|Usage||2023: Core (99% ↗ )|
2022: Core (98%)
|Book and era||nimi pu|
|Part of speech||Particle|
Function[edit | edit source]
jan pona mute
jan pona mute
many good people
The particle pi marks the following word as a new head, which takes its own modifiers.
jan pi(pona mute)
jan pi pona mute
very good person
The effect is similar to hyphenating adjectives in English. For this reason, pi needs to be followed by at least two content words. The particle is not needed if there is only one word following it.
tomo telo nasa
tomo telo nasa
strange water room (the room is watery and weird)
tomo pi(telo nasa)
tomo pi telo nasa
strange-water room (the liquid is weird and the room is described by that weird liquid)
It is not possible to close a pi phrase, beyond using another particle or preposition or ending the sentence. Modifiers that apply to the first word but not to the words after pi are instead moved before the pi phrase:
jan pi(pana sona-ike)
jan pi pana sona ike
teacher of who does a bad job of it (literally, "badly-knowledge-giving person")
jan-ike pi(pana sona)
jan ike pi pana sona
teacher who is a bad person (literally, "bad, knowledge-giving person")
Multiple pi phrases[edit | edit source]
Even though it is not defined in pu, some speakers use multiple pi phrases modifying a single phrase. This carries a risk of ambiguity as to whether the second pi is contained within the first or not. For example, in the following sentence, it is unclear whether the book written in English or the information is about the English language.
lipu pi(sona mute) pi(toki [ijo ni li ike])
lipu pi sona mute pi toki Inli
English much-knowledge book
The two possible structures are:
- Flat pi
- Nested pi
In his lessons, jan Lope argues that, similarly to other particles when reduplicated, such as li and e, both pi phrases equally apply to the first word in the phrase rather than nesting. As an example, he gives:
kulupu pi(kalama musi) pi(ma [ijo ni li ike]) li pona
kulupu pi kalama musi pi ma Inli li pona.
The English rock band is good.
There is ambiguity about whether it refers to an English band that plays some sort of music or a band from somewhere that plays English music. There is no consensus on this matter, and in practice both interpretations are possible. In fact, many speakers want it to be ambiguous so that clearer phrasing is used instead.
Using a single word between the pi does prevent the ambiguity, as the flat structure would contain an invalid single-word pi phrase. However, if you feel the need to stack this many modifiers, you might be better off rephrasing the phrase into a sentence:
kiwen pi(soweli pi kute suli)
kiwen pi soweli pi kute suli
big-eared animal rock
kiwen ni li sama soweli pi(kute suli)
kiwen ni li sama soweli pi kute suli.
This rock is like a big-eared animal.
soweli pi(kute suli) li lawa e kiwen ni
soweli pi kute suli li lawa e kiwen ni.
The big-eared animal owns this rock.
Misconceptions[edit | edit source]
pi is not "of"[edit | edit source]
Some dictionaries, most notably the one featured in pu, define the word pi as meaning "of". This is misleading, as most senses of "of" don't translate into pi. This was acknoledged in the section "Notes on lipu pu" of the Toki Pona Dictionary.
the language good
It may be more helpful to think of every modifier as having an implied "of" before it:
kala utala suli
kala utala suli
fish fighting bigness
Possession[edit | edit source]
pi is not a possessive particle. It does not necessarily indicate ownership or translate the English suffix -'s, also known as the Saxon genitive. Any adjective can be interpreted as indicating possession regardless of the presence or absence of pi. pi serves the same purpose in a possessive context as it does in any other: to separate a group of modifiers from those preceding them.
In this case, the word ona could name the owner of the house, and there is no pi.
tomo pi(jan [ale luka uta])
tomo pi jan Alu
jan Alu's house
Here, jan Alu owns the house; pi is used to separate the phrase jan Alu from the word tomo, preventing confusion. This is only because jan Alu is a multi-word modifier, and ona is a single-word modifier.
tomo ona ale
tomo ona ale
all their houses; all houses belonging to them
tomo pi(ona ale)
tomo pi ona ale
all-of-them house; house belonging to all of them
Possession is one of many possible interpretations of pi: what comes after pi simply modifies, describes, qualifies, or alters what comes before it.
pin't[edit | edit source]The use of the word pi is controversial. Many speakers believe it feels too engineered for Toki Pona's natural design, it creates more complexity and misconceptions than it is worth, and it encourages learners to find "the phrase" for any given word.
Prepositions and preverbs in pi phrases[edit | edit source]
It happens that a pi phrase can be interpreted as being a prepositional phrase or having a preverb, like a predicate.
Though it is not obvious how to harmonize this usage with the standard way in which pi is used, presented above, these sentences remain comprehensible to many.mi toki tawa ilo pi(lon poka mi).
mi toki tawa ilo pi lon poka mi.
I spoke to the machine [that] was next to me.
Notes[edit | edit source]
- Some speakers
References[edit | edit source]
- Lang, Sonja (2021). Toki Pona Dictionary. Illustrated by Vacon Sartirani. Tawhid. ISBN 978-0978292362. p. 8.
- Example from jan Pije's lesson on pi.
- jan Lope [jan-Lope]. "Toki Pona - Lessons and Dictionary". GitHub. Retrieved 8 November 2023.
- jan Kepe. (15 July 2023). "Nasi". utala musi pi ma pona. Retrieved 13 November 2023.
[edit | edit source]
Resources[edit | edit source]
- Toki Pona: The Language of Good: Lesson 11
- jan Kekan San: Modifiers and pi
- jan Lentan: Lesson 9
- soweli Tesa: Lesson 6
- nasin toki pona: the particle pi
- Jonathan Gabel: Descriptions and Possesives