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

’Ak’ah ła’ dishhį́įhgo baa naashá.

lard some 3-1-melt.I 3-to 1-go.CI

’Asdzą́ą́ ’éí ’ashkii ha’át’íí yeiní’ą́?

woman TOP boy what 3-to-3-3-move.SRO.P
listenloadingplaying

What did the woman give the boy?

’Asdzą́ą́ Báhoozhóní yinishyé.

woman happy 1-called.NI

’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 hainidzaa?

and.then what-3-2-do.P

’áko ndi

CONJ

-diníná

-íighah

-ni

-tsąąh

Béégashii yáázh bichá ninish’aah.

calf 3-bunch 3-1-put.I.SRO

bik’ídidiidis

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

bik’ídiidis

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

Ch’ah ’éí doodaii’ nák’ee sinilí łizhinígíí daats’í nee hólǫ́’?

hat or sunglasses perhaps 2-with 4-exist.NI
listenloadingplaying

Do you have a hat or sunglasses? / Maybe you have a hat or sunglasses.

Ch’iyáán ’áshłaadóó tsííd bik’i hooziid.

food 3-1-cook.P-from embers 3-onto area-1-cover.P
listenloadingplaying

I cooked the food afterwards, I covered the ambers.

Chidí bik’ee heesh’ááł.

car 3-tire 3-1-move.SRO.Prog

Chidí naat’a’íísh hooghankáá’góó ch’ínísaal ’éí doodaii’ dziłghą́ą́’góó daats’í?

airplane house-over-along over-3-fly.P TOP or mountain-attached-along perhaps

Chidí t’ą́ą́’ nináníłbą́ą́z.

car just 3-1-reparked.R
listenloadingplaying

I backed in the car again.

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

dadidoołhįh

pl-3DO-2dpl-melt.it.F

dajííshóó’

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

Damóo yę́ędą́ą́’ Yootóógóó niséyá.

Sunday past Santa.Fe-to 1-go.P

deitł’ó

pl-3DO-3dpl-weave.it.I

Dibé yázhí bitsį’ bíchą́ yídéeshni’.

lamb 3-meat 3-crave 3-addicted.NP

Dibéésh nee hólǫ́?

sheep-Q 2-with 4-exist.NI

Dichinísh doodaii’ dibáá’ísh jinízin?

hunger-Q or thirst-Q 3-4-want.NI

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
listenloadingplaying

Who is traveling overseas this year?

doo --- da

listenloadingplaying

the frame serving to negativize verbs and phrases

Doo hah shił ’ílwod da léi’ t’áá ’íídą́ą́’ da’oodą́ą́’ lá.

NEG quick me.with 3.drive.P NEG since already 3pl.eat.P discover

dííyį́į́ł

3DO-2-eat.it.F

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

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

Ha’át’éegoshą’ t’áadoo díníyáa da?

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

Why didn’t you go?

ha’át’éejį’

where to a point

Ha’át’íísh neidiyoołnih nínízin?

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

Ha’át’íísh nizhé’é yaa naaghá?

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

haa nízahdę́ę́’ hoolzhiizh

listenloadingplaying

for how long

Hastiin sání léi’ ’áłchíní bił yanáa’áago yił nahalne’.

man old INDEF children 3-with 3-pile.NI-COMP 3-with 3-tell.CI
listenloadingplaying

An old man is telling stories to a pile of children. (Lit. the children are piled with him)

Mą’iitsoh shik’iilwodgo tsékooh góyaa bidááłgo’.

wolf 1-3-attack-COMP canyon areal-down 3-1-push.P
listenloadingplaying

When the wolf attacked me I pushed him down into the canyon.

Na’nízhoozhídę́ę́’ shíká bił ’oolwoł.

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

Shą́ą́’ ’ałk’idą́ą́’ baa hwiinít’į́į ni’.

remember long.ago 3-for 3-discuss.I recall

Shidá’í dóola yilááh ’ábóodziil jiní.

1-Uncle bull 3-greater 3-strong.NI 4-say.P
listenloadingplaying

It is said that my uncle is stronger than a bull.

Shileechąą’í halǫ́ǫ́ ńt’éé’ są biis.

1-dog have past old.age 3-die.of.P
listenloadingplaying

I used to have a dog but it died of old age.

Shimá bighangóó shíni’ ńt’éé’ ch’ééh déago shhoogéé’.

1-mother 3-home-to 1-desire.to.go past in.vain 1-go.P-GO 1-with ho-become.lazy.X

Shínaaí łahda b náhoniidoh.

1-older.brother sometime 3-with 3-become.warm.R

T’ahdiísh nahałtin?

still-Q area-rain.CI
listenloadingplaying

Is it still raining?

T’áá kintahdi ’ííyą́ą́’ nidi náá’áshdą́.

just town-at 1-eat.P but 3-1eat.R
listenloadingplaying

I ate in town, but I am eating again.

T’óó tá’ádeesgizii’ ’ííyą́ą́’.

just 3-reflex-wash.P-CONJ 3-eat.P

yiyíí’aal

3DO-3-chew.it.P

Ła’ nídeezid yę́ędą́ą́’ ’áajigo niséyá.

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