Book words

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Toki Pona has several words relating to works in the Official Toki Pona series:

Usage[edit | edit source]

These words are generally used to refer to the books themselves, the eras that their respective publications introduced, and the styles of speech that they include.

The book words are predominantly used in meta discussions about the language. Speakers also use these words in communications in other languages, effectively as short replacements for the book titles, even outside of Toki Ponglish. According to a study by jan Kekan San, the words pu and ku are used in non-Toki Pona sentences over two thirds of the time.[1]

In sitelen sitelen, the book words do not have their own word glyphs and are written as syllable glyphs instead, somewhat like names. Similarly, in luka pona, they are fingerspelled.

Extensions[edit | edit source]

Caution: The subject of this section is an experimental or hypothetical style that is not understood by most speakers, or is used only in specific small communities. Learners should avoid using it.

A minority of speakers ascribe extended meanings to these words, generally either to make them more useful by expanding their semantic spaces, or in conjunction with other criticism.

For example, Toki Pona Dictionary attests uses of pu for "official(ly)" and "constitution", and pu ala for "slang", although these are all listed as below majority usage.[2] An April 2024 proposal that began in ma pona pi toki pona[3] coins similar meanings such as "accepted" and "descriptivist" for ku, and "fictional" and "applied" for su.[4]

Criticism[edit | edit source]

While the word pu sees near-universal usage as of the 2023 Linku survey, some Tokiponists have criticized the book words.

In an essay, jan Olipija called the words a sign of "an internal contradiction" between Toki Pona as "the language of the community" and Toki Pona as "inextricably linked to the works of jan Sonja", and argues that they reveal prescriptivist tendencies.[4]

Conflicts with Toki Pona's philosophy and grammar have also been perceived, from arguments about word count allocation,[4] to the words effectively functioning as proper nouns and not standard names. However, the book words have also been defended on these fronts. Regarding the word pu in 2017, jan Misali asserted that Toki Pona is "the sort of language that would have the goal of having as few words as possible but then add an extra word as a joke."[5]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. jan Kekan San [@gregdan3]. (12 June 2024). [Message posted in the #Word frequency in Toki Pona thread in the #toki-suli channel in the ma pona pi toki pona Discord server]. Discord. Retrieved 14 June 2024. "here's where it gets interesting: 69.4% of pu's uses are in non-tp sentences. 68.7% of ku's uses are in non-tp sentences. this is true even against their 80th and 126th place frequency rankings, 14k uses and 6k uses respectively in tp sentences. put another way, these words are used significantly more often in english than in toki pona! roughly speaking, for every 10 uses of these words, you'd see ~3 in toki pona and ~7 in anything besides toki pona.".
  2. Lang, Sonja. (18 July 2021). Toki Pona Dictionary. Illustrated by Vacon Sartirani. Tawhid. ISBN 978-0978292362. p. 336.
  3. ijo Amali [@c_rr_t]. (5 April 2024). [Message posted in the #sona-musi channel in the ma pona pi toki pona Discord server]. Discord. Retrieved 6 April 2024.

    i've been thinking about how specific the meanings of "pu", "ku", and "su" are, and how weird it is that they refer to these three specific books since toki pona is meant to be a very general language
    what if we were to have "pu" mean "to interact with any toki pona course",
    "ku" mean "to interact with any toki pona dictionary"
    and "su" mean "to interact with a story, illustrarion [sic], piece of art, etc. written in toki pona"

  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 jan Olipija. "pu, ku & su - A Reasonable Redefinition". luka pona. Blogspot. Retrieved 6 April 2024.
  5. Source:jan Misali's thoughts on words § pu