Mipa Aylì’u, Mipa Aysäfpìl—New Words, New Ideas

Kaltxì ayngaru, ma eylan! As May comes to a close, here’s some new vocabulary I hope you’ll find useful. Aysämokìri atxantsan, oeyä aymowarsiyuru [see below!] irayo nìtxan!

mowar (n., mo.WAR) ‘advice, bit or piece of advice’

Ma Neytiri, ayoel kin mowarit ngeyä. Nga tsun ayoer srung sivi srak?
‘Neytiri, we need your advice. Can you help us?’



mowar si (vin.) ‘advise’

Tsun oe mowar sivi ngar, slä ke tsun fyawivìntxu.
‘I can advise you, but I can’t guide you.’


As with ätxäle si, ‘request’, we use tsnì with mowar si to introduce a subordinate clause—that is, ‘advise X to do Y.’

Poe mowar soli poanur tsnì hivum.
‘She advised him to leave.’


mowarsiyu (n., mo.WAR.si.yu) ‘advisor’

Lu fraeyktanur asìltsan txantslusama aymowarsiyu.
‘Every good leader has wise advisors.’


kakpam (adj., kak.PAM) ‘deaf’

Kakpam is built on the same pattern as kakrel, ‘blind.’

Hìkrro mefo kakpam larmu mawkrra pxolor kunsìp.
‘The two of them were deaf for a short time after the gunship exploded.’


tìkakrel (n., tì.kak.REL) ‘blindness’

tìkakpam (n., tì.kak.PAM) ‘deafness’

Pori tìkakrel tìkakpamsì kum tsamä lu.
‘His blindness and deafness are a result of the war.’


pxek (vtr.) ‘kick, shove’

Yerikìl nantangit pxolek fte hivifwo.
‘The hexapede kicked the viperwolf in order to flee.’


Note that pxek by itself covers both ‘kick’ and ‘shove.’ If you need to distinguish between these, add pxunfa ‘with the arm’ or kinamfa ‘with the leg.’

Po pxunfa pxek tsakrr mefo zup nekll!
‘He shoved the two of them and they fell down.’


(More literally: ‘He shoved, and the two of them fell down.’ Remember that if tense and aspect will be clear from the context—which is the assumption here, since it’s presumably part of a narrative—the verbs can simply be in their root forms, without infixes.)

kolan (conv., ko.LAN) ‘I mean, rather (self-correction)’

As with tolel, rolun, and tslolam, the -ol- form of kan ‘aim, intend’ takes on a special conversational meaning. Kolan is used when you need to correct yourself. It tells the listener, ‘My intention was not to say X but rather Y.’

Oeri tsyokx tìsraw si . . . kolan zekwä.
My hand hurts—I mean, my finger.

Fo kolä tsatseng fte tivaron yeri . . . ìì . . . kolan talioangit.
‘They went there to hunt hexa. . . um . . . I mean sturmbeast.’


hena (vtr., HE.na—inf. 1, 2) ‘carry’

Rutxe hivena fìepxangit fpi oe. Oeri skiena tsyokx lu leskxir.
‘Please carry this stone jar for me. My right hand is wounded.’



sähena (n., sä.HE.na) ‘container, vessel, carrier’

This is a general term for any object that can be used as a container or tool to carry something.

Ayfol zamolunge awngar ayrina’it fa sähena apxa.
‘They brought us the seeds in a large container.’


Sähena can also be used as a suffix, in which case it contracts to –sena. X-sena is an object that specifically carries or contains X. This suffix is not productive—that is, in general you’re not free to coin your own –sena words; you have to find them in the lexicon.


paysena (n., PAY.se.na) ‘water container’

Tsngal lu fnepaysena.
‘A cup is a type of water container.’


tutsena (n., TUT.se.na) ‘stretcher’

Tutsena is obviously derived from tute+sena, a ‘people-carrier.’ This is the device with which the unconscious Grace is carried to the Tree of Souls in the movie.

tstalsena (n., TSTAL.se.na) ‘knife sheath’

swizawsena (n., swi.ZAW.se.na) ‘quiver (attached to the ikran’s saddle)

In casual conversation, swizawsena is usually contracted to zawsena.


A word about AvatarMeet 2014

As I’m sure you know, this year’s AvatarMeet is taking place right here in my hometown of Los Angeles. Needless to say, I’ll be there! 😉 I hope those of you who are able to attend are as excited as I am. And for those who can’t make it, your aysirea will doubtless be with us.

As in past years, I’ll be teaching a Na’vi class—we’re up to Na’vi 103 now—that will be videotaped through the skill and generosity of our videotech team, Alan Taylor and Mikko Wilson. I’m very pleased that several of our aysulfätu lì’fyayä will be joining me as co-instructors.

We’re working on the content of the class right now. Naturally I have some thoughts about what grammatical points and conversational situations to concentrate on this time, but if you have any feelings along those lines—or if you have any other suggestions about the class—I’d love to hear your ideas! Let me know either in a blog comment or a personal email.

Happy June, everyone. Hayalovay!

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Value and Worth

Kaltxì, ma frapo,

Last time we looked at expressions for barter and exchange using the adposition yoa. This time we move to a related semantic domain and consider how to talk about value and worth. Like the last post, this one introduces a single important root, ley.

ley (vin.) ‘be of value, have some positive value, be worth something’

To say Fì’u ley is to say that the thing in question has some amount of positive value; this could be by virtue of its usefulness, beauty, history, association, etc. Fì’u ke ley means that the thing has no value—i.e., is worthless.

To specify the extent of the value, you need to add qualifiers like nìtxan, ke . . . kaw’it, and so on.

Here are some examples, most of which were contributed by the LEP:

Fì’u ley nìtxan nang!
This is super valuable!’

Tsaw ke ley kaw’it pak!
That’s not worth a thing!’ OR: ‘That’s just worthless junk!’

Tsasrä anawnekx ley nì’it nì’aw.
That burnt cloth is of little value.’

Fìfnerìn ke ley krra slu paynga’.
This kind of wood is worthless when it gets damp.

Flä ke flä, ley säfmi.
‘Whether you succeed or not, the attempt has value.’ (proverb)

säfmi (n., sä.FMI) ‘attempt’

Note that in the following example, the comparison does not require nì’ul, just as we say Po oeto lu tsawl ‘He’s taller than I am’ rather than *Po oeto lu tsawl nì’ul.

Oeri tsaw ke ley fì’uto.
I don’t value that over this.’

To inquire about something’s value, use pìmtxan or hìmtxampe ‘how much, to what extent’ along with ley:

Fìnikroi ley pìmtxan?
How valuable is this hair ornament?’

To say that A is as valuable as B, use ley with nìftxan/nì’eng and na:

Masat oeyä ley nìftxan na pum ngeyä.
‘My breastplate is as valuable as (OR: worth as much as) yours.’

Use this same structure to express monetary value ’Rrtamì:

Oeyä eltu lefngap ley nì’eng na ewro azafu.
‘My computer is worth 70 euros.’

In casual or informal contexts, nìftxan/nì’eng may be omitted:

Oeyä eltu lefngap ley na ewro azafu.
‘My computer is worth 70 euros.’

Sìlpey oe, fìpostì lilvey ayngaru nìwotx!


Edit 01 April: nì’eyng –> nì’eng (3X) Irayo, ma Plumps!

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Barter and Exchange

Kaltxì, ma eylan.

Well, 2014 has gotten off to a slow start for me. But here’s a brief post, just under the wire for February, with more to follow soon.

This post introduces an important new word: yoa.

yoa (adp-, YO.a) ‘in exchange for’

Yoa is an adp-, i.e. an adposition that does not trigger lenition, used to describe an exchange of items. In particular, it’s used in talking about trade—trading X for Y. The verbs we typically find in yoa sentences are those relevant for giving (tìng), receiving (tel), getting or acquiring (kanom), offering (stxenutìng), accepting (mll’an), etc.

A few examples contributed by the LEP will make the use of yoa clear:

Oel tolìng ngaru tsnganit yoa fkxen.
‘I gave you meat in exchange for vegetables.’ OR ‘I traded you meat for vegetables.’

Fol kolanom pota aysrokit fayoangyoa.
‘They acquired beads from him in exchange for fish.’ OR ‘They bartered fish with him for beads.’

Tayel Tsenul pxeswizawti yoa munsnahawnven.
‘Tsenu will receive three arrows in exchange for a pair of shoes.’

The next two examples are a bit more complicated.

Here, one of the “items” participating in the exchange is in fact an action performed by someone—that is, a clause:

Käsrolìn oel nikroit Peyralur yoa fwa po rol oer.
I loaned Peyral a hair ornament in exchange for her singing to me.’

And this example merits careful examination:

Futa ngata tel pxenyoa srät, mll’eian oel.
‘I’m happy to take cloth from you for finished garments.’

(Question: If A = agent, P = patient or object, and V = verb, what’s the basic word order of this sentence—APV, AVP, PAV, PVA, VAP, or VPA?)

Here ’Rrtamì we can adapt kanom + yoa in a natural way to talk about buying things. After all, when you purchase something, what are you doing but acquiring it in exchange for money? All we need are some loan words for earthly currency:

txolar (n., TXO.lar) ‘dollar’

ewro (n., EW.ro) ‘euro’

Poel hawre’tsyìpit kolanom yoa txolar amevol.
‘She bought a little cap for $16.’

Kìmanom oel mipa eltut lefngap yoa ewro.
‘I just bought a new computer.’

In the previous example, note that even when you don’t specify how much you paid, you still need to mention that you acquired the item in exchange for some kind of currency.

Finally, here’s a little listening exercise. I recently composed a short paragraph in Na’vi for a special occasion. Listen and see if you can figure out what the occasion was.

You’ll need to know one new word:

lawnol (n., LAW.nol) ‘great joy’


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Mipa Zìsìt Lefpom! Happy New Year!

A very Happy New Year, my friends! May 2014 bring health, peace, and joy to you all.

NìNa’vi . . . 

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Na’vi 102 Videos!

Ma Eylan,

Lu hasey! Videos of the Na’vi 102 class that it was my pleasure to teach at AvatarMeet 2013  in Shenandoah National Park are now available on YouTube. Descriptions and links to the six videos are below.

Irayo nìtxan to everyone who helped in this endeavor: to Leonopteryx who provided the video projector, speakers and amp; to Mikko who contributed the spiffy digital white board; to DJ Makto who recorded the lessons; to Lightstorm Entertainment who supported the cost of the room rental; and to all the aynumeyu whose enthusiastic participation made the class lively and fun. Most of all, a huge thank-you to Alan, our brilliant videographer, for his time and talent in putting these videos together so beautifully.

Although the material is elementary, I hope that even for our sulfätu these lessons will have some interest, and that you’ll find them useful for teaching others.

Sìlpey oe, faysänumvitsyìp lesar lìyevu ayngaru nìwotx.

Na’vi Class 102 – Part 1
Running Time: 14:35
Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=puuuDGYgSss
Introduction and classroom phrases to help learners ask and respond to questions in Na’vi during the class.

Na’vi Class 102 – Part 2:
Running Time: 16:27
Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCNWYDMT-pk
A dialogue piece: questions and answers about identity and age.

Na’vi Class 102 – Part 3:
Running Time: 18:36
Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIY5PCOzBLA
The topical for nouns along with the Na’vi octal numbering system.

Na’vi Class 102 – Part 4:
Running Time: 16:01
Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ps1LYPAVcM
A dialogue for describing families large and small.

Na’vi Class 102 – Part 5:
Running Time: 18:28
Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9SEsL0nbMYM
Exploring lenition and plurals.

Na’vi Class 102 – Part 6:
Running Time: 21:29
Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iaK7rBnxW9k
The question of ‘What are you doing?’ and its answers reveal the changes that occur to agent and patient words.

Posted in General, Na’vi 101 | 4 Comments

’On sì Salewfya—Shapes and Directions

Kaltxì, ma eylan! Ayngari tengkrr ya wur sleru nì’ul, sìlpey oe, livu helku sang ulte te’lan lefpom.

Here’s some new vocabulary—mostly excellent contributions of the LEP, some recent and some not-so-recent—involving shapes, directions, and the physical properties of objects.

’on (n.) ‘shape, form’

Tsun fko ayonti fìwopxä nivìn fte yafkeykit sresive’a.Tìng mikyun
‘The shapes of clouds can be used to predict the weather.’
(Literally, ‘One can look at the shapes of clouds in order to predict the weather.’)

(Note: As you see here, srese’a, which has previously been glossed as ‘prophesize,’ can also mean ‘predict.’)

salewfya (n., sa.LEW.fya) ‘direction, course’

Sweylu set txo awnga kivä pesalewfya?Tìng mikyun
‘What direction should we go in now?’

The previous example is often shortened to a familiar two-word expression with wide use:

Set pesalewfya?Tìng mikyun
‘What do we do now?’

koum (adj., KO.um) ‘rounded, curved’

Fìtskxeri fa’o lu yey; ke lu koum.Tìng mikyun
‘This rock has straight sides; it’s not rounded.’

ko’on (n., KO.’on) ‘ring, oval, closed shape roughly circular’

Na’vi ìlä ho’on kllkxolem tengkrr rerol.Tìng mikyun
‘The People were standing in a circle, singing.’

(Note: kllkxolem, not kllkxerem! 🙂 ) A ko’on is not necessarily a mathematical circle. For that, use yo’ko, which derives from *yo’ko’on ‘a perfectly circular ring.’

yo’ko (n., YO’.ko) ‘circle’

renulke (adj, RE.nul.ke) ‘irregular, random’

Eo ayfo a fya’o lamu ayskxeta teya sì renulke.Tìng mikyun
‘The path ahead of them was full of rocks and irregular.’

vawt (adj.) ‘solid, not hollow’

Fìutralìri tangekä zir fkan vawt, hufwa ke rey.Tìng mikyun
‘The trunk of the tree feels solid, although it’s dead.’

momek (adj., MO.mek) ‘hollow, not solid’

Tsatangekìri pam fkan momek.Tìng mikyun
‘That (tree)trunk sounds hollow.’

yeyfya (n., YEY.fya) ‘straight line’

Woleyn Ìstawl yeyfyat mì hllte fte oeyktivìng fraporu tìhawlteri sneyä.Tìng mikyun
‘Ìstaw drew a line on the ground to explain his plan to everyone.’

yak (n.) ‘fork, branch, point of divergence)

Haya yakro ftivang. Salew rä’ä.Tìng mikyun
‘Stop at the next fork. Do not proceed further.’

yak si (vin.) ‘diverge, change direction, go astray’

Awnga zene vivar ìlä fìsalewfya. Zenke yak sivi.Tìng mikyun
‘We must continue in this direction. We must not go astray.’

And some important directional adverbs:

nìyeyfya (adv., nì.YEY.fya) ‘straight ahead, in a straight line’

nìftär (adv., nì.FTÄR) ‘to the left’

nìskien (adv., nì.SKI.en) ‘to the right’

Salew nìyeyfya. Ne ’oratsyìp polähem, yak si nìftär.Tìng mikyun
‘Proceed straight ahead. When you arrive at the pond, turn to the left.’

’oratsyìp (n., ’O.ra.tsyìp) ‘pond, pool’

Hayalovay, ma smuk!

Edit Oct. 1: Fiutralìri –> Fìutralìri    Irayo nìfrakrr, ma Plumps!

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Taronway—The Hunt Song

Kaltxì, ma frapo—

Ke längu fìpostìmì ke’u a lu mip. I’m afraid there’s nothing new in this post, just an old favorite, The Hunt Song, which as most of you know was published in the Activist Survival Guide. It’s one of the four songs I translated during the filming of “Avatar” from English lyrics written by James Cameron. But I thought it would be useful for both listening and pronunciation practice. Besides, it’s always nice to have something ready at hand to trot out when people say to you, “Give me an example of what Na’vi sounds like.” For that purpose I often quote part of the Hunt Song, which has a nice “swing” to it.

It was interesting to decide what Na’vi poetry would sound like. Different languages base the structure of poetry on different elements. For example, poetry in Ancient Greek, Classical Latin, Classical Arabic, and Classic Persian is based on syllable length: in those languages, rhythmic poetical structures, called meters, consist of complicated arrangements of short and long (and sometimes extra-long) syllables. In some other languages, it’s not the length of syllables but the number of syllables per line that’s important. French poetry works that way. In still other languagesEnglish and German, for example (excluding so-called “free verse”)it’s stress that’s important: poetry depends on the arrangement of stressed and unstressed syllables in a line. Since stress is important in Na’viit’s the difference between ‘person’ and ‘woman,’ for example!that’s what I based Na’vi poetry on.

Here’s the text of the Hunt Song along with a word-for-word gloss. As you’ll see, the syntax is sometimes a bit convoluted, with word orders that wouldn’t be common in ordinary conversation, and there are some unusual stresses. You’ll also notice that certain unstressed syllables are elidedthat is to say, “swallowed up”in a way that would be unlikely in speech. But that’s what’s called “poetic license.”  🙂

Taronway—The Hunt Song
English lyrics: James Cameron
Na’vi translation: Paul Frommer


We are walking your way                        Terìran ayoe ayngane
                                                                     are-walking  we       towards-you

We are coming                                           Zera’u
                                                                                             (we)  are-coming

We are singing your way                          Rerol ayoe ayngane
                                                                      are-singing we   towards-you

So choose                                                    Ha ftxey
                                                                      so      choose

Choose one among you                             Awpot set ftxey ayngal a l(u) ayngakip
                                                                       one           now   choose     you      that   is       among-you

Who will feed the People.                        Awpot a Na’viru yomtìyìng.
                                                                       one        that     the-People     will-feed


Let my arrow strike true                         Oeyä swizaw nìngay tivakuk
                                                                      my            arrow        truly            let-strike

Let my spear strike the heart                 Oeyä tukrul txe’lanit tivakuk
                                                                      my            spear          heart           let-strike

Let the truth strike my heart                  Oeri tìngayìl txe’lanit tivakuk
                                                                       as-for-me  truth       heart           let strike

Let my heart be true.                                Oeyä txe’lan livu ngay.
                                                                       my          heart        let-be    true


You are fast and strong                             Lu nga win sì txur
                                                                       are    you    fast   and   strong

You are wise                                                Lu nga txantslusam
                                                                       are     you                 wise

I must be fast and strong                           Livu win sì txur oe zene
                                                                       be         fast    and  strong  I    must

So only                                                          Ha n(ì)’aw
                                                                         so          only

Only if I am worthy of you                         Pxan livu txo nì’aw oe ngari
                                                                         worthy    be         if      only       I     of-you

Will you feed the People.                           Tsakrr nga Na’viru yomtìyìng.
                                                                          then           you      the-People    will-feed

[Repeat chorus]

As you listen to and practice reciting this poem, it’s important to get a good feel for the rhythm. Basically, the poem divides into lines of four beats each. (Exception: the last line of the chorus has only three beats.) The above division into lines, which follows the English, is misleading in this respect. So here’s a recap of the poem with the four-beat lines arranged in a clear way. The stressed syllables in each line have been capitalized and bolded. In the recordings, I’ve tried to emphasize the stressed syllables to help you get the swing of the rhythm.

TerìRAN ayOe ayNGAne, zeRA’u
ReROL ayOe ayNGAne, ha FTXEY
pot set FTXEY ayNGAL a l(u) ayNGAkip
pot a NA’viru YOMYÌNG.

OEYä swiZAW NGAY tiVAkuk
ä tukRUL txe’LAnit tiVAkuk
ri NGAYìl txe’LAnit tiVAkuk
ä txe’LAN livu NGAY.

Lu nga WIN TXUR, lu nga TXANtsluSAM
Livu WIN TXUR oe ZEne han(ì)’AW
livu TXO nì’AW oe NGAri,
krr nga NA’viru YOMYÌNG. 

Tivaron nìzawnong, ma eylan! 

P.S. I wonder if there are any ayfamtseotu out there who might like to try setting the Hunt Song to music.  😉

Edit Sept. 1: Awpot –> ’Awpot (4 times) Irayo, ma Plumps!

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Fmawn a Fkol Kìlmulat!—This Just In!

Fmawn akosman, ma smuk! (Tìng nari nekll.)

Fìsäomum txankrr lolu oer; set tsun oe tsawteri pivängkxo ayngahu. Kintrram fayfamrelsiyuhu oe ultxa soleiyi. Roleiun futa lu fo kanu sì leso’ha nìwotx ulte Uniltìrantoxkìri lì’fyayä leNa’vi wawet fol tslam. Am’aluke haya pxerel arusikx wayou! Tìkangkem sngivä’i ko! (Nìsìlpey ye’rìn.)  😀


[From Variety]

AUGUST 1, 2013 | 11:04AM PT

‘Avatar’ to Get Three Sequels, Fox/Cameron Hire Screenwriters

First sequel to arrive December 2016

by Justin Kroll, Film Reporter

Cameron has hired screenwriters Josh Friedman (War of the Worlds), Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver (“Rise of the Planets of the Apes”), and Shane Salerno (“Savages,” Salinger) to collaborate with him on the screenplays for “Avatar 2,” “Avatar 3,” and “Avatar 4.”20th Century Fox and director James Cameron announced today that the “Avatar” sequels have grown in number from two to three.

The three tentpoles will be filmed simultaneously with production beginning next year.  The release of the first sequel will be in December 2016, with the second to follow in December 2017, and the third a year later.

Though Friedman is best known for writing on the TV show “The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” Friedman’s attachment is just a coincidence since Cameron had nothing to do with the show even though he helped create the “Terminator” characters with Gale Anne Hurd.

Cameron is producing with his Lighthouse Entertainment partner Jon Landau. No release date has been set.

The first “Avatar” is the highest grossing film at the domestic and worldwide box office having earned more than $760 million domestically and $2.7 billion worldwide.

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Pximaw Tsawlultxa—Just After the Meet-up

Kaltxì, ma smuk.

I considered beginning this post with:

Tswìlmayon oe ftu Wasyìngton ne kelku. Tewti! Mepunìri oe ’efu ngeyn nìngay!

But I’m not sure old-time American vaudeville humor translates culturally into Na’vi. 😉

John and I did indeed just get back from the east coast, however, after attending AvatarMeet 2013 in Na’rìng Syenentoayä (the Forest of Shenandoah, i.e. Shenandoah National Park in Virginia) followed by a couple of days playing tourists in Washington. (The Air and Space Museum is enthralling!)

And an excellent meet-up it was. We had about two dozen attendees, including five from across the Atlantic. Jon Landau made a virtual appearance just before the showing of the extended version of Avatar, which received a very enthusiastic response, and LEI (Lightstorm Entertainment Inc.) contributed refreshments and funded the use of the room. I taught two Na’vi classes—an informal 101 refresher held at the campsite, with all of us sitting in a semi-circle on the grass (and with the occasional interruptions of close-by yerik ’Rrtayä that stole the show), followed the next day by a “hi-tech” 102 class indoors, complete with PowerPoint and a virtual whiteboard. Mikko and Peter set up the technology perfectly, and Alan recorded it all for posterity. Both kinds of classes had merit, I think, so I’ll keep that in mind for the future.

A highlight of the meet-up was the hike on Sunday to Dark Hollow Falls, a beautiful spot deep in the forest. We had five tute aean along, who scampered across streams and struck poses on rocks. As you might suspect, there were many encounters between the Na’vi and the startled Sawtute who had never before met them up close and personal. I can’t wait to see the pictures.

All in all, it was a wonderful meet-up. Irayo to Mikko, Alan, Peter, DJ Makto, and everyone else who had a hand in making it a success. Irayo for the thoughtful and generous gifts presented to John and me. And of course, irayo to everyone who came. For those who couldn’t make it this time, nìsìlpey alo ahay.

And now a bit of vocabulary, some of which was inspired by the tsawlultxa:

srä (n.) ‘cloth: a piece of cloth woven on a loom’

A srä is created by warp and weft weaving.

Furia txula tsalewti lu srä sìltsan to fngap.Tìng mikyun
‘For constructing that cover, woven cloth is better than metal.’

srok (n.) ‘bead (decorative)’

’En si oe, lora tsafkxileri apxayopin solar Tsenul srokit avozam.Tìng mikyun

‘I would guess that Tsenu used a thousand (lit. 512) beads for that beautiful multi-colored bib necklace.’

pxayopin (adj., PXAY.o.pin) ‘colorful, multi-colored, variegated’

Finally, ‘chocolate’ and ‘pineapple’ both came up for discussion. Since the Na’vi only encountered these food items through contact with the Sawtute, it’s natural that in talking about them they would borrow the English terms, filtered through the Na’vi sound system. So:

tsyoklìt (n., TSYOK.lìt) ‘chocolate’

paynäpll (n., PAY.nä.pll) ‘pineapple’

It’s interesting to speculate whether these terms would evoke associations among the Na’vi, consciously or unconsciously, with common words in their language. For example, tsyoklìt sounds a bit like tsyokx ‘hand’ + litx ‘sharp (as a blade).’ And paynäpll might bring to mind pay ‘water, liquid’ + nän ‘decrease’ + plltxe ‘speech.’ Chocolate as a sharp hand? Pineapple as liquid that decreases speech? If nothing else, these might be the source of Na’vi puns and wordplay.

Hayalovay, ma eylan.

Edit 3 Aug.: Syenendoayä –> Syenentoayä. Irayo, ma Tìtstewan!

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Looking back, looking forward

Kaltxì nìmun, ma eylan,

Tse, EuroAvatar 2013 is well behind us. And what a great meet-up it was! John and I were so happy to be able to get to know and spend time with members of the European Avatar community and lì’fyaolo’. The language classes, the radio play, the singing, the food, the wonderful birthday party for John, the great organization (irayo nìtxan, ma Passi!)—everything was fantastic.

And as icing on the cake, the Berlin meet-up was followed just over a week later by an unexpected but delightful mini-meet-up with French fans in Paris!

I’ve posted some pictures below, but first, here are a few vocabulary items plus a point of grammatical clarification that were prompted by the Berlin meet-up:

okup (n., O.kup) ‘milk’

Sa’nok prrnenur yomtìng fa okup sneyä.Tìng mikyun
‘A mother feeds an infant with her milk.’

loi (n., LO.i) ‘egg’

Rolun ayoel tsrulmì hì’ia pxeloit ateyr.Tìng mikyun
‘We found three little white eggs in the nest.’

tsyeym (n.) ‘treasure; something rare and of great value’

Käteng oe hu eylan Perlinmì a mrrtrr lu tsyeym a ke tsun tswiva’ kawkrr.Tìng mikyun
‘The (5-day) week I spent with my friends in Berlin is a treasure that I’ll never forget.’

The “double-dative” construction

As you know, to say ‘I sent my brother a message,’ you put the direct object of ‘send,’ i.e. the thing you sent (in this case, a message) in the objective or accusative case (the “t-case”), and the indirect object, i.e. the person to whom the message was sent,  in the dative case (the “ru-case”). And of course you use the agentive case for ‘I’:

Oel ’upxaret tsmukanur oeyä fpole’.Tìng mikyun
‘I sent my brother a message.’

But what if it’s ‘I wrote my brother a message’?

‘Write,’ as you know, is a si-construction, which has a different syntax: ‘I’ is in the subjective case, which is used with intransitive subjects, and the direct object in English becomes a dative in Na’vi. (I like to think of it as: ‘I do writing to a message.’ That’s terrible English but good Na’vi.) But what about ‘my brother’? Is that in the dative case too? Yes, it is:

Oe ’upxareru tsmukanur oeyä pamrel soli.Tìng mikyun
‘I wrote my brother a message.’

We call this a “double-dative” construction for the obvious reason.

The question that immediately comes up is this: given the two datives, one representing the direct object of ‘write’ and one the indirect object, will there ever be confusion as to which is which? Fortunately, this doesn’t happen. One of the datives is in the class of things that can be written (messages, notes, blog posts, books, etc.) and the other in the class of things that can be written to—basically, people. The two classes don’t overlap, so there’s no ambiguity.

Of course, writing was only introduced on Pandora with the advent of the Sawtute, so you might think that this construction was introduced at that time as well. But in fact it was already in place in the language. Consider law si, for example, which means ‘to make clear’:

Ralur law soli fo oeru.Tìng mikyun
‘They made the meaning clear to me.’

As with pamrel si, there’s no danger of ambiguity here. The other possible interpretation, ‘They made me clear to the meaning,’ makes no sense.

You may also recall Jake’s line from Avatar, which also has two datives:

Ma Eytukan, lu oeru aylì’u frapor.Tìng mikyun
‘Eytukan, I have something to say (to everyone).’

In this case, the word order allows you to interpret the sentence correctly. (‘Everyone has something to say to me’ would be Lu frapor aylì’u oeru.)

And now for the promised pictures.

Berlin welcoming committee at the train station:

Welcome party 1

Welcome party 3

Welcome party 2

At camp, we were welcomed by a genuine brass band!

Brass band

The birthday boy at his party:


What a beautiful cake!


We had some wonderful singers and musicians in our group:


Formal group portrait:


The Paris contingent!



Looking ahead:

Excitement is building for the U.S. Avatar Meet-up in the Washington, DC area (more precisely, at Shenandoah National Park in Virginia).


I’ll be teaching a Na’vi 102 class and an informal 101 refresher as well. John will be there too. We’re really looking forward to reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ones. Txo tsivun, rutxe ziva’u!

By the way, as I’m putting together the 102 class, if you have any ideas about content—anything in particular you’d like to hear about or practice that would suitable for a 102-level class, please let me know, either here or privately.

Vospìayvay, ma smuk.

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