|Usage||2023: Core (100% → )|
2022: Core (100%)
|Book and era||nimi pu|
|Part of speech||Particle|
Etymology[edit | edit source]
The word li is derived from the Esperanto third-person singular pronoun li. It functions similarly to the Tok Pisin particle i, which introduces the verb except when the subject is the first- or second-person singular pronouns.
Function[edit | edit source]
The particle li separates the subject from the predicate. The predicate can be intepreted as a verb, noun, adjective, or prepositional phrase. The particle is omitted when the subject consists only of the word mi or sina.
ona li moku
ona li moku.
soweli li suwi
soweli li suwi.
The dog is cute.
kili li moku
kili li moku.
Fruits are food.
mi tawa tomo
mi tawa tomo.
I'm going home.
sina pona lukin
sina pona lukin.
When the subject is anything other than the words mi or sina alone, it is followed by li. This can come about when multiple subjects are used in a single sentence with en, or when mi or sina either modify or are modified by another word in the subject.
sina en mi li lukin e sitelen tawa
sina en mi li lukin e sitelen tawa.
You and I watch a movie.
moku mi li lon supa
moku mi li lon supa.
My food is on the table.
mi tu li kama
mi tu li kama.
The two of us arrive.
Multiple predicates[edit | edit source]
In order to introduce multiple predicates, the particle li is repeated.
ona li kama li tawa
ona li kama li tawa.
They come and go.
soweli li kute e kalama li lukin e kasi
soweli li kute e kalama li lukin e kasi.
Animals listen to noises and look at plants.
mi toki mi moku
mi toki. mi moku.
I speak. I eat.
mi toki li moku
mi toki li moku.
I speak and eat.
This style can lead to ambiguities, as in this sentence. toki could be meant to be an independent predicate, or a modifier of mi. For example, the sentence above may be interpreted as "the language-related me is eating".
Edge cases[edit | edit source]
There are some edge cases where the style of the speaker may lead to differences in how li is used. The particle a in the sentence below is acting and modifying mi, but this may considered a special case and may not be counted. However, because it is still acting similar or even the same as a modifier, speakers might also use li similarly to with any modifier. A similar effect occurs with kin.
mi a wawa
mi a wawa.
mi a li wawa
mi a li wawa.
Misconceptions[edit | edit source]
li is not "is"[edit | edit source]
Beginners often have the misconception that li translates to "is", "are", or "to be". Notably, the series 12 Days of sona pi toki pona by jan Misali makes this claim, which was later corrected in his newer series toki pona lessons. The word "is" is a verb, whereas li is not. It is a particle that introduces a verb, regardless of whether the sentence would be translated with "is". For example:
I (›) am good.
ona li pona
ona li pona.
They › are good.
ona li pona e ijo
ona li pona e ijo.
They › improve » something.
It is more consistent to say that "to be good" and "improve" are both translations of pona. This pattern is true of all content words.
References[edit | edit source]
- Word Origins. Archived from the original on 2 November 2019. Toki Pona.
- Franklin, Karl J. (1980). The particles ‘i’ and ‘na’ in Tok Pisin. Kivung. 12 (2): 134-144.
- Tung, Cindy (2014). Grammaticalization in Tok Pisin. Lingua Frankly. 2 (1). doi:10.6017/lf.v2i1.5419
- Verhaar, J. W. M. (1991). The Function of I in Tok Pisin. Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages. 6 (2): 231–266. doi:10.1075/jpcl.6.2.04ver.
- Lang, Sonja (2014). Toki Pona: The Language of Good. Tawhid. ISBN 978-0978292300. OCLC 921253340. p. 56.
- Lang, Sonja (2021). Toki Pona Dictionary. Illustrated by Vacon Sartirani. Tawhid. ISBN 978-0978292362. p. 10.
- jan Misali. (14 December 2015). "12 Days of sona pi toki pona Day Two: Sentence Structure". jan Misali [@HBMmaster]. YouTube.
- jan Juli. (23 September 2022). "nasin toki pona". GitHub. Retrieved 10 November 2023.
Further reading[edit | edit source]
Resources[edit | edit source]
- Toki Pona: The Language of Good: Lessons 2–5
- jan Kekan San: Actions with li
- jan Lentan: Lessons 1–4
- jan Misali (2022): what is toki pona? (toki pona lesson one)
- soweli Tesa: Lesson 2
- nasin toki pona: the particle li
- Jonathan Gabel: Basic Sentences
Resources for historical usage[edit | edit source]
- jan Sonja (2002): Lesson 1
- jan Pije (2014): Lesson 3
- jan Misali (2015): Day Two: Sentence Structure
- jan Pije (2020): Lesson 3