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Sǫʼ Baaʼ – Star Wars in Navajo, with a reflection on capitalist languages…

May 5, 2013

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As is widely known by now, Star Wars (Sǫʼ Baaʼ ) will soon be dubbed into Navajo, the most widely spoken American Indian language.
 
For a linguist, this is not surprising. Navajo (Diné bizaad) has many traits that make it ideal for the Star Wars ideology… It is an agglutinating language in which the verb is overdominant. Even where most other languages would use adjectives to convey a shade of meaning in a description, like “this is red”, Navajo would use a verb meaning ” to be red”… Navajo has no adjectives, only verbs, including for denoting physical qualities. “May the Force be with you” would thus be rendered by a single verb, meaning “to be with force”, in the desiderative.
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Perfectly suited as it is for the bulk of Star Wars dialogues, some humour would be fatally lost… Navajo is a SOV (subject-object-verb), meaning the verb is always relegated at the end of the sentence, like in German, Persian or Japanese… But this is exactly how the delicious Master Yoda speaks: “Powerful you have become, but patience you must have.” The Navajo translators would need to do something about this, in order to suggest an exotic syntax, like having Yoda speak in a VSO (verb initial) syntax, like in Irish, Breton or Arabic.
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Also, Navajo is one of those languages that use “inalienable possession“.
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Common words, like family, body parts, organs, women, domestic animals, cannot be used alone. There is no such word as “father“… There is only  shizhé’é – my father; bizhé’é – your father; nizhé’é- their father etc…
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So much for “Luke, I am your father” and the Lord’s Prayer (Our Father – Nihi Taa)… Navajo intellectuals will have great fun with this, and the Navajo Faebook is buzzing wit proposals and counter proposals:
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Capitalist languages
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Me, my, meee, and this is mine!… Such languages, like Navajo, or the isolated Burushaski, in the Kashmir mountains to the north of Pakistan, survivals from prehistorical times, displays thus this rare trait, known in linguistics as “inalienable possession”… that is, the most common terms designating intimate belongings, like body parts, kinship terms, women and children etc., cannot exist in isolated form…
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In these languages, one simply cannot say: hand, woman, mother, etc…These notions do not exist.
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It is always, in separated and independent words, MY hand, YOUR woman, etc:
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Thus in Burushaski:
as = my woman, gus = your woman, is = his woman, etc… There is no such word as “woman”… Even mus, our woman, is grammatically and lexically possible, but not “woman” as such… She has to belong to someone. The same goes for most vital things, stuff, commodities and basic objects in a survival economy…
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Navajo, Burushaski : the first capitalist languages in the history of mankind, and a model for our mental future!…
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