Na'vi/Lexicon

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Frommer had created a thousand words for Naʼvi 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.[1]

Common phrases[edit | edit source]

A few conversational items are

kame "to See" (to see into and understand a person)
oel ngati kameie "I See you" (a greeting)
kame ngat "See you" (a shortened response)
kìyevame "good-bye; See you soon"
kaltxì "hello"
ngaru lu fpom srak? "how are you?"
rutxe "please"
irayo "thank you"
oe ngaru irayo seiyi "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 yawne lu oer "I love you"
oeru txoa livu "forgive me"
Eywa ngahu "God (Gaia) be with you"
yola krr, txana krr, ke tsranten "It doesnʼt matter how long it takes"
ngari Nawma Saʼnok lrrtok soleiyi "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!"
skxawng! "moron!"
pxasìk "screw that!; no way!"
oe omum "I know"
tam "okay"
tslolam "got it; understood."
tsun tivam "not bad/pretty good" (that should do / good enough)
sìlpey oe pxengaru srung soli "I hope I helped you"
X nìNaʼvi slu ʼupe? "how do you say X in Naʼvi?"
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"

Naʼvi has insults, such as skxawng, and rude words, such as pxasìk, but no words considered obscene.

Compounds[edit | edit source]

Many words are created by compounding, which is effected by simply joining the elements together: kämakto "to ride out", from "to go" and makto "to ride"; eltungawng (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').

Ideophones[edit | edit source]

Naʼvi has a few attested ideophones, words which mimic the sound or sensation of the thing they describe, such as kxangangang "boom!", which appears to capture the initial explosion with the first syllable, and the reverberating effect of it with the subsequent syllables.

Idioms[edit | edit source]

Some Naʼvi 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".

Loan words[edit | edit source]

The Naʼvi vocabulary includes a few English loan words, such as ʼRrta "Earth". Naʼvi 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 Naʼvi 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[edit | edit source]

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. Naʼvi 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".

In general:

  • Adjectives may be derived from nouns and verbs with le-: hrrap "danger" → lehrrap "dangerous"; fngap "metal" → lefngap "metallic"; sar "use" → lesar "useful". Note also leNaʼvi "of the Naʼvi, Navish". (The attributive a- is generally dropped before this le-.)
  • Adverbs are formed from all parts of speech with nì-: ftue "easy" → nìftue "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: taron "to hunt" → taronyu "a hunter".[note 1]

Affixation is common in Naʼvi. Another strategy, reduplication, is only attested in one word, the adjective letrrtrr "everyday, ordinary", from trr "day", though ʼengeng "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 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 Naʼvi, 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).

Cognates[edit | edit source]

Numerous Naʼvi 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 ʼewan "young" and ʼeveng "child", or ke yey "not straight" (crooked) and kxeyey "mistake".


Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. 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.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 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. 

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