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 kä 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!).