Phatic Expressions and Social Conventions

    From sona pona

    Phatic Expressions in general[edit | edit source]

    A phatic expression is a word or phrase that serves a social function instead of an information-sharing function.

    In general, toki pona has very few phatic expressions, and actively tries to avoid them in favor of more explicit and context-specific expressions

    Politeness[edit | edit source]

    toki pona is often described as "polite by default", but a better description is that it's sincere by default. In general, it's expected that people say what they mean and mean what they say. For toki pona, being direct, clear, and sincere is what constitutes polite speech. This is partly because indirect or euphemistic speech is often confusing or unclear. Because toki pona is already vague, when that's combined with phrases that talk around an idea rather than describe it honestly, it can cause confusion.

    Specific Expressions[edit | edit source]

    Greeting[edit | edit source]

    An interjection often used for greeting is "toki". This works especially well to begin a conversation. However, other phrases and sentences may work as well or better in different circumstances. Here are some examples:

    • When joining an existing group or conversation: mi lon
    • When reacting to someone joining: sina lon
    • When signalling your presence: mu
    • When other people go "mu": mu
    • When wanting people's attention: sina o
    • No situation requires a greeting, so just jumping into the conversation is valid

    In practice, greetings tend to not be about the time of the day.

    Parting[edit | edit source]

    When you are leaving a conversation, you can indicate this by describing what you are doing that will stop you from talking further. Some examples:

    • When leaving for somewhere else: mi tawa
    • When taking a break or going to bed: mi lape
    • When beginning or resuming work: mi pali
    • When noticing that you should be getting food: mi o moku
    • When your game starts: musi mi li open

    Often, others will respond to this indication with a related well-wishing - "tawa pona", "lape pona", etc. - or with a general one.

    Much as with greetings, you can also just depart.

    Well-wishing[edit | edit source]


    Thanks and Gratitude[edit | edit source]

    toki pona doesn't have a short or direct word for "thanks", for two reasons

    • toki pona does not have modes of talking that automatically relay politeness, which sometimes lead to toki pona being described as "polite by default"
    • it also tries to avoid "phatic" phrases that are automatic and not very meaningful, at least in part due to avoid lexicalization

    So there's two main ways to express what "thanks" tries to do in English; short phrases, or a longer explanation.

    Common short phrases are: pona; sina pona; pona tawa sina. Those each mean: good, you are good, goodness to you (more or less)

    Another way, which is often better, is to express what you're thankful for; If someone is teaching, for example, you can express that: sina pona tan pana sona you are good because giving knowledge

    Or if someone gave a present, you might say: sina pana e ijo pona la, sina pona you gave a good thing, so, you are good

    A useful mindset to employ here is specific positive feedback. Describe narrowly a good that you are grateful for. For example, "sina pana e sona pona" - you gave good knowledge.

    But as with many things in toki pona, there's many ways to express yourself. Experiment! o pona

    "Sorry"[edit | edit source]

    In English, "sorry" is used for multiple social functions. You can use it for apologizing but also to express sympathy with someone else's unfortunate situation. toki pona doesn't have a single direct word that combines those meanings in the way English does, instead you'd express the idea more directly.

    Expressing sympathy[edit | edit source]


    Apologizing for small or insignificant errors[edit | edit source]

    A common way is to recognise or mention your mistake such as:

    a, pakala mi
    Something like my bad.
    a, mi pakala
    Something like oh, I have made a mistake.

    You can also emphasise the fact by expressing what your mistake was.

    a jan pona mi o, mi pakala (tan) ni
    [reason]. pona o tawa sina
    Something like my friend, I am sorry for [reason], I hope for your good very roughly.

    "True" apologies[edit | edit source]