Diné Bizaad Bínáhooʼaah Notes

Created by Steven Baltakatei Sandoval on 2023-02-01T09:31+00 under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license and last updated on 2023-02-03T00:03+00.


In 2023-01, I decided to purchase a copy of "Diné Bizaad Bínáhooʼaah = Rediscovering the Navajo Language" to aid me in my studies of the Navajo language. I had tried out the Navajo lessons of Duolingo and found them problematic when it came to anything more complex than memorizing vocabulary (especially regarding verb conjugations).

So, as I read through it, I will record notes on this web page that I think other readers may find useful.


  • Title: Diné Bizaad Bínáhooʼaah = Rediscovering the Navajo language : an introduction to the Navajo language
  • Authors:
    • Evangeline Parsons Yazzie
    • Margaret Speas
  • Editors:
    • Jessie Ruffenach
    • Berlyn Yazzie (Navajo)
  • ISBN: 978-1-893354-73-9
  • OCLC: 156845819
  • Edition: 1st
  • Printing: 3rd
  • Publisher: Salina Bookshelf, Inc.
  • Location: Flagstaff, Arizona

By page

Page xvii

The following hyperlink:


is not valid as of 2023-02-01. Searching pages under the swarthmore.edu domain yields this page which likely contains the material referenced (i.e. "If you are not sure how this can be done for Navajo, we suggest that you consult the materials on Situational Navajo, by Wayne Holm, Irene Silentman and Laura Wallace, available for download…"):


This page and one level of outlinks has been saved via the Internet Archive here.

Page 3

  1. The consonant ʼ

    The glyph used in the text to encode the consonant named "glottal stop" appears to be the glyph that is MODIFIER LETTER APOSTROPHE (U+02BC) or RIGHT SINGLE QUOTATION MARK (U+2019) in Unicode.

    However, due to widespread input method limitations, the ASCII character APOSTROPHE (U+0027) is often used instead.

    The text addresses this:

    You probably wonder why an apostrophe has been added to the list above. The letter that looks like an apostrphe is called a glottal stop. A glottal stop is a consonant. We will talk about the glottal stop in the section below on consonants.

    In Navajo, the glottal stop is a consonant in the same class as k or x which each have their own dedicated glyphs. A rational typesetter would not use MULTIPLICATION SIGN (U+00D7) (×) instead of LATIN SMALL LETTER X (U+0078) (x) even though both use similar glyphs.

    So, the question arises of whether to use MODIFIER LETTER APOSTROPHE (U+02BC) or RIGHT SINGLE QUOTATION MARK (U+2019).

    Regarding the difference, the Unicode Standard 15.0 (PDF) has this to say in its General Punctuation section of Writing Systems and Punctuation:


    U+0027 apostrophe is the most commonly used character for apostrophe. For historical reasons, U+0027 is a particularly overloaded character. In ASCII, it is used to represent a punctuation mark (such as right single quotation mark, left single quotation mark, apos- trophe punctuation, vertical line, or prime) or a modifier letter (such as apostrophe modi- fier or acute accent). Punctuation marks generally break words; modifier letters generally are considered part of a word.

    When text is set, U+2019 right single quotation mark is preferred as apostrophe, but only U+0027 is present on most keyboards. Software commonly offers a facility for auto- matically converting the U+0027 apostrophe to a contextually selected curly quotation glyph. In these systems, a U+0027 in the data stream is always represented as a straight ver- tical line and can never represent a curly apostrophe or a right quotation mark.

    Letter Apostrophe. U+02BC modifier letter apostrophe is preferred where the apostrophe is to represent a modifier letter (for example, in transliterations to indicate a glottal stop). In the latter case, it is also referred to as a letter apostrophe.

    Punctuation Apostrophe. U+2019 right single quotation mark is preferred where the character is to represent a punctuation mark, as for contractions: “We’ve been here before.” In this latter case, U+2019 is also referred to as a punctuation apostrophe.

    An implementation cannot assume that users’ text always adheres to the distinction between these characters. The text may come from different sources, including mapping from other character sets that do not make this distinction between the letter apostrophe and the punctuation apostrophe/right single quotation mark. In that case, all of them will generally be represented by U+2019.

    The semantics of U+2019 are therefore context dependent. For example, if surrounded by letters or digits on both sides, it behaves as an in-text punctuation character and does not separate words or lines.

    So, according to its standard, the apropriate Unicode character to use for glottal stops in the Navajo language is MODIFIER LETTER APOSTROPHE (U+02BC) (ʼ).

    Before 2023-02-02, I've recommended use of RIGHT SINGLE QUOTATION MARK (U+2019) (’) primarily as a means to get away from using the "overloaded" character APOSTROPHE (U+0027) where reasonable. However, going forward, I'm now recommending U+02BC instead.

    Input methods designed for the Navajo language should dedicate an entire key to MODIFIER LETTER APOSTROPHE (U+02BC) (ʼ) as it would for the ASCII letter LATIN SMALL LETTER K (U+006B) (k).

    In summary, ʼ is the glottal stop consonant, not '.

See Also

Wikipedia articles exist for the authors: