What can we say from a wordlist?

(word list here)  … and Unofficial yahoo mailing list here

EDIT: Ah, man this has become like one of my most famous posts on my blog and it’s sub-par.  It was written before the movie was released but after the word list had been released and I was wondering how much of the language could be “pre-constructed” from just the info in the word list.  Some of the speculation proved to be wrong.  The wizard(s) that maintain(s) the wikipedia article, is pretty impressive though and has received kind words from Dr. Frommer.

This is an interesting question, not just because it is still a few days before the Avatar movie shows and we don’t have a grammar.  This is the exact situation a lot of mostly dead languages are in.  Just before the language dies out, a linguist writes down a word list and doesn’t have the time to learn the language.  So the language dies leaving only a word list.  If there are enough similar languages, the grammar can be reconstructed, the same way Virginian Algonquian was reconstructed for the recent movie the New World.

We can’t do that with Na’vi.  We don’t have any speakers on the planet not covered by NDA (non disclosure agreements) at the moment.

We do have some clitics and function words that have been identified in the glossary, we know abit about the handling of loan words so we can start on extrapolating the transliteration rules, we can see they count in octal, we have polite language!  Can’t see anything about inflection, and the verb is a mystery. Not a lot of adjectives, so they must have grammaticalizations to turn nouns or verbs into adjectives.

Only 2 diacritic.  0 would be better, but 2 is okay.

(note : is just a semicolon, it isn’t part of any Na’vi word)

Word Generation Strategies

spe’e : capture
spe’etu : captive  … anyone else thing that +tu is a nominalizer?

Loan Words

ìnglìsì : English
kunsìp: gunship

Useless Words, at least until we match them up with Earthly equivallents:

Yerik: hexapede

Words that will be immediately broadened

au: drum (made of skin)   * The language community will use this word for all drums. Nit pickers will decry this.

waytelem: songchord
Function & Possible Clitics
a: which, that
fa: with (by means of)
fpi: for the sake of
ftu: from (direction)
ka: across
mì: in
na: like, as
ne: to (direction)

ta: from (various uses)
ta’em: from above
sì: and

ulte: and
fu: or

slä: but
tengfya: as (= same way as)
tengkrr: while (= same time as)

to: than; comparative mark

Proforms, Questions, Demonstratives, Negatives

oe: I
oeng: we two (you and I)
ohe: I (deferential or ceremonial form)
po: he, she
poan: he
poe: she

nga: you

ngenga: you (honorific form)

ayfo: they

ayoe: we (exclusive)
ayoeng: we (inclusive)
mefo:  they (those two)

moe: we two (exclusive) — Duals all over the place, cool.

upe: what (thing)
fì’u: this (thing)
fìfya: this way, like this  – Very rich in demonstratives (this/that/etc).  Is this a Esperanto influence?
fìkem: this (action)
po: this one (person or thing)
tseng(e): here, this placefyape: how

hu: with (accompaniment)
ìlä (also: ìlä): by, via, following

kawkrr: never
kawtu: no one
ke: not
ke’u: nothing
kea: no (before a noun)
kehe:  no
kempe: what (action)
pe: what (before a noun)
peyfa: how
pehem: what (action)
pehrr: when
pelun: why
pesu: who
peu: what (thing)


that (thing)

tsakem: that (action)
tsakrr: then, at that time
tsat: that (as object)  (Ah! accusative language)
tsatseng: there, that place
tsatu: that person
lu: be (am, is, are)

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