Tsah / Ts’ah

Today we’re following up with another pair of words to demonstrate a glottalized Navajo consonant.

The ts / ts’ sounds, as outlined in the post for ts’in, vary in that ts’ requires a ‘push’ from the back of the tongue for the initial ts- (keep in mind that no air from the throat is feeding the ts sound at this point as the glottis is closed – it’s mostly ‘mouth’ air that’s being used). Then, after the glottalized ts, the glottis opens and the rest of the word is fired off with air from the lungs (like normal speech).

When an h comes at the end of a Navajo word, it’s a strong and forceful h. It’s like the h in the English language, with just a little bit more aspiration. Most anywhere else, the h can sound like hw, hx, sx (x is h in this case, and is used so it isn’t confused for the sh sound), gh, etc.

So now that you’re a little more familiar with the Navajo alphabet, today’s words.

Tsah is the Navajo word for a needle – hypodermic, awls (leatherworking), sewing, knitting, etc.

The other word ts’ah refers to the sage plant, or an area where sagebrush grows.

An area on the Navajo Nation that’s located around Inscription House in the northwestern region is known as Ts’ah Bii Kin (bii as in “within it” and kin as in “house or building or store”). The English translation would be “the [house] within the sage field,” which is a reference to a trading post (store) that was located there.

A nice description of the area can be found at the Ts’ah Bii Kin Chapter website. [From the website: “Besides the two [stores], most of the people travel over a 100 miles to shop for their needs at Wal-mart, Bashas, True Value & others in established towns like Kayenta, Tuba City, Flagstaff and Page, Arizona.”]