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].

Ła’ ha’nitáhígíí ’éí biihidzóhí 50 entries

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

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

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

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

’Ahbínídą́ą́’ t’óó ’ahodiyeeshdláałgo biniinaa ’ólta’di doo hah níyáa da.

morning-past with pretend-1-move.Prog-GO 3-because school-at NEG quickly 1-go.P NEG

-ááłk’iis

-í + -jígo

-yah

Bilagáana ła’ níhit’ááh dookah jiní.

Anglo some 1Pl-close.to 3-go.Pl.F 4-say.NI

Ch’ééh jiyáán náshdį́į́h ’áádóó tó náshdlį́į́h.

watermelon again-1-eat.R then water again-1-drink.R

Ch’iyáán bá hooghandi béeso bideená naashnish.

food.store-at money 3-in-exchange.for 1-work.CI

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

Da’ Ron saad neiiłkaah?

Q Ron word 3-3-investigate.I

Dibé bighan báátis dah yiishte’.

Sheep corral 3-over up 1-climb.P

Díigi ’át’éego yigááł.

this-similar.to 3-walk.Prog

Díísh haa yit’éego ’atiin?

this-Q how 3-be.NI road

Dííshą’ látsíní háádę́ę́’ naa ninídee’?

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

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

doo --- le’ ’át’éégóó

doo chohoo’į́į́góó

Dził bit’ááhgi bįįh halzheeh.

mountain 3-close.to-at deer 3-3-hunting.CI

Gohwééh nayiisnii’ídiísh b bééhózin?

coffee 3-3-buy.P-at-Q 3-with 3-know.NI

Gohwééh t’áá bizhání ’éí doodaii’ ’abe’ bgo daats’í nínízin?

coffee only TOP or milk 3-with-GO perhaps 3-2-want.NI

Ha’át’íísh nizhé’é nayiisnii’?

what-Q 2-father 3-3-buy.P

haa nóolin

hahí

Háíshą’ tsinaa’eeł ’áyiilaa lá?

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

Háíshą’ tsinaa’eeł ’áyiilaa?

who-Q boat 3-3-make.P

Kin Łánídiísh ’éí doodago Bee’eldííldahsinildi daats’í naniná?

Flagstaff-at-Q TOP or Albuquerque-at perhaps 2-go.around.CI

KinŁánídi ’ííníshta’ ńt’éé’ ’áádóó t’áá ’ániidígo ’áadi náánísdzáá ńtéé’ ’ééhosisya’ lá.

Flagstaff-in 1-study.P past and.then just recently there-at 1-return.P past 1-get.hazy.P disc

Kwe’éshą’ haa nízah nináhálzhishgo nináháltį́į́h?

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

lágo

Mary bimá sání yá ’ata’ halne’.

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

Mary ha’át’íí nayiisnii’?

Mary what 3-3-buy.P

Na’ahóóhaii Ya’iishjááshtsoh bini góne’ nída’adleeh.

July 3-in 3-into rodeo 3-Pl-SUP-be.R

Na’ahóóhaii Ya’iishjááshtsoh bini góne’ nída’adleeh.

July 3-in 3-into rodeo 3-Pl-SUP-be.R

Ndáa’di shizhé’é diné ła’ y ’ahi’niigą́ą’go bita’ niséyá.

summer.ceremony-at 1-father man one 3-with Recip-3-fight.P-GO 3-between 3-1-go.siP

Neeznáadigóó ’oolkiłgo ’áłah ’aleeh daaní.

ten.at-toward time-GO meeting pl-4-say.NI

Nisneez sélį́į’go shicheii nahałáhági ’át’éego nahashłáa doo nisin.

1-tall.NI 1-become.P-GO 1-grandfather 3-perform.ceremony.CI-similar.to 1-perform.ceremony.CI future

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

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

Shilééchąą’í bikéé’ yishááł.

my.dog 3-following 1-go.Prog

Shiye’ éí naaki béeso yideená chidí yésį́.

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

Shínaaí shikétł’á ’iiyilgo łį́į́’ bikáá’ hasis’na’.

1-older.brother 1-foot-bottom 3-3-boost.P-GO horse 3-top up-1-crawl.P

Shínaaí tł’éédą́ą́’ hááhgóóshį́į́ Bilagáanak’ehjí bitsąąh yáłti’.

1-brother night-last somehow English 3-sleep 3-talk.P

t’áá ’íiyisíí

T’ááłáhádi kin binída’shiilzhiizh dóó hooghangóó dah ńdiikai.

once-at house 3-into-Pl-1dpl-dance.P home-toward start start-1dpl-go.pl.P

T’áadoo hooyání łį́į́’ shidáagi ch’éltáál.

suddenly horse 1-front-at 3-bolt.P

Yadiizíníshą’ haa néelt’e’go nínízin?

can-Q how 3.many.N-GO 2-want.NI

yí’aal

3DO-1-chew.it.P

yíní’aal

3DO-2-chew.it.P

Łį́į́’ ’áhidiníłnáago sizį́.

horse Recip-3-opposite-GO 3-du-stand.SPN