Toki Pona: Reduplication

What does reduplication mean in toki pona?

I’m still not sure on what the reduplication rules are in toki pona.  kala kala could be anything.  I just did a quick search on a bunch of toki pona word doubles and I found … nothing.   A few times people used “mute, mute” for emphasis.

Some words have rather different senses in their noun and modifier forms, eg.

meli meli — girly girl  (one describes behavior & style, one describes gender)

Double adjectives strike me as intensifiers, but that is just because I speak English.

suwi suwi — sweet sweet– can’t really say what this means.

ona ti li moku suwi suwi — This is sweet, sweet food.

But you could do the same with “mute”

suwi mute — very sweet

We have interjections with reduplication

a a a — (laughter)

Maybe this will be cleared up in the next official book on toki pona.

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Toki Pona: Fish

I’m still studying toki pona vocabulary.  I’m going to beat the theme of fish to death and see if I can get a list of ways to generate short noun phrases (aka compound words).

The them for the day is fish- kala. So I’m thinking, if the conversation was about fish, then the entire dictionary should shift. A palisa (stick) would be a fishing rod, palisa kala are possibly fish sticks and kala palisa are… dunno– fishing rods?

I wasn’t able to make very many interesting two word compounds. Some compound words look too much like fish + an adjective,

  • kala walo- white fish
  • kala lete- cold fish
  • kala ike- bad fish

Some compounds sound like broad categories of fish

  • kala lili- small fish, or any variety of small fish, or the category of small fish, such as the minnow
  • kala kalama- noisey fish, any variety of noisy fish, the category of fish that makes audible noises, such as the dog fish.
  • Some words would make for pleasant fish names:
  • kala lape- sleeping fish
  • kala kasi- wooden fish
  • kala pana- the giving fish

But what fish, or category of fish to match them to is anyone’s guess.

Some kala + [word] patterns are suggestive of something more specific than a generic fish with a modifier:

  • kala anpa – bottom dwelling fish, e.g. catfish
  • kala lete – cold fish, fish from the artic and polar regions
  • kala mani -commercial fish
  • kala moku – edible fish
  • kala len – fish of clothing. Maybe it’s a fish suitable for making Icelandic folk fish-skin shoes.
  • kala moli – poisonous fish
  • kala sama – camouflaged fish
  • kala seli – tropical fish
  • kala ilo – fishing gear
  • kala lipu – halibut
  • kala ante- invasive fish species
  • kala akesi – leviathan
  • kala mute – school of fish
  • kala awen – sessile fish, e.g. barnacles
  • kala sewi – holy fish (holy mackerel?)
  • kala kiwen – mollusks, lobsters, barnacles (again) and other fish with exoskeletons
  • kala ma – lung fish, other fish that can live out of water
  • kala selo – shell fish

Words like lobster, whale and oysters will take noun phrases to describe.

  • kala kiwen kepken insa moku — edible mollusk
  • kala kiwen pimeja — mussel
  • kala kiwen loje — crab or lobster
  • kala kiwen lili — barnacle (but probably not a crab or lobster)

Kala selo would subtitute well for kala kiwen and kala selo kiwen even more so, since it conveys the sense of being contained by a shell and of being hard like a rock.

kala selo ale selo, shell fish no shell, or maybe kala selo ale poka selo, shell fish with no shell describes some sort of squid or octopus to me.

  • kala loje pi linja telo — Salmon (or some other red fish of rivers)
  • kala suli — big fish, whale, shark
  • kala suli pi mama suweli — whale (big fish of the maternal cute animals)
  • kala suli pi mama suweli moli — killer whale (big fish of the killer maternal cute animals)

Tomorrow I will take up the flip side, words that follow that pattern [noun] + kala, that is, fishy [noun].  Right now, that seems like there will be even fewer semantically clear compound words in that pattern.

Constantly reading modifiers backwards to english messes with my mind.

kala jan– fish of man, man fish, reminds me of a merman, but this isn’t immediately clear from the literal translation

jan kala– man of fish, fish man, follows the pattern of occupations jan + modifer

Now which one of these is the obvious choice for merman and which is the obvious choice for fisherman?

Merman could be expanded into jan pi jan en kala– person of man and fish. (Although I’m not sure if I’m using pi correctly here)

Fisherman could be expanded into jan pi kala moku– person of edible fish– emphasizing that the fisherman plans to eat what he catches.

But why use five words when we have two perfectly good alternatives?  We just need to pin a meaning on them and communicate to enough people that jan kala means fisherman and kala jan means merman.

Now the next one make my head hurt.

kulupu kala- community of fish

kala kulupu- pescine community

Which one is a bunch of fish swimming together in a group and which one is a community that depends on fishing?  Again, we can resort to longer phrases

kulupu pi jan kala  — community of fishermen

kala kulupu jan – pescine community of people, i.e. fishing village or fisherman’s trade union

kulupu pi kala lon telo – community of fish in the water.  This just sounds verbose, but it emphasize the sense of fish as a living creature in the water and not as a food item and economic activity.  Again, I’d rather use kulupu kala for a school of fish and kala kulupu for a fishing community.

kala ilo — fish equipment.  This would be the category of all fishing gear–nets, hooks, rods, etc.

len kala — fish cloth.  A net would make sense.  Or the leather made from fish skin.

linja kala — fish line.  Fishing wire.

luka kala — fin

ma kala — land of the fish, fish land, the ocean

moku kala — food of fish, fish food. Bait

nasin kala — the way of the fish.  Sounds good, but no obvious meanings.

noka kala — fish legs– Tail of a fish?

monsi kala– fish butt– Likewise, tail of the fish?

pali kala– the work of fish– fish processing maybe?

selo kala– shell of a fish.

tawa kala– movement of a fish, swim

telo kala– fish sauce, liquamem

waso kala– fishy bird.  Another tough one to parse.  It could either be birds that eat fish, birds that act life fish.

Personally, if I was a toki pona fisherman, I’d start calling sharks kala kasi and for no particular reason other than it would save me a lot of syllables. If someone complained that kala kasi was idiomatic when I shouted, “o sina lukin lon kala kasi!” I’d push them out of the boat and make myself clear. “o kala kasi moku e ona!”

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Toki Pona: The fad spreads to Italy

I’ve been tracking Toki Pona on the internet, in the last few days there have been a lot of posts about toki pona in Italian.

In other news, I updated my toki pona dictionary site. I’ve added almost all of the so-called unofficial words to the dictionary. I’ve got RSS feeds in the works, but not done enough to let the link go live.

Since the dictionary is one of the parts I of the web site I use a lot, I will probably start filling it in with as many compound words as I can find. After that comes better community contribution support.

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Toki Pona: kama pona

kama means come, pona means well. So kama pona means well come or welcome.   That seems to be to be a euro-centric translation.   But if the words are sematic primatives, and if we don’t want to project our language onto toki pona, we’d translate it as, “You did a fine job of arriving” or something like that. If we were to translate from Klingon, it would from Qapla‘ to “pona la sina pini”, meaning something like, “you have finished well” or ”you will succeed”. 

Here’s some alternatives, pick depending on what you really mean:

tan seme la sina kama.  Why are you here?

pona la mi lukin e sina. It’s good to see you. (Or I see you clearly)

o sina: sina wili moku telo? Would you like something to drink?

o sina: sina li nanpa tu–a. You again, *sigh*.

I’m not sure about the vocative, I might change that. I’m also not sure if lukin takes the accusative or if it has to be used with another prepositional phrase.

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Toki Pona: Constructed Languages, and

I recently discovered toki pona on account of a blog I’m subscribed to.  I started to study it imagining that for a small amount of effort, I’d be able to read and write yet another foreign language, which I would find amusing.  So far, I can read a little-little bit, got in an argument on a mailing list, got in an argument on my blog and now I’m wondering how I got off on the wrong foot here.

Religious and Grammar Wars.  Constructed languages suffer from religious wars and grammar wars in a way that natural languages don’t.  (Natural language instead suffer from real wars, but that isn’t what I’m interesting in talking about)  A constructed language, almost by definition is incomplete.  You can’t resolve questions of semantics or grammar.

An argument about the semantic intent of a natural language can be resolved by taking a survey, video taping speakers using their language in a natural setting.  Semantics in a constructed language are resolved by translating them into a natural language and then arguing that your translation is better than the next.

Questions of grammar, likewise is less resolvable than in a natural language.  Linguists have been trying to reduce speech to transformational rules, sentence diagrams and phrase rules since forever.  While it is possible to reduce a language to a machine validatable language, not unlike an algebraic equation or a C++ program, you generally can’t do the same for natural languages.  Even MS Word can’t figure out if your English sentence are grammatical.  This suggests to me that a language, constructed or not, once it is spoke can be expected to be used in ways that are not neatly machine parsable.  And without a system of proving grammatical correctness, the arguments continue. 

Is there anyone who can say what is right and wrong?  Maybe Zamenhoff’s ghosts, Marc Okrand or Jan Sonja?

Intellectual Property & Control. A constructed language is something of an artistic work.  However, it’s already been tested in court with Tolkien’s constructed language isn’t something you can’t easily stop people from speaking in, writing about, writing in, etc.  Similarly, programming languages don’t seem to be protected–companies create competing compilers for the same language without fear of reprisals and some companies even give the specifications of their languages to standards bodies.  Inventors of programming language know they can’t dictate the grammar, so they turn it over to a neutral party that will promote consistency, which may or may not be followed.  Nonbinding standards have a way of being like that.

Given that a language inventor can’t control the language or how it is used, the language inventor is the arbiter only to the extent that they are famous, have time to adjudicate questions, and still are alive and can invest the marketing effort to sell the community on the idea of one form of consistency over another.

Lack of Expert Models. In most cultures people start writing at a college level somewhere between high school and college, about 10-15 years worth of reading and writing.  Learning a language can take anywhere from a few to ten years before one achieves a level of competence that is indistinguishable from natives.  A constructed language is no different.  From inception, it will be a decade before there are natural models to study.  Until then, we are all speaking, reading and parsing clumsy, broken toki pona, [those with extremely high opinions of their linguistic talent excluded, of course].  Alas, a whole decade to wait before the first Nobel prize for literature written in toki pona will be awarded.

So what to do? I don’t know about you, but I’m going to try to shift from a criterion of correctness to a criterion of beauty, consistency with the gestalt of the original design and euphony– all of which are criterion that no one expects one to the next to agree upon.  If, after reading and writing a large quantity of toki pona, I come to hear in my mind the euphony of “mi lukin lon e ilo” as compared to “mi lukin lon ilo”, then the former is what I will use.  The brain’s sense of euphony trumps arguments based on machine parsable grammars.

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Toki Pona: Website building

So I’m making a Toki Pona web site.  Will I finish? Well, I sort of have.  I’m hoping each feature I publish will be small and done when it hits the internet.  So far here’s my ambitions plans:

Toki Pona Search
Search the web for toki pona related stuff using toki pona.  DONE.

Toki Pona Dictionary
Look up words in English or Toki Pona.  Not original, but necessary for some future things I want to do.  DONE.

Let the community add new compound words. DONE.  Mostly.  I want people to be able to edit what they’ve contributed before.

Let the community vote on translations and compound words.  DONE. Mostly.   The voting mechanism needs authentication to prevent double voting and other bad behavior.

Toki Pona Community listings. -started
I’m envisioning a community as an event or club, which in turn is just a series of events.  I want to be able to support online and in person events, but I don’t want to re-invent, so I’m probably going to make a link list to Google Calendars.  The irc community appears to be mostly dead because people don’t show up at the same time.  A centralized place for announcing events would help, especially if it was self managing and integrated with existing calendaring applications.

Toki Pona Shopping. –thought about
I’ve no delusions about the commercial potential of a website that has tools for using a constructed language. If I get a commission or two from selling linguistics books via amazon or a T-shirt or two, that’s would be a nice way to off set the cost of the domain name.  I even have the domain name– a sure fire way to make lots of mani mani, a a a! 

Toki Pona Contest. – thought about
And what I am most excited about today is contests.  I have the glimmering of an idea for a contest similar to NaNoWriMo, except it would be a contrived reason to translate Toki Pona for 30 days.  Unlike a mailing list, where it is too easy to get engrossed with discussions about grammar in English, a translation a day community site would be a safe place to spout doubtful and probably poorly formed sentences while working towards mastering college level Toki Pona.  After writing a translation, you would in theory be able to see how other people translated the same text and through pattern recognition and example learn what the community thinks is a likely valid translation.

And it’s all gotta have RSS feeds.  I won’t rest until there is an RSS feed for every feature I implement.

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Toki Pona: 12 Reasons Why to Learn

1. Might be good for improving your mood.  Personally, I think it would improve your mood by stimulating your brain cells to grow & be active.  On the other hand, some people suspect that a language designed to be cute, good and happy might make you cute, good and happy.

2. You have a chance of finishing.  The language uses lots of tricks to keep the vocabulary burden down.  Likewise, grammar is restricted to a few regular and predictable constructs.  Learning a natural language, or even Esperanto will require a much more significant investment of time.  Toki pona is about a month of work to read and write at a basic level.

3.You probably will be able to pronounce it.  The sounds in toki pona also exist in most other languages.  There are fewer sounds, so even if you consistently use the wrong consonant or vowel, you probably will still be understood.

4. Toki Pona is the hottest constructed language since Klingon.  See reasons 2 & 3 if you think Klingon might be better.  And if you think French, Spanish or Tamil are hotter languages, also review #2 and #3 again.

5. (For English Speakers) People would rather speak English to you when you travel anyhow. At least in West Europe.  I keep trying to use my broken French, Spanish, Russian when I have the chance and mostly people would rather hear me speak English.  I can hardly blame them, I’m often unintelligible in English, let alone Russian.  In toki pona, everyone is a bit hard to follow, so I’m on even footing.

6. It makes an excellent code language. Natural languages are some of the hardest codes to crack.  Toki pona with its words that change depending on context gives you plausible deniability, i.e. maybe you are speaking in code, maybe you are meaning what you words say on the surface.  [*sadly, I'm not expert enough to generate a good example, that would take more than a month]

7. You’ll be able to say you are bilingual.  It’s a good resume filler.

8. You could teach it to your children and they would be bilingual.  It will either make them smarter and if not that, then it will be a good resume filler for them.

9. It is probably machine parse-able.  Handy if you are a computer scientist. 

10. It’s (possibly) a window into the early days of human language.   In the beginning there was a word.  Or two.  Or at least so I imagine. Somehow, people made themselves understood with a smaller vocabulary.

11. It’s good for brainstorming. Translation into toki pona or even writing toki pona requires constantly thinking of alternative way to express things.

12. It’s a drug free way to see the world in a different light. Reading toki pona induces a sense of creativity, since the constant ambiguity forces you to consider bizarre, whimsical or potentially profound new connections between seemingly unrelated things.


I don’t think any language is a good auxiliary language except the most widespread spoken language of the moment.  It’s not economically rational to pick any other language to be the auxiliary language. 

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Toki Pona: Ike Mute and Math

From the canon, precise numbers are bad and the grammatically correct way to say 101 is

tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu
tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu
tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu
tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu
tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu wan

Which of course is laughable and it’s better to say ‘mute’. The traditional Tokiponans call innovations to remedy this, “ike-mute.” Ike-mute appears to be idiomatic and derogatory for speaking with excessive complexity. Maybe it just means, verbose as opposed to conversational.

So, with the understanding that we are talking mostly about super formal, more verbose than normal tokipona, I’m proposing some Toki Pona numbers, 1 to 100. They are remarkably efficient and stick to the general spirit of Toki-pona.

Irregulars. Luka means five, pona-ojo means lucky 7, nanpa kulupu means ten, nanpa kulupu mute means 100, and the number before 100 is nanpa kulupu mute anpa, or 99. For a Tokiponan to talk about real estate in the DC area, they will need some more irregular numbers

Luka is like ‘ain’t’ It ain’t in the dictionary, at least not in the sense of ‘five’. Tokiponans are proud people and don’t want outsider’s to think that they still count on their hands.

The base three method of counting 5 is tu-tu-wan, nine is tu-tu-tu-tu-wan. Base three starts getting really silly around 10 and 100 will have you ROTFL. With the above modifications, you can count to 100 with at worst a two dozen character word (not counting the optional nanpa).

The split between orders of magnitude is indicated by ‘en’, so 78 is 7 and 8. This is distinguished from addition because summation is indicated by the verb ‘li wan’

(note, I machine generated this and the program had some bugs, so check for common sense)

1 = nanpa wan, [3 chars]
2 = nanpa tu, [2 chars]
3 = nanpa tu-wan, [6 chars]
4 = nanpa tu-tu, [5 chars]
5 = nanpa luka, [4 chars]
6 = nanpa luka-wan, [8 chars]
7 = nanpa pona-ijo, [8 chars]
8 = nanpa luka-tu, [7 chars]
9 = nanpa kulupu-anpa, [11 chars]
10 = nanpa kulupu, [6 chars]
11 = nanpa wan en wan, [10 chars]
12 = nanpa wan en tu, [9 chars]
13 = nanpa wan en tu-wan, [13 chars]
14 = nanpa wan en tu-tu, [12 chars]
15 = nanpa wan en luka, [11 chars]
16 = nanpa wan en luka-wan, [15 chars]
17 = nanpa wan en pona-ijo, [15 chars]
18 = nanpa wan en luka-tu, [14 chars]
19 = nanpa tu en ala anpa,
20 = nanpa tu en ala, [9 chars] — also “luka ale”, i.e. all toes and fingers
21 = nanpa tu en wan, [9 chars]
22 = nanpa tu en tu, [8 chars]
23 = nanpa tu en tu-wan, [12 chars]
24 = nanpa tu en tu-tu, [11 chars]
25 = nanpa tu en luka, [10 chars]
26 = nanpa tu en luka-wan, [14 chars]
27 = nanpa tu en pona-ijo, [14 chars]
28 = nanpa tu en luka-tu, [13 chars]
29 = nanpa tu-wan en ala anpa, [10 chars]
30 = nanpa tu-wan en ala, [13 chars]
31 = nanpa tu-wan en wan, [13 chars]
32 = nanpa tu-wan en tu, [12 chars]
33 = nanpa tu-wan en tu-wan, [16 chars]
34 = nanpa tu-wan en tu-tu, [15 chars]
35 = nanpa tu-wan en luka, [14 chars]
36 = nanpa tu-wan en luka-wan, [18 chars]
37 = nanpa tu-wan en pona-ijo, [18 chars]
38 = nanpa tu-wan en luka-tu, [17 chars]
39 = nanpa tu-tu en ala anpa,
40 = nanpa tu-tu en ala,
41 = nanpa tu-tu en wan,
42 = nanpa tu-tu en tu,
43 = nanpa tu-tu en tu-wan,
44 = nanpa tu-tu en tu-tu,
45 = nanpa tu-tu en luka,
46 = nanpa tu-tu en luka-wan,
47 = nanpa tu-tu en pona-ijo,
48 = nanpa tu-tu en luka-tu,
49 = nanpa luka en ala anpa,
50 = nanpa luka en ala,
51 = nanpa luka en wan,
52 = nanpa luka en tu,
53 = nanpa luka en tu-wan,
54 = nanpa luka en tu-tu,
55 = nanpa luka en luka,
56 = nanpa luka en luka-wan,
57 = nanpa luka en pona-ijo,
58 = nanpa luka en luka-tu,
59 = nanpa luka-wan en ala anpa,
60 = nanpa luka-wan en ala,
61 = nanpa luka-wan en wan,
62 = nanpa luka-wan en tu,
63 = nanpa luka-wan en tu-wan,
64 = nanpa luka-wan en tu-tu,
65 = nanpa luka-wan en luka,
66 = nanpa luka-wan en luka-wan,
67 = nanpa luka-wan en pona-ijo,
68 = nanpa luka-wan en luka-tu,
69 = nanpa pona-ijo en ala anpa,
70 = nanpa pona-ijo en ala,
71 = nanpa pona-ijo en wan,
72 = nanpa pona-ijo en tu,
73 = nanpa pona-ijo en tu-wan,
74 = nanpa pona-ijo en tu-tu,
75 = nanpa pona-ijo en luka,
76 = nanpa pona-ijo en luka-wan,
77 = nanpa pona-ijo en pona-ijo,
78 = nanpa pona-ijo en luka-tu,
79 = nanpa luka-tu-wan en ala anpa,
80 = nanpa luka-tu-wan en ala,
81 = nanpa luka-tu-wan en wan,
82 = nanpa luka-tu-wan en tu,
83 = nanpa luka-tu-wan en tu-wan,
84 = nanpa luka-tu-wan en tu-tu,
85 = nanpa luka-tu-wan en luka,
86 = nanpa luka-tu-wan en luka-wan,
87 = nanpa luka-tu-wan en pona-ijo,
88 = nanpa luka-tu-wan en luka-tu,
89 = nanpa luka-tu-tu en ala anpa,
90 = nanpa luka-tu-tu en ala,
91 = nanpa luka-tu-tu en wan,
92 = nanpa luka-tu-tu en tu,
93 = nanpa luka-tu-tu en tu-wan,
94 = nanpa luka-tu-tu en tu-tu,
95 = nanpa luka-tu-tu en luka,
96 = nanpa luka-tu-tu en luka-wan,
97 = nanpa luka-tu-tu en pona-ijo,
98 = nanpa luka-tu-tu en luka-tu,
99 = nanpa kulupu-mute anpa,
100 = nanpa kulupu-mute,


The Tokiponans have been getting ripped off by credit card companies, whose interest rates all seem to be mute mute. In the interest of improving the communities financial well being, here’s enough to get through some basic math.

In a different context, these phrases may have other meanings. Discovering those alternate meanings is an exercise left to the reader.

Some operations use numbers in the name, so the verbose style requires putting nanpa before each number.

Add – li wan, literally, unite

Subtract – li anpa, literally difference

Multiply – li unpa, literally multiple (as in go forth an multiply)

Divide – li tu, literally split

Exponentiation — li wawa, literally empower

Natural Logarithm – li palisa, from palisa, “stick, rod”


To represent fractions, either use the verb for division, li tu, or emphasize the fractional nature of with pakala.

nanpa luka-wan pakala nanpa wan = 2/7 , 7 break 2


luka-wan pakala e wan– conversational

Decimals – decimal point = sike…

nanpa wan sike nanpa wan en luka = 1.15

Equals – lon

Nanpa wan li wan nanpa wan lon nanpa tu– verbose

Wan en wan kama tu– conversational

[Update: there are at least two additional proposals for numbers and operations, one in French and one on the yahoo mailing list]

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Toki Pona: Translating Malglico

Relixification is where you do a ‘dictionary lookup’ translation. All words get replaced by a word of a foreign language, but grammar, community conventions, etc. get ignored.

Malglico is a word that comes from the Lojban constructed language community. It means f*cking-English. Which would translated into Toki-Pona as

  • toki pi toki-Inli unpa — Ironically, this is itself a calcque, sounds like it is talking about sex.
  • toki pi toki-Inli unpa la ona sitelen e toki.
  • li toki e toki pona lon Inli — speaking toki pona in English– doesn’t show disapproval
  • li toki e toki pona lon nimi Ingli sama poka –
  • li pakala e toki pona kepeken poka Inli– breaking toki pona with English forms

It means don’t do word for word translations and don’t try to import English grammatical constructs when existing ones already exist and work just fine.

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Toki Pona: Hyphens

The canonical toki pona has the period and colon.  The colon is used to clarify clauses.  The period ends sentence.  [The comma seems to have some special rules, too]

Since it will be a while before someone translates “Eats Shoots and Leaves” into Toki Pona, I’ll add at least one suggestion for punctuation– the hyphen, especially for compound words.

A compound word has a more restricted meaning than its elements.

sinpin — front

sinpin lawa — head’s front, front of one’s mind, etc.

sinpin-lawa — face

In English, the compound word is written either with no space, a space or a hyphen, generally without much predictable pattern. However, there are some guidelines that copy-editors and prescriptive grammarians use.

Two words, and last letter of first is the same as the first letter of the second, e.g tool-like

miji-ike — “bad woman”, bitch

Phrases used as a single word, eg. merry-go-round.  In fact, tons of toki pona constructs fall into this category.

toki-pona — Tokipona.

telo-nasa — booze (with hyphen)

telo nasa — strange water (no hypen)  Maybe the water has an off flavor.

If people have the urge to pause longer between I would have a stronger argument for hypens on word pairs that are idiomatically being used to indicate what in English (or any other language) would almost certainly be a single word.

Emphasis on what modifies what.  E.g. twenty-odd people vs twenty odd people

This is an adjective – adjective – noun pattern in English.

This is a bit like the way pi helps us take a triple of words and narrow down what is modifying what.

tomo telo nasa — Either weird bathroom or room for booze.

tomo-telo nasa –  visually less ambiguous, “Weird bathroom”

tomo telo-nasa  — “Room for booze”

tomo pi telo nasa — visually and audibly less ambiguous.  “Bar”, could also mean room for weird water. Nasa modifies telo, not tomo.  telo nasa in turn modify tomo

tomo pi telo-nasa — This is least ambiguous of all, as telo-nasa as one word means booze, pi already prevents nasa from modifying tomo.

“To be” with multiple adjectives, eg. It is blue-green.

ona li laso. It is blue-green. Hmm, not  good example.

ona li laso-seli.  It is hot-blue. It is a neon blue.

* Modifiers of proper names.  E.g. anti-Darwinian

jan Peterson — “Mr. Peterson”

jan-Peterson — not much improvement unless Toki Pona became more agglutinative and we wanted to avoid Janpeterson (capitalize the first letter?) or janPeterson (capitalize the first letter of the root proper name?)

Phonetically, we could get some direction if we could hear how pronounced the stop between words was.  I suspect that if Toki Pona was a living language, the particles would glom onto the verbs in an agglutinative fashion.  This is not a big difference from Toki-pona today, except that some spaces between words would disappear

ona li moku e kili — full stops “he eats fruit”

* ona limoku ekili  — agglutinative version

ona mute li toki– full stops, “they talk”

* onamute litoki– agglutinative version

The plain and the idiomatic and the contextual toki pona

Toki pona is by design ambiguous.  The ambiguity has to go away somehow, or we can only make probalistic statements about what someone is saying.

The first strategy is context, which is like an unspoken namespace.  *(name space is programming jargon for a explicit name for the context of a given word)

pona!  — Good!  (in the context of a situation where praise is likely)

pona! — Hello! (in the context of meeting)

pona! — Repaired! (in the context of fixing cars)

The next strategy is common idioms, which allow us to distinguish from the plain reading.

kulupa-mama — Family.  lit. parental community

Because kulupa-mama is well know idiom, we don’t have to think much about the root words, any more than we think about he root words of television (far see!)  These common idioms are the best candidates for hyphenation.  I wouldn’t want to make them into compound words by removing the space on the odd chance that the split between the root words would become ambiguous, e.g.

ilo nasa wawa– energetic strange thing– Plain reading, maybe something you’d hear on Star Trek in the literal sense.

ilo-nasa wawa– energy drug — idiomatic reading, something you’d hear in everyday speach.

* ilonasawawa — hard to read, could be split as i-lon-asa-wawa, which doesn’t mean any thing.

What I’m trying to illustrate here is that hyphens make it obvious what is being used idiomatically and what is meant to be read as a the plain reading.

Glotal Stops

cvcv + vccv is going require a glottal stop or some fancy footwork with the vowel, which you can’t do in Tokipona, it doesn’t have enough vowels to start with.

tomo-unpa – bedroom.

* tomounpa — visually, it looks like ou should be pronounced as one sound.

[bona.   tenpo ni la mi wilie mute lape]

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