Kaltxì nìmun, ma smuk—
Here are some new words for the new season, along with a bit of grammar. Most of the new items come from the Vocabulary Committee, whom I continue to thank for their hard work and excellent suggestions. Irayo ayngaru nìfrakrr, ma eylan.
srer (vin.) ‘appear, materialize, come into view’
Note: Don’t confuse srer with lam, which means “appear” in the sense of “seem” only. Srer refers to something coming into view.
Txonam tengkrr tarmìran oe kxamlä na’rìng, sroler eo utral atsawl txewma vrrtep.
‘Last night as I was walking through the forest, a frightening demon appeared in front of a big tree.’
’ìp (vin.) ‘disappear, vanish, recede from view’
Kxamtrr lam fwa sanhì a mì saw ’olìp nìwotx slä tsakrr ke tsun fko sat tsive’a nì’aw.
At mid-day it seems that the stars in the sky have all vanished but they just can’t be seen then.
tsong (n.) ‘valley’
Awnga tsongne kivä fte stivarsìm teylut.
‘Let’s go to the valley to gather beetle larvae.’
tsongtsyìp (n., TSONG.tsyìp) ‘dimple’
Prrnen lrrtok si a krr, srer mesongtsyìp ahona.
‘When the baby smiles, two adorable dimples appear.’
ro’a (vin., RO.’a — inf. 1,2) ‘be impressive, inspire awe or respect’
Toruk Makto polähem a fì’u rolo’a nìtxan Omatikayaru.
‘The arrival of Toruk Makto made a great impression on the Omatikaya.’
säro’a (n., sä.RO.’a) ‘feat, accomplishment, great deed’
säro’a si (vin.) ‘do great deeds’
Txantstew säro’a si, fnawe’tu ke si.
‘A hero does great deeds, a coward does not.’
txanro’a (vin., txan.RO.’a — inf. 2,3) ‘be famous’
Vay fwa zola’u TsyeykSuli, Toruk Makto alu pizayu Neytiriyä txanrarmo’a frato kip ayhapxìtu Omatikayaä.
‘Until Jake Sully arrived, Neytiri’s ancestor was the most famous Toruk Makto among the Omatikaya.’ [lit.: ‘the Toruk Makto that was Neytiri’s ancestor was the most famous . . .’]
velek (vin., VE.lek — inf. 1,2) ‘give up, surrender, concede defeat’
Tì’i’ari tsamä zene Sawtute vivelek talun* tìtxur Eywayä.
‘At the end of the war, the Sky People had to give up due to the power of Eywa.’
*Note: Here, talun is functioning as an adposition (ADP-) with the meaning of ‘because of, due to.’
spono (n., SPO.no) ‘island’
Ayoel rolun mipa sponot mì hilvan.
‘We found a new island in the river.’
txew (n.) ‘edge, brink, limit, border, end’
Ikran yawolo ftu txew ’awkxä.
‘The banshee took to the air from the edge of a cliff.’
Srake pol layok txewti na’rìngä?
‘Will he approach the edge of the forest?’
(Note the syntax here: lok ‘approach’ is transitive, so pol is agentive and txewti is patientive.)
Ke tsun awnga pivey nulkrr—txew lok.
‘We can’t wait any longer—time is almost up.’
(Note: Lok is used intransitively here, so it’s txew, not txewìl. You’ll find some further explanation below.)
txewnga’ (adj., TXEW.nga’) ‘having a limit, not without bounds, finite’
Tuteri tìtxur lu txewnga’.
‘There are limits to a person’s strength.’
litx (adj.) ‘sharp (as a blade)’
fwem (adj.) ‘dull, blunt (as a point)’
These words require some explanation. You’ve already seen the words pxi ‘sharp’ and tete ‘dull.’ What’s the difference between the old words and the new ones?
Unlike English, Na’vi distinguishes between “point sharp/point dull” (needles, thorns, stingers, knife points) and “blade sharp/blade dull” (knife edge, leaf edge, etc.) This little chart will make it clear:
Point pxi fwem
Blade litx tete
Eltu si! Tsatstal afwem lu litx nìtxan.
‘Pay attention! That blunt knife is very sharp.’
Fìtsgnanit ke tsun oe yivom. Koaktanä aysre’ längu fwem.
‘I can’t eat this meat. An old man’s teeth are dull.’
syura (n., syu.RA) ‘energy’
This word can mean both physical and spiritual energy. It’s the “life force of Eywa,” which pervades all of Pandora and its creatures.
Frasyurati fkol zasrolìn nì’aw ulte trro zene teykivätxaw.
‘All energy is only borrowed, and one day it will have to be given back.’
(That example sentence, like many of the others, is from the Vocabulary Committee; I think it’s wonderful.)
syuratan (n., syu.RA.tan) ‘bioluminescence’
Txonkrr lu syuratan na’rìngä Eywevengä lor nìtxan.
‘At night, the bioluminescence of the Pandoran forest is very beautiful.’
txonkrr (adv., TXON.krr) ‘at night’
yuey (adj., YU.ey) ‘beautiful (inner beauty)’
Both lor and yuey mean ‘beautiful.’ Lor refers to physical beauty that’s apparent to the eye; yuey refers to the “inner” beauty that stems from someone’s character, personality, spirituality, etc. Lor has wide applicability, but yuey is ofp (only for people).
Lu poe lor, lu yuey nìteng.
‘She’s beautiful on the outside and the inside.’
kxem (vin.) ‘be vertical’
txay (vin.) ‘be horizontal, lie flat’
These intransitive verbs can be used by themselves, for example:
Fìrumut lumpe ke kxem?
‘Why isn’t this puffball tree vertical?’
but they’re most important in their derived forms—for example:
nìkxem (adv.) ‘vertically’
nìtxay (adv.) ‘horizontally’
Some words you’re already familiar with come from these roots. For example, kllkxem ‘stand,’ which is fairly obvious. In the same way, we have:
klltxay (vin., kll.TXAY—inf. 2,2) ‘lie on the ground’ (and its transitive form klltxeykay ‘lay (something) on the ground’).
These verbs also combine with the word for ‘surface’:
yo (n.) ‘surface’
So we have the word txayo (from txay + yo) ‘flat surface,’ which as you know is also the word for ‘field’ or ‘plain.’ Also:
kxemyo (n., KXEM.yo) ‘wall, vertical surface’
fyep (vtr.) ‘hold in the hand, grasp, grip’
Ngäzìk lu fwa var tskoti fyivep tengkrr utralit tsyerìl.
‘It’s hard to keep holding a bow while climbing a tree.’
Fyep can be extended to general holding, not just in the hands:
Oel tstalit fyolep fa aysre’.
‘I held the knife in my teeth.’
And note these adverbs that can specify the type of holding being done:
nìk’ärìp (adv., nìk.’Ä.rìp) ‘steadily’ (lit.: ‘without letting it move’)
nìklonu (adv., nìk.lo.NU) ‘firmly, steadfastly, faithfully’ (lit.: ‘without releasing it’)
nìktungzup (adv., nìk.tung.ZUP) ‘carefully, firmly’ (lit.: ‘without letting it fall’)
nìsyep (adv., nì.SYEP) ‘tightly, in an iron grip’ (lit.: ‘like a trap’)
nìmeyp (adv., nì.MEYP) ‘weakly, loosely’
säfyep (n., sä.FYEP) ‘handle’
slan (vtr.) ‘support’
Slan is used for emotional, social, or personal support, but not physical support (as in “these pillars support the roof”).
Tìwäteri ngal oeti pelun ke slan kawkrr?
‘Why don’t you ever support me in an argument?’
tìslan (n., tì.SLAN) ‘support’
Ngeyä tìeyktanìri, tìslanìri sì tsranten frato a tì’eylanìri a ka ayzìsìt nìwotx, seiyi oe irayo nìtxan.
‘Thank you so much for your leadership, your support, and most importantly your friendship throughout the years.’
tìeyktan (n., tì.EYK.tan) ‘leadership’
Note: The above example sentence contains two (tìeyktan and tì’eylan) of the relatively rare cases where tì- has been added to a concrete noun to form the related abstract noun.
And a few more body parts:
’llngo (n., ’LL.ngo) ‘hip’
Note: In words that begin with ’ll or ’rr, there’s no lenition: the glottal stop never drops. So we have me’llngo ‘two hips,’ ay’llngo ‘hips,’ mì ’llngo ‘in the hip.’
zare’ (n., za.RE’) ‘forehead, brow’ (from zapxì + re’o)
flawm (n.) ‘cheek’
prrku (n., PRR.ku) ‘womb’ (from prrnen + kelku)
ngep (n.) ‘navel’
A note on “ambitransitive verbs”
Don’t let the term scare you. You already know more about this than you think.
As we saw with the lok examples above, the same Na’vi verb can be transitive in one context and intransitive in another. The same thing happens in many other languages—for example, English. Take the verb eat. Sometimes it’s transitive, with an overt object: “I’m eating a cupcake.” Sometimes, it’s intransitive, where the object isn’t specified, and the focus is on the act of eating rather than on what’s being eaten: “Don’t bother me now—I’m eating.” Such verbs are sometimes referred to as “ambitransitive.” There are many other such verbs—understand, read, write, win, lose, hunt, etc.
But in English, many transitive verbs cannot be used intransitively. We can say He always rejects such offers but not *He always rejects.
Na’vi, however, is much freer than English in this regard. Most if not all transitive verbs can be used intransitively. So, for example, we have:
Oel yerom set teylut.
‘I’m eating beetle larvae now.’
Oe yerom set.
‘I’m eating now.’
Ngal pelun faystxenut frakrr tsyär?
‘Why do you always reject these offers?’
Nga pelun frakrr tsyär?
‘Why do you always reject everything (or: such things)?’
So when you see a Na’vi verb marked VTR, you can feel pretty confident that it can be used intransitively as well. Note that this does not work the other way around: intransitive verbs can’t be used transitively unless you add something to make them transitive. For example, tätxaw is the intransitive verb ‘return,’ as in “I’ll return at 3:00.” For the transitive sense of ‘return,’ as “Please return the book you borrowed,” you need to add the causative infix <eyk>: teykätxaw ‘cause to return’—that is, return in the transitive sense!
One little complication: Just because a transitive verb doesn’t have an object in its clause, you can’t always conclude that it’s being used intransitively. For example, to say ‘The teylu I’m eating is delicious,’ which is correct, A or B?
- Teylu a oe yerom lu ftxìlor.
- Teylu a oel yerom lu ftxìlor.
The answer is B. If you’re having trouble seeing this, think of it this way: The sentence “started out” as *Teylu a [oel yerom tsat] lu ftxìlor, that is, ‘The teylu that [I’m eating it] is delicious.’ In both Na’vi and English, you must delete the “it” in the bracketed clause (a “relative clause” for the grammarians in the audience). But even though the object has been deleted from that clause, the agentive marking remains.
On a personal note:
It’s been a while since I’ve given a public talk about Na’vi, but I have two such events coming up in April, both in California. The first is at California Polytechnic State University (aka Cal Poly) in San Luis Obispo, about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the evening of April 5th:
The second talk is two weeks later at my alma mater USC, here in Los Angeles, on April 19th. That will be to USIL, the Undergraduate Students in Linguistics club. They haven’t told me the exact time or location yet, other than that it will be in the early evening. I’ll post the details when I have them.
If anyone is in the area and can make it to one of these events, please drop by. I can’t promise you’ll learn very much that you don’t know already (although I may say a few words about Barsoomian), but these talks are always fun, and of course I’d be delighted to say hello to you.
Edits 31 March: ka–>kxamlä; nìk.Ä.rìp–>nìk.’Ä.rìp; zapxi–>zapxì