Toki Pona's phonotactics, or rules for putting sounds together, are well defined. Unlike its phonology, knowing the phonotactics is not needed to speak the language orally, since the main set of words already adheres to them. It is most useful for creating names and nimi sin.
An *asterisk marks a sequence that is not allowed phonotactically.
Rules[edit | edit source]
In its "Proper Names" lesson, pu lists the phonotactic rules in the following order.
- (C)V(n) syllable structure: "Each syllable consists of a consonant plus a vowel, plus an optional n."
- Null onset is word-initial only: "The first syllable of a word does not need to begin with a consonant." As a corollary, every syllable after the first does need to begin with a consonant, thus is CV(n). There are no adjacent vowels or diphthongs. The sequence ana is syllabified as a‧na (2 morae), not an‧a (3 morae).
- No *ti: "The syllables [*]ti and [*]tin become si and sin." This rule concerns palatalization.
- No *wo or *wu: "The consonant w cannot appear before o or u."
- No *ji: "The consonant j cannot appear before i." These two rules cover the same thing. *wo, *wu, and *ji are disallowed because the semivowel in the onset, w or j, can be hard to distinguish from the vowel. The syllables would sound too close to o, u, and i, respectively.
At least one other rule is often noted:
- No adjacent nasals.
Palatalization[edit | edit source]
*ti is disallowed because of palatalization, a common sound shift that has occurred in many languages. An English example is the suffix "-tion", as in "motion". The /ti/ has been palatalized to /ʃ/, so it sounds like "-sion" as in "mission". For the same reason, *ti is changed to si.
wuwojiti[edit | edit source]
|Usage||2023: Uncommon (22% ↗ )|
2022: Rare (13%)
|Book and era||No book (post-pu)|
|Part of speech||Content word|
wuwojiti is a mnemonic for the disallowed syllables in Toki Pona phonotactics: *wu, *wo, *ji, *ti, and their equivalents with coda -n. Some less common nimi sin flout this rule, often as a joke.
Syllables[edit | edit source]
This is a chart of all 92 syllables under Toki Pona phonotactics.
|∅||Null coda||a||e||i||o||u||Coda -n[c]||an||en||in||on||un|
Number of possible words[edit | edit source]The number of phonotactically allowed words, up to n syllables, is:
|2||aja–winwin||6 624||6 716|
|3||ajaja–winwinwin||476 928||483 644|
Notes[edit | edit source]
- Assimilation of coda -n is also responsible for words like anpa sometimes being pronounced like [ampa], and words like enko (an obscure nimi sin) being pronounced like [eŋko].
As a result, coda -n is sometimes defined as [m ~ n ~ ŋ], unlike onset n- which is strictly [n].
- This is why the letter C, originally /k/, now has soft and hard sounds.
- Syllables with coda -n are 2 morae.
See also[edit | edit source]
|Development and usage||jan Sonja · Toki Pona: The Language of Good (2014) · Tokiponidos · Software (Tools · Fonts) · suno pi toki pona · Toki Pona census · Toki Pona Dictionary (2021) · UCSUR · ijo Linku · ISO 639-3|
|Conventions||Phonology (Phonotactics) · Words (Tokiponization) · Grammar (Word order) · Writing systems (sitelen Lasina · sitelen pona · sitelen sitelen) · luka pona (sign language) · Number systems · Calendar systems · Styles (pu · pu-rism · ku · Nonstandard)|
|Philosophy||Minimalism · Context · Circumlocution · Expression · Lexicalization · Multiple sentences|
|Resources||Frequently asked questions · Courses · Dictionaries · Cheat sheets · Visual aids · Communities · Websites · Media|