THE NAVAJO LANGUAGE
| The Navajos have never stopped
speaking their native Athabaskan language, unlike many other native peoples who are trying
to revive their languages. The Navajo language is spoken only on the Navajo
reservation in the southwestern United States, and until recently was an unwritten
language. It is an extremely complex language with no alphabet or symbols. It is very
reflective of the Navajo way of life and their world. To be able to speak Navajo,
one must have extensive exposure and training.
Navajo is a tonal language, meaning the vowels rise and fall when pronounced, changing meaning with pitch. There are four separate tones of voice used: low, high, rising, and falling. Two separate words with different meanings may therefore have the same pronunciation but with different tones. Some Navajo words are also nasalized, meaning that the sound comes through the nose instead of the mouth. The following is a simplified guide to the pronunciation of vowels.
The short vowels are pronounced as follows:
The long or doubled vowels are pronounced the same, but the sounds are held longer:
The combined vowels are pronounced as follows:
Accent marks after syllables mean to stress the syllable, while accent marks over vowels indicate they are to be spoken in a high tone. Here are some examples of words that are important to the Navajo people.