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, look, appearance’
‘sense of smell’
‘sense of taste’
‘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: 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.’
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!