Lesson 1.4: Establishing Context


Welcome to part four of the first Na'vi Survival Guide lesson series: Basic Sentence Building

In part four, we will explore the final component of a simple sentence. By the end of this lesson, you should expect to be able to do the following:

  • Identify the topic of a sentence
  • Build on your knowledge to create more complex sentences using the topical

Take advantage of the review sections at the end of each lesson to practice and reinforce the skills you're learning, and join us on Discord for even more practice. Click the right arrow or press the right arrow key to navigate to the next section in this lesson!


The final piece of the puzzle in basic sentence creation comes in the form of the topical noun case. The topical has no direct comparison in English, so learning how to use it is more about learning where Na'vi requires it than what it looks like in English.

Let's take the English sentence "I learn the lesson" as our example for illustrating the use of the topical. Notice here that we have a subject, verb and object. Seems straightforward enough, so you go to translate it into Na'vi as *oel nume sänumviti without paying close attention to the transitivity of nume.

topics continued

The verb nume is intransitive in Na'vi (and the source of quite a few memes!), which means it cannot take an object like its English counterpart. So then, how do you indicate what you are learning? You consider the indirect object, but "who you're learning to" seems a bit like nonsense, so the indirect object doesn't work here.

This is where the topical comes into play. The topical usually answers the question "about what" or "concerning what", establishing the context for the verb in a sentence. The topical case endings can be found below:

Vowel EndingConsonant Ending
-ri-ri, -ìri

topics continued

Returning to our original attempt with this new information, we'd rewrite the translation using the topical to look more like this:

sänumviri oe nume

Note: Because the topic is in most cases crucial to understanding why a verb is being done, it must come at the beginning of the Na'vi clause it is used in.


The topic adds additional context about the action of a sentence.
Topics are marked with the case endings -ri or -ìri. -ri for vowels, -ìri for consonants.
The topical has no true English comparison, but it can be rougly translated as "about" or "concerning".

Mark each noun with the correct ending. Remember the color codes for subject, object, verb, indirect object and topic. You can hover over unfamiliar Na'vi words to see their meaning.

For the next exercises, translate the English sentence using the Na'vi words provided. Reference the case endings in the previous chapter if necessary!

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