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

’Ach’ą́ nisin ndi shidíbé nído’ahígíí ’ádin.

meat.hunger 1-want.NI but 1-sheep 4-butcher.F 3-1.none.NI

’Ahwééh bee yishdlį́hígíí bikáá’ ’adání bikáá’ dah yish’ááh.

coffee 3-with 3-1-drink.P-NOM table 3-on up 3-1-put.SRO.U

’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?

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

boy little gun 3-on.account.of REFL-3-hurt.P
listenloadingplaying

The little boy hurt himself with the gun.

’Áádę́ę́’ nánísdzáago łį́į́’ bá nida’deeshjoł.

from.there 1-return.P-GO horse 3-for pl-1-set.out.NCM.F

’Áádóó éí haa daadzaa?

and.then TOP what pl-3-do.P

’át’ahígo

’Áłtsé biba’ dooleeł ’áko shį́į́ ’índa nihił dah adidoolwoł.

first 3.for will until then only 1.with start 3-drive.F
listenloadingplaying

We’ll wait for them, only then will we start to drive away.

’Ólta’di ’áłchíní binaashii sédáago ’ííníshta’.

school-at children 3-across.from 1-sit.SNP 3-read.NI

’Ádą́ą́dą́ą́’ásh nishínílnish?

yesterday-Q 2-work.P

-í + -jígo

-ídin

-jí + -k’ehgo

-na’

bik’ídidoohdis

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

bik’ídidíídis

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

Da’ Ron saad neiiłkaah?

Q Ron word 3-3-investigate.I
listenloadingplaying

Is Ron studying words?

Daané’é baa na’aldeehdi ’at’ééd jooł yídzoołtał.

game 3-to 3-happen.CI-at girl ball 3-3-kick.Prog

Dibé bighan báátis dah yiishte’.

sheep corral 3-over up 1-climb.P

didínóołkał

3DO-2dpl-start.to.herd.them.(animals).F

dizhdínóołkał

3DO-4-start.to.herd.them.(animals).F

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.

Dííshą’ látsíní háádę́ę́’ naa ninídee’?

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

Doo ńdeeshdááł da, háálá kwii doo shił yá’áhoot’éeh da.

NEG 1-return.F NEG because here NEG 1-with 3-good.NI NEG
listenloadingplaying

I won’t come back because I don’t like it here.

doo yéé --- -í

Dooshą’ kót’éego áníléeh da lá.

ensure like.this 2-do.I DISC

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’íísh neidiyoołnih nínízin?

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

Ha’át’íí nizhé’é yaa naaghá?

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

hahgo

listenloadingplaying

when [future]

Haidą́ą́’ ’a’áán góne’ naashnish ńt’éé’ --- doo sh yá’áhoot’éeh da.

winter-past mine.shaft 1-work.I past neg 1-with area-good.N neg

Háadi lá dibé nidahaniih?

where-at Q sheep pl-3-pass-sell.CI

Háísh tsinaa’eeł ’áyiilaa?

who-Q boat 3-3-make.P
listenloadingplaying

Who made a boat?

Hodíínáá’ágo bááh dootł’izhí ła’ deeshį́į́ł.

after.a.while-GO bread blue some 1-eat.F

Jáan, nanilnishísh?

John 2-work.I-Q
listenloadingplaying

John, are you working?

Jooł nits’ą́ą́’ nídiish’aah.

ball 2-away.from up-begin-1-lift.I

Naaki nááhaigo shich’é’é náá’íídeeshtah, ní.

Two year.GO 1-daughter again.school.F said.
listenloadingplaying

My daughter said, “In two years, I’ll continue my studies.”

Níká ’adeeshwoł biniiyé níyá.

2-for 1-run.F 3-purpose.of 1-came.P

Shibéézh bik’í’óshch’iid le’ ’éé’ bitahgi yóó’ ’eelts’id.

1-knife 1-find.it.O clothes 3-among 3-move.P

Shich’ahashkéé léi’ doo bíká ’iishyeed da.

1-3-upset.I since NEG 3-for 1-help.I NEG
listenloadingplaying

I didn’t help him/her since s/he was upset with me.

Shimá dóó shizhé’é Yootóodi ’ółta’ ńt’éé’.

1-mother and 1-father Santa.Fe-at 3-go.to.school.NI past

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.

Siláo yik’ee noochééł.

police account 3-flee.Prog
listenloadingplaying

S|he is running away from the police.

t’áá ’íiyisíí

Tódínéeshzhee’góó hodzoołtsééh laanaa.

kayenta-to areal-4-see.O hope
listenloadingplaying

I wish i could see Kayenta.

yidooyį́į́ł

3DO-3-eat.it.F

yiilbéézh

3DO-1dpl-boil.it.I

yíshóó’

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

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.

łáháda