Navajo Phonology

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The content of this page was contributed by Dr. Douglas Whalen.

Basic Phonological Rules

Navajo stems typically have the phonotactic structure CV or CVC, while prefixes typically take the for of CV or C. Navajo incorporates phonemic tone: short vowels and diphthongs alternate between high and low tone, while long vowels and vowel clusters have rising or falling tone.

Navajo Orthography

Navajo has a working orthography, created by Robert Young and William Morgan in the 1930s. This orthography combined systems that were developed by earlier Franciscan and Protestant missionaries. See Tables 1 and 2 below.

Table 1: Consonants

Note: in this chart, in cases where voicing distinction occurs, voiced consonants come first

Labial Alveolar/Dental Alv/Pal Affricates Lateral Palatal Velar Labiovelar Glottal
Stops b d t dz ts dl tł j ch g k kw '
Ejectives t' ts' tł' ch' k'
Fricatives z s l ł zh sh gh x h, hw
Nasals m n
Glides y w

Table 2: Vowels

Note: in this chart, oral 'a', nasal 'ą', long oral 'aa', long nasal 'ąą'. Diphthongs: ei, ai, ao, oi

Front Central Back
High i, ii, ɩ, ɩɩ o, oo, ǫ, ǫǫ
Mid e, ee, ę, ęę
Low a, aa, ą, ąą

Follow the path of the Navajo Data

  1. Get started: Summary of the Navajo conversion
  2. Digitize audio: Audio pages (Classroom)
  3. Digitize video: Video page (Classroom)
  4. Convert characters to Unicode: Conversion page (Classroom)
  5. Align text: Interlinearized glossed text pages (classroom)
  6. Annotate video: Annotation page (Classroom)
  7. Store text: XML page (Classroom)
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Navajo Phonology
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