Linguistics ETDs

Publication Date

Summer 7-17-2019


This study examines homophony between first and third person verbs and between second and third person verbs in Navajo. The typical paradigm for person-marking in Navajo has a sh- prefix for first person, a ni- prefix in second person, and a zero-marked third person. In some phonological environments, however, the first and second person pronouns are elided, producing cases of homophony between first and third and between second and third persons.

I examine all cases of this in Navajo and also provide data from Jicarilla Apache, Hupa (a Pacific Coast Athabaskan language), and three Northern Athabaskan languages: Chilcotin, Koyukon, and Ahtna to provide a cross-family historical approach to this interesting phenomenon. The study is based in cognitive and functional approaches. Results indicate that there is a strong relationship between frequency and homophony in the Navajo Verb Complex and across Athabaskan languages.




Navajo, Athabaskan, Functional, Cognitive, Jicarilla, Phonology

Document Type


Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

Department of Linguistics

First Committee Member (Chair)

Melissa Axelrod

Second Committee Member

Mary Willie

Third Committee Member

Melvatha Chee

Included in

Linguistics Commons