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Toki Pona language

the language of good
the simple way of life

Toki Pona is a constructed language designed by Sonja Kisa. It was first published online in the summer of 2001. It is not designed as an international auxiliary language, but instead designed around a Daoist philosophy of life.

As a language designed to shape the thought processes of its users, it resembles George Orwell's invented language Newspeak. As a simple language with minimal phonology and vocabulary, it resembles Furbish[?] or Lapine[?].

Table of contents

Phonology

Toki Pona is phonetically minimal. Its system sounds similar to that of Japanese but lacks distinctive voicing, geminate consonants, long vowels, and palatal clusters. (This is not how the syllables are presented in the official lessons, but it shows the parallels to better-known CV(n) languages.) It also lacks diphthongs.

   a   e   i   o   u    Toki Pona 'u' may be rounded or unrounded.
  ka  ke  ki  ko  ku
  sa  se  si  so  su
  ta  te      to  tu    'ti' has fallen into 'si'.
  na  ne  ni  no  nu
  pa  pe  pi  po  pu
  ma  me  mi  mo  mu
  ja  je      jo  ju    'j' == IPA [j] (En <y>). 'ji' has fallen into 'i'.
  la  le  li  lo  lu
  wa  we  wi            'wu' and 'wo' have fallen into 'u' and 'o'.
          n             syllable-final

Within a word, syllable-final n cannot precede a nasal consonant (n or m), and a syllable without an initial consonant can only appear as the first syllable of a word. Sandhi effects change the pronunciation of np (but not its spelling) to [mp] or [mb].

Generally, words are accented on the first syllable.

More to come later.

Syntax

SVO typology.

 sentence => sentence-adverb subject predicate
 sentence-adverb => (phrase "la") | ""
 subject => "mi" | "sina" | (phrase "li")
 predicate => phrase

(Somebody with more experience in BNF should fix this.)

Nouns

No proper nouns. Instead, names of people and places are modifiers.

Adjectives

Toki Pona noun phrases are head-initial, meaning that the modified word comes before the modifiers.

Order of operations is completely opposite to that of Lojban. In Toki Pona, "N A1 A2" (where N represents a noun and A1 and A2 represent modifiers) is parsed as ((N A1) A2), that is, an A1 N that is A2. This can be changed with the particle pi = "of".

Verbs

Some verbs, such as tawa = "to go", are treated as prepositions and do not take e before their direct objects.

Vocabulary

The 117-word vocabulary is designed around the principles of living a simple life without the complications of modern civilization. The words generally come from English, Tok Pisin, Finnish, Georgian, Dutch, Acadian French, Esperanto, Croatian, Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese).

Some words have archaic synonyms because they were changed to avoid a potentially confusing minimal pair. For instance, ona = "he, she, it" used to be iki (which sounds a bit like ike = "bad")

See also: Common phrases in different languages

Numbers

Well-known languages generally have a O(log n) way of expressing the natural number n. Toki Pona, on the other hand, has words only for "one" (wan), "two" (tu), "five" (luka, which also means "hand"), and "many" (mute), and these words are additive. For example, thirteen is mute or luka luka tu wan. Expressing specific numbers greater than twenty in such an O(n) system is uncommon. Below is a Scheme program that translates a number into this notation.

;;; int->tokipona
;;; Scheme code to return the name of a positive integer
;;; in the Toki Pona language.
;;; By Damian Yerrick (jan Tepo li pali e ni)
(define int->tokipona
  (letrec ((iter
	    (lambda (n)
	      (cond
	       ((>= n 5) (cons "luka " (iter (- n 5))))
	       ((>= n 2) (cons "tu " (iter (- n 2))))
	       ((>= n 1) '("wan "))
	       (else '())))))
    (lambda (n)
      (apply string-append (iter n)))))

This is a Befunge program that does the same thing, by Lament (jan Nikita):

&>:!#@_:4`#v_1-:#v_0"naw">:#,_@
>^#<$:-1$<@>:4+>$0" akul">:#,_v
$5-^>:#,_^#:"tu "<<(c) Lament>>

Note: When LittleDan tested this program, it only worked for numbers 1-5.

Note: LittleDan uses a broken Befunge interpreter.

Literature

Toki Pona's literature currently consists of proverbs, sections of religious texts, and some poetry. There are currently 10-20 speakers, mostly living in North America.

These samples reflect an old version of Toki Pona.

Sample of The Lord's Prayer: (Listen to MP3 audio (http://www.wikipedia.com/upload/mamapimimute.mp3))

mama pi mi mute

mama pi mi mute o,
sina lon sewi kon.
nimi sina o sewi en pona.
ma sina o kama.
jan o pali e wile sina en lon sewi kon en lon ma.
sina o pana lon tenpo suno ni e moku tawa mi.
o weka e pali ike mi, sama la mi weka e pali ike pi jan ante.
o pana ala e wile ike tawa mi.
o awen e mi weka tan ike.
ni li nasin.

Sample of the Tower of Babel story: (Listen to MP3 audio (http://www.tokipona.org/kalama/pape.mp3))

ma tomo Pape

ma ale li jo e toki wan en sama.
jan ale li kama tan nasin pi kama suno, li kama lon ma Sinale, li awen lon ni.
jan li toki e ni: "o kama! mi mute o pali e leko kiwen, o seli e iki."
jan mute li toki e ni: "o kama! mi mute o pali e tomo mute e tomo palisa suli. lawa pi tomo palisa li lon sewi kon. o nimi pi mi mute li kama suli! mi wile ala e ni: mi mute li kan ala. mi mute li lon ma ale."
jan sewi Jawe li kama anpa, li lukin e ma tomo e tomo palisa pi jan lili mute.
jan sewi Jawe li toki e ni: "jan ni li jo e ma wan, li jo e toki sama, li pali e tomo palisa. tenpo ni la iki mute li ken pali mute ike. o mi tawa anpa, mi pakala e toki pi jan mute ni. o jan li sona ala e toki pi jan ante."
jan sewi Jawe li pali e ni: jan ale li kan ala jan, li lon ma mute, li ken ala pali e tomo.
nimi pi ma tomo ni li Pape tan ni: jan sewi Jawe li pakala e toki pi jan ale. tan ma tomo Pape la jan sewi Jawe li tawa e jan tawa ma mute.

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