Getting to Know You, Part 1

Kaltxì, ma oeyä eylan. Greetings from Los Angeles, where for a couple of days now I’ve been trying to overcome jet lag. I had hoped to post something from Paris, but a minor ailment had me out of commission for a while, and when I recovered, there was too much sightseeing to cram in in the remaining time. Pari yawne lu oer nìngay!

This post concerns some practical expressions useful when meeting new people. It represents a collaboration: a large part of the content originated with awngeyä ’eylan alu Prrton, whom I thank for his excellent suggestions and tireless efforts on behalf of tì’ong lì’fyayä leNa’vi.

The next post will continue the conversational theme, dealing with some common topics you might want to talk about with your new acquaintance.


Proper Introductions

If you need to get people’s attention first:

1. Your attention, please, everyone!
Rutxe tivìng mikyun, ma frapo.

The general “introduction formula” is easy: You don’t use a verb but simply say, “To you my X,” where X, in the objective (or patientive) case, is the person you’re introducing.

2.  Allow me to introduce my colleague.
Ngaru oeyä lertut.

3. Everybody, please allow me to introduce (to you) my sister, Newey.
Ma frapo, ayngaru oeyä tsmukit alu Newey.

In highly formalized or ceremonial situations, the honorific pronouns are available:

4. Allow me to introduce my sister, Newey te Tskaha Sorewn’ite.
Ayngengaru oheyä tsmukit alu Newey te Tskaha Sorewn’ite.

As in many human languages, knowing a person or a place in Na’vi requires a different expression from the one you use for knowing a fact. So, for example, you cannot say *Oel pot omum for ‘I know him.’ For ‘know’ in the sense of ‘be acquainted with,’ use the verb smon ‘be familiar’: Po smon oer. ‘I know him.’ (Literally: ‘He is familiar to me.’)

5. Do you know my friends Entu and Kamun?
Srake smon ngar oeyä meylan alu Entu sì Kamun?

For ‘Please introduce yourself,’ use the transitive verb lawk, ‘discourse on, talk about, say something concerning.’ Example: Poel oeti larmawk. ‘She was talking about me.’ For ‘introduce oneself,’ just add the reflexive infix:

6. Please talk a little bit about yourself.’
Rutxe läpivawk nì’it.

Note for the record that a reflexive verb does not take an ergative (agentive) subject: For example, ‘He talked about himself’ is Po läpolawk, not *Pol läpolawk.

Casual Introductions

7. This is Ìstaw.
Fìpo lu Ìstaw.
Fìpor syaw fko Ìstaw.

Be careful to distinguish between fìpo and fì’u. The former means ‘this person,’ the latter ‘this thing or concept.’ Using fì’u for a person would be highly insulting.

8. Say hello, Ìstaw.
Kaltxì sivi, ma Ìstaw.


9. Hi! Excuse me. May I interrupt a moment? I’m Va’ru from the plains. How about you? Who might you (all) be?
Kaltxì. Hìtxoa. [This can be accompanied with the “I See you” hand gesture in the appropriate context and atmosphere. The gesture increases the level of formality.]
Tsun miväkxu hìkrr srak? Oe lu Va’ru a ftu txayo zola’u. (Ay)Ngari tut?

As you can guess, txoa is a “small forgiveness,” used routinely where politeness is called for: “pardon me,” “excuse me,” etc. Oeru txoa livu is a more serious apology for something you know you did wrong.

Mäkxu [m••äkxu] is a transitive verb meaning ‘interrupt’ or ‘throw out of harmonious balance’ in the context of an ongoing activity. In English it’s possible to ‘interrupt’ a person directly, but in Na’vi mäkxu is only used for activities or established conditions, not people. Pol moläkxu ultxati. ‘He interrupted the meeting.’ It does not necessarily have a negative connotation even though it evolved from a compound containing the component kxu, which in other contexts is clearly ‘harm.’ In contrast, hultstxem [h•ultstx•em] is a transitive verb meaning ‘hinder’ or ‘be an obstacle to.’ Its object can be either an activity or a person, and it usually has a negative connotation. Example: Hìtxoa, ke new oel futa fìtìpängkxot ayngeyä hivultstxem, slä tsun miväkxu hìkrr nì’aw srak? ‘Excuse me. I don’t want to derail your chat, but can I interrupt for just a moment?’

By the way, notice that to say you come from somewhere, you use ftu, not ta. Ftu pairs with ne: they indicate directions from and to a place respectively.

10. Hi. You’re Sorewn, right? I’m Tsenu. Sister Rini over there suggested that I introduce myself. She said you’re really into cooking and that we might share that in common.
Kaltxì. Nga lu Sorewn, kefyak? Oer syaw fko Tsenu. Tsatsmukel alu Rini molok futa oe ngar muwäpivìntxu. Poltxe po san Sorewnìl kan’ìn tì’emit nìtxan ulte kxawm tsatxele mengane za’atsu nì’eng.

This example contains a number of interesting things.

First, note that when two nouns are in apposition with alu, only the main noun—the one before alu—gets the case marking. So in this case it’s Tsatsmukel alu Rini, not *Tsatsmukel alu Rinil.

Next are two useful transitive verbs, mok ‘suggest’ and muwìntxu [muw•ìntx•u] ‘introduce’ or ‘present.’ This latter word can be used not only for introducing a person but also for presenting an idea, report, analysis, etc. Here it has the reflexive infix for ‘introduce oneself.’ Remember, though, that the most usual way to introduce another person omits the verb entirely. See 2 and 3 above.

The transitive verb kan’ìn [k•an’•ìn] means ‘focus on, specialize in, be particularly interested in.’ Example: Entul kan’ìn tìwusemit. ‘Entu specializes in fighting’—that is, fighting is a major interest of his or focus of his activity.

The expression for ‘share an interest in common’ is za’u nì’eng, literally, ‘come in a level or equal manner.’ Example: Tìrusol za’u ne fo nì’eng. ‘They share an interest in singing.’ (Literally, ‘Singing comes to them equally.’)

Finally, note how san works in the last sentence. (Sìk is not required here, since the utterance ends with the quoted material.) Tsenu needs to quote what Rini said exactly, so a less natural but more literal translation would be, ‘She said, “Sorewn is really into cooking, and perhaps the two of you might share that matter in common.”’ That explains the appearance of menga ‘the two of you’ where you might be tempted to use oeng ‘you and I.’

Edit 27 Sept: Sorewn corrected to Sorewnìl in last sentence of #10. Irayo, ma Plumps!

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21 Responses to Getting to Know You, Part 1

  1. Nantang Atswusayon says:

    TxANTsAN NANg!

  2. Tirea Aean says:

    Ma Pawl nìtxan irayo seiyi. faylì’fyavit oe zene ziverok.

  3. Alton DeHaan (Kayrìlien Rolyu) says:

    Wow, there’s a LOT of cool information here, ma karyu! I’m sure that many people in the community have been anxiously awaiting this sort of information about basic conversations; I know that I have.

    Regarding mäkxu and hultstxem, am I correct in noticing that, because they have varying degrees of severity (as to how serious the interruption is), your example sentence shows that Na’vi speakers interrupt by saying “I don’t want to make a “major” interruption, but I must make a “minor” one.” ? If so, that’s rather interesting that there is such an important distinction between the two.

    Also, I noticed “kaltxì si” as (what appears to be) a produced verb form…could you use this in a more generic way to refer to greetings of any kind? (Or, say…refer to what we’d call a “short hello” by using the diminutive?)

    Ma karyu, ngaru seiyi irayo, ulte sìlpey oe tsnì Eywal ngat kerame frakrr!

    • Pawl says:

      Irayo, ma ‘eylan. I like your analysis of mäkxu and hultstxem. The distinction in degree of severity is paralleled, I think, by hìtxoa vs. oeru txoa livu.

      As for kaltxì si, it’s an idiomatic way of saying “say hello.” If you wanted to indicate that Loak greeted you, you could say “Loak poltxe oeru san kaltxì (sìk),” but the more usual expression would be, “Loak kaltxì soli oer.” The idea of a “little greeting” or “short hello” with the diminutive–a kaltxìtsyìp!–is interesting! If someone greeted you that way, I wonder if it would be a good or a bad thing. 🙂

  4. Plumps says:

    Ma Karyu,

    nì’awve: it is good to hear that you got well again. The weather in Europe is not showing its best side these past few weeks… I hope you could enjoy your birthday nevertheless!

    That you still found the time to flesh this introduction system out is truely amazing! Txantsan nì’aw.

    A few things I’ve noticed…
    – In what connection do lawk and peng (teri) stand? Is lawk maybe only used for people?
    – “… from the plains” as ftu txayo. Is this a special case for the singular form?
    – I like the distinction for ftu and ne. Am I right in suspecting that these are only connected with verbs of movement? “I am from Paris” would be Oe lu ta Pari?
    kan’ìn seems to require the gerund, yet your example uses tì’em where I would have expected tì’usem
    nìsung, I think, Sorewn in this sentence needs the ergative, kefyak?

    Hìtxoa, for being so picky but as awngeyä ’eylan alu Prrton noticed, I am ›very rigorous and proper‹ about these things 😉

    Nìmun, faylì’uviri amip oe ngengaru suyi irayo nìtxan!

    —ta Plumps

    Nìsung: A tìroltsyìp, inspired by a German birthday song 😉
    set aysyulang fra’opinhu
    kllkxerem ngaeo
    txo nga yemfpay si for mì fay
    lor layu nulkrr fo

    • Pawl says:

      Irayo, my Plumps. Actually, the weather in Paris was fantastic, so I can’t blame my bad cold on that. (Here in L.A., by the way, it was 97 degrees Fahrenheit, or 36 Celsius, on Saturday, and it’s staying up there. Oy.)

      I’m glad you found the post useful. But the lion’s share of the credit goes to Prrton. He was the one who did the “heavy lifting,” putting in the time and energy to come up with new concepts and great examples and write them all up in draft form for my suggestions and approval. I couldn’t have done this without him.

      Thanks for the great questions. A few answers:

      1. Lawk and peng teri are similar and can often be used synonymously. But lawk has more the connotation of discoursing on something or “holding forth.” If someone were to give you their opinions on politics or religion or social issues, they would be lawk-ing. But if they told you about what they had for dinner last night, it would probably be a case of peng teri. As I say, though, there’s overlap.

      2. Ftu txayo is correct. The speaker is saying he/she is from the flat area of Pandora (or some particular flat area), so the plural isn’t necessary.

      3. Yes, ftu and ne are used only with verbs of movement, where actual physical movement is implied. So if you came from Paris, you had to physically move out of Paris, in which case you’d use ftu: Oe zola’u ftu Pari. But if you’re talking about something’s source, where the “movement” is only metaphorical, then you use ta, as in Neytiri’s ” . . . tsakrr za’u aungia ta Eywa.” As for “Oe lu ta Pari,” I’ll have to check with my sources , but I don’t think that’s grammatical. You need to use za’u.

      4. Kan’ìn certainly could take the gerund, but it doesn’t have to. Tì’em encompasses the idea of the art of cooking or cuisine, while tì’usem refers more specifically to the activity of cooking. So (a) Oel kan’ìn tì’emit, (b) Oel kan’ìn tì’usemit are both correct. (a) implies more that I’m into the study of cooking and cuisine, while (b) simply means that I enjoy the activity of cooking. Admittedly, though, it’s not a completely sharp distinction.

      5. Ngaru tìyawr! Irayo!

      Ngeyä tìroltsyìpìri, oeyä aysyulang set mì fay kllkxerem. Fìtìmokìri seiyi oe irayo.

      • Prrton says:

        I’m glad you found the post useful. But the lion’s share of the credit goes to Prrton. He was the one who did the “heavy lifting,” putting in the time and energy to come up with new concepts and great examples and write them all up in draft form for my suggestions and approval. I couldn’t have done this without him.

        I must blush and protest a bit. In no way did my ‘lifting’ approach anything ‘heavy’ and I continue to remain hopeful that my supplications for expansion of our understanding of ‘everyday practical Na’vi’ have not yet crossed over into the realm of harassment. 😉

        Fìtxan nìmweypey tsun nga frakkr tivel fìtxan pxaya ätxäleti a oeta a tsari nìlkeftang ngaru seiyi irayo.

      • Plumps says:

        Tì’eyngìri sì sìyawrìri ngeyä irayo seiyi!

        A short follow-up question about lawk which came up on the forum. Which case, if any, does the person take that gets the information?
        ‘She talked with Loak about me.’
        Poel Loakur oeti larmawk? or
        Poel hu Loak oeti larmawk?

  5. Kì'eyawn says:

    Fayu päheiem nì’i’a! Sa’u oeyä eltur tìtxen seiyi nìtxan, ma Karyu!

    I find it a little odd that in the “introduction” phrase the person being introduced takes the accusative (“ayngaru oeyä tsmukit”)—it makes me think that in “Old Na’vi” there was a verb there, but over time it dropped out.

    If i may say so, i think if there were to be a Na’vi textbook, this should probably come right at the front. Very useful stuff for beginners.

    Faylì’fyaviri alesar ngaru irayo seiyi oe, ma Karyu Pawl =)

    ta Lawren

    • Pawl says:

      Irayo, ma Lawren. Mllte oe ngahu: These things should definitely come early in any Na’vi textbook! It’s a consequence of the way our understanding of the language developed that we learned such things as Fayvrrtep fìtsenge lu kxanì! before we learned how to introduce people to each other. 🙂

      You’re right that there was originally a transitive verb in the introduction formula. In fact, the verb was muwìntxu, and it’s still possible to use it in this context: Oel muwivìntxu ngaru oeyä lertut. But that has a very stiff feel to it. Pandorans almost always omit the first two words as being “understood.”

  6. Ma Karyu, oe ngengaru seiyi irayo nìtxan fì’upxareri amip. Nìngay ftxozä leiu oer fralo mipa fmawn ngengata za’u. Irayo nìmun, tsaylì’u lesar lu nìtxan!

  7. Nyx says:

    Fì’upxareri oe ngaru seiyi irayo, ma Karyu.

    This is a very welcome update with many useful things. I’ve been wondering for ages how would work and I’m glad there’s an answer now. Oh and thanks for including so many examples, they really help with learning.

  8. Carborundum says:

    Eltur tìtxen si nìtxan! Sìlpey oe tsnì hapxìt amuve fì’upxareyä ziyeva’u ye’rin!

  9. Taronyu says:

    Irayo, for the new words. 🙂

    Am I right in thinking that tì’ong is “unfolding, blooming”? Or, perhaps there is some more abstract metaphorical meaning?

  10. Sxkxawng says:

    Sìltsana aylì’u amip, ma Pawl

    Hmm… “hìtxoa”… I wonder why that was chosen instead of “txoatsyìp”….
    What would be the difference here….

  11. Nìwotxkrr Tìyawn says:

    Thanks ma Pawl, yet again another wonderful post and apparently thank you to ma Prrton as well. Just a quick question though, for Na’vi names, do you just make them up on the spot or have some sort of system to make good ones?

  12. Maybourne says:

    Ma Karyu Pawl, irayo nìtxan for this information!

  13. Glutexo says:

    Excuse me, but… Would it be possible to create a word fayfo the same way that fìpo was created? Like: “Fayfo lu oeyä eylan alu Newey sì Neytiri.”

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