Pandora: The World of Avatar in The New York Times

Kaltxì, ma frapo–

I came across an article in today’s New York Times that I thought you’d like to see. It’s a feature on the Disney Avatar theme park, complete with wonderful photos. They even quoted a Na’vi phrase (Swotu Wayä) correctly!  🙂

The author was very positive about the park experience, writing:

[T]he world aims to give fans of the film (and young fans in the making) the same jaw-dropping, immersive experience that they came away with after watching the movie the first time.

Did they pull it off? The answer is a resounding yes. 

And here is a “360 video” that accompanies the article.

I can’t wait until November when I’ll get to see the park first-hand during the Avatar Meet-up. Nìsìlpey ultxarìyevun oel pxaya hapxìtut lì’fyaolo’ä awngeyä tsatseng nìteng!

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Way Tiretuä—The Shaman’s Song

Ma Eylan,

Over at, some folks took a stab at transcribing the Shaman’s Song that’s heard in Mo’ara.

Understanding sung lyrics isn’t easy. If you’re like me, you’ve often had to look up the lyrics to songs you find on the Internet, even if they’re in your own language, since it can be hard to make out what the singer is saying. (Most singers, I think, concentrate more on singing beautifully than on enunciating the words clearly.) And of course there’s a whole cottage industry of “Misheard Lyrics,” which can be pretty hilarious. (My all-time favorite is this one. For me, this song will always be, “Have You Ever Seen Lorraine?”) Given all that, I think the transcribers did a great job!

For the record, here are the actual lyrics. (I have several versions on my computer; I believe this is the final one that’s used in the park.) They go all the way back to 2015; you can see how much advanced planning goes into a huge undertaking like the Disney theme park! Keep in mind that this is poetry, and somewhat mysterious poetry at that. Poetical syntax doesn’t always follow the exact same rules as ordinary spoken language.


Ma Na’rìng alor,                                O beautiful forest,

Mì Na’rìng lu tsngawpay.               There are tears in the forest.

Atokirina’.                                             Woodsprite(s).

Awnga leym, lereym san                 We cry out, calling,

Ma Eywa (3X).                                      “O Eywa!” (3X)


’Awstengyawnem,                             Connected as one,

Ma Sa’nok aNawm.                           O Great Mother.

Atokirina’.                                            Woodsprite(s).

Awnga leym, lereym san               We cry out, calling,

Ma Eywa (3X).                                    “O Eywa!” (3X)


Tìnewfa leNa’vi,                                 By the People’s will,

Na’rìng tìng lawr.                              The forest is singing.

Atokirina’.                                             Woodsprite(s).

Awnga leym, lereym san                 We cry out, calling,

Ma Eywa (3X).                                      “O Eywa!” (3X)

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Aylì’u a ta “Eywa’eveng: Kifkey Uniltìrantokxä”—Words from Disney’s “Pandora: The World of Avatar”

Kaltxì, ma frapo.

As you all know, the new Walt Disney theme park in Orlando, Florida, “Pandora—the World of Avatar,” opened to the public at the end of May. Nìkeftxo, due to family health issues I wasn’t able to attend the Grand Opening. From what I’ve heard from people who were there, however, the park turned out beautifully. Barring any further difficulties, John and I are looking forward to finally seeing Mo’ara in November, at this year’s Avatar Meet-up. I hope to see a lot of you there as well!

The Disney people respected the language and worked hard to get the Na’vi in the park right, which was gratifying to me. There may be a couple of tiny things that still need to be tweaked, but all in all they did a fine job. In this long-overdue post, let me preview some of the Na’vi used in the park and go over some new vocabulary you’ll encounter there.

First, some names:

mo’ara (n., mo.’A.ra) ‘gathering place’

A mo’ara is a designated place where people gather, generally for some specific purpose. When it’s capitalized, Mo’ara is the name of the park itself.

satu’li (n., sa.TU’.li) ‘heritage’

You’ll encounter this word in the name of the main park restaurant, the Satu’li Canteen. What does a restaurant have to do with heritage? It’s simply that this restaurant is almost a museum, with unique exhibits of Na’vi art, artifacts, and cultural items—hand-woven tapestries, bows, cooking tools, jewelry, sketches and photographs . . . Important elements of the Na’vi heritage are on display here, hence the name Satu’li (Heritage) Canteen.

Pongu Pongu

As the name of the bar and refreshment stand in Mo’ara, Pongu Pongu requires some explanation.   🙂  You’re familiar, of course, with pongu as the word for ‘group of people’ or ‘party,’ as in tsampongu, ‘war party.’ As I understand it, this drink location was built by a tawtute who fell in love with Pandora and decided to stay. He was apparently a high-spirited type who loved to have a good time and “party hearty.” He must also have been a bit of a prankster. So even though pongu does not mean ‘party’ in the sense of “Let’s have a party!” he used it for the name of his bar as a kind of cross-linguistic pun, with tongue firmly in cheek.

The most extensive written Na’vi you’ll find in Mo’ara is on a Guide to the Flora and Fauna pamphlet handed out to all visitors. The safety instructions contained in this pamphlet are bilingual in English and Na’vi. I’ll explain some of the new vocabulary first and then show you the Na’vi instructions.

tìkxuke (n., tì ‘safety’

This is clearly derived from the adjective kxuke ‘safe.’

emkä (vtr., em.KÄ  inf. 2, 2) ‘cross’

This is the verb ‘cross,’ as in ‘cross a barrier’ or ‘cross a river.’ Note that although itself is intransitive, emkä is transitive and takes an object. This is of course parallel to za’u (vin.) and emza’u (vtr.).

kxu si (vin.) ‘harm’

Poeru kxu rä’ä si!
‘Do not harm her!’

tswìk (vtr.) ‘suck’

The reason sucking enters the picture is that the Na’vi term for smoking literally means ‘to suck smoke.’

tswìk kxenerit (vin.) ‘smoke’

And now you should have everything you need to understand the Na’vi safety instructions. See if you can figure them out without the Engish, which I’ll include at the end of this post.


Tengkrr lerang Mo’arat nì’o’ nì’aw,
rutxe ayoeru srung si fte tsivun ayoe fmival
tìkxuket ngeyä sì Mo’arayä fa fwa lek faysänumet:

  • Rä’ä yomtivìng ayioangur
  • Rä’ä fmivi livok fu emkivä ayekxanit a fkol ngolop
    fpi sìkxuke ayfrrtuä sì ayioangä
  • Rä’ä fmivi kxu sivi ayioangur fu helkur feyä
  • Ke tung Na’vil futa tswìk kxenerit Mo’araka nìwotx

Srake fìtìralpeng sunu ayngar?

Finally, two expressions you’re likely to hear during your visit:

taksyokx (vin., tak.SYOKX  inf. 1, 1) ‘clap hands’

This verb is derived from takuk ‘strike’ + tsyokx ‘hand.’

Taksyokx, ma frato!
‘Let’s give (him/her/them) a hand, everybody!’

And when you’ve completed your journey and returned to your starting point, you’ll probably be greeted with:

Tolätxaw nìprrte’! ‘Welcome back!’

Now that things are finally returning to normal here at home, I’m hoping to catch up on my Na’vi backlog, which includes some fine suggestions from the LEP along with quite a few new terms for Pandoran flora and fauna. Nìsìlpey ye’rìn.

One more thing: A while ago, I believe someone sent me an email with their transcription of one of the songs heard in the park, asking me to review it. Tsa’upxaret fwolew oel slä ke tsängun rivun. If whoever sent me that would please send it again, I’ll be happy to take a look at your transcription.

Hayalovay, ma eylan! And for those of you in the States, a very happy Fourth.


Here’s the English for the safety instructions:


While you enjoy your exploration of Mo’ara,
please help us put safety first for both you and Mo’ara
by following the guidelines below:

  • Do not feed the animals
  • Do not attempt to approach or cross any barriers
    designed for Guest and animal safety
  • Do not attempt to harm the animals or their habitats
  • The Na’vi have banned smoking in Mo’ara
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Tìtusemteri—Concerning Shooting

Shooting—whether it’s the Na’vi with their tsko swizaw or the Sawtute with their hunsìp—plays a significant role in “Avatar.” Recently, Tsm. Plumps alu Stefan requested clarification on the Na’vi terminology for shooting, so let me share with you here what I told him:

We have two words that specifically mean ‘shoot,’ tem and toltem.

Tem (vin.) is the intransitive ‘shoot.’ It talks about the action itself, without mentioning the weapon used or the object to be shot.

Tem rä’ä!
‘Don’t shoot!’

It’s also the verb used to translate “shoot at”—that is, the act of discharging a weapon towards someone or something with the intention of killing or maiming. In this construction, “at” is translated as ne:

Oene fko terem!!!
“Someone is shooting at me!!!”

Toltem is vtr. Stress on the second syllable: tol.TEM. Infixes are 1, 2. The object is the person, animal, or thing shot and presumably injured or killed—that is, the target of the shooting.

Plltxe Ralu san oe new tivoltem yerikit.
‘Ralu says he wants to shoot a hexapede.’

Now note something interesting: In English we can say “shoot an animal” or “shoot an arrow.” These are both transitive constructions that take objects. But semantically they’re very different. “Animal” is the target; “arrow” is the weapon used. Na’vi distinguishes these. For the former we use toltem, for the latter we use tsweykayon ‘cause to fly, let fly.’  So ‘shoot an arrow’ is swizawti tsweykayon. (Since tsweykayon is a predictable infixed form, it’s not listed separately in the dictionary.)

Swizawti tsweykayon nefä ne taw, tsenga zup ke lu law.
‘I shot an arrow into the air, / It fell to earth, I know not where.’ (H.W. Longfellow)

Txo nga zene tivem, tsatìtusem livu muiä.
‘If you must shoot, let it be justified.’


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Ayioang amip sì ayu alahe—New animals and other things

Kaltxì, ma frapo.

As you know, Cirque du Soleil’s production “Toruk,” created with James Cameron’s participation and full approval, has expanded our knowledge of the Na’vi universe, and that includes new additions to our Na’vi dictionary. Let me give you some of that new vocabulary here—clan names, animals, and cultural items.

First, we have names for four clans other than the Omatikaya:

Anurai [n.,]

Kekunan [n., KE.ku.nan]

Tipani [n.,]

Tawkami [n., taw.KA.mi]

You’ll be able to find some descriptive material for these clans online.

Next, a couple of animals:

[Note: The descriptions below of animals and cultural items, which I’ve put in quotes, are excerpted and slightly paraphrased from the information I’ve received from official sources.]

tspìng (n.) ‘austrapede’

“Similar to the Terran ostrich or emu, the austrapede is a flightless avian-like creature with a long extended neck and two vestigial “wings” on either side of its body.  Spindly, multi-jointed legs and neck and head protuberances resemble Terran avian plumage.  It’s decorated with mottled skin and has a long tail. Size: Up to 4 meters in height, fully grown.”

mawup (n., MA.wup) ‘turtapede’

“Large six-finned aquatic creature with a plated and armored outer carapace shell leading to a multi-colored dorsal ‘fin’.  Four ‘arm’ fins are used for propulsion, with the two ‘back’ fins used in a rudder-like fashion.  Mouth is a long snout-like protuberance with small, baleen-like teeth. Size: 5-6 meters from snout to tail, and roughly 4 meters tall.”

And some cultural items:

Txärpawk (n., TXÄR.pawk) ‘Palulukan Bone Horn’

This is derived from txärem ‘bone’ and:

pawk (n.) ‘horn, wind instrument’

[Note: The general term for musical instrument, as you know, is ’otxang. Pawk refers to a specific kind of instrument, one you play by blowing into or across.]

“The Palulukan Bone Horn is a sacred object created by the Anurai, a Na’vi clan that reside in a vast bone sanctuary.  This fine piece of craftsmanship has the ability, once blown, to summon from the skies the great Leonopteryx.”

Lo’akur (n., lo.’a.KUR) ‘Toruk Makto Amulet’

This literally means ‘hanging amulet,’ from lo’a ‘amulet’ and kur ‘hang.’

lo’a (n., LO.’a) ‘amulet’

“The first of five sacred items that fit into the prophecy and legend of the first ever Toruk Makto.  This totem is suspended above a raging fire pit, and as part of a young Na’vi’s Iknimaya rite of passage, the young Na’vi must climb the precarious rope to reach and retrieve the suspended amulet.”

Note: In writing, this word is identical to the dative case of the Na’vi name Lo’ak. But in speech they’re distinguished. Do you see how?  🙂

Nawmtoruktek (n., nawm.TO.ruk.tek) ‘Toruk Makto Totem’

Derived from nawm + toruk + :

tekre (n., ‘skull’

“In the center of the Omatikaya clan’s Hometree eating area is a huge skull of a Great Leonopteryx, which serves as a totem to the Toruk Makto, the great, great, great, great grandfather of the Olo’eyktan. This totem serves as a constant reminder of the legendary hero who rode the Great Leonopteryx and brought together the Na’vi clans in a time of great strife.”

ionar (n., I.o.nar) ‘banshee rider visor’

Derived from io ‘over, above’ and nari ‘eye.’


Edit March 1: txär —> txärem  Irayo, ma Plumps!
Edit March 1: Changed stress in Tawkami from TAW.ka.mi to taw.KA.mi, which seems to be more in keeping with how the Cirque du Soleil cast members are pronouncing it.
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Melì’uteri alu tung sì pllhrr—About tung and pllhrr


I’ve been reminded that I never specified the syntax of tung ‘allow, let, permit,’ so let me do that now:

Tung is a vtr—a transitive verb. Its object is the thing that’s being allowed:

Ke tung fkol tìwusemit fìtseng.
‘Fighting isn’t allowed here.’

With sentences like “He allowed me to go,” however, two different structures are possible, depending on how you analyze the object of tung.

On the one hand, the object of tung—that is, the thing being allowed—is simply the going itself. In our example, “me” represents the receiver of the permit, so to speak, and goes into the dative case. So we have:

A1. Pol tolung oeru futa kivä.
      ‘He allowed me to go.’

Just plain would be OK in such sentences as well:

A2.  Tung oer futa kä!
        ‘Let me go!’

By the way, in colloquial speech futa can be pronounced simply fta, with the u dropping, although it’s not usually written that way. (We also have, as you know, the word fta meaning ‘knot,’ but I can’t think of a situation where there would be the possibility of confusion.) So A2 can be even shorter, just four syllables: Tung oer f(u)ta kä!

On the other hand, we can think of the object of tung as MY going, not just the going itself. In this case there is no receiver in the dative case, and we have:

B. Pol tolung futa oe kivä.
    ‘He allowed me to go.’

So A says that what he allowed is going, and he allowed it to me; B says that what he allowed is my going. It’s hard to see a difference there. The A and B structures are identical in meaning, and both are common, although sometimes one or the other will fit better into a particular context.


Some of you have come across the word pllhrr:

pllhrr (vin., pll.HRR, inf 1,1) ‘warn’

It’s identical in meaning and use to the word for ‘warn’ that you already know, penghrr.

Tseyk Na’viru polhrr teri Sawtute.
‘Jake warned the Na’vi about the Skypeople.’

And parallel to säpenghrr ‘warning,’ we have:

säpllhrr (n., spll.HRR) ‘warning’

Like its counterpart, it can be pronounced colloquially without the ä: spllhrr.

How did Na’vi come to have two slightly different words for the same thing? We can speculate. Looking at the <ol> form of both verbs—polenghrr and polhrr—we see they’re quite similar. Assuming penghrr was the original word, we can imagine young Na’vi hearing polenghrr in fast speech, where the middle syllable is unstressed, and thinking they’re hearing polhrr. This would lead them to assume the original verb was pllhrr, which actually makes sense from a derivational point of view, with pll coming from plltxe ‘speak.’ (To warn, you can “tell danger” or “speak danger.”) In time pllhrr came to be accepted as standard Na’vi alongside penghrr.

The two different syntactic structures with tung and the two different words for ‘warn’ are examples of how language sometimes gives you a choice, where there are few if any consequences of choosing one possibility over the other. It’s rather like how we contract “he is not” in English: either “he isn’t” or “he’s not,” with no difference between the two (at least none I can think of!).


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Tengkrr perähem zìsìt amip . . . As the New Year arrives . . .

Kaltxì nìmun, ma frapo.

Before the year ends (at least here in Los Angeles!), I want to wish you all a very Happy New Year, and also express some personal thoughts and feelings that have been on my mind and in my heart the last few months. And we’ll have a bit of new vocabulary along the way as well.

räptum (adj., räp.TUM) ‘coarse, vulgar, socially unacceptable’

This word refers to behavior, whether in action or in word, that offends the Na’vi sense of politeness, propriety, and social ceremony. Not using honorific language in a ceremony where such language is called for would be considered räptum, as would not deferring to rank and authority, taking too much food during a social meal, using vulgar language, etc.

Note this idiom, an admonition to children: Rä’ä räptum! ‘Don’t be impolite!’

(Child to aged adult:) Ngal new peut?
‘What do you want?’
(Child’s parent responds:) Rä’ä räptum, ma ’eveng! Tsaylì’u ke lu muiä!
‘Don’t be impolite, child! Those words are improper!’

txanlokxe (n., txan.lo.KXE) ‘clan or tribal domain; country’

This word is derived from txan (great) + olo’ (tribe, clan) + atxkxe (land). It refers to the entire territory of Pandora that is under the control of or dominated by a particular clan. On earth, txanlokxe may be used for ‘country.’

tsamsä’o (n., TSAM.sä.’o) ‘weapon of war’

tìtxurnga’ (adj., tì.TXUR.nga’) ‘powerful’ (not for people)

Both txantur and tìtxurnga’ mean ‘powerful.’ The difference is that the first word is only for people, while the second is for things. (Compare tstew and tìtstewnga’.) So a powerful woman is tuté atxantur, while a powerful idea is säfpìl atìtxurnga’.

leym (vin.) ‘call out, cry out, exclaim’

As a verb of speaking, leym generally requires the same kind of syntax as plltxe—that is, san . . . sìk constructions.

nìzen (adv., nì.ZEN) ‘necessarily’

kenzen (adv., ken.ZEN) ‘not necessarily’


Ma oeyä eylan ayawne,

Tengkrr zìsìt leratem, sìlpey oe tsnì zìsìtìl amip awngaru nìwotx zamiyevunge txana fpomit sì fpomtokxit, ulte tsnì mipa fìzìsìt sìltsan lìyevu to pum a ’ìlmi’a. Slä oe zenänge pivlltxe san zusawkrrìri txopu si oe nìtxan. Oeri lu ayskxe mì te’lan.

Tìfkeytok a mì tanlokxe oeyä alu Amerika längu txewm sì lehrrap. Fkol ftxolängey na eyktan tutanti a tìeyktanìri ke lu pxan kaw’it. Kifkeyri fìtutanìl ayaymak ke tslam stum ke’ut, ulte ke new nivume nì’ul. Po yawne lu snor nì’aw; fpom txanlokxeyä ke tsranten. Plltxe po nìtengfya na ’eveng a’ewan, ke na fyeyntu. Pori lu snolup räptum, ulte mawl aylì’uä ke lu ngay. Ran peyä lu kawng. Frapor a ke sunu por zoplo si. Fratsengmì a tsane po kä, ’ul tìve’kì.

Tìeyktanìri aysäfpìl peyä lu reng, aysìhawl lu fe’ran. Ulte ftxoley pol ayeyktanayti a lu stum nìftxan kawng na po. Nìngay lu po skxawng.

Slä tsranten frato, tsatutan layängu ye’rìn eyktan a txantur frato ’Rrtamì, ulte pori aysamsä’o atìtxurnga’ frato mì hifkey layu mì syokx. Kempe po sayi? Ke omum, slä lu oer sngumtsim a pol Amerikat skiyeva’a, ulte kxawm kifkeyti nìwotx nìteng.

Zun Eywa’evengit oel tivok, zel leym san Srung si ayoeru, ma Eywa sìk! Slä ’Rrta ke lu Eyweveng. Ha kempe tsun sivi set? Nìrangal lirvu oer tì’eyng. Zerok awngal nìwotx krrit a poltxe Tseyk san Eo ayoeng lu txana tìkawng sìk. Tì’efumì oeyä, fìtìfkeytok a eo ayoeng set lu steng. Na’vi kempe soli? Wolem. Zene awnga wivem nìteng—zene fya’ot rivun. Ulte wä sìkawng a fìtìwusemìri, zene awnga nìwotx fìtsap släpivan.

(TSERI RUTXE: Faysäfpìl faysì’efusì lu pum oeyä nì’aw, kenzen pum suteyä a zamolunge awngar relit arusikx alu Uniltìrantokx.)

With hopes for, somehow, a better 2017 . . .

Mipa Zìsìt Lefpom, ma frapo.


ta Pawl

Edit Jan. 5: ayeyktanay –> ayeyktanayti  (Irayo, ma Plumps!)
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Interviews, Questions, Comments

Kaltxì, ma frapo.

I thought you might be interested in a few things I’ve been doing.

First, I did an interview for a UK-based language blog that’s now online:

You probably won’t find anything here that you haven’t heard or seen before, but I think it’s a nice summary of certain considerations that were important in the creation of Na’vi.

I’ve also done an interview—along with David Peterson, creator of the Dothraki and Valyrian languages for “Game of Thrones”—for the humor/information web site It’s titled “6 Things You Never Knew About Inventing Languages For Game Of Thrones And Avatar.” It should be appearing shortly. When it does, I’ll let you know.

Also, let me take this opportunity to thank everyone who commented so positively on the last post. Seiyi irayo, ma smuk. Aylì’u ayngeyä oeru teya si. And let me respond to the questions and comments.

Tanri asked about the pronunciation of soleia. The careful, “correct” pronunciation, as you know, has four syllables: so.le.i.A. But in ordinary conversation, people will almost certainly reduce it to three. Would it then be so.ley.A or so.le.YA? In terms of pronunciation, I don’t think it matters: there’s very little difference between the two, at least to my ears.  🙂 By the way, something similar happens with kameie in Oel ngati kameie. The last word is “correctly” four syllables, but almost always pronounced in three.

Plumps asked what happens to a verb like ue’ if we try to add the honorific, second-position infix <uy>. You can see the problem: we get uuye’, which is not allowable, since in Na’vi we don’t have two identical vowels in sequence. A similar problem arises, much more familiarly, when we add the positive-attitude infix <ei> to si: we should get seii. Well, you all know what happens in the latter case: seii becomes seiyi, where a y intervenes between the two i’s. If we tried to do the same thing with uuye’, we’d get uwuye’, where w is the natural sound to interpose between the two u’s. But another possibility is simply to have the two u’s coalesce into one: uuye’ > uye’. For some reason, this feels like the more natural solution; uwuye’ just looks odd to me. I’d be interested in how other people feel about this.

And now a question for Plumps: Could you please come up with a context in which you would add the honorific infix to ue’? I’d be very interested in that story!  🙂

Blue Elf and Vawmataw discussed how the word Skype should appear in Na’vi. When it comes to foreign terms adapted into Na’vi phonology, there’s often room for variation. The question we need to ask ourselves is how a native Pandoran, hearing (rather than seeing) the English (or French or German or whatever) word, would pronounce it. In the case of Skype, if Neytiri or Eytukan heard the English word “Skype,” there’s no reason they would give it two syllables, since the English word has one syllable and a Na’vi word can end with a p-sound perfectly well. So they would probably just say Skayp. Might they say Skxayp? I suppose so. To be honest, the reason I chose that form is that I saw it used that way in the lì’fyaolo’ and I said to myself, “Well, why not?” I’d be happy to have two alternate forms that can be used interchangeably: Skayp and Skxayp.

Finally, Vawmataw commented that the word paskalin ‘sweet berry, sweetheart’ sounds just like the French word Pascaline. Irayo, ma ’eylan! I was completely unaware of that. I’ve since learned from Wikipedia that a Pascaline is a mechanical calculator invented by Pascal in the 17th century. Imagine that!

This is a nice example of what has been called a “bilingualism”—a sequence of sounds that exists meaningfully in two languages, where the meanings are generally very different. Let me give you my two favorite examples.

The first comes from the great pianist Artur Schnabel, as related by Abram Chasins in his 1957 book Speaking of Pianists: “I once mentioned a pianist who was about to give an all-Mozart concert. ‘Oh,’ said Schnabel, ‘when he plays it, it isn’t Mozart. It’s Nozart.’ Particularly ingenious, I think is the bilingualism: the English ‘notes-art’ implying the pianist’s inexpressivity, and the German ‘no-zart,’ (zart meaning tender or delicate).” Sìlronsem nìngay, kefyak?

The second takes a particular phrase and tries to “hear” it in both French and Yiddish. The phrase in French would be gai avec un fils, which I suppose means “happy with a son,” although I don’t know if this is really idiomatic. In any event, if you alter the pronunciation slightly and put it into Yiddish, you get “Go away without feet.”


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Recordings added to the last post

Ma frapo,

We now have voice recordings for all the examples in the last post, beautifully read by a tsulfätu lì’fyayä, our own Neytiri. Seiyi irayo, ma Ney. Ngeyä lì’upam lor lu nìngay.

We’ll have more “guest readers” in the future.

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Mrrvola Lì’fyavi Amip—Forty New Expressions

Kaltxì nìmun, ma eylan! And hello again. Tse . . . it’s been a while. 🙂 I hope you’ve all been healthy and happy during my temporary absence from the blog. And I hope you’ll find the approximately 40 new words and expressions below useful.

Before anything else, though, I want to congratulate the organizers of AvatarMeet 2016. John and I returned from Pittsburgh a few days ago with very happy memories. Facilitating the move to a new city in such a short time was a daunting task, but the organizers really rose to the occasion. Soleia, ma smuk! (See below.) The guidebook to Pittsburgh and the Meet-up was, as usual, beautifully put together and extremely useful. The hotel was great, literally right next door to the arena where the Cirque du Soleil performance was held. I thought my Na’vi class—this time based on the Na’vi dialog in the show we were all going to see that night, TORUK: The First Flight—went pretty well; it was a special honor to welcome nine or ten cast members from the show who opted to sit in on the class! Their enthusiasm was infectious. And after the show, we were all treated to a Q&A session with cast members followed by a backstage tour to see how some of the Cirque magic was created. All in all, a very successful meet-up.

Here’s a little interview I did for the Cirque du Soleil Facebook page, from my seat in the arena, five minutes before the show began. (The video is currently first in the “All Videos” section.)

Looking forward to next year, I’m very excited about our meet-up in Orlando, Florida, during which we’ll visit the new Disney theme park, Pandora: The World of AVATAR, due to open next year. I’ve been working with the Disney folks on the Na’vi language elements of the park, of which there will be quite a few! 🙂 In particular, you’ll hear Na’vi spoken while you’re on the “e-ticket” ride. It’s being developed here in Glendale, California, and a few weeks ago I had the privilege of riding the prototype! Wou! I can’t say much about it right now except that it’s VERY exciting, and I know you’re going to love it! Zìsìtayri srefereiey nìprrte’!

OK, on to the new vocabulary. Nìfrakrr, I want to thank all the members of the lì’fyaolo’ who contributed ideas and suggestions. Irayo nìtxan ayngaru nìwotx, ma smuk. Some of the words and expressions below are direct consequences of their contributions. You’ll find the new items in more-or-less random order. Voice recordings of the examples will be coming soon. [UPDATE 7/07: We now have recordings for all the examples, beautifully read by our own Neytiri. Irayo nìtxan, ma tsmuk!]

ler (adj.) ‘steady, smooth (for motion)’

nìler (adv., nì.LER) ‘steadily’

Ler refers to smooth, steady motion as opposed to motion that’s jerky or chaotic.

Nìsngä’i ke tsun Tsyeyk tswivayon nìler.
‘At first, Jake couldn’t fly steadily.’

You may remember that we already have a word meaning steadily, nìk’ärìp as in fyep nìk’ärìp ‘hold steadily,’ but that’s different. Nìk’ärìp refers to stillness—keeping something from moving. Nìler refers to smooth movement. Nìler may also be extended metaphorically beyond the realm of physical movement to a more general idea of smooth, unbroken action, as is the case in English: tìkangkem si nìler ‘to work steadily (without stopping)’.

lo’a (n., LO.’a) ‘totem’

Totems are large structures built by the Na’vi for various symbolic and ritual purposes.

Naranawm (n., nar.a.NAWM) ‘Polyphemus’

From Nari anawm, ‘Great eye.’ (And if anyone is wondering, srane, this term has been officially approved at the highest level. 🙂 )

’ewrang (n., ’EW.rang) ‘loom’

sa’ewrang (n., sa.’EW.rang) ‘mother loom, giant loom. ’From sa’nok + ’ewrang.

tiretu (n., ti.RE.tu) ‘shaman’ From tirea + tute ‘spirit person’

A tiretu can be male or female. Every tsahìk is a tiretu, but not vice versa.

pasuk (n., PA.suk) ‘berry’

A pasuk is a kind of mauti ‘fruit.’

vozampasukut (n., ‘grinch tree; thousand berry tree’

From vozam ‘512, equivalent in use to 1,000’ + pasuk + ut(ral)

One of the prominent features of the grinch tree is its edible fruit, which looks rather like a raspberry—that is, made up of many little round components, almost like tiny little berries themselves. Hence the “thousand-berry tree.”

paskalin (n., pa.ska.LIN) ‘sweet berry (term of endearment)’

From pasuk akalin ‘sweet berry’: pasuk akalin > paskakalin > paskalin

Hivahaw nìmwey, ma paskalin.
‘Sleep well, honey.’ (Father to little daughter.)

fngä’tseng (n., FNGÄ’.tseng) ‘restroom (on earth)’

mo a fngä’ (n., MO a FNGÄ’) ‘restroom (on earth)’

Both of these terms mean ‘restroom’ and can be used interchangeably on Earth. Fngä’tseng is more general, not necessarily implying an enclosed area, so it’s also used among the Na’vi for any “place of elimination.” In contrast, mo a fngä’ is always an enclosed private structure or room.

sa (vin.) ‘rise to a challenge’

This simple verb yields some important related expressions:

Siva ko! (si.VA ko)
‘Rise to the challenge! Courage! You can do it!’

Siva ko indicates encouragement before or while attempting a challenge.

Soleia! (so.le.i.A, or usually simply so.ley.A—just make sure the stress is on the final syllable!)
‘Congratulations! Nice going! You met the challenge! You did it!’

Soleia is used for congratulating someone after successfully meeting a challenge.

Sasya! (sa.SYA)
‘I’ll rise to the challenge! I can do it!’

Sasya is used for self-encouragement before attempting a challenge. Recall that the <asy> version of the future infix indicates intention as opposed to a mere prediction about the future.

You can also use sasya as a friendly and somewhat humorous response to a request:

Q: Ätxäle si, oer syivaw trray ha’ngir fa Skxayp?
‘Could you [literally, may I ask you to] call me on Skype tomorrow afternoon?’

A: Sasya!
‘Yup, I’ll rise to the challenge!’ OR ‘Sure will!’ OR ‘Will do!’

An idiomatic expression:

Tsun pehem?

This is short for Tsun fko pehem sivi? ‘What can one do?’ It’s used in a somewhat fatalistic way, when you throw up your hands in an unpleasant situation or when something doesn’t turn out well, and you say, “What are you gonna do? That’s life.”

tanleng (n.,TAN.leng) ‘bark (of a tree)’

From tangek ‘trunk’ + ta’leng ‘skin’:

tangekta’leng > tangta’leng > tanta’leng > tanleng

syokup (n., syo.KUP) ‘weight (physical)’

Note the the stress is on the second syllable.

syo ‘light’ + ku’up ‘heavy’ > syoku’up > syokup

kewan (n., KE.wan) ‘age’

From koak ‘old’+ ’ewan ‘young’ > ko’ewan > kewan

You can use kewan to inquire about someone’s age:

Ngeyä kewan pìmtxan? = Ngari solew polpxay?
‘How old are you?’

But the form with kewan is a bit formal and stiff; the one with solew is more common and colloquial. Recall that solew is colloquial for solalew.

Koakturi kewanti keyìl ke wan.
‘An old person’s face doesn’t hide their age.’
That is, Some things can’t be covered up.

tìnvi (n., TÌ ‘task, errand, step (in an instruction)’

tìnvi si ‘perform a task, run an errand’

Oer txoa livu, ke tsun oe kivä ngahu. Zene pxaya tìnvi sivi.
‘Sorry, I can’t go with you. I have a lot of errands to run.’

txanwetseng (n., txan.WE.tseng) ‘personally significant or beloved place, heimat

From txanwawea tseng. txanwawea tseng > txanwea tseng > txanwetseng

Txanwetseng is close in spirit to the German word heimat. Here’s what Wiktionary says about it. (And thank you to the LEP for pointing this out.)

Heimat refers to a place towards which one has a strong feeling of belonging, and (usually) a deep-rooted fondness. Most commonly this is one’s native region, but it may also be where one has lived for long, where one’s family is, or where one feels at home for whatever reason. Heimat may be the whole of one’s native country, but more often it is a relatively narrow region (typically with its particular traditions, landscape, dialect, and so on). Even if it refers to a country, it is always defined exclusively by a person’s emotional ties with it.” [Slightly edited.]

penghrr (vin., peng.HRR—inf. 1, 1) ‘warn’

Tsyeyk Na’viru polenghrr teri Sawtute.
‘Jake warned the Na’vi about the Skypeople.’

säpenghrr (n., sä.peng.HRR) ‘warning’

This word is often pronounced spenghrr colloquially, although the spelling remains säpenghrr.

Somwewä tì’ul a ka ’Rrta säpenghrr lu awngaru nìwotx.
‘Global warming (literally, the increase in temperature across the Earth) is a warning to us all.’

tì’ul (n., tì.’UL) ‘increase’

eyawrfya (n., e.YAWR.fya) ‘right way (of doing something), correct path’

Neytiril Tsyeykur kolar eyawrfyat a fyep tskoti.
‘Neytiri taught Jake the right way to hold a bow.’

Eyawrfyari zene tslivam fya’ot a mìn kifkey.
‘To know the right way, you have to understand how the world turns.’
(From Cirque du Soleil’s TORUK: The First Flight.)

stiwi (n., STI.wi) ‘mischief’

stiwi si (vin.) ‘be naughty, do mischief’

Stiwi rä’ä si, ma ’eveng! Uvan si mì sengo alahe.
‘Don’t be naughty, child! Play somewhere else.’

stiwinga’ (adj, STI.wi.nga’) ‘mischievous’

stiwisiyu (n., ‘mischief-maker’

Note: In nouns ending in –siyu that are derived from si-verbs, the –siyu element is often pronounced –syu in colloquial speech: tsamsyu, stiwisyu. Except when we want to mimic colloquial pronunciation, however (as we do in English when we write gonna instead of going to), the spelling remains –siyu.

rawng (n.) ‘entrance, doorway’

Fpxoläkìm fo ìlä rawng ahì’i.
‘They entered through (or via) a small doorway.’

syewe (n., SYE.we) ‘fat (substance in meat)’

syewenga’ (adj., SYE.we.nga’) ‘fatty’

Poanur sunu tsngan asyewenga’; poeru ke sunu kaw’it.
‘He likes fatty meat; she doesn’t like it at all.’

laro si (vin., si) ‘clean, make free of dirt’

This is a general term. In contrast, yur means ‘wash’—that is, with water.

Txo ke livu pay, tsun mesyokxur laro sivi fa srä.
‘If water isn’t available, you can clean your hands with a cloth.’

slukx (n.) ‘horn of an animal’

Nari si! Tsaioangur lu pxia meslukx!
‘Careful! That animal has two sharp horns!’

tsin (n.) ‘nail, claw’

ue’ (vin., vtr., u.E’—inf. 1, 2) ‘vomit, vomit up’

Oey nantangtsyìp olue’ taluna yom nìhawng.
‘My dog vomited because it ate too much.’

nantangtsyìp (n., NAN.tang.tsyìp) ‘dog (earth animal)’

This goes along with palukantsyìp ‘cat’. Recall that oey is informal/colloquial for oeyä.

Prrnenìl wutsot olue’.
‘The baby vomited up its meal.’

hiup (vin.,vtr., HI.up) ‘spit, spit out’

Tsakem rä’ä si, ma ’itan. Fwa hiup fìtseng ke lu muiä.
‘Don’t do that, son. It’s not proper to spit here.’

Well, that’s it for now. I hope to see you here again soon. Hayalovay!

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