From sona pona
    mu in sitelen pona
    mu in sitelen sitelen
    A cat in Japan 20090102 01.jpg
    Usage 2023: Core (99% ↗ )
    2022: Core (97%)
    Book and era nimi pu
    Part of speech Particle, content word
    Codepoint 󱤹 U+F1939

    mu is a word used for animal noises and other onomatopoeia.

    pu[edit | edit source]

    Toki Pona: The Language of Good defines mu as a particle, possibly because it can serve as an interjection.

    PARTICLE  (animal noise or communication)

    However, in the example sentences, it is clearly treated as a regular content word.

    mu alignment[edit | edit source]

    mu alignment chart

    What counts as mu varies from speaker to speaker. It is very common to refer to some noises as mu that aren't animal vocalizations. Some factors may be more or less important to a speaker, but a multi-dimensional spectrum is possible for how mu gets distinguished from kalama, with overlap between the different factors.

    Widening the semantic space of mu should involve asking "why and how do animals make noises, and when might non-animals behave similarly?"

    Origin[edit | edit source]

    The pu definition clearly lists the origin as being from an animal. However, this can be expanded on or even ignored. Animals, or beings and things that are close to the concept of animals, may make sounds which are mu—but what if a sound does not come from an animal and shares some characteristics with other representations of mu? What if the origin is not an animal, but shares something in common with animals?

    Animacy[edit | edit source]

    While animacy might not be an inherent concept to all or most words in Toki Pona, speakers might still attribute mu to living things, or emphasize that the origin might be alive, or things that are close in concept to living—such as machines, fire, or anything with googly eyes on it.

    Duration[edit | edit source]

    A noise going on forever tends to become background noise, whereas short noises are more likely to catch our attention and become mu.

    Identification[edit | edit source]

    mu sounds tend to be specific to the point that they may be connected to a unique concept of origin when heard without seeing the origin. Unless you have the experience, the sound of a tree falling in a forest can make all sorts of sounds that may not be characteristic enough to tie them to the tree, but an alarm clock noise and ribbits are much easier to get a connection with.

    Intent[edit | edit source]

    Changes in our soundscape often demand our attention. While most living things are able to make a noise of some form, not all sounds are produced with a goal to be perceived. If such a goal seems to exist, it might be a mu. In the technological world, many sounds have been created with the goal to be perceived. The exact source of the agency may be blurry. Echoes are reflections of sounds from boundaries, but you may be the one causing the echo, and even if you didn't intend there to be an echo, you'll hear your intent to cause a specific sound getting reflected back. A warning sound on your computer might not be something you think of the computer willing into existence, but the intent comes from the programming of the device, which a programmer put decisions into.

    Message[edit | edit source]

    While mu denotes sounds that aren't language on their own, they're still a form of communication. So if a message can be understood, it may be a mu. The most basic things of what mu can communicate are presence and a more precise location.

    Messages may be derived despite of lack of actual meaning. A rock falling into water and making a funny noise may still tell you something about the comedic effect of that specific sound, or you may imagine the water making silly sounds on purpose as if it likes to tell jokes.

    Melodicity[edit | edit source]

    Some speakers prefer to think of mu as being sounds that are distinct tones or even progressions of tones. Here, pure white noise would tend to not be mu, but an electronic buzzer with a specific frequency would roughly get closer in form to how a birdsong sounds.