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

’Ahbínídą́ą́’ ch’ééh niba’ hasht’e’ ’ádííníszin.

morning-Past in.vain 2-wait ready REFL-1-keep.CI

’Asdzą́ą́ Báhóózhóní yinishyée dooleeł.

woman happy 1-called.NI FUT

’ałdó’

’át’ahígo

’Áłah ’aleehdi hastiin léi’ t’óó yááłtih yiits’a’.

meeting-at man INDEF just 3-talk.Prog 3-be.heard.I

-ił

-ni

Béeso bá hooghan góne’ shił ha’ashch’ą́ą́l dóó ’azéé’ííł’íní bił yah ’ííyá.

money 3-for building inside 1-with 3-go.up.as.elevator.P and doctor 3-with into 1-GO.P

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

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

bik’ídadeediz

pl-3DO-1dpl-wrap.it.around.it.P

Ch’iyáán nináhíłnihgo haa nízahjį’ ’ánádįįh?

food 3-2-buy.R how 3-long.N-up.to 3-become.none.R

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 sits’ą́ą́’ hashtł’ish yiih yilwodgo t’áá ch’į́į́góó ch’ééh ’ííł’įįd.

car 1-from mud 3-into 3-go.P-GO failure in.vain 1-act.P

Da’ dichin nínízin?

Q hungry 2-want.NI

Dah díníilghaazhísh ’íilnilaa?

fry.bread-Q 3-2-make.P

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

deigo

Dibé tóógóó neeshkał.

sheep water-toward 3-1-herd.Prog

Díí yihahígíí biyi’, háísh tówónaanígóó ch’aa deeyá?

this year.IGII within who overseas.GOO travel 3-going.F-Q

doo deighánígóó

Ha’át’éegoshą’ t’áadoo ’azee’ál’į́į́góó nisíníyáa da?

why-Q NEG hospital-to 2-go.sg.P NEG

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

what Q man and girl 3-3-make.P

hanoołchaad

3DO-2dpl-card.it.(as.in.wool).P

hazhdínóołchał

3DO-4-card.it.(as.in.wool).F

háágóó

hádą́ą́’

Hái da shą’ tsinaa’eeł ’ájiilaa lá?

who DA Q boat 3-4-make.P DISC

Háidíígíí lá neidiyoołnih?

which.one-ÍGÍÍ Q 3-3-buy.F

Jooł ’ahííłhan ’áádóó ’atiin dóó ’anít’i’ báhátis ’eelts’id.

ball 3-1-throw.P and.then road and fence 3-over 3-move.SRO.P

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

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

neiilyé

3DO-1dpl-carry.a.ropelike.thing.around.I

Nichidí lá háadi nííníłbą́ą́z?

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

Nídeezidgo ’índa hoł ní’deeswod.

month-GO only.then 4-with 2-drive.back.F

Sha’ałchíní ayóó niłch’í naalkídi deineł’į́ ’áko ndi shí éí shináá bąą adin.

1-children very air 3-move.I 3-3.look.I however I 1-eyes 3-on doesn’t exist.

Shá bíighah yáshti’ lá.

sun proportionate 1-talk.I DISC

Shichá si’ą́ągo ’iiłhaazh.

1-huddle 3-put-SPN-GO 1-sleep.P

Shimá sání t’áá shídin ’ííyá.

Shitsili tsin ła’ nieidiitą́ii’ łeechą́ą́’ii’ łéi néídiiłhaal.

1-little.brother stick 3-3-pick.up.P-and dog INDEF 3-3-hit.P

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

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

shéłbéézh

3DO-1-boil.it.P

shíníłbéézh

3DO-2-boil.it.P

Sitsóóké da’ółta’go t’óó bik’iisdził.

1-grandchildren pl-school-GO just 3-1-support.Prog

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’iis Ts’ózídi shicheii bidááh níyá.

Crownpoint.at 1-grandfather 3-meet 1-walk.P

Tó bidinínáágóó ni’ bikáá’ hasé’éél.

water 3-opposite-toward land 3-on 1-float.P

yididoołhįh

3DO-3-melt.it.F

yiishjį́į́ł

Progressive Mode: 1-become.black.Prog

yishóóh

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

Yiską́ągo Bee’eldííldahsinilgóó ’adeesdee’.

tomorrow Albuquerque-to 4-PL.underway.F