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seme in sitelen pona
seme in sitelen sitelen
Pronunciation /ˈ
Usage 2023: Core (100% → )2022: Core (100%)
Book and era nimi pu
Part of speech Content word
Codepoint 󱥙 U+F1959

seme is a core interrogative content word, meaning "what?".

Etymology[edit | edit source]

The word seme is derived from Mandarin 什麼什么 (pinyin: shénme), meaning "what".[1]

Semantic space[edit | edit source]

seme is an interrogative pronoun that means "what?" or "which?", used to form general questions. It replaces the word or phrase in the sentence that the speaker wants information about. Unlike in English, seme does not move elsewhere in the sentence; word order is the same between statements and questions.

sina moku e seme

sina moku e seme?

What are you eating? (lit. 'You eat what?')

jan-seme li moku e kili

jan seme li moku e kili?

Who [which person] eats fruit?

The replacement rule is not always strict. In this example, answering mi could be understood as mi moku e kili (with the answer replacing the whole phrase jan seme), rather than jan mi li moku e kili (with the answer only replacing seme).

seme is often used as an interjection to express confusion.

seme a

seme a?![2]


pu[edit | edit source]

In the "Official Toki Pona Dictionary" section, the book Toki Pona: The Language of Good defines seme as:

PARTICLE  what? which?

ku[edit | edit source]

For Toki Pona Dictionary, respondents in ma pona pi toki pona translated these English words as seme:[3]

what5, which4, huh3

sitelen pona[edit | edit source]

The sitelen pona glyph for seme (󱥙) is derived from the Latin-script question mark (?). While some sitelen pona fonts give the question mark and seme different proportions, it looks just like a normal question mark in Sonja Lang's handwriting, and many other fonts follow suit. Because of this and the regularity of Toki Pona questions, question marks are unneeded in sitelen pona and can be mistaken for seme.

sitelen sitelen[edit | edit source]

The sitelen sitelen word glyph for seme (seme) is a circular shape containing one backwards S-shaped element and two smaller semicircular elements. The backwards S-shaped element is also found in the word glyph for anu and the glyph marking a question. It is based on a similar element found in Mi'kmaw hieroglyphic writing, where it appears in several passages expressing questions or indeterminacy.[4]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Word Origins". Archived from the original on 8 August 2002.
  2. jan Kekan San. (10 February 2023). "mi lon e ma" [I make a place exist] (in Toki Pona). jan Kekan San [@gregdan3d]. YouTube. Retrieved 27 November 2023.
  3. Lang, Sonja. (18 July 2021). Toki Pona Dictionary. Illustrated by Vacon Sartirani. Tawhid. ISBN 978-0978292362. p. 339.
  4. Jonathan Gabel. "sitelen sitelen acknowledgements and etymology". The website of Jonathan Gabel. Retrieved 9 April 2024.

Further reading[edit | edit source]