Toki Pona: Pleasantries

In a constructed language if a word is missing or a grammatical construct is missing, you often can reason by analogy of other natural languages what might make sense.  You result may lead to heated arguments on mailing lists, but it has a hope of making sense.

For pleasantries, things are tougher.  Pleasantries vary from country to country, city to city, office building to office building.  What would be normally polite in one place would be mockingly effusive in another and rudely curt in a third.

So while we are reasoning by analogy, we are reasoning from analogies with other cultures.  It’s already considered bad form to attempt import one’s own mother tongues’ vocabulary and grammatical patterns into a new language, it isn’t as clear what to make of the ‘good manners’ issue.  I would make a wild, unscientific guess that ‘matter’s talk’ in, say, Japan would be more complex than say, New York City.

Forms of address

  • jan [Proper Name] = Mr/Mrs/etc, humans.
  • suweli [Proper Name] = Mr Ed (the horse)
  • jan [Proper Name] o.  You have the opportunity to use someone name and the imperative.  jan Mato o pali.  Matt, work!  Using both is probably more polite.

Requesting, giving and receiving

Outside of the vocative and imperative, I don’t see any way to soften a request.

  • jan [proper name] o pali  –please do some chore
  • jan Mato o pana — please give (something)
  • thank you – pona
  • you’re welcome – pona

I suppose “you’re welcome” could also be translate like “it was nothing”, “don’t think about it”, etc.

  • li ale.  It was nothing.
  • o sona ala e ni. Don’t think about this.


  • toki — hello
  • mi tawa — I go, good bye

In a natural language, there is a certain range of typical phrases.  When we say good bye, we don’t think up on the spot something that expresses everything we feel upon departure.  We just grab a phrase from our memory.  In a conlang, without extensive explicit guidance from the official corpus, I suppose we could invent any phrase that expresses what we feel at the moment and is grammatical, hence:

  • o tawa kepeken jan sewi.  Go with God.
  • ken la jan sewi tawa kepeken sina. May God go with you.
  • mi toki tawa sina e ni: sina o tawa pona.  I bid thee to fare well.
  • o tawa. o kama ala tawa ni.  Go and don’t come back.
  • o tawa weka ala e mi! Don’t leave me!

and so on.

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