóósh.

this firewood 1-for 3-2-split.I
listenloadingplaying

Split these pieces of wood for me.

Díí dziłígíí shádi’ááh bich’ijígo ’ałkéé’ ’adíítąąd.

this mountain-Comp southward 3-toward-GO one-behind-another 3Pl-scatter.NP
listenloadingplaying

These mountains are strung out, one behind the other toward the south.

Díí hastiin tł’ééjí hataałgo bee béého’doolzįįd.

listenloadingplaying

This man became famous as a Night Chant singer.

Díkwíí lá ninááhai?

how.many Q 2-winter
listenloadingplaying

How old are you?

Gohwééh haa néeląą’ nee hólǫ́?

coffee how 3-much.N 2-with 4-exist.NI

Ha’át’éegishą’ nich’ah nííní’ą́?

where-at-Q 2-hat 3-2-set.down.SRO.P
listenloadingplaying

Where did you leave your hat? Where did you set your hat down?

Ha’át’íí lá nizhé’é yaa naaghá?

what Q 2-father 3-about 3-do.CI

haa nízahdę́ę́’ hoolzhiizh

listenloadingplaying

for how long

Haa’íshą’ neezgai?

where-Q 3-hurt.N
listenloadingplaying

Where does it hurt?

Kintahdę́ę́’ łį́į́’ sh nááldlosh.

town-from horse 1-with 3-run.CI

Kǫ’ ’ayóigo bee n’deezdíín ndi doo shiníłdoi da.

fire very 3-with 3-sheds.light.P but NEG 1-3-warm.SPN NEG
listenloadingplaying

The fire gives lots of light, but it doesn’t warm me.

Kwe’éshą’ haa nízah nináhálzhishgo nináháltį́į́h?

here-Q how 3-long.N-up.to time.move.R-GO rain.R
listenloadingplaying

How often does it rain here?

Mary bimá sání yá ’ata’ halne’.

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

Na’nízhoozhídę́ę́’ shíká b ’oolwoł.

Gallup 1-for 3-with 3-drive.I

Náhookǫ́sdę́ę’go ních’igo ’ayóo deesk’aaz.

north.from-GO breeze-GO very cold.SPN

Nichidí lá háadi nííníłbą́ą́z?

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

Nidlóóhísh ’éí doodago doo daats’í nidlóoh da?

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

Nizhé’é ha’át’íísh nahideeshnih nízin.

2-father-Q what 3-1-buy.F 3-want.NI
listenloadingplaying

As for your father, what does he want to buy?

Shá hooł’aah.

1-for areal-2 move-over.I

Shicheii haastihgo łáháda ninálnish.

1-grandfather 3-become.old.P-GO seldom 3-work.R
listenloadingplaying

My grandfather seldom (rarely) works since he got old.

Shighandóó ha’a’aahjígo ’ahidiildzis dóó ’ákóyaa bida’atiin.

1-house-from east-to-GO join-together-canyons and there-down 3-off-road

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

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

Shį́į́dą́ą́’ sitsą́ hodíínii’go k’asdą́ą́’ dasétsą́.

summer-last 1-stomach areal-.hurt.P-GO nearly 1-die.P
listenloadingplaying

Last summer I nearly died with a pain in my abdomen.

shéłbéézh

3DO-1-boil.it.P

T’ą́ą́tsoh táá’góó yoołkáłę́ędą́ą́’ ’ałdó’ Tóta’góó tádííyá.

May three-góó day-past also Farmington-góó 1-went.P

Tsinaabąąs bikáá’dę́ę́’ t’áá ’ałkéé’ ’adahaago’ ndeii’néego.

wagon 3-top-from just one-after-another down-1Pl-fall.P 3Pl-play.CI-GO.CI

Tł’éédą́ą́’ ńléí dził bine’jí ’adildííl yiits’a’ ni’.

night-past there mountain 3-behind-way thunder 3-sound.P recall

yiishjį́į́’

1-become black, get sunburned.P

Yóó’ ’anáháshyeed.

away SER-1-run.R
listenloadingplaying

I run away time after time.

Ła’ nídeezid yę́ędą́ą́’ ’áajigo niséyá.

one month past that-way-GO 1.go.P

łahágóó

łahda