The Navajo language is a Na-Dene or Athapascan language. It is unique in that although the majority of the languages in the Na-Dene or Athapascan family are spoken much farther north (Alaska, Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Canadian Provinces) Navajo is spoken much farther south (in the southwest United States) by the Navajo people.

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The Diné, (Navajo) Language

Navajo claims more speakers than any other Native American language north of the Mexican border, with more than 100,000 native speakers, and this number is actually increasing with time. During World War II, Navajo was used by code talkers to send secure military messages over radio.

An Example of The Navajo Language

Linguistically, Navajo is an agglutinative language, but many of its affixes combine into barely recognizable contractions. Navajo words are altered primarily by prefixes, with circumfixes playing some part as well.

The key element in Navajo is the verb, with even some noun meanings provided by verbs; many complex nouns are derived from verbs as well; for instance, the Navajo word lhéé'íí'níílh "cemetery" is actually a verb meaning "(plural objects) lie in the ground".

Dine Bizaad: The Navajo Language

Navajo is quite complex, with a large variety of noun classes including "animate", "round object", "long, stiff object" and "granular object". Very simple verbs in Navajo may translate into many words in English; for instance, the verb si' means "to cause a hafted object to move" or, more practically, "to practice archery".

There are four phonemic vowels in Navajo: a, e, i and o; each of these may occur long, nasalised, or with one of four tones: high, low, rising or falling. Various combinations of these features are also possible.

Navajo woman with horse

Navajo woman with horse


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