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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10 Responses to Melì’uteri alu tung sì pllhrr—About tung and pllhrr

  1. Vawmataw says:

    Tsapostìl ‘eyng ‘a’awa sìpawmit nìltsan. Tsari oe irayo seiyi.

    Vìmìngkap oet fula srake tsunslu lì’fyavi alu ”melì’uri alu tung sì pllhrr” tup lì’u alu teri.

  2. Tanri says:

    Furia law soli kemlì’ur alu tung, irayo seiyi ngar, ma Karyu.

    Lu oeru ’awa tìpawm: Hemlì’uvit yem fkol ne “pllhrr” nìtengfya ne “p‹1›‹2›enghrr”, kefyak?

    • Vawmataw says:

      I think the used path is to put the affixes in the part of the verb that was originally a verb. You can see it with penghrr. Therefore, your assumption is right in my opinion, although I would wait for the confirmation of Karyu Pawl.

      • Pawl says:

        Mengaru tìyawr! That’s exactly it: The general rule is that if the verb in question is a compound where one source is a verb and the other is not, the infixes go in the part that was originally a verb. (I’ve now included the infix information in the post, which I had previously forgotten to do. Irayo!)

  3. SGM (Plumps) says:

    Lesara säomum lesar nìngay! Tsari iayo ngaru.

    About this shortening of -words in colloquial speech. Is this possible with all nouns (where it is permissable phonetically), e.g. sätaron ≈> *staron, sämok ≈> *smok, etc.?

    • Pawl says:

      Good question! The answer is, in general, “Yes,” as long as the word created by the omission of ä won’t be confused with some other word. So this is a distinction between careful, more formal speech and colloquial, informal speech, a distinction that every language makes. But I don’t want to oversimplify the situation by implying that there are only two points on the formal/informal scale. Some things are more informal and colloquial than others–for example, shortening possessive pronouns like oeyä and ngeyä to oey and ngey is highly casual and colloquial.

  4. Blue Elf says:

    Nice we got some explanation about tung(and classifying it as vtr). But there’s something unclear – why conjunctive infix is used in mentioned constructions, what is its function?
    And why it was used in A1 and B, but not in A2? It requires explanation.

    • Vawmataw says:

      It’s a nice question. My hypothesis would be that the permission is formulated as a wish or a command, but why?

    • Pawl says:

      As you know, the -iv- infix is sometimes obligatory and sometimes optional. After modals like tsun and new, for example, it’s obligatory: We can say Po new kivä but not *Po new kä. With imperatives, however, it’s optional: We can say either Za’u fìtseng or Ziva’u fìtseng, without any difference in meaning. (It’s possible that at an earlier stage in the historical development of Na’vi, there was a pragmatic difference between the two forms, perhaps with the -iv- form used for a polite request while the “bare” form was more of a direct command. But that distinction has been lost in the current form of Na’vi we’re familiar with.)

      The use of -iv- after futa with tung falls into the optional category. So we can say Tung oer futa kivä or Tung oer futa kä, without a difference in meaning.

  5. Prrton says:

    Lesar nìwotx! Seiyi irayo, ma Karyu!

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