Frommer had created a thousand words for Na’vi by the time Avatar was released. Although that number is relatively small, Frommer has stated that with further development the language could be used for everyday conversation.
A few conversational items are
- káme "to See" (to see into and understand a person)
- oél ngáti kámeie "I See you" (a greeting)
- káme ngát "See you" (a shortened response)
- kìyeváme "good-bye; See you soon"
- kaltxì "hello"
- ngaru lu fpom srak? "how are you?"
- rutxé "please"
- iráyo "thank you"
- óe ngáru seiyí iráyo "I thank you"
- Fyape fko syaw ngar? "What's your name?" (lit., "How does one call you?")
- Oeru syaw (fko) Atayo. Ngaru tut? "(They) call me Atayo. And you?"
- maw hìkrr ayoe tìyätxaw. "we’ll be right back."
- yawne "beloved"
- nga yáwne lu oér "I love you"
- oéru txóa livú "forgive me"
- Éywa ngáhu "God (Gaia) be with you"
- yola krr, txana krr, ke tsranten "It doesn’t matter how long it takes"
- ngári Náwma Sá’nok lŕrtok soleiyí "the Great Mother has smiled upon you"
- ftxozäri aylrrtok ngaru "smiles to you on you celebration" (happy holidays, happy birthday, etc.)
- lrrtok ngar "good luck!"
- skxáwng! "moron!"
- pxasìk "screw that!; no way!"
- óe omúm "I know"
- tam "okay"
- tslolám "got it; understood."
- tsún tivám "not bad/pretty good" (that should do / good enough)
- sìlpey oe pxengaru srung soli "I hope I helped you"
- X nìNá’vi slu ’úpe? "how do you say X in Na’vi?"
- Ayfizayu plltxuye san... or Plltxuye ayfizayu san... "Once upon a time..." (lit. "the ancestors tell (us)...")
- Fìfya plltxuye ayfizayu. "This is what the ancestors tell." (closing to a story)
- Oe tìyawn ngenga. "I love you"
Na’vi has insults, such as skxawng, and rude words, such as pxasìk, but no words considered obscene.
Many words are created by compounding, which is effected by simply joining the elements together: kämákto "to ride out", from kä "to go" and makto "to ride"; éltungawng (a species of hallucinogenic worm), from eltu "a brain" and ngawng "a worm"; ftéke "lest", from fte "so that" and ke "not". In compounds with a monosyllabic verb, it may be the second element which inflects, even when the inflection would be expected before that, as in yomtìng "to feed" (lit. "to give to eat"), where the first-position infix ìy appears instead in the final syllable: yom-t‹ìy›ìng.
Compounds are often truncated, for example prrnesyul "bud" from prrnen "infant" + syulang "flower". Similarly, tute "person" is frequently compounded in an abbreviated form -tu, as in pamtseotu "musician" (lit. 'sound-art-person').
Na’vi has a few attested ideophones, words which mimic the sound or sensation of the thing they describe, such as kxángangang "boom!", which appears to capture the initial explosion with the first syllable, and the reverberating effect of it with the subsequent syllables.
Some Na’vi expressions are idiomatic or have been shortened to the point they are no longer directly understandable. For instance, oeru teya si means "I'm glad"; it's short for fpom oeru teya si "joy fills me".
The Na’vi vocabulary includes a few English loan words, such as ’Rrta "Earth". Na’vi lacks the English sounds b, d, g, ch, j, oy, qu, sh, th, and the s sound in fusion. Therefore, when English words or names are adopted, these need to be replaced with Na’vi sounds. B, d, and hard g are replaced with p, t, k, as in pätsì "badge", toktor "doctor" (title), and kunsìp "gunship"; sh and the fusion sound are replaced with s and z, as in kunsìp, while ch, j, and soft g are replaced with ts or tsy, as in pätsì and Tseyk "Jake".
Changing parts of speech
In English, word order is fixed subject-verb-object, number-adjective-noun, etc, but a word may be used as any of several parts of speech. For example, "dance" may be a noun or a verb (to dance a dance), "yellow" may be an adjective or a noun (a yellow apple, a deep yellow), "fast" may be an adjective or an adverb (we walked fast, we are fast), etc. Na’vi is the opposite: Word order is largely free, but with a few exceptions, words are restricted to a specific part of speech. For instance, srew can only be a verb "to dance"; the noun is tìsrew. Likewise rim is "yellow" and tìrim "the color yellow"; win "fast" and nìwin "quickly".
- Adjectives may be derived from nouns and verbs with le-: hrrap "danger" → lehrrap "dangerous"; fngap "metal" → lefngap "metallic"; sar "use" → lesar "useful". Note also leNa'vi "of the Na'vi, Na'vish". (The attributive a- is generally dropped before this le-.)
- Adverbs are formed from all parts of speech with nì-: ftúe "easy" → nìftúe "easily"; ayoeng "us" → nìayoeng "like us"; rim "yellow" → nìrim "in yellow"; sìlpey "to hope" → nìsìlpey "hopefully", awnomun "known" (omun "to know" → nìawnomum "as is known".
- Abstract nouns may be derived from verbs and adjectives, and even from concrete nouns, with the prefix tì-: rey "to live" → tìrey "life"; ngay "true" → tìngay, "truth".
- An agent of a verb (English -er) is indicated with -yu: táron "to hunt" → táronyu "a hunter".[note 1]
Affixation is common in Na’vi. Another strategy, reduplication, is only attested in one word, the adjective letrrtrr "everyday, ordinary", from trr "day", though ’engeng "even, level" shows evidence of reduplication in the past.
Not all apparent affixes necessarily are. Some are coincidence. For example, the word tìran "to walk" is a verb; the tì is part of the root, not the nominal prefix. The noun "a walk" would be tìtìran. Likewise meuia "honor" is singular, not dual, which would be memeuia, and tswayon "to fly" is not future, which would be tswayayon.
Note that some states described with adjectives in English are stative verbs in Na’vi, such as sim "be near", lìm "be far", and fnu "be quiet". The first two have irregular adverbial forms, asim "nearby" and alìm "far away", which presumably originated from an adverbial phrase nì-[noun] a sim etc.
A few words belong to more than one part of speech. Most notable of these are words of time, such as krr "time" and trr "day", the derivatives of which function as both noun and adverb. Tsakrr, for example, doesn't mean just "that time" but more commonly "then" (at that time), and fìtrr isn't just "this day" but also "today" (on this day).
Numerous Na’vi words appear to be cognate, though without any known method of derivation. For example, eyk is "to lead", oeyk "a cause", and ‹eyk› caus; other words possibly related to each other are ’ewan "young" and ’eveng "child", or ke yey "not straight" (crooked) and kxeyey "mistake".
- An exception in the film is toruk-makto "Great Leonopteryx rider" (makto is "to ride"), as this phrase was coined by Cameron before Frommer had designed the grammar.
- Sancton, Julian (December 1, 2009). "Brushing up on Na'vi, the Language of Avatar". Vanity Fair. http://www.vanityfair.com/online/oscars/2009/12/brushing-up-on-navi-the-language-of-avatar.html. Retrieved January 16, 2010.