Preverb marking

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Caution: The subject of this article 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.

Preverb marking is a set of experimental nasins, which explicitly separate the preverb of a sentence from the predicate, often with the use of nimi sin. The words ni, ja and ta are established options for a preverb-marking particle. Using them allows unambiguous usage of all content words as preverbs, acting as descriptors for the state or process described in the main predicate.

The syntax of each of the preverb-marking methods is identical when a sentence has a single preverb. The methods diverge when multiple preverbs are involved, with ja requiring the particle to be repeated, whereas ta can mark multiple preverbs at once. The ni and ja methods allows for modification of the preverb, which is not possible with ta except for negation with ala. The ta method and the ni method work different semantically, and ja has undefined semantics.

ni[edit | edit source]

ni in sitelen pona
ni in sitelen sitelen
Pronunciation /ni/
Usage 2023: Core (100% → )2022: Core (100%)
Book and era nimi pu
Part of speech
Codepoint 󱥁 U+F1941

The use of ni as a preverb marker was developed by jan Tepo in May 2021.[1]

This was designed as a simple abbreviation of existing constructs rather than completely new grammar. In a statement like "mi P V e ijo", the meaning is as if the phrase "V e ijo" was a modifier on the preverb P. This means the meaning would be equivalent to "mi P ni: mi V e ijo". The "hidden" ni here could then be written out to serve as a preverb marker.

A statement like "mi utala ni toki e ijo" is interpreted as an abbreviation of "mi utala ni: mi toki e ijo."[2]

jan Tepo later learned that the word "co" in Lojban works exactly like this, semantically and syntactically, and suggested loaning it as so as a synonym for this usage of ni.

ja[edit | edit source]

Pronunciation /ja//j/ sounds like English Y, as in "fjord" or "hallelujah".
Usage 2023: N/ACaution: This word has not been surveyed for. Most speakers likely don't understand it.
Book and era No book
Part of speech Particle

ja was coined in July 2021 by a group of people, most notably wuwojiti Haev, jan Pensa and jan Kita.[3] It was made to allow experimental preverbs to be used without ambiguity.

Syntax[edit | edit source]

ja follows a preverb, separating it from the following predicate or from another preverb.

mi tawalotelo e kasi

mi tawa ja telo e kasi.

I'm going (in order) to water the plants.

mi open lo olin lotelo e kasi

mi open ja olin ja telo e kasi.

I'm starting to love watering the plants.

ja allows unambiguous modification of preverbs by putting multiple content words before it.

mi wile mute losona e ni

mi wile mute ja sona e ni

I really want to know this.

Well-established preverbs can be marked with ja for clarification, but this is not required. When using well-established preverbs in the same sentence, all preverbs before the last ja should be marked by ja to avoid ambiguity, but preverbs after the last ja can remain unmarked.

together with lo[edit | edit source]

By suggestion of jan Kita,[4] ja was also designed to work in combination with the experimental preposition-marking particle lu (which was later renamed to lo) to allow for unambiguous modification of prepositions.

mi pali e ni lo kepeken wawa loluka mi

mi pali e ni lo kepeken wawa ja luka mi.

I made this by using my hands with a lot of force.

soko li lo ante mute loleko

soko li lo ante mute ja leko.

Mushrooms are very different from squares.

Semantics[edit | edit source]

The meanings of preverbs marked by ja are not explicitly defined. It was meant to work with already proposed experimental preverbs rather than being used as a regular method to create new preverbs. However, it can also be used with any system of regular preverb derivation, including the ones proposed for ta and ni.

sitelen pona[edit | edit source]

A proposed sitelen pona glyph for ja (lo) depicts a rightwards arrow from a vertical bar, similar to a maplet arrow (↦). It is the mirror image of an earlier glyph for lo (lo). It was proposed by jan Pensa in 2024.[5]

ta[edit | edit source]

Pronunciation /ta/
Usage 2023: Not notable (1% ↗︎ )Caution: Most speakers don't understand this word.2022: Obscure (0%)
Book and era No book
Part of speech Particle

ta was developed by the keyring system in 2023. The keyring system intended it as an alternative to ja without the need to repeat the particle for multiple preverbs, and with more clearly defined semantics to allow any word to be used as a preverb.[6]

Coincidentally, jan Kita also offhandedly suggested ta as a preverb-marking particle in February 2021,[7] but this has no relation to the 2023 version of ta.

Syntax[edit | edit source]

ja follows one or more preverbs, separating them from the following predicate.

mi open olin ta telo e kasi.

I'm starting to love watering the plants.

ala can still negate preverbs in a ta phrase.

The "canonical" lexical class of preverbs (alasa, awen, ken, kama, lukin/oko, sona, wile) do not need ta to be interpreted as preverbs.

Semantics[edit | edit source]

Meanings of preverbs marked by ta are usually determined with guidelines based on the word's transitivity.

For transitive verbs (such as alasa, where the object is the patient of the predicate), the preverb affects the main predicate by treating a preverb as a layer over the main predicate. In other words, the preverb has the same meaning as when it acts as a transitive verb, and the main predicate relates to the preverb the same way as how a direct object would relate to the transitive verb. For example:

mi utala ta toki e ijo

mi utala ta toki e ijo.

I resist saying something.
[semantically equivalent to "mi utala e (toki e ijo)," or "mi utala e ni: mi toki e ijo."]

For intransitive verbs (such as ken, where the object is made to be or do the predicate), the preverb phrase affects the main predicate by specifying the preverb word:

mi pakala ta toki e ijo

mi pakala ta toki e ijo.

I failed to say something.
[semantically equivalent to "mi toki e ijo la ni li pakala"]

jan-mute li nasin ta tawa() tomo-pali

jan mute li nasin ta tawa tomo pali.

Many people have a habit/duty of going to work.

sitelen pona[edit | edit source]

The sitelen pona glyph for ta (ta) looks like the mirror image of the uppercase letter sigma (Σ). It was created by the keyring system, who often write it as an extended glyph, with both horizonal lines extending leftwards.[8]

External links[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]

  • lo, a marginal preposition marker

References[edit | edit source]

  1. jan Tepo [@tbodt]. (5 May 2021). [Message posted in the #sona-musi channel in the ma pona pi toki pona Discord server]. Discord. Retrieved 12 March 2024. "what if ni. mi wile ni moku. huh I kinda like this (...) actually I like this a lot because it's like you just elided the colon. i'm pretty sure A li preverb B e C generally means A li preverb ni: A li B e C, but the subject is shared so you want to elide it".
  2. jan Tepo [@tbodt]. (30 July 2023). [Message posted in the #toki-suli channel in the ma pona pi toki pona Discord server]. Discord. Retrieved 3 February 2024. "nasin mi: mi utala ni toki e ni. → mi utala ni: mi toki e ni. ≈ mi toki e ni. ni li utala. jan mute li nasin ni tawa tomo pali. → jan mute li nasin ni: ona li tomo pali. li wawa tan ni: nimi open ale li kama sona lon nasin sama".
  3. (28 July 2021). [Message posted in the #nimisin for marking preverbs thread in the #sona-mus channel in the ma pona pi toki pona Discord server]. Discord. Retrieved 3 February 2024.
  4. jan Kita [@.hecko]. (28 July 2021). [Message posted in the #nimisin for marking preverbs thread in the #sona-musi channel in the ma pona pi toki pona Discord server]. Discord. Retrieved 12 March 2024. "may i suggest using the same nimisin for ending compound preps too mi wile ja kama ja sona (lu) kepeken mute ala ja lukin".
  5. jan Pensa [@jpensa]. (12 March 2024). [Message posted in the #sitelen-pona-discussion channel in the ma pi nasin sitelen Discord server]. Discord. Retrieved 9 April 2024. "I just had an idea for a new (obscure) glyph: Since ja (preverb marker) was designed to work together with lo (preposition marker), why not make it the mirror image of the lo glyph?".
  6. kupikoni [@kupikoni#3673]. (23 January 2023). [Message posted in the #pali-musi channel in the ma pona pi toki pona Discord server]. Discord. Retrieved 3 February 2024. "i knew about ja when making ta, but I had complaints about how poorly defined the semantics of content word to pv meaning were and i disliked the idea of repeating the particle for every pv".
  7. jan Kita [@.hecko]. (22 February 2021). [Message posted in the #sona-musi channel in the ma pona pi toki pona Discord server]. Discord. Retrieved 12 March 2024.

    lu but for preverbs, let's say ta
    probably not very useful but idk

    mi lukin pona e sina - i see you well
    mi lukin ta pona e sina - i try to fix you
    mi usawi ta kiwen e sina - i magically turn you into stone (tan @lipamanka#6684)

    i swear this is not a calque of ta it's just how the examples ended up being
    (the fact that i couldn't think of any preverbable words shows how non-useful this probably is)

  8. keyring system [@kupikoni]. (7 February 2023). [Message posted in the #linja lipamanka thread in the #toki-suli channel in the ma pona pi toki pona Discord server]. Discord. Retrieved 9 April 2024. "for our ta glyph, we often write it extended like this.".