A note on the word

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A note on the word
Release date December 31, 2011
Canonical
Source Naviteri
Link: 1

In his comment in the previous post, Plumps noted that yora'tu ‘winner' surprised him; he expected *yora'yu.

He's right—it is surprising. As you know, the general rule for forming an agent (the one who does the action) from a verb is to add the suffix –yu:

karyu ‘teacher'; ngopyu ‘creator'; täftxuyu ‘weaver'; taronyu ‘hunter'; etc.

In contrast, -tu is generally added to non-verbs:

fnawe'tu ‘coward'; fyeyntu ‘adult person'; lomtu ‘missed person'; ultxatu ‘meeting participant'; wätu ‘opponent'; etc.

Those are the general rules, and they apply perhaps 95 percent of the time. But –tu can be unpredictable. You've already seen examples of that:

In spe'etu ‘captive,' –tu has been added to the verb spe'e ‘capture' to indicate the recipient of the action, rather like the –ee suffix in English (honoree, interviewee).

In frrtu ‘guest,' it's not clear what –tu has been added to, since there's no word *frr in modern Na'vi (although it may be an archaic form); the verb for visit is frrfen, so frrtu replaces the expected *frrfenyu.

And there are places where you expect –tu but find –yu instead: ‘warrior' is tsamsiyu, not *tsamtu. (Compare: tsulfä ‘mastery'; tsulfä si ‘to master'; tsulfätu ‘master of an art, craft, or skill—not *tsulfäsiyu.)

The words for ‘winner' and ‘loser' are further additions to the list of oddly behaved –tu words:

  • yora'tu (n., yo.RA'.tu) ‘winner'
  • snaytu (n., SNAY.tu) ‘loser'

Note that snaytu is doubly exceptional, since snaytx ‘lose' ends in a pxorpam. So *snaytxtu > snaytu.

1 Frauvanìri lu yora'tu, lu snaytu. For every game, there's a winner and a loser. 1

The bottom line is that –tu words are sometimes unpredictable. The –tu suffix is not productive, so don't try to coin these words yourself—you need to find them in the dictionary.