Sentence structure

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The sentence structure of Toki Pona sentence is as follows:

subject li verb (e object).
Subject verbs (object).
subject en subject li verb (e object e object) li verb (e object e object).
Subject and subject verb (object and object) and verb (object and object).

context la subject li predicate e direct object preposition indirect object.[1][2][3]

Toki Pona's word order is known as subject–verb–object (SVO).

Context[edit | edit source]

The context before la can be a word, phrase, or entire sentence.

Subject[edit | edit source]

The subject of the sentence can be a word or phrase. Multiple subjects are combined with en. The subject is the main character of a sentence. It can be a person or an object or anything really. What's important is that we describe what the subject is or is doing. Multiple subjects are connected with en.

Predicate[edit | edit source]

The predicate of the sentence can be a word or phrase, potentially with a pre-predicate. The verb (also called the "predicate") is the thing the subject is, or is doing. It can be an action — like working, playing, talking — or a description — like blue, good, tall — or a thing — like house, animal, food. A preposition or prepositional phrase can be a predicate. Almost all predicates are introduced by li. Multiple verbs are introduced by repeating the particle for each.

Direct object[edit | edit source]

The direct object of a sentence can be a word or phrase. The direct object is the thing that the action is done to. It can also be basically anything. It is the receiver of the action in the verb performed by the subject. Each direct object is introduced by e. In standard grammar, all of the subjects go first, but objects can tag onto their respective verbs.

Indirect object[edit | edit source]

The indirect object of a sentence can be a word or phrase. Each indirect object is introduced by a preposition.

Modifiers[edit | edit source]

Modifiers follow their heads. The main idea that you're talking about is the "head", and that can't be dropped without changing entirely what you're referring to. The idea that modifies the head to some extent, giving more information that can often be left out, is called a "modifier".

In toki pona, toki ("language") is the head, and pona ("good") is the modifier.
sike loje mi is literally "ball red my", and means "my red ball".
This is typically the opposite of English, but there are counterexamples like "someone special", "anything new", "time immemorial", and "Alcoholics Anonymous".


Free word order[edit | edit source]

Caution: The subject of this section is just for fun. It is not meant or recommended for serious use.

An experimental system for free word order was created as an April Fools' Day joke. Most speakers do not use or easily understand it.

In this system, the subject, verb, and object can go in any order. The subject is introduced with en if it does not start the sentence.

SOV ona e kasi li moku. "They plants eat."
SVO ona li moku e kasi. "They eat plants."
VSO li moku en ona e kasi. "Eat they plants."
VOS li moku e kasi en ona. "Eat plants they."
OVS e kasi li moku en ona. "Plants eat they."
OSV e kasi en ona li moku. "Plants they eat."

Besides its lack of acceptance, there are some potential problems with this system. The correspondence between multiple verbs and objects may be lost, and it unclear what would happen to context phrases. Also, sentence boundaries may be unclear.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. jan Juli. "nasin toki pona". GitHub.
  2. Jean-Marc Quéré, sona li wan (2021) p. 9
  3. Lang, Sonja (2014). Toki Pona: The Language of Good. Tawhid. ISBN 978-0978292300. OCLC 921253340. p. 17, 20, 25, 26, 34, 35, 48, 49, 51, 56.