Kaltxì, ma oeyä eylan. Sunu oeru fwa fìtsengit terok oel nìmun. It’s nice to be back after my hiatus.
In this post it’s my pleasure to convey to you some terrific work of several of our Sulfätu leLì’fya—Language Masters.
Our friends Kemaweyan, Plumps, Prrton, and Tirea Aean have come up with a uniquely Na’vi way of listing and pronouncing the 33 phonemes (distinct sounds) in the language—20 consonants, 7 vowels, 2 “pseudo-vowels” (ll, rr), and 4 diphthongs (aw, ay, ew, ey). Here’s their list:
( ’ ) tìFtang, A, AW, AY, Ä, E, EW, EY, Fä, Hä, I, Ì,
KeK, KxeKx, LeL, ’Ll, MeM, NeN, NgeNg, O, PeP, PxePx,
ReR, ’Rr, Sä, TeT, TxeTx, Tsä, U, Vä, Wä, Yä, Zä
As you see, in reciting this alphabet you pronounce the vowels, pseudo-vowels, and diphthongs exactly as they sound. The consonants, though, are interesting: there’s a distinction between those that can’t come at the end of a syllable and those that can. For the former group, you just add the vowel ä to get the name of the consonant: Fä, Hä, Sä, etc. For the latter group, you use the vowel e but you also put the consonant at the end of the name, keeping it capitalized: KeK, KxeKx, Lel, MeM, etc. I really like how the names of these sounds reflect something about how they’re used. (The exception is the first letter of the alphabet, the glottal stop; if it followed the rule, its name would be ’e’, but that might be a challenge to distinguish from E. Instead, the word tìFtang, meaning “stop,” is used.)
As for the ordering, which largely parallels that of Roman-based alphabets on Earth, Prrton writes: “The order is sadly determined by ‘Rrtan ‘informatics’ conventions that we can’t do much about. This is how Excel et all sort (with the exception of our having Txetx come before Tsä). We’ll just have to manually compensate for that when required.”
How do you ask how a word is spelled? “Spelling” is pamrelfya. (Recall that “writing” is pamrel.)
So, from the most formal way to the most colloquial:
- Tsalì’uri fko pamrel si fyape? ‘How is that word written?’ (Literally: ‘As for that word, how does one write (it)?’
- Pamrelfyari fyape? ‘How do you spell it?’ (Literally: ‘As for (its) spelling, how?’)
- Pamrel fyape? ‘How do you write it?’ (Most colloquial)
–Lì’uri alu tskxe pamrel fyape? ‘How do you spell the word tskxe?’
—Pamrelfya lu na Tsä, KxeKx, E. ‘It’s spelled ts, kx, e.’ (Literally: (Its) spelling is like ts,
Note that this Na’vi alphabet reflects a phonemic analysis of the language: for example, the word tskxe has 3 phonemes—not 5!—which is paralleled in giving the spelling. And if a Pandoran linguist invented an indigenous alphabetical writing system for Na’vi, it would take only 3 distinct symbols to write that word.