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

’Adeesdíilgo dibé sits’ą́ą́’ dah diijéé’.

3-thunder.P-GO sheep 1-away.from start-3-run.Pl.P
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When thunder rumbled the sheep stampeded on me, ran away from me.

’Ahwééh náánááshdlą́ą́’.

coffee again-1-drink.R

’Aoo’, shí dó’ t’áá ’ákwíinisin.

yes 1 also just 1-think.so.NI
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Yes, I think so too.

’Ashkii yázhí bee’eldǫǫh yik’ee ’ádadeeznih.

boy little gun 3-on.account.of REFL-3-hurt.P
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The little boy hurt himself with the gun.

’Atsį’ísh ’éí doodaii’ łóó’ísh nínízin?

meat-Q or fish-Q 3-2-want.NI
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Do you want meat or fish?

’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

’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

-’ąą

-á

-ch’ijí

-ę́ę+-dą́ą́’ (yę́ędą́ą́’)

-niit’aa

-tsąąh

Béégashii ndahaniihdi dóola ’ayóí ’ánóolin léi’ t’óó bidánééł’į́į́’.

cattle-NOM pl-3-sell.CI-at bull remarkable 3-resemble.N INDEF just 3-1-look.at.P
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At the cattle sale I saw a beautiful bull that I sure wished I had.

Béésh ’áłts’ózí bee ’atsidí bee ’aháníłne’.

wire hammer 3-with 3-1-beat.P
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I beat the wire in two with a hammer.

Ch’iyáánísh hólǫ́?

food-Q 4-exist.NI
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Is there any food?

Chidí kǫ́ǫ́ ndaajeehígíí t’áá ’ániidígo dahodeezlįįd.

car here 3-run.pl.I-COMP just recently pl-3-become.P
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These cars that run around here just recently came into existence, cars are a recent invention.

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

Dah díníilghaazhísh ’íilnilaa?

fry.bread-Q 3-2-make.P
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Did you make fry bread?

Damǫ́ǫgo tódilchxoshí yishdlį́į́h.

Sunday-GO soda 3-1-drink.U
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On Sundays I drink soda.

Dá’ák’ehdi t’ah ńt’éé’ t’óó ’ayóigo nahachagii bizhiin yijiłgo yiiłtsą́.

field-at still past many grasshoppers swarm 4-move.along.Prog-GO 3-1-see.P
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To my surprise, I saw a swarm of grasshoppers moving along a field.

Dibé doo deeghánígóó ’ałkéé’ ’idíítąądgo hooghanjį’ náákah.

sheep long.way RECP-follow 3-spread.out.NP home-up.to 3-walk.pl.Prog
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The sheep were strung out a long ways, one behind the other, as they headed home.

Diné k’asdą́ą́’ t’áá ’ałtso bichidí dahólǫ́ dííshjį́į́góó.

person nearly everyone 3-car pl-exist.N nowadays
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Nearly everyone has a car nowadays.

Díí chąą’ shą’ háádę́ę́’ niníyęęzh?

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

Díkwíísh ninááhai?

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

Doo ’ííłta’go biniinaa t’áá ’ałtsojį’ t’áá shídin hazlį́į́’.

neg 1-go.to.school.P-GO 3-because every-up.to just 1-without 1-become.P
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I got left out on everything because I did not go to school.

Doo ndó’ daatsaah noolin da.

NEG but 3-be.sick.I 3-resemble.NP NEG
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He doesn’t even look sick (much less act sick).

doozhǫǫgo

Ha’át’íí lá hastiin dóó ’at’ééd ’áyiilaa?

what Q man and girl 3-3-make.P
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What did the man and the girl make?

haa nízahdę́ę́’ hoolzhiizh

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for how long

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

man and girl what Q 3-3-make.P
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What did the man and the girl make?

Hastiin nééz doondó’ ndi ’alzhish da.

man tall NEG but 3-dance.DI NEG

Hwééldigóó nda’aznánę́ędą́ą́’ nihahastóí yę́ę ła’ béédaho’dooszįįd.

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Háádę́ę’shą’ díí ch’ah nizhóní léi’ naa yílts’id?

where-from-Q DEM hat 3-beautiful.NI INDEF 2-to 3-move.air.SRO.P

Kwe’éshą’ haa nízah nináhálzhishgo nináháltį́į́h?

here-Q how 3-long.N-up.to time.move.R-GO rain.R
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How often does it rain here?

Na’nízhoozhígóósh díníyá?

Gallup-to-Q 2-go.SP

Náshdóí yę́ę noonéełgo wónáásdóó k’adę́ę ’ádįįh jiní.

wildcat former 3-die.off.Prog-GO soon nearly 3-extinct.I 4-say.NI
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Wildcats are dying off and it is said that soon they’ll become extinct.

Nédáá dóó bikáá’adání bik’i ndinís’eez.

1-sit and table 3-on 1-place-1-foot.P
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I sat down and put my feet on the table.

Niísh ’ałdó’ t’áá ’ákwíinínízin?

2-Q also just 2-think.so.NI

Niłísh bééhosin doodaii’ biłísh bééhozin?

2-with-Q 3-know.CI or 3-with-Q 3-know.CI

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

Shighandóó ndáá’góó ’ada’iisdee’go nihí ’éí t’áá yiike’.

1-home-from war.ceremony-to 3-go.away.P we.du.pl TOP just 1du-remain.behind.P

Shighanídóó ’e’e’aah bich’ijígo shádí bighan.

1-home-from west 3-in.the.direction.of older.sister 3-dwell.N

Shilééch’ąą’í bits’ąą ńdínésht’į́į́’.

1-dog 3-away.from 1-hide.P

Shínaaí shich’ą́ą́h naaghá.

1-older.brother 1-protect 3-go.CI
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My older brother protects me.

T’ah ’ałk’idídą́ą́’ t’áá neesh’į́į́ ńt’éé’.

still quite.long.ago just 2-1-see.P past
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It’s been some time since I’ve seen you.

T’ah doo sha’áłchíní haleehę́ędą́ą́’ doozhǫǫgo shibéeso (sibéeso) hólǫ́ǫ́ ńt’éé’.

still NEG 1-children 3-be.born.I-past satisfactory 1-money 3-exist.NI past
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Before I acquired a family I had plenty of money.

Tooh ńlínígíí ha’naa shił ’adeezbą́ą́z ńt’éé’ tsinaabąąs nihits’ą́ą́’ k’é’éłtǫ’.

water river areal-across 1-with 3-drive.P past wagon 2dpl-away 3-break.P
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I started to ride across the river (by wagon) but it broke down on us.

Tsékooh biniit’aají łįį’hoł sizį́į́go binísá.

canyon 3-barring.to.a.point horse 4-with 3-stand.SPN.GO 3-1-caught-up.P
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I caught up with him sitting on his horse at the canyon.

Yiską́ągo níléí hódahdi ’ołta’di ni’dí’néeshtįįł nissin.

tomorrow that up.at school-at 1-teach.F 1-want.CI