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The phonology of Toki Pona is the set of phonemes (speech sounds) that speakers distinguish between. Phonotactics describe the ways phonemes can be arranged.

Consonants[edit | edit source]

jan, pronounced by kala Asi. An English pronunciation respelling would be YAHN.

There are nine consonant phonemes. Most of the consonants are intuitive to English speakers.

The j phoneme is pronounced like English Y, as it is in "fjord" and "hallelujah". This is also its value in languages like German (ja) and Swedish (hej då). The letter j was originally an i with a swash tail, and it is helpful to think of it as such in Toki Pona.

Consonant phonemes with audio[a]
Labial[b] Coronal[c] Dorsal[d]
Nasal m
Stop p
Fricative s
Approximant w

Consonants are only distinguished by place and manner of articulation. Qualities like voicing and aspiration do not make a difference. For example, p t k can be pronounced as voiced [b d ɡ] if need be, so [doɡi bona] is a valid pronunciation of toki pona.[1]

Vowels[edit | edit source]

Vowel chart

There are five vowel phonemes. Many natural languages, like Spanish and Japanese, have similar five-vowel systems.

Vowel phonemes with audio
Front Back
Close i
Mid e
Open a
This subject or style relates to Toki Pona: The Language of Good.

According to Toki Pona: The Language of Good, the vowels are ideally more centered than their default values in the International Phonetic Alphabet. a is centralized to [ä],[e] and e o are lowered to mid [e̞ o̞].[f][2] Regardless, these are just the centers of these vowels' ranges. Vowel qualities that are close enough will be accepted.

Allophones[edit | edit source]

Under construction This section needs work. If you know about this topic, you can help us by editing it. (See all)

The tokiponization guidelines suggest some recognizable allophones:

  • [v] becomes w, but its unvoiced equivalent [f] becomes p.
  • Uvular and velar consonants are allophones of k.
  • The rhotic consonants correspond to multiple Toki Pona phonemes. Tapped [ɾ] or trilled [r] becomes l. The English R sound, an often labialized approximant [ɹ⁽ʷ⁾], instead becomes w. As above, the French or German R becomes k.
  • Dental fricatives can become t or s.
  • Affricates are allophones of fricatives.
  • Voiceless laterals become s.

Here is an attempt to chart this information:

Allophones of pulmonic consonants
(voiceless · voiced)
Labial Dental Alveolar Palatal (Post)velar
Nasal m n
Plosive p t k
Trill, tap, or flap l
Fricative or affricate p · w t~s s
Approximant w j
Lateral s · l

See also[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Consonant audio samples are pronounced with a vowel /a/ for demonstration.
  2. Articulated with the lips
  3. Articulated with the tip of the tongue
  4. Articulated with the back of the tongue
  5. Between front [a] and back [ɑ]
  6. Between close-mid [e o] and open-mid [ɛ ɔ]

References[edit | edit source]

Original text related to this article:
English Wikipedia has an article on
Toki Pona phonology.
  1. Lang, Sonja. (25 May 2014). Toki Pona: The Language of Good. Tawhid. ISBN 978-0978292300. OCLC 921253340. p. 16.
  2. pu, p. 15.