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    A question is a sentence that solicits some information from the listener. There are three main ways to form questions in toki pona.

    Forms of questions in toki pona[edit | edit source]

    verb ala verb[edit | edit source]

    To form a yes-or-no question, repeat the main word of the predicate, and add the word ala between the repetitions.

    sina moku ala moku?
    Do you eat?
    ona li pona ala pona tawa sina?
    Are they good to you?

    anu[edit | edit source]

    The particle anu can be used to ask question about alternatives. See the article on anu for more details.

    ona li lukin e waso anu soweli?
    ona li lukin e waso.

    anu seme[edit | edit source]

    The form anu seme asks a "tag question," prompting an answer for confirmation, and expecting the answer to be "yes". Sonja Lang introduced this form in a forum post on 2003-02-12:

    sina kama anu seme?
    (literally: you're coming or what?)
    I think you're coming, but please correct me and tell me what is really happening.
    aren't you coming?[1]

    According to Sonja, this structure is parallel to "the way 'oder' can be used in colloquial German."[1] In German, "oder" at the end of a sentence is used to form a tag question, [2] which "may suggest confidence or lack of confidence, or may be confrontational, defensive, tentative, or rhetorical (not expecting an answer)."[3] In toki pona, anu seme is typically used in all of these ways and is extremely common in speech.

    seme[edit | edit source]

    The particle seme can be used to form general questions. It replaces the word in the sentence the speaker wants information about.

    sina moku e seme?
    What are you eating?
    sina seme e kili?
    What do you do with the fruit?
    seme li moku e kili?
    Who/What is eating the fruit?

    The word seme can also modify other words.

    jan seme li moku e kili?
    Who (what person) eats the fruit?
    jan li moku seme e kili?
    How is the person eating the fruit?
    jan li moku e kili seme?
    What kind of fruit is the person eating?

    Answering questions in toki pona[edit | edit source]

    yes-or-no[edit | edit source]

    A positive answer to a yes-or-no question can be given by repeating the word asked about:

    akesi li suwi ala suwi?
    Are lizards cute?

    To say no, repeat the word asked about followed by ala, or use the word ala on its own.

    sina wile ala wile moku e pipi?
    wile ala.
    Do you want to eat bugs?

    General questions[edit | edit source]

    A question asked with seme can be answered with a sentence providing the information that was asked for.

    ona li pali e seme?
    What are they doing?
    ona li kepeken ilo.
    They are using a tool.

    History[edit | edit source]

    Yes-or-No questions[edit | edit source]

    Though in theory the X-ala-X structure of toki pona questions could be used to ask about any part of the sentence, in pu it is only used for the head of a predicate and this use has become standard in the period since.

    One of the very oldest toki pona lessons from 2001[4] includes these examples, which may seem strange to modern readers:

    meli ala meli li lawa e ma ni?
    A woman / not a woman rules that country?
    Does a woman rule that country?
    iki li jan pona sina ala jan pona sina?
    She not-your friend / your friend?
    Is she your friend?

    iki is an archaic form of the pronoun ona. By 2005, the form was restricted to the head of a predicate,[5] and the same form is used in pu.[6] As of 2023, the form anu seme is used for questions about the subject or object of a sentence.

    anu seme[edit | edit source]

    In 2005, the anu seme form was still a tag question.[7] In pu, however, the form is described as identical to the X-ala-X form and is presented as a synonymous alternative.[8] As of 2023, the anu seme form is still used as a tag question, though the question of whether pu's synonymous style was ever widely used is still unanswered. An avenue for future research.

    References[edit | edit source]

    External resources[edit | edit source]