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Toki Pona's Spiritual Philosophy | nasin en tan pi toki pona

Posted on: 2021/11/20 | Author: Lian | jan Lijan

This article exists in two versions: One in English (toki Inli) and one in Toki Pona (toki Pona). Scroll down to read the toki pona version. (lipu ni lon toki pona li anpa lipu.)

English Version | lipu ni lon toki Inli

Toki Pona is a language that I have discovered many years ago. I speak Toki Pona pretty fluently and use it much like any other language. It's an artificial language built by Sonja Lang almost 20 years ago now that was made to work on just about 120 words total and still be completely functional. It's been adopted by many people all over the world and countless communities have formed around conversing in this language. Even Minecraft and the Telegram messenger have official translations to Toki Pona. To achieve that, Toki Pona relies on a pretty spiritual idea of simplicity: in order to efficiently communicate in Toki Pona, you have to cut down on the noise in your head, on the useless details that make natural languages complicated.

The (first) official Toki Pona book (Toki Pona: Language of Good) described this very aptly in its opening paragraphs:

"Modern languages are cluttered with complex ways to express the simplest things. What is a geologist but a 'person of earth knowledge'? Is there any useful difference between the words 'big', 'large' and 'huge'?
Toki Pona is a language that breaks down advanced ideas to their most basic elements. If you are hungry, you 'want eat'. To teach is to 'give knowledge'. This allows us to drastically reduce the vocabulary and grammatical structures needed to say what we have to say.
Simplify your thoughts. Less is more."

I feel like in recent times with the popularization of the language, people have continuously forgotten this key concept to understanding Toki Pona. There is a rather new sentiment floating around that the language had got to be "streamlined", which led to various movements towards introducing more words and more systems to the language to make it more usable in everyday conversation. An example of this is the "nimisin" (new-words) movement: introducing words prescriptively into the language to make it "easier to use". A more radical and centralized attempt at that is the project "toki ma" (world language), arrogantly proclaiming that it's a derivative of Toki Pona that's finally usable for real life complicated situations (as opposed to toki pona, according to them).

I am not per sé against the mutation of Toki Pona in some ways; for example, the release of the descriptivist "Toki Pona Dictionary" this year has surprised and delighted me a lot. I myself use many words that grew from dire need or public use like "tonsi" or "misikeke". After all, I am a descriptivist. But if movements towards alterations of Toki Pona proclaim that they need to extend the language to make it more "usable" in "real life situations", that's grating to me.

The entire point of Toki Pona is to simplify. It's almost like meditation. Toki Pona is a fully functional language for all situations if you adapt your thinking patterns to focus on the core of what you want to convey.

Why introduce words like "inpali" ('flower' in toki ma) when there is a perfectly usable construct of "kasi sewi" or "kasi pi lukin pona" ?

And even if we ignore the words that really didn't need to be new words in the first place as they could have been constructed with existing words easily, and just focus on the words with no or a difficult similar in toki pona: let's ask ourselves why we need a specific word for that!

There is a reason we don't have different words for flower, plant, cactus, grass, mushrooms and so on and so on. Why? Because toki pona words wonderfully through meaningful context.

Sure, in a vaccuum (like example sentences or abstract online conversations, or the heads of a toki ma speaker... I am kidding), some words are untranslatable. "These five freshly planted monstera plants are looking almost like a painting, but not the old, ugly fern next to it" is a sentence you cannot effortlessly translate to Toki Pona because there is no direct translation of "monstera plant" or "fern" or some of the more eloquent phrases there. But in any real situation, you would be able to convey the same thing easily relying on real world context: "kasi sin ni li lukin musi, taso kasi ante li musi ala" (This(These) new plant(s) is(are) looking artistic, but the other plant is not looking artistic.). Of course it loses meaning on a surface level, but that's the point: Toki Pona is meant to simplify your thoughts and communication while getting to the point. There is no situation in which you need 100% precise terms for everything; and even then you can rely on tokipona-izations from different languages (i.e. ilo Telekan = Telegram messenger)

People who are trying to extend Toki Pona do not get the idea and purpose of toki pona. And those who claim that the language is reductive and impossible to use, have not tried using it creatively and context-based before; after all, several very technical applications have been translated to it.

And the fact that this entire article works in Toki Pona too (see below) proves that it is a fully functional language even for abstract contexts. You just got to put in a little meditative work.

Toki Pona Version | lipu ni lon toki Pona

tenpo pini la mi kama sona e toki "toki pona". tenpo mute la mi kepeken e toki pona. mi toki sama e ni en toki ante.

toki pona li toki pali. tenpo pini pi sike ~20 la jan Sonja Lang li mama e toki ni. toki pona li toki nimi ~120. ni li nanpa lili, taso jan ale li ken kepeken e toki pona la ni. jan mute lon ma ni li toki e toki pona. tenpo ni la kulupu mute li kepeken e toki pona. a musi Manka en ilo Telekan li ken kepeken e toki pona.

toki pona li wile e ni: jan pi toki pona li pilin e nasin lawa insa. nasin ni li nasin pona: nasin pi toki insa lili.

pu li toki e ni:

"tenpo ni la toki ante li jo e nimi ike lon nasin pona. "geologist" li seme la ni li jan sona ma? 'big' en 'large' en 'huge' li nimi sama ala?
toki pona li toki pi pali e nasin ike tawa nasin pona. sina wile moku la 'wile moku': taso li 'hungry' ala. pana sona li 'pana sona'; taso li 'teach' ala. nasin ni la nanpa nimi li lili en pona.
o sina pona e toki insa. lili li pona." (ni li toki Inli lon pu. mi pali e ni tawa toki pona.)

mi pilin e ni: jan mute li sona e toki pona la jan pi toki pona li sona ala e tan pi toki pona. taso tan ni li suli mute kin! nasin namako ona li lon: "toki pona li wile nimi sin la jan li ken ala kepeken e toki pona lon tenpo ali. toki pona li ike la nanpa nimi li lili." kulupu mute pi tawa pali e "toki pona pona" li lon. kulupu sama ni wan li "nimisin": kulupu li pali tawa mama e nimi sin lon toki pona. kulupu ante li "toki ma". toki ma li toki pona, taso ona li jo e nimi mute. kulupu pi toki ma li pilin e ni: toki pona li jo e nimi lili la toki pona li ken ala e toki e nasin suli.

nimi sin pi toki pona li ike ala tawa mi. ku li pona mute tawa mi. mi kepeken e nimi ku: "tonsi", "misikeke", en nimi ante mute.
taso: kulupu pi "pona e toki pona" li ike mute tawa me.

tan pi toki pona li toki pona en toki pi pali lili kin! toki pona li sama e musi pi lawa pona. tenpo ali la: toki pona li toki kepeken mute kin la: sina sona e tan pi toki pona. tan seme la nimi "inpali" (ona li "kasi sewi" lon toki ma) li lon? nimi pona li lon: "kasi sewi", "kasi musi", "kasi pi lukin pona".

jan pi toki pona li ken ala kepeken nimi pi nasin ante ike; taso: tan seme la sina wile kepeken e nimi ni? nimi pi "flower" anu "cactus" anu "grass" anu "mushroom" li lon ala. tan seme la ni? nimi pi toki pona li pona la jan toki li sona e ijo toki lon tenpo toki.

tenpo pi ijo ala la toki pona li jo e nimi pi ken ala. taso: sina ken toki e nasin ni la sina kepeken e nimi pi ma tenpo toki. "These five freshly planted monstera plants are looking almost like a painting, but not the old, ugly fern next to it" li toki ike. taso: sina ken toki e toki ni la sina pilin e ma pi tenpo toki. "kasi sin ni li lukin musi, taso kasi ante li musi ala" li toki pi kon seme. toki pi toki Inli li jo e nasin suli la toki ni li jo e nasin lili. taso: tan pi toki pona li pilin pi lawa pona. nimi lili li nasin suli. tenpo ike la sina ken kepeken e nimi pi toki ante (sama: "ilo Telekan" -> "Telegram Messenger").

kulupu tawa "pona e toki pona" li sona ala e tan toki pona. jan li sona ala e toki pona la ona li pilin e ni: toki pona li ike en lili. jan ona li wile kepeken e musi pi toki pona. ilo sona mute li ken kepeken toki pona la toki pona li lili ala.

lipu ni li toki e toki pona la: toki pona li kepeken mute tawa tenpo ali. sina wile sona e nasin lawa pi toki pona.

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