Ké, which was featured in kélchí, is Navajo for shoe(s). (Kélchí referring specifically to mocassins.)
The second word ntsaaí (sometimes nitsaaí) is normally a verb that means (it) is large/huge/big.
If you’re starting to get a hang of these verbs that become objects, you’ll notice the -í at the end. That’s the signal for “the thing (that which is) large/huge/big.”
So together, the word is literally the big shoe.
But in Navajo, it’s a distinct term for a woman’s moccasins. These have similar soles that curve upward around the entire shoe, and the top of the foot covered with hide. Starting at the base of the heel and extending upward near the knee is a wrapping that covers a large portion of the shin. These are commonly white leather wrappings.
When it comes to color perception, Navajo is one of many cultures that traditionally have one name for a grouping of distinct colors.
Dootł’izh is one example. It is the Navajo word that references the color of turquoise. Since turquoise is not exactly blue nor is it exactly green (in the way English discriminates them), it can mean both.
Distinct words for blue include yágo dootł’izh (yá meaning sky). Green can be said to be tátł’idgo dootł’izh (a kind of grassy/mossy green). You’ll notice that, in Navajo, to be specific is to add to the description.
We’ve talked about nominalizers before, which is lingo for making an object out of an action (colors in Navajo are considered verbs). Dootł’izhii is “that which is turquoise colored,” so it is used to refer to the actual turquoise mineral.
If you’re just starting out with Navajo, keep in mind that most advanced speakers describe complex objects using characteristics found in them, such as color, size, position, material, the way it moves, etc. Take Monument Valley as an example: it approximates to “the white stripe that goes around in the rock”. Getting an ear for simple words (like those we feature here) can go a long way in breaking down intimidating descriptions.
Bee is one of a group of words that translates to “with or by means of (it).” Using it takes some practice, but it’s essential knowledge. Here’s an overview.
For reference: Shee would mean “with me”, nee means “with you”, and bee takes its place in the third person “with him/her/it”. These words follow special rules that makes bee (or yee – the other 3rd person form) relatively common.
In English grammar, the word ‘with’ is called a preposition. Prepositions usually come before nouns (people, places or things). For example: “Cook eggs with butter.”
In Navajo, however, these words are postpositions. They follow the noun. Rearranging the earlier example to fit Navajo sentence structure: “Eggs butter with cook,” or “Butter with eggs cook.”
In actual Navajo: “Ayęęzhii mándígíiya bee sit’é,” or “Mandagíiya bee ayęęzhii sit’é.” [eggs butter-with it-is-cooked, butter-with eggs it-is-cooked.]
You’ll notice the with (postposition) word follows the butter (object) word and not the egg (subject) word. And of course, the verb follows everything.
It takes some time to comprehend, but just remember that bee follows the thing that is with the other thing in the sentence. It’s also useful to use bee to mean “by means of it.”
“I am going to Flagstaff by means of a vehicle .”
In Navajo sentence structure: “Flagstaff vehicle by-means-of-it I-am-going.”
In Navajo: “Kinłánígóó chidí bee déyá.”
Tip: One of the best ways to get a hold of Navajo is to practice rearranging sentences in your mind. You can get started by putting the verb at the end, taking note of the point of view and tense. (ex. “I run,” “she cooked,” “they talk,” “you read,” are one word in Navajo).
For reference, here are some previous posts for words we used: