How many words does Toki Pona have?

    From sona pona

    Toki Pona is known for its low amount of vocabulary, but how many words there are depends on the speaker, timeframe, and cutoff point for expanded and controversial cases.

    This article treats ali as a spelling variant of ale, not counting it as a separate word.

    Survey says[edit | edit source]

    The 2023 Linku survey results sort words into usage categories, making it convenient to choose a cutoff point by percentage of speakers.

    ale and ali were polled for separately; ali is counted as uncommon.

    Category Min.
    Words Running
    Core 90% 118
    Widespread 70% 10 128
    Common 50% 7 135
    Uncommon 20% 14 149
    Rare 10% 11 160
    Obscure 2% 66 226

    Historical[edit | edit source]

    By the books[edit | edit source]

    Toki Pona: The Language of Good, published in 2014, advertises "120 words", but has 123 including the "synonyms" that it unsuccessfully tried to merge. Later editions include more words to better reflect contemporary usage. See nimi pu.

    Toki Pona Dictionary, published in 2021, advertises "137 essential words", and includes up to 187 words overall. See nimi ku.

    pre-pu[edit | edit source]

    Before the first official book, the count of words fluctuated a bit. For a long while, it stayed stable at 118 words.

    2001[edit | edit source]

    Early on, Toki Pona went through a lot of changes. Much of this era is lost. When speaking to outsiders about the language, jan Sonja early on said that Toki Pona had 150 words, and less than 200. It's not unlikely that 150 words was higher than the count of the actual word list as it was first published.

    2002[edit | edit source]

    On 2002-05-15, a poll vote of 6 to 2 decides in favour of Sonja's proposal for a new word kiwen to mean "rock, stone, metal, material".

    On 2002-05-31, iki changes to ona.

    Word list 2002-06-07 (retrieval date)
    Described as "98% complete"
    Word count 120
    non-pu words iki (listed as "archaic" and not counted), kan, kin, leko, oko
    pu words not in list alasa, ali (not counted), esun, pan, pu
    Word origins 2002-08-09 (retrieval date)
    Etymology list, reflects an older usage
    Word count 121
    non-pu words iki, kan, kin, leko, oko
    pu words not in list alasa, ali (not counted), esun, ona, pan, pu

    On 2002-11-01, ali becomes an alternative to ale, en is used between head nouns instead of modifiers, kan no longer exists, and kin is used for emphasis of any word.

    2003[edit | edit source]

    Word list 2003-03-04 (retrieval date)
    Described as "98% complete"
    Word count 119
    non-pu words iki (listed as "archaic" and not counted), kan, kin, leko, oko, pata
    pu words not in list alasa, anu, esun, pan, pu

    2007[edit | edit source]

    Word list 2007-09-27 (retrieval date)
    Word count 118
    non-pu words kin, oko
    pu words not in list alasa, esun, pan, pu

    2009[edit | edit source]

    On 2009-04-01, the word kijetesantakalu is introduced as an April Fool's joke.

    Beyond the books[edit | edit source]

    Many, many, many other words have been created, most of which never have been used beyond their creation. It is impossible to find them all.

    Nevertheless, an attempt was made in the form of kule epiku Atawan's nimi ale. It is an extremely indiscriminate collection, seeking to contain anything that anyone ever declared to be a Toki Pona word. As of the last edit[note 1], the grand total (across sections 1 through 4) is 1165 words (some with multiple independent definitions). Over half of those are from section 2a, "words in ma pona pi toki pona", which catalogued every message containing the custom :nimisin: emote.

    A somewhat more conservative list is lipu Linku, which as of the August 2022 update contains 256 words. Even so, many of them are obscure, with 12 of them scoring 0% in a usage survey.

    1. The Table of Contents claims it was last updated in 2020-02-24, but section 2a contains a link to a Discord message posted in 2021-02-13.