Whoever, Whatever, Whenever . . .

Kaltxì ayngaru, ma eylan—

We’re all familiar with the verb tsranten, which means ‘matter, be important,’ as in:

Yola krr, txana krr, ke tsranten.Tìng nari
‘It doesn’t matter how long it takes.’

The negative phrase ke tsranten yields the important word ketsran—not a verb but an adjective and conjunction—that’s used where English uses “compound relative pronouns” like whoever, whatever, whenever, etc. to show that the particular identity of someone or something doesn’t matter.

ketsran (adj./conj., ke.TSRAN) ‘no matter, no matter what, whatever’

Here’s an example:

Ketsrana tute a nivew hivum tsun tsakem sivi.Tìng nari
‘Whoever wants (or: may want) to leave can do so.’

Here ketsran is an adjective. The subject of the sentence is ketsrana tute, which is translated as ‘whoever,’ although it could just as well be ‘whatever person.’ Note that Na’vi doesn’t use pe- in such cases: you can’t say *ketsrana peu. (But see below.)

Sometimes, though, ketsran acts as a conjunction, linking a subordinate clause to the main clause. In such cases, of course, it doesn’t take the adjective -a-.

Ketsran tute nivew hivum, poru plltxe san rutxe ’ivì’awn.Tìng nari
‘No matter who wants (or: may want) to leave, tell them to please stay.’

In sentences like this one, it may be helpful to think of ketsran as occupying the same slot as other conjunctions, for example txo. (Txo tuteo nivew hivum, poru plltxe . . . )

Let’s have a few more examples:

Ketsran tsengne nga kivä, kä oe tsatseng nìteng.Tìng nari
‘Wherever you go, I’ll go there too.’

’U aketsran tsun tivam.Tìng nari
‘Anything at all will be fine.’

Ketsran fya’o sivunu ngar, kem si.Tìng nari
‘Do it however you’d like.’

Ketsran tutel ’ivem, tsafnetsngan lu ftxìvä’.Tìng nari
‘That kind of meat is gross no matter who cooks it.’

Pukit aketsran ivinan.Tìng nari
‘Read any book at all.’

This last example prompts a caution: be careful not to confuse the two similar-sounding adjectives ketsran and kesran. The distinction is easier in reading/writing than in speaking/listening, so in conversation you’ll have to pay close attention to the difference.

Pukit aketsran ivinan.Tìng nari
‘Read any book at all.’

Pukit akesran ivinan.Tìng nari
‘Read a mediocre book.’

(I wonder if there’s a pithy Na’vi proverb that plays on the similarity between ketsran and kesran. :-)  )

Note also that in colloquial speech, ketsran by itself can be a response to a question:

Nga new yivom ’upet fìtxon?Tìng nari
‘What do you want to eat tonight?’
Ketsran. Oeru ke’u.Tìng nari
‘Whatever. (Or: Anything at all.) I don’t care.’

And note that in the colloquial expression Oeru (ngaru, poru, etc.) ke’u, the stress in ke’u shifts to the second syllable: ke.U.

Oe tìkangkem si trrtxon nìwotx, ngaru ke’u!Tìng nari
‘I work all day and all night, and you don’t give a damn!’

Finally, there’s an alternate way to express some of these ideas that doesn’t use ketsran but instead the full form ke tsranten and, in fact, interrogative pe-:

Teynga pesu nivew hivum ke tsranten, poru plltxe san rutxe ’ivì’awn.Tìng nari
‘No matter who wants (or: may want) to leave, tell them to please stay.’
[Literally: The answer (to the question) who wants to leave doesn’t matter, tell them to please stay.]

This is wordier than the ketsran version, however.

Lì’u alu ketsran tsranten nìtxan nìlaw!


Edit 02 April: *ketsrana pe’u –> *ketsrana peu. Irayo, ma Kemaweyan!

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Tsan’erul, Fe’erul—Getting Better, Getting Worse

Here are some useful expressions for improvement and its opposite.

tsan’ul (vin., TSAN.’ul—inf. 2, 2) ‘improve, get better’

fe’ul (vin., FE.’ul—inf. 2, 2) ‘worsen, get worse’

These are compounds built on ’ul, ‘increase,’ along with the adjectives for good and bad. (Sìltsan here has shortened to tsan.) So “improve” increases the good, “worsen” increases the bad.

Notice that these verbs are intransitive—that is, something is improving or worsening. We’ll get to the transitive versions (to improve something or make something worse) in just a moment.


Lì’fyari leNa’vi nga tsan’ereiul fratrr.Tìng mikyun
‘I’m delighted that your Na’vi is improving every day.’

Sawtuteri tìfkeytok ke tsan’olul kaw’it.Tìng mikyun
‘The situation with the Skypeople hasn’t improved one bit.’

Ke tsun oe tslivam teyngta tìrusol peyä lumpe fe’ul krra oe tìng mikyun.Tìng mikyun
‘I can’t understand why her singing gets worse when I listen.’


tìtsan’ul (n., tì.TSAN.’ul) ‘improvement (in the general or abstract sense)’

tìfe’ul (n., tì.FE.’ul) ‘worsening (in the general or abstract sense)’

Tskxekengluke ke lu kea tìtsan’ul.Tìng mikyun
‘Without practice there is no improvement.’

Tìtsan’ulìri lu ngaru aysämok srak?Tìng mikyun
‘Do you have any suggestions for improvement?’

sätsan’ul (n., sä.TSAN.’ul) ‘improvement (specific instance)’

säfe’ul (n., sä.FE.’ul) ‘worsening (specific instance)’

Set plltxe nga nìltsan nìngay. Fìsätsan’ulìri ngeyä lu oeru sko haryu nrra.Tìng mikyun
‘You speak really well now. As your teacher, I’m proud of your improvement.’

Peyä sängä’änìri lu säfe’ul leyewla nìtxan.Tìng mikyun
‘The worsening of his depression is very disappointing.’

The transitive versions of improve and worsen simply use the causative infix : tsan’eykul, fe’eykul. (Stress, of course, remains on the first syllable in each case.) To improve something is to cause it to get better, etc.

Rutxe fìtìoeyktìngit tsan’eykivul. Ke lu law kaw’it.Tìng mikyun
‘Please improve this explanation. It’s not at all clear.’

Ngeyä tsaylì’ul tìfkeytokit fe’eykolul nì’aw.Tìng mikyun
‘Those words of yours have only made the situation worse.’

Sìlpey oe, ayngari fra’u a mì sìrey vivar tsan’ivul frafya, ma eylan. :)

frafya (adv., FRA.fya) ‘in every way’

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Tsamsiyu a mì Saw ’Rrtayä! Warrior in Our Sky!

Fì’uti nivìn, ma smuk: Tsamsiyu

Not just an ikran in the skies of Earth, but one that’s called Tsamsiyu!

Am’aluke ’erong Na’vi mì seng a eltur tìtxen si! :-)

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Vospxì Ayol, Postì Apup—Short Post for a Short Month

Ma eylan,

Just a relatively short post before the month ends . . . slä nìsìlpey pum a nga’ aylì’fyavit lesar. :-)

flrr (adj.) ‘gentle, mild, tender’

This word can be used for both people and things.

Keng tsamsiyu zene flrr livu ayevenghu.Tìng mikyun
‘Even a warrior must be gentle with children.’

Flrra tompa zerup.Tìng mikyun
‘A gentle rain is falling.’


nìflrr (adv., nì.FLRR) ‘gently, tenderly’

Zene fko ’ivampi prrnenit nìflrr frakrr.Tìng mikyun
‘One must always touch a baby gently.’

tìflrr (n., tì.FLRR) ‘gentleness, tenderness’

Hufwa mefo leru muntxatu txankrr, mi lu munsnar hona tìflrr a na pum meyawnetuä amip nìwotx.Tìng mikyun
‘Although the two of them have been mates a long time, they still have all the adorable tenderness of new sweethearts.’

ngä’än (vin., ngä.’ÄN—inf. 1, 2) ‘suffer mentally or emotionally, be miserable’

Note that ngä’än refers to an emotional state of being; it may or may not be accompanied by physical pain.

Srane, skxir tìsraw si nìtxan, slä ke ngerä’än oe kaw’it.Tìng mikyun
‘Yes, the wound is very painful, but I’m not in the least suffering emotionally (i.e., my mental state is fine).’

Tìsraw letokx sì tìngusä’än pxìm täpare fìtsap.Tìng mikyun
‘Physical pain and mental suffering are often interrelated.’

Snafpìlfyari leNa’vi krra smarit fkol tspang, tsranten nìtxan fwa po ke ngä’än nìkelkin.Tìng mikyun
‘It’s important in Na’vi philosophy that the prey not suffer unnecessarily when it’s killed.’

kelkin (adj., kel.KIN) ‘unnecessary’

nìkelkin (adv., nì.kel.KIN) ‘unnecessarily’


sängä’än (n., sä.ngä.’ÄN) ‘bout of suffering; episode of depression’

Ngeyä tsasängä’äntsyìpìri set frawzo srak?Tìng mikyun
‘Have you recovered from being down for a while?’


When –nay is added to a noun, it creates a new noun that is related to the original by being a step down in some relevant hierarchy—size, rank, accomplishment, etc. This isn’t as complicated as it sounds. Take a look at these examples (and note that when –nay is added to a noun ending in n, one of the n’s drops, as expected):

ikran ‘mountain banshee’
ikranay ‘forest banshee, lesser banshee’ (smaller cousin to the mountain banshee)

’eylan ‘friend’
’eylanay ‘acquaintance (with the potential of becoming a friend)’

eyktan ‘leader’
eyktanay ‘deputy, general, one step down in rank from leader’

tsulfätu ‘master’
tsulfätunay ‘near-master’

karyu ‘teacher’
karyunay ‘apprentice teacher’

This suffix is not productive, and the exact meaning of –nay nouns is not always predictable. So such words and their meanings must be learned individually.

Note also that unlike most other suffixes, -nay receives the main stress: ikraNAY, ’eylaNAY, eyktaNAY, tsulfätuNAY, karyuNAY.


In English we sometimes hear things like, “She’s a beautiful, beautiful woman” as a way of saying “She’s an extremely beautiful woman.” Something similar occurs in Na’vi, where the structure is more common than in English:

Lu po lora tuté alor.Tìng mikyun
‘She’s an extremely beautiful woman.’

In speech, the second occurrence of the adjective is stressed more than the first: lora tuté ALOR.

In the above example, we’re using this double-adjective structure in a noun phrase: lora tuté alor, ‘an extremely beautiful woman.’ Can we also use it for sentences like, “That woman is extremely beautiful”? Yes, but it’s awkward:

Tsatuté lu lora pum alor.Tìng mikyun
‘That woman is an extremely beautiful one.’

That’s not a problem, however, since we already have a number of ways to intensify a predicate adjective: lor nìtxan, lor nìtxan nang, lor nì’aw, etc. So using the double-adjective structure for sentences like this last example isn’t necessary.

Finally, some nice proverbial expressions from the LEP:

Fwa kan ke tam; zene swizawit livonu.Tìng mikyun
Literally: ‘To aim is not enough; one must release the arrow.’
Meaning: ‘Intent is not enough; it’s action that counts.’

Txìm a’aw ke tsun hiveyn mì tal mefa’liyä.Tìng mikyun
Literally: ‘One butt can’t sit on the backs of two direhorses.’
Meaning: ‘You can’t take both positions or sit on the fence; you need to decide.’

That’s it for now. Vospxìayvay!  ;-)

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Lì’fyari po peyì? How good is her Na’vi?

This post introduces the important noun and its use in talking about different levels of things, including attainment in language.

(n.) ‘shelf, ledge, level, step, rung’

The basic meaning of is that of a small, flat area on which one can stand or place an object, such as a foot.

Tsayerik kllkxem sìn yì akxayl. Tìng mikyun
‘That yerik is standing on a high ledge.’

Ngey tskoti yem tsayìsìn tsakrr za’u fìtseng! Tìng mikyun
‘Put your bow on that ledge and come here!’

(Ngey rather than ngeyä, as you know, is very familiar and colloquial, and sometimes a bit rude.)

When Mo’at first appears in Uniltìrantokx to examine Jake, she descends a series of levels rather like a staircase.

snayì (n., sna.YÌ) ‘staircase, series of step-like levels’

Kllzola’u Mo’at fa snayì tengkrr perlltxe san Aynga neto rivikx! Tìng mikyun
Mo’at came down the (natural) stairway saying, “Get back, all of you!”

A can also be a cutout, shelf, or hole—any cavity with a flat bottom surface—in a tree, cliff, or mountain, on which you can place your foot as you climb.

Ke tsun oe fì’awkxit tsyivìl. Ke lu tsaru kea yì. Tìng mikyun
‘I can’t scale this cliff. It doesn’t have any footholds.’

The importance of lies in the fact that it can be used metaphorically to refer to the level of anything scalable—anything that can have levels or degrees, highs and lows: water level, temperature, talent, anger, etc. For example:

Taluna vospxìo amrr ke zolup tompa, längu yì kilvanä tìm nìtxan. Tìng mikyun
Because it hasn’t rained for five months, the river level is very low.

Nari si, ma Tsyeyk! Neytiriri lu yì tìstiyä kxayl nìngay. Tìng mikyun
Be careful, Jake! Neytiri is really angry.

There are two different grammatical structures that go with questions, and you’re generally free to choose whichever one you like.

The first uses tok: you occupy a certain level. That structure, of course, is transitive:

Lì’fyari pol tok peyìt? Tìng mikyun
‘How good is her Na’vi?’

Literally, the sentence above is saying, “As for language, what level does she occupy?”

That, by the way, is how it’s said on Pandora, since there, “language” means “the Na’vi language.” Mì ’Rrta, however, that could be confusing, since there are many languages we could be asking about. So it’s often best to say, “Lì’fyari leNa’vi pol tok peyìt?”

The second structure is intransitive: you stand on a certain level:

Lì’fyari po kllkxem sìn peyì? Tìng mikyun
‘How good is her Na’vi?’

Kllkxem sìn is the general expression for standing on anything—a ledge, rock, hill, etc. Note that the common phrase sìn peyì is pronounced as if it were spelled sìm peyì, although the n doesn’t change in writing.

The previous example is somewhat formal; in speech, there are two informal variants. First, kllkxem may be dropped:

Lì’fyari po sìn peyì? Tìng mikyun
‘How good is her Na’vi?’

And in even less formal situations, sìn may be dropped as well:

Lì’fyari po peyì? Tìng mikyun
‘How good is her Na’vi?’

In all of these, however, kllkxem sìn is understood.

I’ll leave you with some examples of questions and answers using .

First note the following compounds:

kxaylyì (n., KXAYL.yì) ‘high level’

kxamyì (n., KXAM.yì) ‘intermediate level’

tìmyì (n., TÌM.yì) ‘low level’

Lì’fyari tsatawtute peyì? Tìng mikyun
‘How is that Sky Person’s Na’vi?’

Kxaylyì. Ke tsun oe spivaw. Slolu po tsulfätu lì’fyayä awngeyä. Tìng mikyun
‘It’s excellent. I can’t believe it. He’s become a master of our language.’

Kxamyì. Plltxe nìksran, slä tsun fko peyä aylì’ut tslivam. Tìng mikyun
‘It’s intermediate. His speech is mediocre, but you can understand him.’

Tìmyì. Pol ke tslam stum ke’ut, omum lì’ut avol nì’aw. Tìng mikyun
‘Pretty bad. He understands almost nothing and only knows eight words.’

Furia täftxu ngal tok yìpet? Tìng mikyun
‘How’s your weaving?’

Tok yìt akesran. Tìng mikyun
‘I’m so-so.’

Fol fnan futa ’em teylut a fì’u sìn peyì? Tìng mikyun
‘How good are they at cooking teylu?’

The above example is important to understand. The question is, what’s the a fì’u doing there? (With the other way of saying it, Fwa fol fnan futa ’em teylut sìn peyì? the question is similar: Why do we need the fwa (= fì’u a)?) The answer is that with peyì, the metaphorical idea of standing on a particular level is still very strong. If kllkxem or both kllkxem and sìn are omitted, which they may be, they nevertheless remain as “understood,” and it must be possible to put them back into the sentence. Something has to be standing on the level, and that something is fì’u, modified appropriately with a and a clause. A literal translation into horrible English that makes this explicit would be: ‘The they’re-good-at-cooking-teylu thing stands on what level?’ The moral of the story is, don’t be tempted to omit fwa/a fì’u in peyì questions. You can’t say *Po plltxe peyì? ‘How well does he speak?’ It’s either Fwa po plltxe peyì? or Po plltxe a fì’u peyì?

Sìn yì sngä’iyuä, slä tsyerìl (haya yìne) nì’ul’ul. Tìng mikyun
‘They’re at a beginner’s level, but they’re getting better and better.’
(Literally: climbing more and more (to the next level).)

Fwa ngeyä tsmukan tul nìwin sìn peyì? Tìng mikyun
‘How fast does your brother run?’

Sìn yì a ke tsun kawtu spivaw, nìwin frato. Tìng mikyun
‘He runs at an incredible level, faster than anyone else.’

Edit: vospxì amrr –> vospxìo amrr  Irayo, ma Blue Elf! Irayo, ma Plumps!

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’Awvea Postì Zìsìtä Amip—First Post of the New Year

Kaltxì nìmun, ma smuk. Sìlpey oe, ayngari nìwotx sngilvä’i zìsìt amip nìltsan nìtxan nì’aw.

I hope 2013 has gotten off to a fine start for all of you.

Here are a few new vocabulary items and some grammatical discussion as well. Thanks as always to the LEP for the competent and creative suggestions.

rengop (vtr., RE.ngop—inf. 2, 2) ‘design’

This verb is derived from renu ‘pattern’ + ngop ‘create.’

Ngeyä tsafkxilet tupel rengolop? Tì’efumì oeyä lor lu nìtxan. Tìng mikyun
Who designed that necklace of yours? I think it’s very beautiful.


tìrengop (n., tì.RE.ngop) ‘design (the act or art of designing)

Tìrengopìri ioiyä lu sempul peyä tsulfätu. Tìng mikyun
Her father is a master designer of ceremonial adornments.

särengop (n, sä.RE.ngop) ‘design (a particular instance of designing)’

Faysärengopit avä’ oeru rä’ä wìntxu nìmun, rutxe. Ke sunu oer keng nì’it. Tìng mikyun
‘Please don’t show me these ugly designs again. I don’t like them one bit.’

ingyen (n., ING.yen) ‘feeling of mystery or noncomprehension’

Lu oer ingyen a Ìstaw nim lu fìtxan kuma pxìm wäpan. Tìng mikyun
‘It’s a mystery to me why (or: I’m puzzled that) Ìstaw is so shy that he frequently hides.’

Note: The syntax here—that is, lu oer(u) ingyen a . . . —is comparable to lu oer sngum a ‘I’m worried that . . .’ and lu oer yayayr a ‘I’m confused that . . .’ All three nouns—sngum, yayayr, and ingyen—represent internal subjective states, that is, things you feel.

If, however, you want to talk about the things in the world that bring about these states, you use different forms of the words:

sngumtsim (n., SNGUM.tsim) ‘worrisome matter, source of worry’

yayayrtsim (n., ya.YAYR.tsim) ‘something confusing, source of confusion’

ingyentsim (n., ING.yen.tsim) ‘mystery, riddle, enigma, conundrum’

These N + tsim compounds, where the general meaning is ‘source of N,’ cannot be created freely—they have to be learned separately and entered in the dictionary. But if you encounter a tsim-compound you haven’t seen before, you should be able to guess its meaning pretty accurately.

With these forms, we have a second syntactic structure to express ideas like worry, confusion, and mystery:

A. Lu oer sngum a po ke zola’u. Tìng mikyun
B. Lu oer sngumtsim fwa po ke zola’u. Tìng mikyun
(OR: Fwa po ke zola’u lu oer sngumtsim.Tìng mikyun

These mean essentially the same thing. A literal translation of A into clumsy English would be, “I have a feeling of worry that he didn’t come.” B would be: “It’s a source of worry to me that he didn’t come.”

One advantage of the –tsim forms is that they allow you to make general statements without specifying the experiencer:

Fwa po ke zola’u lu ingyentsim. Tìng mikyun
‘It’s a mystery that he didn’t come.’


ingyentsyìp (n., ING.yen.tsyìp) ‘trick, sleight of hand, clever/special methodology’

This word should properly be ingyentsimtsyìp, but it evolved naturally to the shorter form and is always used that way.

Loakìl pänutolìng futa kar oeru fya’ot a ’ìp fko nemfa ewll. Tìng mikyun
Poltxe po san lu ingyentsyìp azey. Tìng mikyun
‘Loak promised he’d teach me how to vanish into the bushes.
He said there’s a special trick to it.’

ningyen (adv., NING.yen) ‘mysteriously, in a puzzling fashion’

This adverb is obviously a contraction of + ingyen.

Oeyä tskalep ’olìp ningyen. Ke omum teyngta pesengit terok. Tìng mikyun
My crossbow has mysteriously disappeared. I don’t know where it is.’

ingyenga’ (adj., ING.ye.nga’) ‘mysterious, puzzling, enigmatic’

This word evolved from ingyentsim + nga’ , i.e. ‘containing a source of mystery.’ As in ingyentsyìp, however, the tsim part dropped over time, and then ingyen + nga’ became simply ingyenga’.

Peyä aylì’u aingyenga’ lolu sngumtsim ayoeru nìwotx. Tìng mikyun
‘His mysterious words worried us all.’

Parallel to ingyenga’ we also have:

sngunga’ (adj., SNGU.nga’) ‘worrisome, troubling’

yayayrnga’ (adj., ya.YAYR.nga’) ‘confusing’

Note: This word is often pronounced colloquially as yayaynga’, although in writing the r is retained.

Tsatìoeyktìng ayayayrnga’ srung ke soli oer fte tslivam teyngta kempe zene sivi. Tìng mikyun
‘That confusing explanation didn’t help me understand what I have to do.’

yrr (adj.) ‘wild, natural’

Yrr refers to something in its original, unmodified, untampered-with natural state. As such, it has various translations, depending on the context.

Ikranìri krra hu tute tsaheyl si, ftang livu yrr. Tìng mikyun
‘When an ikran bonds with a person, it ceases to be wild.’

Lu tsafnepayoang ftxìlor frato krra lu yrr. Tìng mikyun
‘That kind of fish is most tasty when eaten as sashimi.’

Txepìri, yrra rìnti rä’ä sar, ma skxawng. Tìng mikyun
‘Don’t use that green wood for a fire, you fool.’


nìyrr (adv., nì.YRR) ‘naturally, without tampering with or changing the nature’

Fkxenti pxìm yom fkol nìyrr. Tìng mikyun
‘Vegetables are often eaten raw.’

The opposite of yrr is:

zäfi (adj., ZÄ.fi) ‘modified, interfered with, no longer in a natural state’

Zäfi does not specify how the natural state of something has been interfered with, only that it’s no longer in its original state. The nature of the modification depends on context.

Oel yom tsnganit azäfi nì’aw. Tìng mikyun
‘I only eat cooked meat.’

Here, talking about food, the usual interpretation of “no longer in its natural state” is “cooked.” If you wanted to be more specific, you could of course say tsnganit a’awnem.

Tsaikranìri taluna new ngati tspivang, law lu fwa mi ke lu zäfi. Tìng mikyun
‘Since that ikran wants to kill you, it’s clear it’s still not tame.’

syor (vin.) ‘relax, chill out’

Syor, ma ’eylan, syor. Ke lu kea sngumtsim. Tìng mikyun
‘Relax, friend, relax. There’s nothing to worry about.’

New oe rivun asim tìfnunga’a tsengit a tsaro tsun syivor tsivurokx fte späpiveng. Tìng mikyun
‘I want to find a quiet place nearby where I can chill out and rest to get my head back on straight.’


tìfnunga’ (adj., tì.FNU.nga’) ‘quiet (nfp)’

Also, notice in the above example how speng ‘restore’ has been used metaphorically: späpeng = ‘restore oneself,’ that is, ‘get one’s head back on straight.’

Fìuvanìl oeti syeykor nìtxan. Tìng mikyun
‘I find this game very relaxing.’

tìsyor (n., tì.SYOR) ‘relaxation’

Krra fko taron ke lu kea skxom tìsyorä. Tìng mikyun
‘When one hunts there’s no opportunity for relaxation.’

’anla (vtr., ’AN.la—inf. 1,2) ‘yearn for’

Tìng nari! Tsayeriktsyìpìl li ’anla sa’nokit a fkol tspìmang. Keftxo! Tìng mikyun
‘Look! That little hexapede is already yearning for its mother that’s just been killed. How sad!’

sä’anla (n., sä.’AN.la) ‘yearning’

Oeru tìng mikyun, ma Ralu. Fìsä’anlal Neweyä ngati sleykayu lekye’ung! Poti tswiva’! Tìng mikyun
‘Listen to me, Ralu. This yearning for Newey is going to drive you crazy. Forget her!’

lie (n., LI.e) ‘experience’

Kop oeru lolängu lie a hapxìtu soaiä terkup. Tìng mikyun
‘Sadly, I too have had the experience of a family member dying.’

You’ve already seen lie as part of the important adverb ’awlie, which we’ve glossed as ‘once (experiential).’ When used in yes-no questions, ’awlie is best translated as ‘ever.’

Srake kolä nga ’awlie ne Nu Yorkì? Tìng mikyun
‘Have you ever been to New York?’

Kehe, slä kolä ’awlie ne Wasyìngton. Tìng mikyun
‘No, but I have been to Washington.’

We now have two ways of talking about having the experience of doing something:

A. Oel yolom ’awlie teylut. Tìng mikyun
B. Lu oeru lie a yom teylut. Tìng mikyun

These both mean, ‘I once ate teylu.’ B, however, is somewhat more formal than A.

By the way, don’t confuse ’awlie and ’awlo. Although they both mean ‘once,’ ’awlie refers simply to having an experience, while ’awlo emphasizes that the experience occurred once and once only, not twice (melo) or thrice (pxelo).

Oel yolom teylut ’awlo nì’aw. Tìng mikyun
‘I’ve only eaten teylu once.’

And now for some expressions involving ‘hope’:

tsìlpey (n., tsìl.PEY) ‘hope (abstract idea)’

This derived from original *tìsìlpey.

Tsìlpeyìl tok txe’lanit. Tìng mikyun
‘Hope lives within the heart.’

Tsìlpeyluke ke tsun kawtu rivey. Tìng mikyun
‘No one can live without hope.’

säsìlpey (n., sä.sìl.PEY) ‘hope (particular instance)’

Krra wätut tse’a, peyä säsìlpey a yora’ ’olìp. Tìng mikyun
‘When he saw his opponent, his hope of winning vanished.’

One derivative of sìlpey that you already know is nìsìlpey, ‘hopefully.’ This word requires some explanation, since we also have the word nìrangal, glossed as ‘I wish; oh that.’ What’s the difference between nìrangal and nìsìlpey?

Both words are used with the subjunctive, but there’s a semantic distinction. Nìsìlpey simply expresses a hope that something is true. The speaker doesn’t know what the truth is, but hopes that something is, was, or will be the case.

Poel nìsìlpey tivok fìtsengit. Tìng mikyun
‘I hope she’s here.’

Poe nìsìlpey zìyeva’u trray. Tìng mikyun
‘I hope she’ll come tomorrow.’

Poe nìsìlpey zimva’u (or: zilva’u) trram. Tìng mikyun
‘I hope she came yesterday.’

With nìrangal, though, the speaker knows that something is not the case but wishes it were. (For those who like fancy grammatical terminology, nìrangal is used for counterfactuals.)

Poel nìrangal tirvok fìtsengit. Tìng mikyun
‘I wish she were here.’ (But I know she’s not.)

Poe nìrangal zìyeva’u trray. Tìng mikyun
‘I wish she were coming tomorrow.’ (But I know she isn’t.)

Poe nìrangal zimva’u (or: zilva’u) trram. Tìng mikyun
‘I wish she had come yesterday.’ (But she didn’t.)

(If you find any of this confusing, I have to admit I once confused the two words myself. In my post of July 24, 2011, I wrote nìrangal zìsìtay when I meant nìsìlpey zìsìtay, ‘hopefully next year.’ I’ve since corrected the error.)

One more thing: nìsìlpey (but not nìrangal) can function as a manner adverbial as well as a sentence adverbial—that is, it can mean ‘in a hopeful way.’ (Roughly speaking, manner adverbials tell you how things are done; sentence adverbials allow the speaker to comment about what she or he is saying. If I say, “Obviously Carlson stole the money,” I’m saying that it’s obvious—to me or anyone else—that Carlson was the thief. That’s using “obviously” as a sentence adverbial. But if I say, “Carlson stole the money obviously,” I’m saying that he did it in an obvious way—he didn’t hide the theft. For some reason he wanted people to see him doing it. That’s using “obviously” as a manner adverbial.)

Tsyeyk ätxäle soli nìsìlpey tsnì livu por Uniltaron. Tìng mikyun
‘Jake hopefully requested the Dream Hunt.’


As you know, Na’vi has four diphthongs: aw, ay, ew, ey. If a noun ends in a diphthong, there are a few things to keep in mind with some of the case endings.

The t-case for objects (also known as the patientive case):

With nouns ending in ey, the -it ending becomes simply t. Example: keyeyt ‘errors’ (not *keyeyit). With nouns ending in ay, the –it ending may become t: wayt  or wayit ‘song’—both forms are possible. For the other two diphthongs, the –it ending does not change: fahewit ‘smell,’ ’etnawit ‘shoulder.’

For all four diphthongs, the ti- form is also possible: keyeyti, wayti, fahewti, ’etnawti.

The r-case for indirect objects (also known as the dative case):

With nouns ending in ew, the -ur ending becomes simply r. Example: fahewr ‘to/for a smell’ (not *fahewur). With nouns ending in aw, the –ur ending may become r: ’etnawr or ’etnawur ‘to/for a shoulder’—both forms are possible. For the other two diphthongs, the –ur ending does not change: keyeyur ‘to/for errors,’ wayur ‘to/for a song.’

For all four diphthongs, the ru- form is also possible: keyeyru, wayru, fahewru, ’etnawru.

*          *          *

In closing, I want to say that I’m really looking forward to attending the Euroavatar meet-up in Berlin! For the last two years I was there via Skype, but this year John and I will be there in person. It should be wonderful! The dates are May 11 through May 17. Nìsìlpey tsìyevun oe ultxa sivi hu pxaya hapxìtu lì’fyaolo’ä awngeyä tsatsengmì!

Hayalovay, ma eylan.

Edit: ke srung soli –> srung ke soli. Irayo, ma Kemaweyan!
Edit: Fìsä’anla –> Fìsä’anlal. Irayo, ma Neytiri!
Edit: zìlva’u –> zilva’u (2X), zìmva’u –> zimva’u (2X). Irayo, ma Plumps!
Edit: tivok –> tirvok (with nìrangal). Irayo nìmun, ma Kemaweyan!

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Renu Ayinanfyayä—The Senses Paradigm

Here at last is the revised and finalized Renu Ayinanfyayä—the “Senses Paradigm,” the original version of which was submitted by the LEP Committee a long time ago. It’s an excellent framework for clarifying and summarizing the Na’vi expressions relating to perception.

inanfya (n., i.NAN.fya) ‘sense (means of perception)’

Inanfya (from inan ‘read, gain knowledge from sensory input’ + fya’o ‘path, way’) covers the five senses the Na’vi share with us: sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. Whether there are other inanfya unique to the Na’vi (for example, perception of magnetism) is a matter for further investigation. In what follows we’ll just deal with the five familiar senses.

The following table sums up the necessary vocabulary, some of which is already familiar and some of which will be new to you:



sight tse’a
‘look at’
tìng nari
‘sight, look, appearance’
‘sight, vision’
hearing stawm
‘listen to’ 
tìng mikyun
smell hefi
tìng ontu
‘sense of smell’ 
taste ewku
tìng ftxì
‘taste, flavor’ 
‘sense of taste’ 
touch zìm
tìng zekwä
‘feel, texture’ 
‘sense of touch’ 

First some details of the new vocabulary:

hefi (vtr., HE.fi—inf. 1,2) ‘smell (-control)’

ewku (vtr., EW.ku—inf. 1,2) ‘taste (-control)’

zìm (vtr.) ‘feel (-control)’

yune (vtr., YU.ne—inf. 1,2) ‘listen to (+control)’

syam (vtr.) ‘smell (+control)’

’ur (n.) ‘sight, look, appearance’

sur (n.) ‘taste, flavor’

zir (n.) ‘touch, feel, texture’

The “ability” nouns consist of the –control verbs with the addition of –tswo; an exception is ewktswo, where the unstressed u has dropped.

tse’atswo (n., tse.’A.tswo) ‘(sense of) sight, vision’

stawmtswo (n., STAWM.tswo) ‘(sense of) hearing’

hefitswo (n., HE.fi.tswo) ‘sense of smell’

ewktswo (n., EWK.tswo) ‘sense of taste’

zìmtswo (n.,  ZÌM.tswo) ‘sense of touch’

Now for some explanation of the table entries.

As you see, the expressions in the first three columns are verbs, and in the fourth and fifth nouns. Let’s look first at the verbs.

–control vs. +control

Many languages distinguish between perceptions that occur without your control (for example, “see” and “hear” in English) which we’re calling “—control” vs. perceptions that you initiate yourself (like “look” and “listen”) which we call +control. If you heard a bird singing, you had no choice in the matter: the external stimulus, in this case sound, came to your ears without your control and created an internal sensory experience. But if you listened to the bird, you made a deliberate choice to focus your attention on the stimulus. Unlike English, Na’vi makes this distinction in all the sensory modalities.

Examples of the VTRs—the transitive verbs:

-control:      Peut tse’a ngal?Tìng mikyun
.                     ‘What do you see’
+control:     Poti nìn!Tìng mikyun
.                    ‘Look at him!’

 -control:      Fol oeyä tìpawmit ke stolängawm.Tìng mikyun
.                      ‘Unfortunately they didn’t hear my question.’
+control:      Nga zene aylì’ut karyuä yivune, ma ’evi.Tìng mikyun
.                      ‘You must listen to your teacher, my son.’

-control:      Fnu, ma smuk, fnu! Oel hefi yerikit!Tìng mikyun
.                     ‘Quiet, everyone! I smell a hexapede!’
+control:     Fìsyulangit syam. Fahew lor lu nìtxan, kefyak?Tìng mikyun
.                     ‘Smell this flower. Its fragrance is beautiful, isn’t it?

 -control:      Fìnaerìri ngal ewku ’uot astxong srak?Tìng mikyun
.                      ‘Do you taste something strange in this drink?’
+control:      Ke new oe mivay’ tsnganti a ’olem Rinil.Tìng mikyun
.                      ‘I don’t want to taste the meat that Rini cooked.’

-control:      Tengkrr hu palukantsyìp uvan seri zolìm oel mì sa’leng a ’uot
.                     a lu txa’ sì ekxtxu.Tìng mikyun
.                     ‘While playing with my cat I felt something hard and rough on his skin.’
+control:     Oeti ’ampi rä’ä, ma skxawng!Oeti ‘ampi
.                     ‘Don’t touch me, you moron!’

(In the last example, note that rä’ä ‘don’t’ can come after the verb for special emphasis.)

A note on may’: Its original meaning, as you see in the table, is the control-form of ‘taste’—that is, ‘check out something by tasting.’ Its use expanded to include “checking out” almost anything, and not just by taste—as the dictionary says, ‘try, sample, evaluate, test-drive.’ So you can may’ a fruit, an article of clothing, a new way of holding your bow, etc.

As for the two +control forms in the second and third columns, the simple verbs in column 2 are used mostly with an explicit object, while the tìng forms are used mostly without an object. So the most common way to say ‘Look at that!’ is Nìn tsat! But if you just want to say ‘Look!’ it’s usually Tìng nari! But other possibilities exist. So, for example, to say ‘Look at him!’ the most common way is simply Poti nìn! But Poru tìng nari! is also possible.

The last two columns in the table are self-explanatory. The “nouns of sensation” are the sensations related to the verbs in the first two columns. So, for example, you stawm or yune a pam—that is, you hear or listen to a sound. And the words ending in -tswo are the abilities related to the senses. For example:

Tsakoakteri stawmtswo lu fe’. Pohu a tìpängkxo ngäzìk lu nìtxan.Tìng mikyun
‘That old woman’s hearing is poor. A conversation with her is very difficult.’

Middle Voice

When we say things in English like “This tastes good,” “That feels smooth,” “This fish smells awful,” “He looks like a warrior,” we’re using what’s been called “middle voice.” How do we say such things in Na’vi?

“Middle voice” constructions in Na’vi use the intransitive verb fkan, which has no simple equivalent in English and is difficult to translate by itself:

fkan (vin.) ‘resemble in a sensory modality, come to the senses as’

But some examples will make it clear how to use fkan:

Fìnaerìri sur fkan oeru kalin.Tìng mikyun
‘This drink tastes sweet to me.’
Literally: ‘As for this drink, the taste comes to me as sweet.’

Note that fkan behaves syntactically like lu and lam—that is, it’s intransitive. Also, both sur and oeru in the above example are optional. If you omit oeru, you’re making a general statement: not that the drink tastes sweet to you, but that it tastes sweet, period—that is, to everyone. If you omit sur, the sentence is grammatical but ambiguous, since you’re not specifying the sensory modality: the drink could taste sweet, but it could also smell sweet. It’s safe to omit the noun of sensation if the context makes it clear. Or in some cases you might want to be deliberately ambiguous.

Nikreri Riniyä ’ur fkan lor.Tìng mikyun
‘Rini’s hair looks beautiful.’

Nikreri Riniyä fkan lor.Tìng mikyun
‘Rini’s hair is pleasant to the senses.’

In the second example, we don’t know if Rini’s hair looks beautiful, feels beautiful, or smells beautiful.

For expressions like “looks like,” “feels like,” etc., we use fkan along with na or pxel. Example:

Raluri fahew fkan oeru na yerik.Tìng mikyun
‘Ralu smells like a hexapede to me.’

Raluri fkan na yerik.Tìng mikyun
‘Ralu smells (looks? sounds?) like a hexapede.’

Finally, here are a few sense adjectives, some of which are new, that you can use along with fkan:

As you know, we have the adjectives lor and vä’, which mean “pleasant/unpleasant to the senses,” respectively. (Note that we use lor for sensory impression rather than sìltsan.) These words can be used for any of the senses—that is, something can be pleasing in touch, taste, smell, what have you.  In addition, for the sense of taste we have the specific words ftxìlor ‘good-tasting’ and ftxìvä’ ‘bad-tasting’. So for “This drink tastes good,” we can say either Fìnaerìri sur fkan lor or Fìnaerìri fkan ftxìlor.


onlor (adj., on.LOR) ‘good-smelling’

onvä’ (adj., on.VÄ’) ‘bad-smelling’

Here are the primary “taste” adjectives:

kalin (adj., ka.LIN) ‘sweet’

syä’ä (adj., SYÄ.’ä) bitter

we’ay (adj., WE.’ay) ‘sour’

wip (adj.) ‘salty’

fwang (adj.) ‘savory, umami, rich’

Note that these words can be used to describe smells as well as tastes. But Na’vi also has primary “smell-words” along with “taste-words”:

nget (adj.) ‘smell of decaying wood and leaves; dank (non-animal decay)’

kxänäng (adj., KXÄ.näng) ‘smell of decaying animal/flesh; rotting, putrid’

sosul (adj., so.SUL) ‘pleasant smell of nearby running water, rain, moist vegetation’

unyor (adj., un.YOR) ‘sweetly aromatic (a flowery or aromatic woody sort of smell; may also refer to some spices used in Na’vi cooking)

atxar (a.TXAR) ‘smell of living animals, as found around a watering hole or animal nest’

As we enter the festive season, these new words and expressions should help you describe the tastes and smells of holiday meals. Syuveri ayftxozäyä ayngaru fkivan onlor ftxìlorsì nìwotx!

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Snewsyea Ftxozä Hälowinä—A Spooky Halloween

With a few more hours of Halloween left here in California, let me wish those of you who celebrate the holiday a fun and spooky experience:

Ayngari ftxozä Hälowinä livu ’o’ sì snewsye txantxewvay.Tìng mikyun
‘May your Halloween be as fun and spooky as possible.’

This requires some explanation. :-)


snewsye (adj., SNEW.sye) ‘weird, spooky’

This compound derives from:

snew (vtr.) ‘constrict, tighten’ + syeha ‘breath’

Ke tsun fko tspivang torukit fa fwa pewnti snew.Tìng mikyun
‘You can’t kill a great leonopteryx by constricting its throat.’
(Proverbial expression for a method that will not work.)

Oeri lu fìtseng snewsye nìhawng. Hivum ko.Tìng mikyun
‘This place is too spooky for me. Let’s get out of here.’

And two useful pairs of nouns and adverbs:

txantxew (n., txan.TXEW) ‘maximum’

hìmtxew (n., hìm.TXEW) ‘minimum’

txantxewvay (adv., txan.TXEW.vay) ‘maximally’

hìmtxewvay (adv., hìm.TXEW.vay) ‘minimally’

If you recall the word txew meaning ‘edge, brink, limit, border, end,’ you’ll get a sense of how these words were derived.

Importantly, txantxewvay is used in expressions equivalent to English ‘as (adj., adv.) as possible’:

Tìran nìfnu txantxewvay fteke ayyerikìl awngati stivawm.Tìng mikyun
‘Walk as quietly as possible so the hexapedes won’t hear us.’

Hayalovay, ma frapo.

Edit Nov. 1: ayyerik –> ayyerikìl

I also changed the word order in the proverb from torukit tspivang to tspivang torukit. The original was perfectly correct grammatically, but for stylistic reasons I found I preferred having the two ts-words closer together, and also torukit closer to pewnti. Na’vi lets you make those kinds of adjustments without worrying about changing the meaning.

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Txon Eywa’evengä: Text and Translation

Here’s the text and Tirea Aean’s own English translation of Txon Eywa’evengä:

Txon Eywa’evengä. Na’rìng fa tìrey teya leiu. Pxaya swirä sì ioang tìran, taron, sì wem fte emrivey. Ayewll nrr fte syuratanit akosman tivìng na’rìngur. Kenten mìn, pay rikx äo eana syuratan. Lena’via ’evengan tìran tìkanluke kxamlä na’rìng fte ’ivefu fpomit ulte tsive’a txonä tìreyit alor. Pol aysmìmit a nrr ngop sìn txura ayvul tsawla ayutralä. Lora ’opin aean-na-ta’leng teya si tawur. Kifkey apxa kllkxem nìtxur hu sneyä smuk sì sanhì a fìtxan hì’i lam. ’Evenganìl lok ’orat ulte fpìl teri tìlor kifkeyä. Fìpori a syaw fko Zuvo lrrtok si Eywa.

Night of Pandora. The forest is full of life. Many creatures and beasts walk, hunt, and fight to survive. Plants glow to give wonderful bioluminescence to the forest. Fan lizards turn, water flows under the blue bioluminescent light. A Na’vi boy walks aimlessly through the forest to feel peace and to see the night’s beautiful life. He makes glowing foot tracks on the strong branches of a tall tree. A beautiful skin-blue color fills the sky, the large world stands strong with his siblings and the stars which seem so small. The boy approaches a lake and thinks about the beauty of the world. Eywa smiles upon this one, who is called Zuvo.

Srake tsolun fra’ut tslivam kxeyeyluke?  :-)

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Tìng mikyun! Listen!

Here’s some Na’vi for your listening pleasure. This is a poetic paragraph written and recorded by one of our sulfätu lì’fyayä, Tsm. Tirea Aean. It’s an evocative description of the Pandoran night called, appropriately, Txon Eywa’evengä. I think you’ll like it.

I’m going to hold off publishing the text for a bit. Try to get as much as you can from T.A.’s beautiful, clear reading. I’ll reveal the text in a subsequent post.

By the way, the unfamiliar word you’ll hear towards the end is a proper name.  :-)

Tìng mikyun nì’o’!

Txon Eywa’evengäTing mikyun

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