This lesson is a work in progress!
Check out the video lesson too! This video has a few more topics at the start.
There’s another one here, too!
Table of Contents
Words to Know
|(connect phrases with ‘or’)||A capital letter “Y” with a wide top|
|(indicate something is additional, extra)||Asterisk or 6 pointed star below a line, like an exclamation point|
|(group modifiers into an ordinal, ranking)||Two horizontal and vertical lines as in a hash symbol |
|split, cut, divide||A dot in the upper left and lower right divided down the diagonal by a line, like a percent sign |
|square, cube, corner||A square, inside another square|
|girl, woman, female||Circle with a curve from the bottom, around the top, and back to the bottom like long hair|
|boy, man, male||Circle with corners off the bottom like broad shoulders|
|transgender, non-binary||A circle with three lines coming off at upper left, upper right, bottom|
|fear, fright, scary, frightening, anxiety||Cartoonish shaking from fear; a zig zag that starts and ends going down and is larger in the middle|
|extra, ornamental, spicy||An open-top pepper with emitters OR four lines away from the center going up, down, left, right|
|mushroom, fungus||A mushroom; half circle on top with smaller rectangle for the stalk in center to bottom|
|sex, sexual relations||Three crossing loops like a triple venn-diagram but simpler|
|one, unite, join, group||Number |
|two, split, divide, cut||Two vertical tally marks close together|
|number||Two horizontal and vertical lines as in a hash symbol |
|word, name||A horizontal rectangle with slightly curved corners|
This lesson is a big collection of quickly explained but unrelated ideas, to fill out some important details about using the language!
In Toki Pona, you can refer to things by their name. To do this, you start with describing the thing. What kind of thing is this? Languages are toki, games are musi, and people are usually jan! Then you can use the name right after, like a modifier.
mi lon ma Kanse!
I’m in France!
When written in latin characters, proper names are always capitalized at the start.
mi lon ma [kiwen alasa nasin sewi esun]
I’m in France!
In sitelen pona, proper names are written in a box called a cartouche, then spelled by reading the first letter of each symbol in the box. Here we spell out Kanse, which is what France is called in Toki Pona!
Here’s a quick exchange between two people who have newly met!
mi jan [kepeken ilo mute ike]!
nimi sina li suwi! mi jan [alasa jan ante]!
The first speaker’s name is Kimi, and the second is Aja!
You can think of the box/cartouche being like the symbol nimi!
From the creator of this name-writing system: This is not intended to replace what was described above! Learn the official system first, and if you insist, this system will be waiting for you.
There is a fancier way of writing names, known as sitelen kalama. It works with the system described above, so you can do both at once!
To start, this system uses morae. Morae are like syllables, but they only go up to the vowel of a syllable, because the “n” that comes at the end of a syllable is a whole mora! Some examples:
- In sitelen, the syllables are si te len, but the morae are si te le n.
- Similarly, in nanpa the syllables are nan pa, but the morae are na n pa!
Using mora, we can write names in a new way! Without a dot, [kepeken] is read as just k, but each dot completes the next mora:
- [kepeken·] is ke, finishing the ke mora!
- [kepeken··] is kepe, adding a whole mora!
- [kepeken···] is kepeke, one more mora!
- [kepeken····] is the entire word kepeken!
If the way the word is normally read is already a full mora, you go onto the next one still. This applies to words that start with vowels, because vowels are also complete mora! Examples with anpa:
- [anpa] is a as you usually read it
- [anpa·] is an, which is two morae: a and n
- [anpa··] is anpa, now the entire word!
And then with ike:
- [ike] is i without any dots
- [ike·] is ike, which is two morae: i and ke
If you want to use a whole word, but you don’t want lots of dots, you can use a colon [:] to refer to the entire word! [kepeken:] is read as the whole word kepeken, the same as [kepeken····] above.
Finally, here’s somebody named Kawalo introducing themselves, and somebody named Seta Luki responding, written in this system:
toki! mi jan [kala· walo:]
toki a, jan [kala· walo:] o! mi jan [sewi· tawa·] [lukin··]
Toki Pona lets people and places name themselves! For example, Japan is called “にほん (Nihon)” by Japanese speakers, so in Toki Pona, Japan is called ma Nijon.
No matter how you write them, names aren’t set in stone in Toki Pona. Different speakers will use somewhat different names for the same places and things, and that’s okay! It’s the same as describing the same thing two different ways- something we do in Toki Pona often!
For your own name, just pick something you love!
Toki Pona has numbers, but they aren’t important! If there are lots of things, use mute. If there are a few things, try mute lili, or nothing at all! Numbers aren’t important in Toki Pona.
Toki Pona has two numbers: wan and tu. Their names sound like the same numbers from English: one (1) and two (2).
o kama jo e ilo tu wan
Pick up three (3, 2+1) tools.
Go get three (3, 2+1) tools.
When counting things, you use numbers as modifiers. So in this example, tu wan is like having a modifier that means “three.”
wan is one, tu is two, tu wan is three, tu tu is four, and tu tu wan is five. This keeps going, which gets long quickly! Try mute instead of a bunch of tu and wan.
By the way: wan and tu are normal content words with meanings besides numbers:
mi wan e lipu ale
I combined all the papers.
I united all the documents.
soweli li tu e moku tawa pana
The animal divided up the food to gift.
The critter split up the food to give away.
You can also use the word nanpa to rank things. nanpa wan is often used to refer to favorites, like this:
ni li pona nanpa wan tawa mi
This is my favorite!
This is the best good thing, to me!
For this, nanpa works like pi because it groups the words after it into one modifier- even if there is only one word after it! The new modifier is a rank, like “first” or “third.”
If you really, really want to use bigger and more specific numbers, there is a system with more numbers than one and two.
Counting with this system works exactly as before, except you have bigger numbers to use:
|One Hundred (100)|
Here are some quick examples:
sina jo e kasi mute luka tu
You have twenty seven (27, 20+5+2) plants.
jan ale ale wan li lon
There are two hundred and one (201, 100+100+1) people here.
mi lukin e lipu luka luka luka
I’ve read fifteen (15, 5+5+5) books.
Of course, this won’t let you refer to numbers like one million so easily. But when was the last time a million of something was important to distinguish from “a lot?”
kin makes something additional or extra to something else. It’s like saying “too” in English.
It can be used in the subject
mi kin li wile ni
I (and somebody else) also want to do this!
kasi li loje kin
This plant is red (and another color), too!
mi lukin e lipu kin
I read this book (and read something else).
ona li pana e ni tawa sina kin
They gave this to you (and somebody else), too
When something is extra, it means there is another thing happening besides the thing being said!
anu is a particle that works like the word “or” in English. It joins parts of speech like repeating a particle, but it means “or” instead of “and”.
Here’s an example of anu in each part of speech, starting with the subject:
mi anu sina li ken pali e ni
You or I can make this.
Then the predicate:
sina ken jo anu pakala e ilo
You can keep or break the tool.
In the object:
soweli li ken moku e kili anu kala
The cat can eat a fruit or a fish!
And lastly, with an entire prepositional phrase:
jan alasa li lape lon tomo anu lon poki lape
The hunter is sleeping in their cabin or sleeping bag.
anu can join any number of phrases, so it doesn’t stop there! You could use this to list out a bunch of possibilities. Obviously, fewer is better for clarity!
anu is widely understood, but some speakers use it differently. Those above are the most common ways, but some repeat the intended particle after anu, and others use anu with modifiers or with particles like pi!
Toki Pona to English
English to Toki Pona
Names in Toki Pona are very open ended! There are tons of ways to spell names using sitelen pona, and tons of ways to adapt a name into Toki Pona’s sounds in the first place. There’s also no need to have your own actual name be anything related to your name in Toki Pona- have fun with it!
Numbers are not super important in Toki Pona. If you ever feel like counting an exact number of something, ask yourself if it’s important to do so!
Still, there are many ways to express numbers in Toki Pona when you need it. The systems here aren’t exhaustive either- if you get clever, you can come up with systems on the spot! But often, comparisons to other things will help you the most.
We’re in the home stretch! Have you been practicing? Even if you have, you can never have enough listening practice; check out o pilin e toki pona by jan Telakoman!