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Reduplication is repeating a word exactly or almost exactly to form a new word or phrase. In English, it occurs in words like "bye-bye" and "zigzag", in contrastive focus reduplication, and with "schm-".

Reduplication has often been suggested for Toki Pona, generally as an intensifier (for example, suwi suwi for "really cute"). However, it is not widely used, with a, mute, and suli being used for emphasis instead. It is occasionally not clear whether a repeated modifier is being used as an intensifier or as simply an ordinary word.

len ona li pimeja pimeja 

len ona li pimeja pimeja.[1]

Their clothes were blackest black/black-on-black/very black (lit. 'black black')

Other times, simply interpreting the second word as an ordinary modifier is adequate to understand the sentence.

jan ilo mute mute li pali lon ona

jan ilo mute mute li pali lon ona![2]

Many many programmers worked on it!

A potential ambiguity of this feature would be the phrase lili lili. This is reported as being used by 1-10% of respondents in ku to mean "minimum."[3] Under current standard grammar, it means "a little small". If read as reduplicated, it would also mean "very small", becoming an auto-antonym.

Doubled words in standard usage[edit | edit source]

Because Toki Pona doesn't typically have reduplication, a head word can be modified with the same word again, both words using their usual meaning. For example, "mama mama" is usually used to mean "grandparent", and wouldn't be understood as "platonic ideal of caregiver".

Examples of doubled words without reduplication
Phrase Possible meaning
a a haha
ala ala not nothing
ale ale 100+100=200
anpa anpa below the lower part
ante ante another different one
kulupu kulupu a group of people that's about groups of people, e.g. the people who run an event venue
lawa lawa boss's boss
len len hidden cloth
lili lili a little bit small
lipu lipu a book about books
luka luka 5+5=10
lupa lupa a hole that's for holes, e.g. a keyhole
ma ma land of dirt
mama mama grandparent
moku moku food that food eats, e.g. the stuffing in a turkey
monsi monsi behind the back
mu mu moo moo
mun mun the moon of a planet
mute mute very many, or 20+20=40
nanpa nanpa the index of a number
nena nena a smaller bump on a larger bump, e.g. a pimple on a nose
open open the beginning of an opening segment
pakala pakala an unsuccessful attempt at breaking something
pali pali working to enable work
pini pini the end of an ending
poka poka next to your hip
poki poki a container's container, or a contained container
selo selo the outer layer of an outer layer
sewi sewi above the higher part, or a high-up god
sinpin sinpin in front of the front
sona sona knowledge about knowledge
soweli soweli an animal's animal, e.g. a furry's pet, or a pet's furry
tan tan the origin of some origin
tenpo tenpo some time that's about time, e.g. a meeting about planning a schedule
toki toki talking about communication
tu tu 2+2=4
uta uta a kiss on the mouth

References[edit | edit source]

  1. jan Kepe. (11 July 2023). "Nasi". Retrieved 10 November 2023.
  2. jan Kepe. (15 July 2023). "Nasi". Retrieved 10 November 2023.
  3. Lang, Sonja. (18 July 2021). Toki Pona Dictionary. Illustrated by Vacon Sartirani. Tawhid. ISBN 978-0978292362. pp. 123, 266.