Toki Pona: Compound Words

Noun + Modifier

Modifiers are added in reverse order as compared to English.

sike mama = sphere maternal = egg

tomo telo = aquatic room = wash room

toki sona = wise words = proverb

Noun + Noun + Modifier

These can be ambiguous because the binding could be (n + modifier) + modifier or n + (noun modifier). Most nouns in toki pona have a verb, adjective or adverbial meaning, so the middle word is potentially ambiguous, (see next section on preventing this ambiguity)

sike mama waso = avian maternal sphere = bird’s egg

telo naso = water crazy = booze

tomo telo naso = odd restroom

Noun + pi + ( Noun + Modifier)

To prevent the ambiguity of the Noun + (Noun

tomo pi telo naso = room of water crazy = bar

Li + Word

li + word turns the word into a verb. Toki pona is a bit like Japanese in that adjectives are sometime treated like verbs.

Jan li pona. She’s is pretty. By li doesn’t mean ‘is’! At least not in the sense of “to be”

lon anu lon ala ni: nimi seme. To be or not to be, that is the question.

Verb + Verb

Jo kama = own come = to get, to receive

Sona kama = know come = to learn, to study

Jan + Personal Name

jan Matthew = Matthew

jan John = John

[More patterns to come]

One thought on “Toki Pona: Compound Words

  1. nimi “jen” li lon ala.
    nimi “jan” li lon.
    “jen John” li wile lon “jan John”.