Monday, March 19, 2007

Toki pona

Among weird conlangs I've found, I think Toki pona is an interesting one. It is a minimal language. Like a pidgin, it focuses on simple concepts and elements that are relatively universal among cultures. Toki pona aims to express maximal meaning with minimal complexity. The language has 14 phonemes and only 118 words. It is not designed as an international auxiliary language but is instead inspired by Taoist philosophy.

The 118 offical Toki pona words are: a, akesi, ala, ale (ali), anpa, ante, anu, awen, e, en ijo, ike, ilo, insa, jaki, jan, jelo, jo, kala, kalama, kama, kasi, ken, kepeken, kili, kin, kiwen, ko, kon, kule, kute, kulupu, la, lape, laso, lawa, len, lete, li, lili, linja, lipu, loje, lon, luka, lukin, lupa, ma, mama, mani, meli, mi, mije, moku, moli, monsi, mu, mun, musi, mute, nanpa, nasa, nasin, nena, ni, nimi, noka, o, oko, olin, ona, open, pakala, pali, palisa, pana, pi, pilin, pimeja, pini, pipi, poka, poki, pona, sama, seli, selo, seme, sewi, sijelo, sike, sin, sina, sinpin, sitelen, sona, soweli, suli, suno, supa, suwi, tan, taso, tawa, telo, tenpo, toki, tomo, tu, unpa, uta, utala, walo, wan, waso, wawa, weka, wile.
These words were based on words from English, Tok Pisin, Finnish, Georgian, Dutch, Acadian French, Esperanto, Croatian, Mandarin Chinese, and Cantonese. To see the origines, read here.
You'd be surprised to see how many things can be said with only those words. If you see the official list, each word has several meanings. For example, moli can mean death, to die, to be dead, to kill or even fatal. The precise meaning has to be taken from the context. But even with this polysemy, it is hard to have much things to say. Toki pona solves this with the use of "compund" words. For example, jan means person, and lili means small, little, young. If you combine them, you have jan lili, meaning child.

Toki pona only accepts capitalizing if the word is not in that list. Not even at the begining of a sentence.
There are no propper nouns. Toki pona has propper adjectives. This can be something difficult to understand at first. For example, Norway is a propper noun in English. To talk about that country in Toki pona, you need a noun and a propper adjective. The noun is ma, which means country, and the adjective is Nosiki (capitalized, because it is a word not included in the list. It is adapted to the Toki pona sound system). Then Norway is ma Nosiki (the adjective follows the noun).

This isn't an auxiliary language. And you won't find many speakers around. Then... why bother?! I am not sure. It has an interesting idea.
If you are curious, abut Toki pona, check a short course.


Russ Williams said...

toki pona li musi.

sayqeeh said...

toki pona li toki pona.

Bryce Wesley Merkl said...

Very interesting blog and comments on Toki Pona.

Here's a great website you find enjoy that's actually in Toki Pona:

Toki Pona wiki browser