The Reef Na'vi Dialect
The Reef Na'vi Dialect (lì'fya wionä) is a variety of the Na'vi language that got added to the universe with the second Avatar movie. It is important to note that there is no "standard dialect" - yes, almost all learning resources are about Forest Na'vi, the variety spoken by the Omatikaya clan, and it is usually just called "Na'vi" there, but this comes just from the fact that that variety is the one we know most about and also Pawl Frommer has said that he will focus on that dialect in the future. However, with Reef Na'vi being added, we now have a choice in certain aspects how we want to speak Na'vi!
This page lists all the differences between Reef Na'vi and Forest Na'vi. At this time, it includes all the updates on this dialect up till the Naviteri post from January 13, 2023, as well as the talk he gave at Omaticon 2023 where he included some first information about morphology and syntax.
Phonetics and Phonology
' between vowels
Between two different vowels, the tìftang (') is lost. Between two identical vowels, that loss is optional.
rää OR rä'ä
This sound change already happens in colloquial Forest Na'vi in Names having "o'a", but in Reef Na'vi it is obligatory in all cases, except if the vowels are identical!
With identical vowels, the result is not a lenghened vowel, both are pronounced individually (it is made clear by intonation that there are two of the same vowel) and also still written.
This sound change only happens within a word. A glottal stop at the beginning or end of a word doesn't get lost, even if it ends up being between two vowels in the sentence:
But an initial glottal stop can be lost if after adding something else it is no longer initial! So 'ipu would change into aipu.
Lastly, all the situations where Forest Na'vi tries to avoid two identical vowels next to each other are no problem in Reef Na'vi. Confused what I mean? See the following examples:
So at places where in Forest Na'vi we have to leave out/delete one vowel, or insert a consonant to break up the sequence of identical vowels, nothing happens in Reef Na'vi!
This doesn not happen if the result would produce a word with three identical vowels. For example, adding the adjective connector "a" to 'a'aw would not result in *aaaw, but the most likely pronunciation according to Paul Frommer would be aa'aw.
ä -> e
In unstressed syllables, a sound change ä to e often happens. Sadly we don't have any specific information yet about what "often" actually means, but for example the genitive case ending seems to be affected by this. Here some examples we already have:
This rule clearly still needs some clarification as for when this happens and when not. Some infixes might be affected by this (for example the reflexive and negative mood) but for now we don't have any more information than "sometimes it happens, sometimes not".
u vs ù
In forest Na'vi, the "u" can have two different sounds ([u] like in suit and [ʊ] like in soot). In open syllables, it is always [u], in closed syllables it is speaker preference which one to use. But in Reef Na'vi, they are two distinct sounds which are also represented by two different written letters - u [u] and ù [ʊ]!
Unfortunately, there is no rule when which is used. It has to be learned by heart which word is pronounced how, like you had to learn by heart which word has an ì and which one has an i. ù is very unlikely to appear at the end of a word however, currently we don#t ahve a signle word where that is the case. You can find the full list of ù vs. u here!
Syllable initial ejectives
In Reef Na'vi, syllable initial ejectives (px/tx/kx) turn into voiced plosives (b/d/g):
Note that in the first example only the first ejective changes, as the second one is at the end of a syllable, and not at the beginning. This sound change also affects prefixes like pxe+. Also, note that this change happens after all other changes did happen, so if a word is affected by lenition, we still see the changes px -> p, tx -> t and kx -> k even if in Reef Na'vi the ejectives do not occur anymore at the beginning of a syllable:
If an ejective is word final and then something gets attached with the result of that ejective now being at the beginning of a syllable, the sound change takes place:
Lastly, in a series of two ejectives, both are affected by the sound change:
sy and tsy
In Reef Na'vi, the sound combination "sy" is pronounced as [ʃ], so like "sh" in English. The sound combination "tsy" is pronounced as [tʃ], so like "ch" in English. Here some examples:
So far, very little is known about word differences. But we know that usually all words are understood by speakers of both dialects - it is just a question of how often they are used. The two currently known differences are syawm, to know (vtr.), which is the Reef Na'vi equivalent to omum, and val, diligently, hard, with effort (adv.) which is the Reef Na'vi equivalent of kawl. Like said before, all four words are known among speakers of both dialects, but while in Reef Na'vi, syawm (spoken as "shawm") and val are used predominantly, speakers of Forest Na'vi will most likely prefer omum and kawl.
So far, only one difference is known: While all forms of the patientive case ending (-t, -ti, -it) are known and used in Reef Na'vi, there is a strong preference for -ti (whereas it is slightly less often used than other forms in Forest Na'vi). This is only a tendency though.
While in Forest Na'vi the topical always has to be sentence initial, it can also be sentence final in Reef Na'vi. So both, Srungìri oe ngaru irayo seii and Oe ngaru irayo seii srungìri are allowed in Reef Na'vi (while only the first is grammatical in Forest Na'vi), so far nothing is known about a preference among these two possibilities.
In Reef Na'vi, the copula lu, "to be", is often omitted: Fìtutan a rììrmì ftu na’rìng. - "This man in the reflection is from the forest.". Frommer himself says that the circumstances under which this happens have to be investigated further, so at this point with have no more detailed information about this.
Paul Frommer himself suggested the following guidelines: For LW [Lì'fya Wionä / Reef Na'vi] spelling, include ù when appropriate. Change px, tx, and kx to b, d, g optionally; do so if you want to emphasize the difference between LN [Lì'fya Na'rìngä / Forest Na'vi] and LW [Lì'fya Wionä / Reef Na'vi]. But there’s no need to change sy to sh or tsy to ch: simply retain the original spellings and pronounce the words in the appropriate way for each dialect.
He doesn't say anything about the ä -> e sound change in that suggestion, which makes sense as that change just was shown after he wrote these guidelines. As that change doesn't always happen it makes sense to me to indicate when it does, so I personally will indicate any ä -> e changes when writing in Reef Na'vi.