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a in sitelen pona
a in sitelen sitelen
Pronunciation /a/
Usage 2023: Core (99% → )2022: Core (99%)
Book and era nimi pu ("synonym" in pu)
Part of speech Particle
Codepoint 󱤀 U+F1900

a is a particle used to indicate emphasis and emotion.

Function[edit | edit source]

a is used to add emotion or emphasis to a word, phrase, or sentence. It may also be used alone as an interjection, meaning "ah", "oh", "uhm", among other words.

a ni li pona tawa mi

a! ni li pona tawa mi.

Oh. This is good for me.

ni li musi a

ni li musi a!

This is so fun!

When a is reduplicated, it is used to express laughter.

a a a

a a a!


Marking emphasis[edit | edit source]

The word a can be used either at the end of a sentence, adding emphasis (or emotion) to the entire sentence, or after a specific word or phrase to emphasize only that part of the sentence. When used at the end to emphasize the entire sentence, it can be seen as similar to using an exclamation mark in English.

Here are examples of a adding emphasis to different parts of the same sentence:

ona a li pali e tomo

ona a li pali e tomo.

She builds a house.

ona li pali a e tomo

ona li pali a e tomo.

She builds a house.

ona li pali e tomo a

ona li pali e tomo a.

She builds a house.

In the final sentence, the a can also be seen as emphasizing the entire sentence, depending on context. Some people prefer to only use a at the end of a sentence, and don't make the distinctions in the examples above.

Controversy[edit | edit source]

There is no clear community consensus on whether you need to use a li when the subject of a sentence is mi a or sina a. Some feel that it's better to use li, because mi a is similar to mi kin or mi taso, which both require a li in most people's style of Toki Pona. Others feel that it's better not to use li, because a is not a content word. In practice, both methods are used by different people.

In some cases, people will use a in a pi phrase to emphasize a specific modifier. (E.g. jan pi lili a[1], equivalent to jan lili with only the lili emphasized.) This method is rare and is seen as ungrammatical or nonstandard by some people.

pu[edit | edit source]

In the "Official Toki Pona Dictionary" section, the book Toki Pona: The Language of Good defines a as:

PARTICLE  (emphasis, emotion or confirmation)

Notably, the book only shows examples of a as an interjection or at the end of a sentence. The word isn't shown emphasizing a specific part of a sentence.

ku[edit | edit source]

For Toki Pona Dictionary, respondents in ma pona pi toki pona translated these English words as a:[2]

ah5, oh5, ha5, ooh4, uh4, gosh4, whoa4, wow4, um3, huh3, uh-huh2, quite2, gasp2, really2, mm-hmm2, hmm2, sigh2

History[edit | edit source]

In pre-pu sources, a was only used as an emotion word and for laughter, not to mark emphasis.[3][4] Instead, kin was used to mark emphasis.[5] The word a was also only added at the end of a sentence, not in the middle.

In the 2014 book Toki Pona: The Language of Good, Sonja Lang attempted to merge a and kin into one word,[6] adding "emphasis" to a's definition. The two words were not fully merged in community usage, but the meaning and usage of a did shift as a result of this. a is now widely used as an emphasis marker, and it can be used in the middle of a sentence, unlike pre-pu usage of a but similar to pre-pu usage of kin.

sitelen pona[edit | edit source]

The sitelen pona glyph for a (󱤀) is composed of the punctuation stem and the lowercase Latin letter A.

The letter A at the bottom is typically drawn in its single-story form ɑ, usually resembling the Latin letter's handwritten forms more than in type. However, the letter A can occasionally also be seen written as its double-story form a, or as the lower case Greek letter alpha (α, resembling a mirrored kala glyph). The punctuation stem can be drawn upright (a) or at a diagonal (a).

Compare the glyphs for kin, n, and o.

sitelen sitelen[edit | edit source]

The sitelen sitelen word glyph for a (a) is a rounded shape with a flat bottom that includes a phonetic a radical (A) and an uta radical (uta, seen also in akesi: akesi and toki: toki).

The word may optionally also be written as the syllable glyph (A).

References[edit | edit source]

  1. jan Kasape. (14 May 2023). "kulupu Kanse la jan meli li kama ken" (in Toki Pona). lipu tenpo. Retrieved 14 May 2023. "jan li kama unpa li kama jo insa e jan pi lili a li wile e ona ala la seme li ken".
  2. Lang, Sonja. (18 July 2021). Toki Pona Dictionary. Illustrated by Vacon Sartirani. Tawhid. ISBN 978-0978292362. p. 199.
  3. jan Pije. "Lesson 9". o kama sona e toki pona!. Archived from the original on 30 June 2007. "a is a word that expresses emotion or laughter.".
  4. "Classic Word List (Improved!)". tokipona.net. Archived from the original on 8 January 2013. "interj ah, ha, uh, oh, ooh, aw, well (emotion word)".
  5. "Classic Word List (Improved!)". tokipona.net. Archived from the original on 8 January 2013. "mod also, too, even, indeed (emphasizes the word(s) before it)".
  6. Sonja Lang [@sonjalang]. (24 February 2021). [Message posted in the #learn-toki-pona-1 channel in the ma pona pi toki pona Discord server]. Discord. Retrieved 14 May 2024. "for better or worse, i had the idea to merge kin and a in my book, but i don't think it's really taken off in usage. i personally use a and kin differently.".

Further reading[edit | edit source]

Resources[edit | edit source]

Dictionaries[edit | edit source]