Na’vi adjectives may modify a noun directly, in an attributive role, such as "the blue cat", or indirectly, linked to the noun with a verb like "to be" in a predicative role, as in "the cat is blue" or "the cat became blue".
Predicative adjectives are not marked in any special way, except that they occur with a copula like the verbs lu "be" or slu "become":
kilvan ngim lu river long be
- "The river is long"
Other word orders also work: kilvan lu ngim, lu ngim kilvan, ngim lu kilvan, etc.
This bare form is also used with the verb ’efu "feel" for internal states, such as
- Oe ’efu som "I am hot"
- Oe ’efu nitram "I am happy"
In their attributive role, adjectives may occur either before or after the noun they modify. Such adjectives are marked by a particle a, which only occurs when an adjective modifies a noun directly in this way, and which appears on the side closest to the noun,[note 1] another feature that is unusual by the standards of human languages. For example, "a long river" can be expressed either as ngima kilvan,
ngim-a kilvan long-attr river
or as kilvan angim,
kilvan a-ngim river attr-long
When more than one adjective modifies a noun, they may appear on either side, as in,
- "my big blue butt"
The a affix is optional for derived le- adjectives after a noun: trr lefpom or optionally trr alefpom "a peaceful day", but lefpoma trr.
When an adjective begins or ends with the vowel a, the attributive a blends into it. So, for example, snúmìna "stupid" only changes when it follows a noun: snumìna, asnumìna, and apxá "great" does not change at all: skxawng apxa, apxa skxawng "a big moron".
Adjectives are not inflected. That is, they do not agree with the noun they modify, as in
- Sì ’ekong te’lanä le-Na’vi
- "and the beat of the hearts of the People",
where only the noun te’lan "hearts", not the adjective le-Na’vi "Na’vi", takes the genitive suffix -yä or the plural prefix ay+. Similarly, in the topic lì’fyari leNa’vi "as for the Na’vi language", only lì’fya "language" takes the topical case -ìri.
Adjectives may remain as such when their noun is made into an adverb:
- fya’o letrrtrr "an everyday manner"
- nìfya’o letrrtrr "in an everyday manner"
This is common with the noun fya’o, and helps clarify the multiple readings of a simple adverb. For example, the adverb nìlaw, from from the adjective law "clear, understandable", is ambiguous; Po poltxe nìlaw may mean either "She spoke clearly" or "Clearly, she spoke." However, po poltxe nìfya'o alaw (she spoke in a clear manner) can only mean "She spoke clearly."
Comparative constructions are marked by the grammatical particle to; where this occurs, there is no need for the word nì’ul "more". Thus sìltsan means "good", but when it appears with to it should be translated "better":
- "S/he is better than me"
- Po to oe lu sìltsan or
- Lu po sìltsan to oe or
- Sìltsan lu po oeto or
- Oeto po lu sìltsan or
- Oeto sìltsan lu po etc.
Nì’ul "more" is used when there is no direct comparison with to, as in txur nì’ul "(be) stronger!".
The superlative ("-est") is conveyed with the compound particle frato "than everything":
- Tsole’a syeptutet atsawl frato mì sìrey.
ts‹ol›e’a syep-tute-it a-tsawl fra-to mì+ tì-rey see‹pfv› trap-person-acc attr-big every-than in+ nomz-live
- "(and we) saw the biggest Trapper I've ever seen" (lit. 'than all in (my) life')
Two adjectives are inherently superlative, swey "best" and ’e’al "worst".
Adjectives are not the only things which can modify a noun. Numbers, for example, also require the attributive a in such situations:
- ’awa tìpawmìri "regarding one (particular) question" (’aw "one").
Nouns may also modify nouns; for this they do not take a but rather the genitive case -yä. The genitive is used for possession, but also for more general association. The syntactically free (discourse-determined) word order of adjectives in a noun phrase holds for these other attributives as well:
tompayä kato "the rain’s rhythm" (tompa 'rain', kato 'rhythm') Utral Aymokriyä "the Tree of Voices" (utral 'a tree', mokri 'a voice')
However, in the case of a prepositional phrase, a genitive suffix on the noun may be ambiguous. The attributive a can clarify, though it is written as a separate word, as it governs a multi-word phrase rather than a single numeral or adjective:
- Ngeyä teri faytele a aysänumeri ngar irayo seiyi ayoe nìwotx
nga+yä teri fì-ay+txele a ay-sänume-ìri nga-ru irayo s‹ei›i ay-oe nì-wotx you-gen about this-pl+matter sbrd pl-instruction-top you-dat thank do‹approb› pl-I adv-all
- "We all thank you for your teachings concerning these matters"
Here teri faytele "concerning these matters" is an attributive, marked by a, of ngeyä aysänumeri "your teachings", for effectively "your about-these-matters teachings".
Relative clauses are clauses that modify a noun; the same attributive a is used:
- Ftxey ’awpot a Na’viru yomtìyìng
- "Choose one (’awpo) who will feed the People (Na’vi)"
- Attached orthographically, but the fictional Na’vi is not a written language. Therefore it may be more accurate to say that the a appears between the adjective and the noun, but always adjacent to the adjective. Other than orthography, this is identical to its use in relative clauses below.
- NPR, 2′24″