Using the same techniques and the proto-indo-european reconstruction linguists, it is time to find out where the toki pona homeland is.
- Root words aren’t accidental, they are culturally significant
- While lacking a word for something doesn’t mean they didn’t talk about, it does mean they probably didn’t care to talk about it.
- The language’s place on the family tree of languages can tell you when and where the people lived
- You can run phonetic change rules in reverse to discover what a word sounded like in the proto form. The technique works best when you have many daughter languages.
Source of languages. The presence of so many PIE words, 66% or so is a clear sign that this is a European language with loan words. So the tokiponan homeland is probably West Europe, North America or Australia. There we presume that the French words are Acadian, then obviously the toki pona homeland is in modern Canada, a country with significant French and English speaking populations as well as lively immigrant communities from around the world.
Plants and Animals. Tokiponans had plants animals in their environment, waso, akesi, soweli, kala, kasi and alasa. ~4% of words. No root words for cows, horse, sheep or wool, so I don’t they existed in the time of the Indo-Europeans. The late appearance of the word alasa may have to do with hunting in the sense of searching for animals, killing them and eating them. Given the high ratio of animals to plants, I guess it makes sense that the tokiponans were hunters. In English, “to hunt” also means to search for something– it isn’t clear if alasa has the narrow meaning. Toki pona also has “lukin”, look out for. Lukin entails visually looking for anything. “kama jo”, come to have/find, which implies I’m search with the intention of acquiring the possession.
Material Culture. Toki ponans used tools (ilo), wove cloth (wen) and made and ate bread (pan) and use monetary tokens (mani) at the store (esun). We can infer they also had some sort of economy based on the cultivation of grains. This clearly places the toki ponans well after the bronze age or iron age. In fact, I dare say the toki ponans were a people of the industrial revolution on account of the word ilo, although one could argue that even homo habilis may have had a word for tool. If a culture used very few tools, I suspect they’d use one or two specific words for the tools instead of a broad category or root word. Coins weren’t introduced until Greek times, so if the toki pona people existed before the Greeks, then mani means “luxury barter goods” as well. In Old Europe Spondylus shell was a common barter item, so mani might also means Spondylus shell. I think modern toki ponans would probably call spondylus shell “mani pi kala poki,” or “money of the fish in the box”.
Society, Morality, Ethics, Etc. As noted before, there is mani and esun. “To have” is “jo” which is separate and distinct from “poka”. In cultures without a strong sense of property laws, possession is indicated by a preposition that conveys the sense of physical proximity, e.g. Russian that uses “by me” to mean “I have/I own”. A specialize verb indicates the society probably observes property rights. I don’t think cultures that use proximity as a metaphor are more progressive, just probably too poor to make a big deal out of keeping track of who owns what.
We can learn some about the words used for negative things. Ike means bad, jaki is impure, filthy stuff. This is a very European idea if you look at the various pre-Christian and Christian religious that used lots of impure/cleansing metaphors. The only word for wash is “telo”, which in particular means wash with water. This contrasts with things like Buddhism, where the bad stuff is “unskillful.” So an evil man in a Buddhist world is incompetent. An evil man in Old Europe needed a metaphorical scrubbing.
“Unpa”, sex is differentiated from love, “olin”. There are words for male and female, “mije” and “meli”, but grammatical gender markers are optional for the animate and irrelevant for the inanimate. This is an egalitarian society with pair bonding and families. How this squares with the toki ponans being mostly an animal hunting society with some but not a lot of agriculture– I don’t know. I’ll have to go read up on how often hunter-gatherer societies were egalitarian on gender terms.
Proto-toki-pona. If we didn’t have an inventor of toki pona who specifically said what words they had in mind, I dare say we’d have hard time pinning down where much of toki pona came from. I’ve wondered if things like Grimm’s law apply to all languages, or if they only apply to PIE languages. If we had enough dialects of toki pona, we’d be able to reconstruct proto-toki-pona and I suspect we’d get something like proto-polynesian. Why? Because Polynesian has that consonant-vowel alternating phonetic structure and I bet cvcv languages share similar phonetic shift rules.
Post-toki-pona. Post-toki-pona (the future tokipona) is a bit easier to talk about. Languages tend to evolve by fusion and erosion. The particles all risk fusion and the final vowels are often unneeded for clarity. For example, kil, kin, kul, kulup obviously mean fruit, emphasis, color, community. janpona risks losing internal consonants like the n, and final vowels, which would yield a new word, japon. Long words risk being re-analyzed. For example kepeken means use, but if some speaker re-analyzed it as kepe-ken (use-possible), then we’d have new word “kepe” to mean “use” and kepe-ala (unusable). Given that toki pona is a strict cvcv language, one could argue that the new words would continue to be cvcv, when I have a chance to study how proto-Japanese became modern Japanese, I’ll let you know.