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.,—inf. 1,2) ‘smell (-control)’

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

zìm (vtr.) ‘feel (-control)’

yune (vtr.,—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., ‘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!

Posted in General | 31 Comments

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.

Posted in General | 7 Comments

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?  :-)

Posted in General | 3 Comments

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

Posted in General | 6 Comments

Ulte säwäsultsyìpä yora’tu leiu . . . And the winner is . . .

Ma smuk,

Haykuri sna’o ayngeyä lor nìtxan lu nang! What a beautiful collection of haiku! I was genuinely impressed—and touched—by the effort and creativity that went into the submissions. Deciding on the winner wasn’t easy.

Here’s how I proceeded. First, I copied all 30+ poems into a separate document, completely anonymously, and printed it out. Then I went through each one carefully. I found myself writing Nice! in the margins many times, and Lovely! more than once. A few had minor grammatical problems, so I eliminated those from consideration. But I was still left with a large and wonderful collection. Most touched on nature, especially the images of falling leaves and approaching cold. Some seemed spiritual. Others were mysterious and thought-provoking. At least one related to the plot of Avatar. And many made me smile.

Although, as I say, the choice was difficult, in the end I chose this haiku for the purpose of today’s interview:

Srew, ma frapo, srew.
Au a’eoio.
Ftxozä sivi ko!Tìng mikyun

The author’s translation is:

Dance, everyone, dance.
Ceremonial drumming.
Let us celebrate!

 (Mìftxele, notice that the English is a bona fide haiku itself!)

I especially liked this one for several reasons. It sounds great; the second line is the shortest of all but contains the most syllables (sìlronsem nìngay, kefyak?); it’s upbeat; and I won’t have too much trouble memorizing it.  :-)

Seykxel sì nitram to the author, Prrton!

And congratulations to everyone who participated. If you haven’t already, please take a good look at the impressive collection of submissions (link in the previous post). Once again, the Community has made me feel proud.

UPDATE Oct. 25: Ulte set . . . mokri ngopyuä! I’ve added Prrton’s recording of his haiku to the text. Enjoy!

Posted in General | 9 Comments

Wina Säwäsultsyìp Ahì’i–A Quick Little Contest

Kaltxì, ma frapo–

Here’s a quick little contest I hope some of you will enjoy:

Next week I’m going to be interviewed on camera for a web-based series called “The Secret Life of Scientists & Engineers.” (I’m not sure I count as a scientist, and I’m certainly not an engineer, but the producers thought that their viewers would be interested in the story of Na’vi.) As part of my preparation, I’ve been asked to compose a haiku, which I will read on camera. I suggested that it might be interesting if the haiku were in Na’vi instead of English, and the producers thought that was a great idea. Later, it occurred to me that this could be a fun little contest for members of the lì’fyaolo’: come up with a Na’vi haiku, which I will use for my interview, kezemplltxe with proper acknowledgment of the author!

For those of you who might not be familiar with haiku, it’s a form of brief poetry of Japanese origin. There are several varieties, but the most familiar one has three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables respectively–17 syllables in all. The subject is often related to the natural world.

Here’s a (not very good) English example I just made up. It’s based on recently seeing a young hawk enjoying our birdbath:

Hawk in my birdbath,
Looking in all directions.
Why so wary, friend?

 If nothing else, at least it follows the 5, 7, 5 pattern.  :-)

So let’s see what you can do with a Na’vi haiku!

Tsmukan Markì has kindly created a thread on where you can post your haikus anonymously:!/

I’ll check the thread periodically to see what’s there, and choose the one I like the best. Then I’ll find out who the author is so I can acknowledge her or him when I read the poem on camera.

Since my interview is Tuesday afternoon, please submit your haikus no later than Monday at noon, Pacific Time. I’ll make my choice later that day. Feel free to submit up to three haikus of your own.

Sìlpey oe, fìsäwäsultsyìp ’o’ lìyevu ayngaru!

Oh, and some related vocabulary:

wäsul (vin., WÄ.sul–inf. 2, 2) ‘compete’

This compound is derived from ‘against’ + tul ‘run.’ , as you know, triggers lenition. (The noun wätu ‘opponent’ is an exceptional form.)

 Oe new ngahu ’awsiteng tìkangkem sivi–ke new futa wäsivul oeng.Tìng mikyun
‘I want to work together with you–I don’t want us to compete.’

tìwäsul (n., tì.WÄ.sul) ‘competition’ (i.e., the abstract idea of competition)

säwäsul (n., sä.WÄ.sul) ‘a competition’ (i.e., a particular instance of competing)

säwäsultsyìp (n., sä.WÄ.sul.tsyìp) ‘contest’

A foot race, for example, is a particular kind of competition–a säwäsul a tul.

Posted in General | 4 Comments

Audio and Video Learning Materials for Na’vi 101!

Kaltxì, ma eylan–

As you know, July’s 90-minute Na’vi 101 class in Seattle was an effort to help absolute beginners take their first steps in the language, and the response to it was gratifying. Now I’m delighted to announce that due to the hard work and dedication of several members of the lì’fyaolo’, all the materials from that class–including videos of the class itself!–are available online for anyone who wants to see and hear them.

This post gives you all the relevant links, files, and documents. I’ve divided it into two parts: the videos of the class, and alternate audio recordings of the dialogs so you can hear different voices.

Before anything else, here’s the two-page handout that was distributed during the class.

Na’vi 101 handout

And for the record there were a couple of new vocabulary items, both related to drinking:

swoa (n., SWO.a) ‘intoxicating beverage’

rou (vin., RO.u–inf. 1,2) ‘be drunk, get drunk’

Srane, fìtxon tsun nga niväk swoat nì’it, slä rä’ä rou!Tìng mikyun
Yes, you can have a little alcohol tonight, but don’t get drunk!


Three members of our Community–Aaron Holmes, Yasu Tano, and Alan Taylor–saw to the videotaping of the class and the conversion to video. Irayo nìtxan pxengaru! In particular, I want to thank Alan so much for his brilliant work in creating professional-quality videos that I’m so proud to show off to people. Ngeyä tìkangkem afyole meuia leiu lì’fyaolo’ru, ma tsmukan. The enthusiastic descriptions below are Alan’s.

For all the videos, the slides can be found at:

And thanks again to Prrton, Txonä Rolyu, and ‘Oma Tirea, who co-taught the class with me.


Learn Na’vi with Karyu Pawl – Introduction


Video duration: 6mins 13sec

Do you wish to learn Na’vi, the language created by Dr. Paul Frommer for the film “Avatar”? If so, then this is your opportunity to learn the basics. Filmed at AvatarMeet 2012 on July 22, Karyu Pawl takes us on a journey of learning Na’vi. In this short introduction you get to hear what fluent Na’vi sounds like, as well as see some of the many Avatar fans who have taken the opportunity to learn from the creator of the language. Eight follow-on parts to this introduction take you through the basics of the language and how to speak it. So take a ride with the Avatar Community to Pandora and take on a bit of Na’vi culture. Eywa ngahu.


Part 1: Learn Na’vi with Karyu Pawl – Part 1


Video duration: 14mins 23sec

Part 1 – Snapamrelvi sì Lì’upam / Alphabet & Pronunciation.

In this first of eight ‘Na’vi for Beginners’ lessons filmed at AvatarMeet 2012, Karyu Pawl (Teacher Paul) gives an introduction to Na’vi starting with an example of the language followed by a walk through the Na’vi alphabet and how to pronounce a number of letter combinations. You will find yourself taking part without knowing it!


Part 2: Learn Na’vi with Karyu Pawl – Part 2


Video duration: 12mins 54sec

Part 2: Kaltxì/Hello.

In the second part we go through the first of a number of Na’vi conversations covered in this series: how to greet someone in Na’vi. Also covered is the placement of stress in words and the fact that Na’vi word order is not the same as in English. Audience participation is compulsory!


Part 3: Learn Na’vi with Karyu Pawl – Part 3


Video duration: 8mins 1sec

Part 3: Srungtsyìp / Hints & Tips.

This third part of the Learn Na’vi lessons starts to build up sentences. Learn some simple but useful sentence patterns and where the emphasis is placed in words. Word order, or rather the flexibility of word order in Na’vi, is also explored.


Part 4: Learn Na’vi with Karyu Pawl – Part 4


Video duration: 8mins 35sec

Part 4: Smon Nìprrte’ / Nice to meet you.

A second dialogue sequence, exchanging names in Na’vi, is demonstrated before some audience participation and an opportunity for you to join in and practice.


Part 5: Learn Na’vi with Karyu Pawl – Part 5


Video duration: 10mins 19sec

Part 5: Nga ftu peseng? / Where are you from?

Dialogue number three centers on where are you from and where you are going. Also explained is the addition of pe to form information questions and the flexibility in where it is placed.


Part 6: Learn Na’vi with Karyu Pawl – Part 6


Video duration: 12mins 52sec

Part 6: Yafkeykteri / About the weather.

A dialogue sequence to ask what the weather is like and describe the different types of weather. Also covered is how to describe the temperature right from being cold enough to turn you blue(!) through to very hot.


Part 7: Learn Na’vi with Karyu Pawl – Part 7


Video duration: 14mins 44sec

Part 7: Syuve / Food.

This dialogue sequence centers on eating and food. Also explained is how the question word srak(e) can appear at the beginning or end of a sentence. Na’vi verb use in phrases with ‘I have’ or ‘I can’ is explored along with the incorporation of the infix -iv- and where it appears in the verb. Audience participation is your opportunity to join in.


Part 8: Learn Na’vi with Karyu Pawl – Part 8


Video duration: 15mins 21sec

Part 8: Naer / Drink.

This last sequence is a dialogue inviting someone for a drink and discussing what to have. Also covered is how nouns and adjectives, i.e ‘a heavy book’, are brought together in Na’vi and the flexible word order. The lesson is rounded off with where to go to find out more.


Since it’s important to hear a variety of voices speaking Na’vi–especially female voices, which we don’t hear enough of!–I asked several members of the lì’fyaolo’ to record the dialogs from the class. Irayo nìtxan to tsmukan Britton Watkins, tsmuke Jane MacMillan, and tsmuke Lauren Maurer, whose voices you’ll hear in these mp3′s.

We have others in the Community whose spoken Na’vi is excellent. For future posts I’m going to ask several of these sulfätu to record some of their own Na’vi compositions for us, which I’ll be delighted to post to the blog.

Dialog 1: Jane, BrittonTìng mikyun

Dialog 2: Lauren, BrittonTìng mikyun

Dialog 3: Britton, LaurenTìng mikyun

Dialog 4: Lauren, JaneTìng mikyun

Dialog 5: Paul, BrittonTìng mikyun

Dialog 6: Britton, PaulTìng mikyun

I hope all these materials will be useful not only to aysngä’iyu (beginners) but to our ayharyu (teachers) as well!

Hayalovay, ma frapo.

Posted in General, Na’vi 101 | 11 Comments

Sound Files Added to Previous Post

Ma smuk,

I’ve now added sound files for all the examples in the previous post. After each example, you’ll see a little light gray arrow. Click on it and you’ll hear me pronounce the example at normal conversational speed.

A language should be heard and not just seen, so I hope these sound files will be useful to you. Although I may not be able to do this every time, I’ll try to add sound to the written examples whenever I can.

Ayngeyä tìftusia ’o’ livu nì’aw!

ta Pawl

Posted in General | 3 Comments

Mipa Vospxì, Mipa Aylì’u—New Words for the New Month

Kaltxì nìmun, ma frapo—and Happy October. Here are some new words and expressions from my backlog of submissions that I hope you’ll find useful.

zet (vtr.) ‘treat (emotionally), display an attitude towards’

Zet is always paired with pxel (not na) to express the idea of “treat A like or as B.”

 Va’rul zänget ikranit sneyä pxel hapxìtu soaiä.Tìng mikyun
‘Va’ru treats his ikran like a member of the family (and I don’t approve).’

Peyralìl zet wura wutsot a’awnem pxel sngel.Tìng mikyun
‘Peyral won’t eat a cooked meal that isn’t still warm.’
(Literally: ‘Peyral treats a cool cooked meal like garbage.’)

Pol zeret oeti pxel tute a ke inan pot.Tìng mikyun
‘He’s treating me like I don’t know him.’
(Literally: ‘He’s treating me like a person who doesn’t read him.’)

Here inan ‘read, gain knowledge from sensory input’ is being used colloquially in the sense of ‘know what someone is about, know someone’s “deal.”’

To express the idea of “treat as though,” you still need to “compare apples to apples.” For example:

Pol zolet oeyä säfpìlit pxel pum a tìngäzìkit ngop.Tìng mikyun
‘He treated my idea as though it created a problem.’
(Literally: ‘He treated my idea as one—i.e., an idea—that creates a problem.’)

ha’ (vin.) ‘fit, suit, complement, inherently enhance’

This verb doesn’t have a simple English equivalent. The idea is that two entities (things, people, situations, . . . ) fit or suit each other—they “go together” well. Note that unlike in English, the syntax is not that of a transitive verb. Instead, ha’ can take either a plural (or dual or trial) subject with fìtsap ‘each other’ or the dative.

Tsenu sì Loak fìtsap ke ha’ kaw’it.Tìng mikyun
‘Tsenu and Loak are a terrible match for each other.’
(Their personalities don’t mesh, but neither one is “to blame.” The source of the mismatch is equally divided between Tsenu and Loak.)

Tsenu Loakur ke ha’.Tìng mikyun
‘Tsenu is a bad match for Loak.’
(Here the speaker is identifying Tsenu as the source of the mismatch. Loak is in the dative.)

Tsenur Loak ke hänga’.Tìng mikyun
‘Loak isn’t good for Tsenu.’
(Here the source of the problem is Loak. The speaker is more concerned for Tsenu and is unhappy that she and Loak remain in a relationship.)

Hufwa ngeyä tìhawlìri ke lu kea kxeyey, tsalsungay oeru ke ha’ nìtam.Tìng mikyun
‘Although there’s nothing wrong with your plan, it just doesn’t suit me.’

Ngay. Tsa’opin hek nì’it, slä sunu oer, ha ha’.Tìng mikyun
‘True. That color is bit odd, but I like it, so it’s a good fit for me.’ (I intend to wear that article of clothing anyway.)

syon (n.) ‘feature, trait, attribute, characteristic, point, aspect, facet, property’

Tsranten frato a syon tsamsiyuä lu tìtstew.Tìng mikyun
‘The most important characteristic of a warrior is bravery.’

Palulukanìri lu pxesyon a zene fko ziverok nìtut:Tìng mikyun
• Tsun kxamlä na’rìng rivikx nìfnu nìwotx.
• Lu tsawl sì txur.
• New fkot yivom.
‘Three things about the thanator must always be kept in mind:
• It can move silently through the forest.
• It’s big and strong.
• It wants to eat you.’

ran (n.) ‘intrinsic character or nature, essence, constitution’

This word has no exact English equivalent. Basically, it refers to the basic nature of something resulting from the totality of its properties, a result of all the syon of that thing. For people, ran is often best translated as ‘personality.’

Muntxaturi Sorewnti ke tsun oe mivll’an. Ran peyä oeru ke ha’.Tìng mikyun
‘I can’t accept Sorewn as my spouse. Her personality doesn’t suit me.’

Fra’uä ran ngäpop fa frasyon tseyä.Tìng mikyun
‘The ran of each thing arises from the totality of its attributes.’

Note: Here the reflexive form of ngop ‘create’—ngäpop, literally ‘creates itself’—is used for this sense of ‘arise.’ A closer translation would be ‘is created.’ For the grammar experts, this is an example of an “agentless passive” in English that becomes a reflexive in Na’vi.  :-)

Ran tìrusolä peyä lu fyole.Tìng mikyun
The ran of her singing is sublime.

fyole (adj., FYO.le) ‘sublime, beyond perfection’


loran (n., LO.ran) ‘elegance, grace’

This word is derived from lor + ran.

Yamì tsun fko tsive’a loranit renuä kilvanä slä klltesìn wäpan.Tìng mikyun
‘From the air you can see the grace of the river’s form but from the ground it’s hidden.’

fe’ran (n., FE’.ran) ‘flawed nature; something ill-conceived or inherently defective’

From fe’ + ran. This word can refer either to the property of being inherently flawed, or to something that has the property.

Fìtìhawlìri fe’ran law längu frapor.Tìng mikyun
‘Unfortunately the flawed nature of this plan is obvious to everyone.’

’Rrtamì a reyfya Sawtuteyä latsu fe’ran nìngay.Tìng mikyun
‘The Skypeople’s culture on earth must truly be flawed.’
(Literally, it must truly be a flawed thing.)

reyfya (n., REY.fya) ‘way of living, culture’

fe’ranvi (n., FE’ ‘blemish, deformity, stain, flawed feature’

Hufwa lu filur Va’ruä fnefe’ranvi, tsalsungay fpìl futa sayrìp lu nìtxan.Tìng mikyun
‘Although Va’ru’s facial stripes are rather uneven, I still think he’s very handsome.’

nìran (adv., nì.RAN) ‘basically, fundamentally, in essence’

Nìran lu Loak mi ’eveng slä tsun tivaron nìtengfya na fyeyntu.Tìng mikyun
Loak is still really just a boy but he can hunt the same as an adult.’

mo (n.) ‘space, hollow, enclosed open area’

Mo is more specific than tseng: it’s tseng plus the idea of enclosure. Like tseng, a mo can be tok-ed.

Tok oel lora tsamoti a mì na’rìng a krr, ’efu mawey sì nitram.Tìng mikyun
‘When I’m in that beautiful hollow in the forest, I feel calm and happy.’


snomo (n., ‘private space that one can retreat to’

Mo can be used for ‘room’ in a house mì ’Rrta. One’s own room would be one’s snomo. More specifically:

mo letrrtrr ‘living room’

mo a yom ‘dining room’

(sno)mo a hahaw ‘bedroom’

Note: The last two expressions do not mean ‘room that eats’ and ‘room that sleeps,’ although theoretically they could! You can think of mo a yom as shorthand for mo a fko yom tsatseng and so on.

wum (adv.) ‘approximately, roughly’

Oeri solalew wum zìsìt °a14 a krr, folrrfen sponot alo a’awve.Tìng mikyun
When I was about 12 years old I visited an island for the first time.’

kesran (adj, ke.SRAN) ‘so-so, mediocre’

The derivation of this word is not entirely clear. It may have originally been kesrankekehe, literally, ‘not yes, not no,’ in reference to whether a certain action was performed well or not, and over time it became shortened to just kesran, its use expanding to include anything only mediocre in quality.

Peyä säftxulì’u lolängu kesran ulte kawtur slantire ke si.Tìng mikyun
‘Unfortunately his speech was only so-so and inspired no one.’


nìksran (adv., nìk.SRAN) ‘in a mediocre manner’

yewla (n., ‘disappointment, emotional let-down, failed expectation’

The syntax is: lu oeru yewla ‘I’m disappointed’ (literally: ‘I have disappointment’).

Oer lu txana yewla a ke tsun nga oehu kiväteng mesrray.100212_23_Oer
I’m very disappointed you can’t hang out with me the day after tomorrow.’


leyewla (adj., ‘disappointing’

Kea kem leyewla rä’ä si, rutxe.Tìng mikyun
Please don’t let me down.’

nìyewla (adv., nì ‘in a disappointing fashion; in a way failing to meet expectations’

Trramä ayuvanìri makto Akwey nìyewla ha snaytx.Tìng mikyun
Akwey rode disappointingly in yesterday’s games so he lost.’

yawnyewla (n., ‘broken heart; broken-heartedness’

Lu Tsenur yawnyewla a lam fwa Va’rul pot txìyìng.Tìng mikyun
‘Tsenu is broken hearted that Va’ru appears to be about to dump her.’

Yewla! (conv.) ‘Bummer! That’s a shame! What a shame!’

ve’o (n., VE.’o) ‘order (as opposed to disorder or chaos), organization’

Mawkrra Sawtuteyä txampxì holum, tätxaw Na’vine nì’i’a ve’o.Tìng mikyun
‘After most of the Sky People left, order finally returned to the People.’


vezo (vin., ve.ZO—inf. 2, 2) ‘be in order, be organized’

vezeyko (vtr., ve.zey.KO) ‘put in order, organize’

Ngari snomot krrpe vezeyko, ma ’itan?Tìng mikyun
‘When are you going to organize your room, son?’

vefya (n., VE.fya) ‘system, process, procedure, approach’

Neytiril Tsyeykur wamìntxu Omatikayaä vefyat tìtusaronä.Tìng mikyun
‘Neytiri showed Jake the Omatikaya’s approach to hunting.’

(Note the irregular genitive of Omatikaya: Omatikayaä.)

velke (adj., ‘chaotic, messy, disorganized, in shambles’

This word derives from ve’o + luke, ‘without order.’ (Compare kxuke ‘safe,’ which comes from kxu + luke ‘without harm.’ The evolution was kxuluke > kxulke > kxuke. With velke, the l of luke didn’t drop.)

Eyk Kamun a fralo längu tsasätaron velke nìwotx. Taronyut yom smarìl!Tìng mikyun
‘Every time Kamun is in charge, the hunt is a mess. Everything goes wrong that can.’

venga’ (adj., VE.nga’) ‘organized, “on top of things” (ofp)’

Txo nivew fko säro’a sivi, zene nì’awve venga’ livu.Tìng mikyun
‘If you want to accomplish great things, you first have to be organized.’

Hayalovay, ma smuk!

Edit Oct. 3: Fixed säfpìl –> säfpìlit in zet example; corrected typos and spurious underlining.

Posted in General | 21 Comments

Tskxekengtsyìp a Mikyunfpi–A Little Listening Exercise

Teri lì’fya leNa’vi a tsanumultxa loleiu säflä! Last week’s Na’vi for Beginners class at the Avatar Meet-up in Seattle was, I think, a great success. I believe we had more than 40 students from the Avatar community in the class, which lasted about an hour and 45 minutes. Three members of the lì’fyaolo’–pxesmuk alu Prrton sì Txonä Rolyu sì ’Oma Tirea–co-taught with me. The Museum provided excellent facilities, we made good use of the beautiful supporting slides Prrton had created, and everyone seemed to have a good time. I know I did! It was great to reunite with old friends from the Community and meet new ones. And hopefully some learning went on as well.  :-D

I was also impressed by the Meet-Up itself. From what I saw, the organization was top-notch and the supporting materials were totally professional. Plus the Clan Dinner was ftxìlor nìngay! Seykxel sì nitram to everyone who helped make the Meet-Up happen!

As a little listening exercise, I’ve recorded the introductory remarks in Na’vi with which I began the class. The idea was not for most people in the class to understand it–this was, after all a class for beginners–but just for everyone to get an idea of what Na’vi sounds like when spoken at more or less normal conversational speed. Prrton kindly served as consecutive interpreter after every few sentences.

Here’s the sound file: Class Introduction

And here’s the Na’vi text (as a Word file): Class Intro–Na’vi and free English translation: Class Intro–English.

My suggestion is to listen first to the Na’vi without any help to see how much you can get on your own. (I made use of some recently introduced vocabulary, so you might want to review the last blog post beforehand.) Then take a look at the text and translation to check how you did.

Nìvingkap, we now have a Na’vi toast:

Nitram nì’aw! ‘Happy only!’


ETA July 30–Here are the text files in RTF format for those who can read these more easily:

Class Intro–Na’vi RTF

Class Intro–English RTF

Posted in General | 10 Comments