luka pona

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jan Olipija storytelling in luka pona

luka pona, also known as Luka Pona Sign Language (LPSL), is a constructed sign language and tokiponido created by the luka pona community with large contributions from jan Olipija. It is a complete and organized language, expressed through manual and nonmanual features, unlike toki pona luka, which is a manually coded relex of Toki Pona. In the Toki Pona Dictionary (2021), jan Sonja advocates and recommends learning luka pona instead of toki pona luka.[1]

The language emerged in 2020 as a response to previous projects, namely Chuff's Toki Pona Sign Language (2013) and toki pona luka (2014). The language was inspired by these and natural sign languages, such as American Sign Language (ASL), British Sign Language (BSL), International Sign (IS), Plains Indian Sign Language (PISL), Arabic Sign Language (ArSL), and others.[2]

In a conference in University of Colorado, signer jan Lakuse described it as an accessibility tool. They also described it also as a "linguistic toy", similar to Toki Pona, in order to introduce and experiment with sign language in a non-harmful way to fluent signers.[3]

Learning[edit | edit source]

30-minute video lessons by jan Lakuse explaining the basics of luka pona.[4]

luka pona is primarily taught in toki pona taso, that is, learners are encouraged to learn it using Toki Pona from other speakers and with the following resources. The main community center for luka pona is the #luka-pona channel on the ma pona pi toki pona Discord server, where there are videochat sessions for teaching and chatting.

Resources by jan Olipija[edit | edit source]

Resources compiled by the community[edit | edit source]

Phonology[edit | edit source]

The phonology of luka pona consists of combinations of smaller features than signs, namely handshape, placement, orientation, and motion.

Handshapes[edit | edit source]

The handshape inventory consists of nine handshapes as shown below. This limited number of handshapes is helpful for those with limitations, either physical or technical. There are also several allophonic variants when signing in real life, sometimes used for emotional effect.

In virtual reality, where there is also a community of luka pona speakers, different handshapes are used to accomodate the technical limitations. Most controllers have a limited number of handshapes available, as such substitutions are made, similarly to how other sign languages adapt to VR.[5]

Implementation of luka pona handshapes for virtual reality controllers.[6]

Grammar[edit | edit source]

Under construction This section needs work:

Include nasin apart from that of jan Olipija.

If you know about this topic, you can help us by editing it. (See all)

Modifiers[edit | edit source]

Similar to Toki Pona, modifiers follow the word they are modifying.[7]

Particles[edit | edit source]

The sign PI can be replaced with a brief pause without signing, and the sign for LA can be replaced with a longer pause without signing.[8]

Directional signs[edit | edit source]

Signs such as LUKIN, UTALA, KAMA/TAWA, and PANA/LANPAN point from the direction that the corresponding action comes from.[9] For example, MI SINA LUKIN(tawa sina), the sign LUKIN points toward the referent of SINA, but in SINA MI LUKIN(tawa mi), it points toward the speaker. In ONA-1 ONA-2 LUKIN, it points toward the side of ONA-2.

Postpositions[edit | edit source]

Unlike Toki Pona, which has prepositions and preverbs, luka pona instead uses postpositions and postverbs.[10]

The sign O is also postpositive. When used for commands, it can be replaced by signing intensely. When used to address someone, O can be replaced by wiggling the hand intensely before or after the name; or with the sign LUKIN-E, pointing at the speaker, after the name.[11]

Negation[edit | edit source]

Negation can be either expressed using the sign ALA or be signaled by shaking the head, lowering the eyebrows, and frowning.[12]

Syntax[edit | edit source]

luka pona has a subject–object–verb (SOV) word order and lacks the words li or e. The basic word order is structured as subject NI-1 object NI-2 verb. The NI signs point toward different sides (indicated in the gloss with number suffixes), including for multiple subjects and objects.[13]


mi moku e pan.

For short sentences, this sign may be omitted with little ambiguity. For instance, TOKI PONA may be interpreted either as toki pona or toki li pona.[4] In this case, NI is used to disambiguate the meaning.


mi moku e pan.

A second subject can be clarified with the sign EN/KIN/KAN, following the NI for the first subject. Multiple verbs are separated by a brief pause.[14]

Interrogative clauses[edit | edit source]

In interrogative clauses, the sign SEME always ends the sentence. Yes-or-no questions are formed with a confused expression or by tilting the head to the side.[15] SEME is also used to link sentences instead of ni.[16]

Vocabulary[edit | edit source]

Fingerspelling[edit | edit source]

The luka pona manual alphabet consists of 14 signs, which can be either one-handed (borrowed mostly from the French Sign Language family) or two-handed (borrowed from BSL and the BANZSL language family), used to spell out names and words from Toki Pona.[17]

Two-handed fingerspelling signs

Words which lack signs, such as jasima and eliki, are fingerspelled instead. When a given word or name is spelled frequently, its spelling may become faster and more relaxed over time, and might not include all the letters in the original, to the point of making the spelling unreadable to those not familiar with the word.[18] In sign language linguistics, this phenomenon is known as lexicalization (not to be confused with lexicalization in the context of Toki Pona).

Time[edit | edit source]

Time phrases are expressed with phrase TENPO NI, with the sign NI pointing in different directions.[19] Pointing back represents tenpo pini, pointing at one's feet represents tenpo ni, and pointing forward represents tenpo kama.

Numbers[edit | edit source]

Numbers can be expressed with the signs for Toki Pona number words, or by extending the corresponding number of fingers, optionally with the sign for nanpa before. Another way of enumerating things is to touch the nth finger on the other hand.[20]

Intensifiers[edit | edit source]

luka pona does not use the intensifier a. Instead, the speaker uses two hands.[21] The sign MUTE can be replaced by signing a word many times in a row.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Lang, Sonja. (18 July 2021). Toki Pona Dictionary. Illustrated by Vacon Sartirani. Tawhid. ISBN 978-0978292362. p. 11.

    Signed Toki Pona (toki pona luka) was presented as a game to battle Lojbanists. A new and very pona project, luka pona, has since been designed by jan Olipija to be usable as a naturalistic sign language alongside Toki Pona. I recommend learning luka pona.

  2. jan Olipija; jan Lakuse; jan Tepo. (7 August 2022). "The Sign Languages of Toki Pona (BSL) (English CC) and LPSL Demonstration (LPSL-TP CC)". tbodt [@tbodt]. YouTube. Archived from the original on 13 May 2024. Retrieved 13 May 2024.
  3. jan Sonja, jan Lakuse, et al. (8 April 2024). "Toki Pona: From Personal Art Project to Small World Language". University of Colorado Boulder. (transcript).
  4. 4.0 4.1 jan Lakuse []. (5 August 2023). "sona open pi luka pona". ma Seka. Retrieved 16 December 2023.
  5. Jenny0629. (4 May 2020). "Using ASL in Virtual Reality (VRChat)". Helping Hands [@helpinghands3286]. YouTube. Retrieved 29 January 2024.
  6. jan Tepo [@tbodt]. (17 July 2023). [Message posted in the #tok 🔹 tokiponaj-signolingvoj-トキポナ手語 channel in the プロ𛄡クトバベル PROJEKTO BABEL Discord server]. Discord. Retrieved 29 January 2024.
  7. jan Olipija. (9 April 2018). nasin toki pi luka pona: nanpa wan - nimi kule en pi (in Toki Pona). Blogspot.
  8. jan Olipija. (9 April 2018). nasin toki pi luka pona: nanpa tu - la (in Toki Pona). Blogspot.
  9. jan Olipija. (9 April 2018). nasin toki pi luka pona: nanpa luka luka luka - nimi pali tawa (in Toki Pona). Blogspot.
  10. jan Olipija. (9 April 2018). nasin toki pi luka pona: nanpa tu tu - nimi poka en nimi poka pali (in Toki Pona). Blogspot.
  11. jan Olipija. (9 April 2018). nasin toki pi luka pona: nanpa luka - o (in Toki Pona). Blogspot.
  12. jan Olipija. (9 April 2018). nasin toki pi luka pona: nanpa luka tu - ala (in Toki Pona). Blogspot.
  13. jan Olipija. (9 April 2018). nasin toki pi luka pona: nanpa tu wan - nimi ijo en nimi pali (in Toki Pona). Blogspot.
  14. jan Olipija. (9 April 2018). nasin toki pi luka pona: nanpa luka luka tu - nimi ijo mute en nimi pali mute (in Toki Pona). Blogspot.
  15. jan Olipija. (9 April 2018). nasin toki pi luka pona: nanpa luka tu wan - toki pi wile sona (in Toki Pona). Blogspot.
  16. jan Olipija. (9 April 2018). nasin toki pi luka pona: nanpa luka tu tu - nimi luka ‘SEME’ (in Toki Pona). Blogspot.
  17. jan Olipija. (9 May 2018). "nasin toki pi luka pona: nanpa luka luka wan - nimi nimi" (in Toki Pona). Blogspot. Retrieved 29 January 2024.
  18. jan Tepo [@tbodt]. (7 October 2023). [Message posted in the #eliki li seme tawa sina? thread in the #toki-suli channel in the ma pona pi toki pona Discord server]. Discord.
  19. jan Olipija. (9 April 2018). nasin toki pi luka pona: nanpa luka luka - tenpo (in Toki Pona). Blogspot.
  20. jan Olipija. (9 April 2018). nasin toki pi luka pona: nanpa luka luka tu tu - nanpa (in Toki Pona). Blogspot.
  21. jan Olipija. (9 April 2018). nasin toki pi luka pona: nanpa luka wan - a en mute (in Toki Pona). Blogspot.