Combined glyphs

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This subject or style relates to Toki Pona: The Language of Good.
Examples of combined glyphs in pu: pilin*ike pilin ike (scalar), telo*lete telo lete (scalar), kala^lili kala lili (stacked), toki*pona toki pona (scalar)

In sitelen pona, the glyph of a head word may be combined with the glyph of one modifier. These are called combined glyphs in lipu pu.[1] They are also referred to as compound glyphs.

There are 2 main ways to combine glyphs:

  • Stacked: The modifier glyph goes above the head glyph. kala lili becomes kala^lili. A few theoretical stacked glyphs conflict with single-word glyphs composed of 2 radicals.
  • Scaled: The modifier glyph goes inside of the head glyph. kala lili becomes kala*lili. To allow for scalar combination, the head glyph generally must contain a single, sufficiently large, main negative space.

Grammatical restrictions[edit | edit source]

Many speakers limit combined glyphs to a head and the first modifier, as described in pu. This has been used for disambiguation, such as the sentence mi pana e tomo tawa sina: mi pana etomo-tawasina clarifies that tomo tawa sina is a noun phrase where tawa is a modifier ("I give your moving room"), instead of tawa sina being a prepositional phrase ("I give a room to you").[2]

Some speakers have experimented with extending combined glyphs to other situations, such as:

  • Prepositions followed by one-word phrases. In this case, tomo tawa+sina is even more distinct from tomo-tawa sina. However, prepositions are increasingly clarified with extended glyphs instead (tomo tawa(sina)), or by adjusting the preposition glyph to imply that it would connect to an extension line (tomo tawa() sina).
  • Preverbs and their main verbs. For example, mi sona toki would be written mi sona-toki.
  • Numbers. The standard counting systems treat multi-word number phrases as a list of addends, not as heads and modifiers. Between this and the glyph designs, number words are sometimes combined by juxtaposition.

Nonstandard combinations[edit | edit source]

Caution: The subject of this section is nonstandard and will not be understood by most speakers.
If you are a learner, this information will not help you speak the language. It is recommended to familiarize yourself with the standard style, and to be informed and selective about which nonstandard styles you adopt.

Merging[edit | edit source]

There is an occasional variant of scalar combination that merges the boundary of the modifier glyph into the head glyph. This is only legible with certain combinations of glyphs, and is largely used in logos or to distinguish non-proper names.

kulupu[edit | edit source]

The glyph for kulupu (kulupu) allows for a special combination, in which the modifier glyph replaces each of the 3 circle radicals. This plays on the fact that kulupu alone is interchangeable with the nonspecific phrase kulupu ijo, and the glyph for ijo is a single circle (ijo).

Surrounding[edit | edit source]

The glyph for sin (sin) has a peculiarity where, when used as a modifier, the rays can be placed around the head glyph. This chiefly occurs in a common combined glyph for the phrase nimi sin (nimi-sin), and may be an alteration of a stacked form (nimi^sin). Oddly, if interpreted as a scaled glyph, the word order would be reversed (sin nimi; contrast writing nimi sin as nimi*sin).

Juxtaposition[edit | edit source]

Number words are sometimes combined by simply placing them side by side within the space of a single glyph. For the glyphs based on tally marks, this is the most accepted way to combine them.

Addends Combined glyphs
tu wan tu-wan
tu tu tu-tu
luka luka luka^luka luka*luka luka-luka

Juxtaposition has been proposed for other sequences of words involving narrow glyphs, including common sayings that extend beyond a noun phrase. An example is mi sona-ala, where traditionally and due to influence from linja pona, the second glyph would have been scaled inside the loop of the glyph mi.

Recursion[edit | edit source]

Some people experiment with combining more than 2 glyphs at once, even using specific nesting rules to imply a group of modifiers as a pi phrase. Like merged scalar combinations, this may be more widely accepted in logotype design than standard writing.

Diacritics[edit | edit source]

Another experimental feature is treating the letterlike part of a (a), kin (kin), and o (o) as a diacritic. When placed below another glyph, that glyph replaces the vertical stroke. This feature was available in linja sike but has been deprecated.

Text encoding[edit | edit source]

In the UCSUR, the following codepoints are assigned to combined glyph control characters:


For an unspecified or special combined glyph, the zero-width joiner (U+200D, ‍) is recommended. The aforementioned characters can be used when more control over the specific combination is desired.[3]

References[edit | edit source]

Original text related to this article:
  1. Lang, Sonja. (25 May 2014). Toki Pona: The Language of Good. Tawhid. ISBN 978-0978292300. OCLC 921253340. p. 110.
  2. "LinjaPona Presentation-03-03.jpg". musi lili.
  3. jan Lepeka, jan Tepo. "Sitelen Pona: U+F1900 - U+F19FF". Kreative Korp. Retrieved 8 November 2023.