Naʼvi adjectives may modify a noun directly, in an attributive role, such as "the blue cat", or indirectly, linked to the noun with a verb like "to be" in a predicative role, as in "the cat is blue" or "the cat became blue".
Predicative adjectives[edit | edit source]
Predicative adjectives are not marked in any special way, except that they occur with a copula like the verbs lu "be" or slu "become":
kilvan ngim lu river long be
- "The river is long"
Other word orders also work: kilvan lu ngim, lu ngim kilvan, ngim lu kilvan, etc.
This bare form is also used with the verb ʼefu "feel" for internal states, such as
- Oe ʼefu som "I am hot"
- Oe ʼefu nitram "I am happy"
Attributive adjectives[edit | edit source]
In their attributive role, adjectives may occur either before or after the noun they modify. Such adjectives are marked by a particle a, which only occurs when an adjective modifies a noun directly in this way, and which appears on the side closest to the noun,[note 1] another feature that is unusual by the standards of human languages. For example, "a long river" can be expressed either as ngima kilvan,
ngim-a kilvan long-attr river
or as kilvan angim,
kilvan a-ngim river attr-long
When more than one adjective modifies a noun, they may appear on either side, as in,
- "my big blue butt"
The a affix is optional for derived le- adjectives after a noun: trr lefpom or optionally trr alefpom "a peaceful day", but lefpoma trr.
When an adjective begins or ends with the vowel a, the attributive a blends into it. So, for example, snúmìna "stupid" only changes when it follows a noun: snumìna, asnumìna, and apxá "great" does not change at all: skxawng apxa, apxa skxawng "a big moron".
Adjectives are not inflected. That is, they do not agree with the noun they modify, as in
- Sì ʼekong teʼlanä le-Naʼvi
- "and the beat of the hearts of the People",
where only the noun teʼlan "hearts", not the adjective le-Naʼvi "Naʼvi", takes the genitive suffix -yä or the plural prefix ay+. Similarly, in the topic lìʼfyari leNaʼvi "as for the Naʼvi language", only lìʼfya "language" takes the topical case -ìri.
Adjectives may remain as such when their noun is made into an adverb:
- fyaʼo letrrtrr "an everyday manner"
- nìfyaʼo letrrtrr "in an everyday manner"
This is common with the noun fyaʼo, and helps clarify the multiple readings of a simple adverb. For example, the adverb nìlaw, from from the adjective law "clear, understandable", is ambiguous; Po poltxe nìlaw may mean either "She spoke clearly" or "Clearly, she spoke." However, po poltxe nìfya'o alaw (she spoke in a clear manner) can only mean "She spoke clearly."
Comparison[edit | edit source]
Comparative constructions are marked by the grammatical particle to; where this occurs, there is no need for the word nìʼul "more". Thus sìltsan means "good", but when it appears with to it should be translated "better":
- "S/he is better than me"
- Po to oe lu sìltsan or
- Lu po sìltsan to oe or
- Sìltsan lu po oeto or
- Oeto po lu sìltsan or
- Oeto sìltsan lu po etc.
Nìʼul "more" is used when there is no direct comparison with to, as in txur nìʼul "(be) stronger!".
The superlative ("-est") is conveyed with the compound particle frato "than everything":
- Tsoleʼa syeptutet atsawl frato mì sìrey.
ts‹ol›eʼa syep-tute-it a-tsawl fra-to mì+ tì-rey see‹pfv› trap-person-acc attr-big every-than in+ nomz-live
- "(and we) saw the biggest Trapper I've ever seen" (lit. 'than all in (my) life')
Two adjectives are inherently superlative, swey "best" and ʼeʼal "worst".
Other attributives[edit | edit source]
Adjectives are not the only things which can modify a noun. Numbers, for example, also require the attributive a in such situations:
- ʼawa tìpawmìri "regarding one (particular) question" (ʼaw "one").
Nouns may also modify nouns; for this they do not take a but rather the genitive case -yä. The genitive is used for possession, but also for more general association. The syntactically free (discourse-determined) word order of adjectives in a noun phrase holds for these other attributives as well:
tompayä kato "the rainʼs rhythm" (tompa 'rain', kato 'rhythm') Utral Aymokriyä "the Tree of Voices" (utral 'a tree', mokri 'a voice')
However, in the case of a prepositional phrase, a genitive suffix on the noun may be ambiguous. The attributive a can clarify, though it is written as a separate word, as it governs a multi-word phrase rather than a single numeral or adjective:
- Ngeyä teri faytele a aysänumeri ngar irayo seiyi ayoe nìwotx
nga+yä teri fì-ay+txele a ay-sänume-ìri nga-ru irayo s‹ei›i ay-oe nì-wotx you-gen about this-pl+matter sbrd pl-instruction-top you-dat thank do‹approb› pl-I adv-all
- "We all thank you for your teachings concerning these matters"
Here teri faytele "concerning these matters" is an attributive, marked by a, of ngeyä aysänumeri "your teachings", for effectively "your about-these-matters teachings".
Relative clauses are clauses that modify a noun; the same attributive a is used:
- Ftxey ʼawpot a Naʼviru yomtìyìng
- "Choose one (ʼawpo) who will feed the People (Naʼvi)"
Notes[edit | edit source]
- Attached orthographically, but the fictional Naʼvi is not a written language. Therefore it may be more accurate to say that the a appears between the adjective and the noun, but always adjacent to the adjective. Other than orthography, this is identical to its use in relative clauses below.
References[edit | edit source]
- NPR, 2′24″