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    Toki Pona's phonotactics, or rules for putting sounds together, are well defined. Unlike its phonology, knowing the phonotactics is not needed to speak the language orally, since the main set of words already adheres to them. It is most useful for creating names and nimi sin.

    An *asterisk marks a sequence that is not allowed phonotactically.

    Rules[edit | edit source]

    In its "Proper Names" lesson, pu lists the phonotactic rules in the following order.

    1. (C)V(n) syllable structure: "Each syllable consists of a consonant plus a vowel, plus an optional n."
    2. Null onset is word-initial only: "The first syllable of a word does not need to begin with a consonant."
      As a corollary, every syllable after the first does need to begin with a consonant, thus is CV(n). There are no adjacent vowels or diphthongs. The sequence ana is syllabified as a‧na (2 morae), not an‧a (3 morae).
    3. No *ti: "The syllables [*]ti and [*]tin become si and sin."
      This rule concerns palatalization.
    4. No *wo or *wu: "The consonant w cannot appear before o or u."
    5. No *ji: "The consonant j cannot appear before i."
      These two rules cover the same thing. *wo, *wu, and *ji are disallowed because the semivowel in the onset, w or j, can be hard to distinguish from the vowel. The syllables would sound too close to o, u, and i, respectively.

    At least one other rule is often noted:

    • No adjacent nasals.
      In sequences like *anna and *anma, the first syllable's coda -n would assimilate to the second syllable's onset nasal: respectively ana and ama.[a]

    Palatalization[edit | edit source]

    *ti is disallowed because of palatalization, a common sound shift that has occurred in many languages. An English example is the suffix "-tion", as in "motion". The /ti/ has been palatalized to /ʃ/, so it sounds like "-sion" as in "mission". For the same reason, *ti is changed to si.

    Because /k/ can also be palatalized[b], many languages merge [ki ti si]. There are no ki–si minimal pairs in the 120 nimi pu, and among all commonly used words, only kin can be mistaken for sin.

    wuwojiti[edit | edit source]

    Usage 2023: Uncommon (22% ↗ )
    2022: Rare (13%)
    Book and era No book (post-pu)
    Part of speech Content word
    Codepoint &#x; U+

    wuwojiti is a mnemonic for the disallowed syllables in Toki Pona phonotactics: *wu, *wo, *ji, *ti, and their equivalents with coda -n. Some less common nimi sin flout this rule, often as a joke.

    *wu(n) u(n) ^ wa(n)
    *wo(n) o(n) ^
    *ji(n) i(n) ^ je(n)
    *ti(n) si(n) te(n)

    ^ Word-initially

    Syllables[edit | edit source]

    This is a chart of all 92 syllables under Toki Pona phonotactics.

    Null coda a e i o u Coda -n[c] an en in on un
    j ja je jo ju jan jen jon jun
    k ka ke ki ko ku kan ken kin kon kun
    l la le li lo lu lan len lin lon lun
    m ma me mi mo mu man men min mon mun
    n na ne ni no nu nan nen nin non nun
    p pa pe pi po pu pan pen pin pon pun
    s sa se si so su san sen sin son sun
    t ta te to tu tan ten ton tun
    w wa we wi wan wen win

    Number of possible words[edit | edit source]

    The number of phonotactically allowed words, up to n syllables, is:

    That is:

    Syllables Range Count Running total
    1 a–win 92
    2 aja–winwin 6 624 6 716
    3 ajaja–winwinwin 476 928 483 644

    Notes[edit | edit source]

    1. Assimilation of coda -n is also responsible for words like anpa sometimes being pronounced like [ampa], and words like enko (an obscure nimi sin) being pronounced like [eŋko].
      As a result, coda -n is sometimes defined as [m ~ n ~ ŋ], unlike onset n- which is strictly [n].
    2. This is why the letter C, originally /k/, now has soft and hard sounds.
    3. Syllables with coda -n are 2 morae.

    See also[edit | edit source]