Na'vi/Adjectives

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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,

oeyä ean-a txìm a-tsawl
my blue-attr butt attr-big
"my big blue butt"[1]

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",
ʼekong ay+txeʼlan+ le-naʼvi
and beat pl+beat+gen adj-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:

tompa kato   "the rainʼs rhythm" (tompa 'rain', kato 'rhythm')
Utral Aymokri "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)"

That is, "choose a will-feed-the-people individual". See the section on relative clauses in the chapter on syntax for further explanation.


Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. 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]

  1. NPR, 2′24″


Adpositions · Numbers

Adpositions · Na'vi · Numbers