Grammar

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Toki Pona grammar is the set of structural rules of Toki Pona. This includes the structure of phrases, clauses, sentences, and whole texts. This article describes a generalized view of a diversity of styles of speech or varieties of Toki Pona, over a wide span of time from the two decades since its creation in 2001.

Toki Pona is an analytic language, meaning that it conveys meaning through combination of words and particles as opposed to inflection, such as with affixes. Grammatical categories such as number, gender, tense, aspect, and mood are not obligatorily marked and are instead expressed through different means. The basic word order is subject–verb–object (SVO), as in English. Toki Pona is mostly a head-initial language, meaning that modifiers follow the words that they modify.

Word classes[edit | edit source]

Content words[edit | edit source]

Content words are the main word class which carry semantic meaning, contrasting with particles. These are analogous to nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and similar categories in other languages. In Toki Pona grammar, however, these are considered the same, as they are not grammatically different. They may be used as a head or modifier.

Specific types of content words include names, numbers, prepositions, and preverbs.

Names[edit | edit source]

Numbers[edit | edit source]

Prepositions[edit | edit source]

Prepositions are a type of content word used to express spatial or temporal relation or to mark semantic roles. In Toki Pona, these are kepeken, lon, sama, tan, tawa.

Preverbs[edit | edit source]

Preverbs are a type of content word which precede the head of the predicate and are generally used to make distinctions in grammatical mood and aspect. The core preverbs found in the book Toki Pona: The Language of Good include awen, kama, ken, lukin, sona, and wile.

mi wile moku 

mi wile moku.

I want to eat.

Pronouns[edit | edit source]

Toki Pona has three personal pronouns: mi (first-person), sina (second-person), ona (third-person). These function identically to other content words; they are not marked by neither gender nor number, that is often up for interpretation, as well as additional words. Toki Pona also has a demonstrative pronoun ni ("this, that") and interrogative pronoun seme ("what, which").

Particles[edit | edit source]

Particles are a word class used to indicate grammatical structure of a sentence and hold no semantic meaning, constrasting with content words.

Interjections[edit | edit source]

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Syntax[edit | edit source]

The basic word order of Toki Pona is strictly subject–verb–object (SVO). These arguments are introduced or separated using particles, namely the particle li introduces the predicate[a][1] (an action or state of the sentence), and the particle e introduces the direct object (that which the action is affecting). The particle li is used with any subject, apart from the words mi or sina alone, that is any third-person subject, as well as complex subjects (those composed of more than one word) with the words mi or sina.

There may be more complements, such as prepositional phrases and context phrases. Prepositional phrases are introduced with any preposition and normally go after the predicate and direct object, if any. Context phrases are introduced at the start of the phrase and are separated from the main sentence with la.

Context la SUBJECT (li) VERB e OBJECT + Prepositional Phrase

Context phrases[edit | edit source]

Context phrases or context clauses is a grammatical unit that adds contextual information and separated from the rest of the sentence by the particle la. It may be composed of a either a content phrase, a prepositional phrase, or an entire sentence.

Predicate[edit | edit source]

The predicate is introduced with the particle li, with exception of the words mi and sina. These may either be composed of a content phrase or a prepositional phrase.

ona li pali 

ona li pali.

They are working.

soweli li lon tomo 

soweli li lon tomo.

The animal is in the house.

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. The words verb and predicate are frequently used interchangeably in the analysis of Toki Pona grammar.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. jan Kekan San. "Predicate is better than Verb (scrap)". mun.la. Retrieved 21 December 2023.