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Navajo Language Guide and Resources

Navajo Language Guide and Resources


Welcome to the Navajo Language resource guide.  This page will provide helpful resource information for Navajo Language learning.  

Diné Kehjí Za’áán dóó Zaatł’ah

Za’áán dóó Zaatł’ah t’áá Diné K’ehjíígíí

Diné language learners in university courses are proficient in speaking, reading, and writing the English
language, in using the sounds of the alphabet (phonetics). This is an excellent starting point to begin
learning a second language, in our case for learning Diné.
Since not all phonemes used in Diné are present in English the goal here is to use those sounds known
already. Students may then progress to learning and eventually using those additional and unfamiliar
sounds of Diné.

Below are the alphabets which represent the phonemic structure of Diné. These za’áán (vowel) and
zaatł’ah (consonant) sounds are used in reading and then writing in Diné.
Díí dıı̨́ ǵ̨ o Za’áán dadiits’a’:
These are the four Diné vowel sounds: a, e, i, o
Díí éí Zaatł’ah dadiits’a’ígíí:
These represent the Diné consonant sounds: b, ch, ch’, d, dl, dz, g, gh, h, x, hw, j, k, k’, kw, ’, l, ł,
m, n, s, sh, t, t’, tł, tł’, ts, ts’, w, y, z, zh
A notable attribute is that za’áán sounds do not change: ’awéé’, ’at’ééd, ’abíní
Contrastingly, in English a vowel sound change example is: abrupt, ache, after
Even a different vowel could be a similar sound: obstruct
Despite these and other variables students use English proficiently.
The above inconsistency does not exist with Diné za’áán sounds. Use the IPA Chart with Sounds, URL
below, to listen to the sounds of each za’áán:
a e i o

The International Phonetic Alphabet
Once on the IPA webpage scroll down to:
Click on an IPA Symbol to Hear the Associated IPA Pronunciation of the Sound. Then locate the
four za’áán alphabet, click on each to hear the sound they represent.

Now sound out these following Diné verbs using the alphabet sounds already known - n and sh
The syllables are marked in the first column.
The Diné words are in the second column, followed by the English translation.
naash|nish naashnish           I am working.
ni|shish|nish nishishnish      I worked.
naal|nish naalnish                   _____ is working. As in: Jáán naalnish. (John is working.)
Za’áán dóó Zaatł’ah t’áá Diné K’ehjíígíí

Now sound out these Diné nouns using the alphabet sounds already known - b and t and w
’a|bí|ní ’abíní morning
’a|t’ééd ’at’ééd a girl
’a|wéé’ ’awéé’ a baby
In Diné literacy a zaatł’ah combined with a za’áán forms a syllable.
consonant-vowel or consonant-vowel-consonant letter combinations, a CV or CVC phoneme
Díí éí Zaatł’ah dadiits’a’ígíí
Accordingly, you can use the IPA Chart with Sounds to also listen to the sounds of each zaatł’ah.
b, ch, ch’, d, dl, dz, g, gh, h, x, hw, j, k, k’, kw, ’, l, ł,
m, n, s, sh, t, t’, tł, tł’, ts, ts’, w, y, z, zh

University of New Mexico has a Diné Sound Profile to explore each zaatł’ah and it’s sound.

Becoming familiar with the za’áán and zaatł’ah sounds are a beginning to learning literacy in Diné.
Although there is more to learn, our current understanding is a starting point in learning this language.
Check your understanding so far, read this opening sentence of a story until your pronunciation is
uniform and unbroken. It takes practice. Each sound syllable has been marked to help you. ’Ahxéhee’.
’Ałk’ida ̨́a ̨́’ níléí t ’ahdoo Diné lą’ígo dahaleeh
nahalin yę́ęda ̨́a ̨́, t ’óó ho’dizhchı ̨ ́ nahalin yę́ęda ̨́a ̨́’
shı ̨́ı ̨́ ’áhóót ’įįd.

Using our current understanding our next steps now are to begin writing utilizing the sounds of Diné
words. We can use our foundation of reading to learn writing in Diné, and then to progress toward
building our comprehension of Diné vocabulary and then further advancing into learning Diné grammar.

-Author:  Jerry Kien, Global Languages Department, NAU

Campus resources

Native American Cultural Center:

The Native American Cultural Center (NACC), a unit under the Office of Native American Initiatives opened its doors to become a “Home Away from Home” for many in the NAU Community in October 2011. From its inception, the NACC has striven to support students and to educate the larger community on the histories, cultures, and issues facing Native American/Alaskan Native/ Native Hawaiian and Indigenous communities. The Native American Cultural Center was a dream 30 years in the making for the NAU and Flagstaff community.

Land Acknowledgement Statement

NAU Land Acknowledgement Statement: Northern Arizona University sits at the base of the San Francisco Peaks, on homelands sacred to Native Americans throughout the region. We honor their past, present, and future generations, who have lived here for millennia and will forever call this place home.