Toki Pona

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The Toki Pona logo. It is retrofitted into sitelen pona as the combined glyph toki-pona.

Toki Pona is a philosophical artistic constructed language created by Sonja Lang in 2001. It is designed for talking about things by explaining them in simple terms.[1]

Toki Pona has a community of over 1800 speakers[2] and is mainly spoken online, where it is one of the most popular conlangs[3]. Speakers and proponents of Toki Pona are mainly called tokiponists.

Many creative works have been made in Toki Pona or translated into it.

Name[edit | edit source]

toki pona (all lowercase) is the language's most commonly used endonym. Notably, it is not a proper name; the phrase literally means "good speech" and can describe any good communication. Some speakers use other phrases to refer to the language, such as toki ni ("this language").

Toki Pona (titlecased) is the language's proper name in other languages such as English, French, and German. It is usually translated as "the language of good" (Esperanto: la lingvo de bono, French: la langue du bien, German: die Sprache des Guten). In Esperanto, the name is altered to Tokipono.

Language rules[edit | edit source]

  1. Phonology: Letters are pronounced as in the International Phonetic Alphabet. Stress is on the start of each word.
    Most of the consonants are intuitive to English speakers. j is an i with a swash tail, pronounced like English Y as in "fjord" and "hallelujah". Vowels are pronounced as in languages like Spanish, Japanese, and Esperanto.
    There are well-defined phonotactics, but that only matters for transliterating names.

  2. Modifiers (adjectives or adverbs) come after their heads (nouns or verbs).
    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".
  3. Proper names are modifiers and require a descriptive head.
    Sonja Lang becomes jan Sonja, "the person Sonja". Canada becomes ma Kanata, "the place Canada".
  4. Phrasal modifiers start with pi, which groups the rest of the phrase.
    tomo telo nasa means "strange water room", perhaps "weird washroom"; tomo is modified by telo and nasa. tomo pi telo nasa means "strange-water room", perhaps "pub", because alcohol is a liquid that makes people strange; tomo is modified by telo nasa, wherein telo is modified by nasa.
    pi is a can of worms. Many speakers avoid it.
  5. Multiple subjects are separated with en.
  6. Predicates come after all subjects. li starts each predicate, with two exceptions: If the subject is only mi ("I", "we") or only sina ("you"), li is dropped.
    The main word of the predicate can be analyzed as a verb. By this analysis, Toki Pona has dynamic and stative verbs. In the sentence mi moku, the word moku can be dynamic, "to eat", or stative, "to be food" (less likely in this case).
  7. Yes-or-no questions are formed with "verb ala verb", or with anu seme at the end. The main way to answer "yes" is to repeat the verb.
    Open-ended questions are formed with seme.
  8. Commands use o in place of li. If the subject is only sina, that subject can be dropped.
  9. Preverbs (auxiliary verbs) come before their main verb.
    Only certain words have preverb definitions, mainly awen ("to continue"), kama ("to come", as in kama sona, "to come to know", "to learn", or kama jo, "to come to have", "to get"), ken ("to be able"), lukin / alasa ("to try"), sona ("to know how"), and wile ("to need / want").

  10. Direct objects come after their respective verb. e starts each direct object.
    A basic sentence is ona li sona e toki pona. ona ("they") is the subject, sona ("to know") is the verb marked by li, and toki pona is the direct object marked by e.
  11. Prepositional phrases use no special particle.
    kepeken, lon, sama, tawa, and tan have preposition definitions. e can still change a preposition to a transitive verb. mi tawa ma means "I go to the land"; mi tawa e ma means "I move the land", or "mi makes the ma into ma tawa".

  12. Context phrases come before the main sentence. la ends each context phrase.

Benefits and applications[edit | edit source]

Managing thoughts[edit | edit source]

Toki Pona was created to help manage thoughts during depression, and its therapeutic applications have been studied in professional contexts. In 2007, Pekka Roponen, working as a psychiatrist in Finland, had patients track their thoughts in Toki Pona and claimed that "negative thought patterns and cognitions can be transferred and eliminated by simply using the language."[4]

According to jan Sonja, the lack of superfluity in Toki Pona can make it useful for problem-solving: "It helps you see patterns, and how things are connected in different ways".[4]

Language strategies[edit | edit source]

According to an experiment by Paolo Coluzzi while teaching Italian at the University of Malaya, Toki Pona can improve speakers' circumlocution and other communication strategies when learning additional languages. Use of these strategies makes up for unknown or forgotten words and expressions in the unfamiliar language.[5]

Computer science[edit | edit source]

Toki Pona has been studied in computer science. The Robot Interaction Language was initially based on Toki Pona; according to tests in 2010, the modified Toki Pona vocabulary outperformed English in speech recognition accuracy.[6]

History[edit | edit source]

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Sonja Lang started developing Toki Pona to simplify her thoughts during periods of depression. It was also partly inspired by Taoist philosophy. She shared early versions of the language online starting in August 2001, and got feedback on words and features. The project initially gained popularity with Esperantists. Much of the early activity was on Yahoo! Groups, from March 2002 onwards, and a dedicated phpBB forum.

tenpo pu[edit | edit source]

Sonja Lang published the first official Toki Pona book, Toki Pona: The Language of Good (lipu pu), in May 2014. It marked the end of her development of the language, and presented her own way of using it. The book presents Toki Pona's philosophy and is mostly dedicated to lessons, with texts and dictionaries afterward. It includes 120 main words, with 3 more presented as "synonyms". It also features two writing systems created for the language: sitelen pona and sitelen sitelen.

Toki Pona continued to grow in popularity in the following years, in part with the spread of reviews and video lessons such as jan Misali's 2015 series, 12 Days of sona pi toki pona. It also started to attract scientific research judging the language's performance in various applications, both therapeutic and unrelated to its original purposes.

A French translation of lipu pu, titled Toki Pona: la langue du bien, was published in April 2016.

The first Toki Pona census was released in April 2021.

sitelen pona was proposed for the UCSUR in August 2021, providing a standard for its encoding in fonts, and thus as plain text.

Later in 2021, the Linku dictionary project was started.

tenpo ku[edit | edit source]

In July 2021, Sonja Lang compiled the descriptive Toki Pona Dictionary (lipu ku), providing corrections and clarifications of lipu pu and passing the torch of the language's evolution onto the community.

A yearly celebration of Toki Pona's anniversary, suno pi toki pona, began on August 2021.

In December 2021, lipu pu was translated to German as Toki Pona: Die Sprache des Guten with bonus material from lipu ku.

After rejected requests in 2008 and 2018, the ISO 639-3 Registration Authority adopted the identifier tok for Toki Pona on January 20, 2022. The webpage was updated on the 28th.

lipu pu was translated into Esperanto as Tokipono: La lingvo de bono, published in October 2022. The edition includes notes and words featured in lipu ku, and additional Toki Pona texts.

Usage[edit | edit source]

Under construction: This section is empty. You can help us by adding to it.

Community[edit | edit source]

The official Toki Pona website links to several communities, as well as a lipu Wikipesija project page created to help with the ISO language code application:

References[edit | edit source]

English Wikipedia has an article on
Toki Pona.
  1. jan Misali. (19 July 2021). "o ku: introducing the Toki Pona Dictionary". jan Misali [@HBMmaster]. YouTube. Retrieved 3 December 2023.
  2. Results of the 2022 Toki Pona census - Do you consider you know Toki Pona?
  3. Sonja Lang. (6 May 2023). Most Popular Conlangs Online.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Roberts, Siobhan. (9 July 2007). "Canadian has people talking about lingo she created". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 28 December 2023.
  5. Coluzzi, P. (2022). "How learning Toki Pona may help improving communication strategies in a foreign or second language." Language Problems and Language Planning, 46(1), 78–98.
  6. Mubin, Omar; Bartneck, Christoph; Feijs, Loe (2010). "Towards the Design and Evaluation of ROILA: A Speech Recognition Friendly Artificial Language". Advances in Natural Language Processing. Lecture Notes in Computer Science. Vol. LNCS 6233/2010. pp. 250–256. doi:10.1007/978-3-642-14770-8_28.