Phonology

    From sona pona

    Toki Pona's phonology is the set of phonemes (speech sounds) that speakers distinguish between. Phonotactics describe the ways phonemes can be arranged.

    Inventory[edit | edit source]

    Toki Pona has 9 consonants and 5 vowels.

    Consonants[edit | edit source]

    Consonants
    Labial Coronal Dorsal
    Nasal m n
    Stop p t k
    Fricative s
    Approximant w l j

    Most of the consonants are intuitive to English speakers.

    The letter j is pronounced like English Y, as it is in "fjord" and "hallelujah". This is also its value in languages like German (ja) and Swedish (hej då). The letter j was originally an i with a swash tail, and it is helpful to think of it as such in Toki Pona.

    Consonants are only distinguished by place and manner of articulation. Qualities like voicing and aspiration do not make a difference: p t k can be pronounced as [b d ɡ] if need be.

    Vowels[edit | edit source]

    Vowels
    Front Back
    Close i u
    Mid e o
    Open a

    According to Toki Pona: The Language of Good, the vowels are ideally more centered than their default values in the International Phonetic Alphabet. a is centralized to [ä], and e o are lowered to mid [e̞ o̞].

    Allophones[edit | edit source]

    The tokiponization guidelines suggest some recognizable allophones:

    • [v] becomes w, but its unvoiced equivalent [f] becomes p.
    • Uvular and velar consonants are allophones of k.
    • The rhotic consonants correspond to multiple Toki Pona phonemes. Tapped [ɾ] or trilled [r] becomes l. The English R sound, an often labialized approximant [ɹ⁽ʷ⁾], instead becomes w. As above, the French or German R becomes k.
    • Dental fricatives can become t or s.
    • Affricates are allophones of fricatives.
    • Voiceless laterals become s.

    Here is an attempt to chart this information:

    Allophones of pulmonic consonants
    (voiceless · voiced)
    Labial Dental Alveolar Palatal (Post)velar
    Nasal m n
    Plosive p t k
    Trill, tap, or flap l
    Fricative or affricate p · w t~s s
    Approximant w j
    Lateral s · l