We were able to identify a few sources of potential ambiguity in Navajo. The first is both the px1dpl and px2dpl forms of nouns. This is because they share the same possessive subject prefix and to disambiguate them would rely heavily on semantics. The second is much the same the px3sp form of verbs. Naturally, being singular or plural, a noun possessed with this form could either refer to a singular third person entity possessing an object or a plural one. Once again, the only solution to disambiguating these forms would be through a semantic analysis. Further, different source list the word
ʼéí with different functions. One lists it as a topic and focus marker, according with what a member of our group learned in Structure of Navajo at Swarthmore. However, it may have another function, that is, to work as a determiner meaning "that, those, far away and distant." Reviewing bilingual texts, we were not able to come up with a rule to differentiate the two, if there is a difference in usage at all. Finally, because nouns are not inflected for number in Navajo, they is naturally ambiguity in their number. We propose that nouns that act as subjects of sentences may be disambiguated by looking at the person number within the verb. However, because of the complexity of verbs in Navajo and our rather limited in scope verb coverage, we are unable to test this fully or write a concrete rule for it.
Ambiguity in Possession
PX1DPL and PX2DPL
It appears that the possessive subject prefix is the same for the two, which would lead to ambiguity. Consider the following examples:
1.) You wiped our hands
2.) You wiped your hands.
In English, it is immediately clear to whom the hands belong to because of the posessive determiner preceding the noun. However, in Navajo, the sentences would look something like this:
1.) nihílaʼ (you wiped)
2.) nihílaʼ (you wiped)
If these sentences had not been given corresponding numbers, it would be syntactically and morphologically impossible to determine whose hands the speaker is referring to. This type of ambiguity can only be resolved by delving into semantics and probability, which we are unable to implement.
The same ambiguity problem arises within the third person possessed forms of nouns. Because the third person possessive subject prefix is both singular and plural, it is not possible to disambiguate the two sheerly based on syntax and morphology. Consider the following example:
1.) I am under it
2.) I am under them
In English, the number of the things the subject is under is immediately clear because of the difference in number between "it" and "them." Because this distinction is not made in Navajo, the same aforementioned ambiguity arises and is impossible to resolve syntactically/morphologically. The corresponding Navajo sentences would look something like the following:
1.) biyaa (I am)
2.) biyaa (I am)