Head dropping

From sona pona, the Toki Pona wiki
Caution: The subject of this article is an experimental or hypothetical style that is not understood by most speakers, or is used only in specific small communities. Learners should avoid using it.

In toki pona, a phrase consisting of at least 2 words can be analysed as having a "head" in front (described in pu and other places as "noun" or "verb") and one or more "modifiers" ("adjective" and similar) following the head. The head describes the main concept of the phrase, so it is obviously quite important. However, there are experimental ways that individuals have come up for how to use toki pona in which the head gets dropped and only the modifiers remain. It should also be noted that what some refer to as head dropping is in actuality a faulty description.

Not head dropping[edit | edit source]

Several things might be and have been mistaken for head dropping - but while they might appear the same on the surface, the underlying mechanism is usually another.

Generic dropping[edit | edit source]

If a concept is previously described with a modifier, you might get away with using the modifier in the remainder of the text

ilo luka en ilo tu li lon. luka li utala e tu.
mi jo e len poki. poki ni li lili la noka mi li ken ala lon insa ona.

Like most things described in this article, this will take the right kind of context and is probably more confusing when the modifier is a word that is more likely to be used as a head in similar situations as well.

tenpo dropping[edit | edit source]

Modifiers that add onto "tenpo" are already seen as carrying the intended meaning without "tenpo". While this might not be precise enough to provide proper context to everyone, using one of the modifiers as a head can already provide the same meaning:

tenpo suno wan ≈ suno wan
tenpo sike tu ≈ sike tu

Many reject this analysis and analyze sike as meaning "year" on its own, following its definition "of a year" in pu.

head noun dropping[edit | edit source]

When referring to a group of beings that aren't all represented by the same head noun, there are some strategies to talk to or about them, and one of these is using a word that would otherwise be a modifier as a noun - especially when it comes to quantities:

soweli ale en kala ale en akesi ale o ≈ ale o
waso mute en jan mute li lon ≈ mute li lon

head noun dropping in front of names[edit | edit source]

Usually, a name for something cannot stand alone. When loaning the name for "Kanada", "ma Kanata" is used, with "ma" as a head. Here are some ways a head might be dropped anyway: 1) The pu exception: There is a single exception to this rule in pu's example sentences

nimi mi li Apu.

(presumably dropping "nimi" or "jan")

This also reflects a pre-pu usage where modifiers in general were more likely to work as standalone predicates.

2) Non-capitalised names: For toki pona users who only wear a label without capitalisation, it can be ambiguous/unimportant if the label is a nimi sin (personal or not) or a name without a head

nata li sona e lipamanka

Onomatopoeia/standalone non-toki-pona words[edit | edit source]

There is no agreed-upon way to realise onomatopoeia beyond "mu" (in fact, the traditional way would be to not use specific words, and only use "kalama" or "mu"). However, one idea to represent them in toki pona is to assume that any sound could be used like a name, which would usually require "kalama" or "mu" as a head. But one way to expand how names work in general could be to interpret any name or other kinds of words that are not part of the toki pona vocabulary as *sounds*, which makes "jan Tana" mean "a person associated with the sound Tana". As a result, "Tana" on its own would just be a random sound "Tana". In onomatopoeia, this could be used in one of 2 ways:

1) tokiponised sounds: What sounds look like when interpreted through a language's phonology is highly subjective, so what the sound would look like when tokiponised varies a lot.

raindrops on the rooftop:

"tap tap tap tap" --> kalama Ta, kalama Ta, kalama Ta, kalama Ta --> Ta Ta Ta Ta

a book falling down:

"boof" --> kalama Po --> Po

2) toki pona words as sounds: While names don't usually have meaning in toki pona itself, a name or a sound that sounds a lot like a toki pona word could be implied to have the meaning of that word, often by having the origin of the sound be described by the word.

the sound of a fist hitting the table:

"whamm" --> kalama Luka / kalama Utala --> Luka / Utala

the sound of loud foodsteps:

"stomp stomp stomp" --> kalama Noka, kalama Noka, kalama Noka --> Noka Noka Noka

an explosion:

"boom" --> kalama Pakala --> Pakala

3) bonus: sounds as content words: If names and sounds were to be used alone, they could stand for "to be or to make that sound".

nimi mi li Tana

My name creates the sound "Tana"

ma li Italija

The country shouts "Italija"

Lapalapalapa li pona tawa mi

I like the sound/name/word/onomatopoeia "Lapalapalapa"

mi A A A

I go "hahaha"