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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One thought on “Toki Pona: Fish

  1. When I saw that jan Pije call mermaids/men jan kala, I immediately thought ningyo would be kala jan.

    jan kala:

    kala jan:

    I guess jan kala = fisherman makes more sense though.

    > Constantly reading modifiers backwards to english messes with my mind.

    In fact that’s the main reason I switched my toki pona anki deck from English to Portuguese midway (Portuguese has modifiers like TP).