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My adventures with learning Toki Pona

Page history last edited by Dave Raftery 10 years, 4 months ago



5 March


lon - in, at, on (Location)

kepeken - using, with (Instrumental)

tawa - to for towards, until

sama - like, as, seem

tan - because of, from, by, since (Causation)

poka - beside, with (Proximity)


8 Oct 10

'en' is just fine with 'pi' (and Sonja did some runs on ambiguities and how to avoid them -- generally don't get into thing too complex) and indeed everywhere except at the head of DOs and VPs. In those places, for the divisive "and" you use repeated 'e' and 'li' respectively. So, 'en' in those slots clearly mean compound "and". But in other places, including in in modifiers (hence always with 'pi'), 'en' can mean either one and there is no way, outside context, to decide which it is. I suspect that you are right that repeating the modifier here makes it more clearly divisive, but there are no guarantees. As usual, though, not collapsing at all is better in tp than collapsing, which is part of the reason that it is so hard to do clearly.


6 Oct 10

lon and awen - 'lon' is a preposition (class P), meaning "at" and taking a noun phrase as its complement (where things are at). When the noun phrase is omitted, the assumed complement is Reality (as currently defined in the conversation) and so, as a modifier or intransitive verb, it means "true, real, correct" depending on the context (as always). As a transitive verb it means "cause to be at" so "place at/in/on". While it is possible to use the transitive form (with a direct object after 'e') along with the noun phrase complement, the usual thing to do is move the complement to the end with another 'lon' (or, usually, tawa' because of the directive nature of causality).
'awen' is a modal (class M), a verb that takes a verb phrase as complement. It means "continue, keep on" with whatever the verb phrase says. It's like inertia: what is moving keeps on moving, what is resting keeps on resting. Without the complement, it means "remain, stay, continue, not change" and so on, hence the modifier meaning of "permanent, enduring, stable" and the like. So, 'lon' is used to describe putting something somewhere, 'awen' to describe its staying there. As a transitive verb (without the complement), it means "cause to stay" and so variously "preserve, keep, imprison, fasten" and the like.


29 Sept 10

Many jan Sonja examples follow the pattern of any of those language with 20-50 or fewer verbs-- usually Papua New Guinea or Australian languages where one doesn't swim, but "takes a swim", one doesn't exhale, "one gives a breath", one doesn't inhale, "one takes a breath" and so on, thus allowing most verbs to collapse into a give/take/have/etc plus a stereotypical complement for such an action.


'kon' as an intransitive verb means "breathe" (as a vt it should mean "breathe in").
General word for "clean" is 'pona'.


26 Sept 10

Kin modifies (intensifies) the word before it. When kin modifies the entire sentence, it would either be post verb or in a la fragment. I prefer moving what can be moved to the la fragment when possible.
kin la mi tawa ma pi toki pona. Indeed, I went to Canada.
mi kin tawa ma pi toki pona. I, too, went to Canada.

The rules: 'kin' goes after the word stressed for adding to, confirming, or correcting previous statements -- and in front if the whole sentence is of that sort. Similarly 'taso' goes after the word whose exclusivity is proclaimed: 'mi taso li wile ute e ona' (jan ante li ala), 'mi wile taso ute e ona' (taso mi pali e ijo ala tawa ona) and so on.


26 May

My own TP common use words


9 May

I need to learn the TP alphabet (a, e, i,  j, k, l, m, n, o, p, s, t, u, w)  and what letters are not in it.



25 March

I need to make a list of words that are used with the conditional 'la' and what they mean; such as 'sin la' = again.

Origins of TP words

15 March

'awen e sona' = 'remember'; 'lon poka' = "near";  'poka' alone is "with" (accompaniment). The 'ni:' expects (but probably doesn't require?) a complete sentence.


6 Feb

There are a few words which I am mispronouncing (to myself); I need to stop pronouncing them like English.

insa - eensa

kon - cone

lon - loan

monsi - moansee

musi - moo see


1 Feb 2010

I need to remember that 'I speak to people' or 'I speak words'; I can't 'speak people'. 'My house exists' is 'tomo mi li lon'. I must not animate inanimate objects; don't say 'the wall has cracks', instead say 'cracks are in the wall'.


28 Jan

I learned today that sickness or disease is 'ike sijelo' (badness of the body) and not 'sijelo ike' (bad body).  Be careful of using english metaphors that may not be understood by other language speakers.

I've created a page to hold Notes on TP words.


25 Jan 2010

I forgot about using 'pi' as 'about'.  When I say 'mi pilin sina' I don't need 'pi'. When I say 'mi pilin pi jan pona' I need to put 'pi' in the sentence.


26 Dec

Some interesting posts on this blog - checklists, polite speech and some ideas on why TP is so popular.


15 Dec

Interesting posts on verb phrases and clauses and tp canon and converting words.


18 Nov

To look at = lukin tawa. To look for = wile lukin e. To look like = lukin sama.


15 Nov

Keep a daily journal, in TP. Get a notebook, and every day, write about a half-page of text in TP. You don't have to create deathless prose or profound poetry, so any text will do. Describe your room, your surroundings, your family, your childhood, your rants and raves on the topics and news stories of the day. Paraphrase or record from memory an example conversation from Pije's lessons. Write anything, but write every day.


Write in TP, on the first draft. Don't write your thoughts out in English, then translate from there. Instead, think out your sentence in English if you have to, then write a draft translation in TP. Reread you TP, and revise as necessary to polish it up. Eventually, you'll be able to think directly in TP.


4 Nov

"how', either as a statement or question, is 'kepeken nasin seme'. Whether this can be used as a condition before 'la' is still an open issue.

Learning from my TP mistakes


2 Nov 09

'lon' as a transitive verb means 'put in place'.  A lon B [e C]: A does x [to C,as a result] C is in situation B.  If C is not mentioned, it is A.  If B is not mentioned, it is reality, existence, truth. If x is mentioned it becomes the main verb and lon B goes to the end. (need to study this more)

Remember to put the prepositional phrase at the end of the sentence.


28 Oct

The sentence construction 'e ni:'  is pretty much for indirect discourse.

Again "put/place A  in/at  B" is 'lon B e A'

'x nimi pi y' means (I think) "x is the word for/name of y" so the word (expression here) needs to go first.


20 Oct

There is no passive in tp -- folks have got to take responsibility: no "Mistakes were made," only "We made mistakes"

Aesthetics: if 'ni' refers to another sentence, it is nice to put it close to that sentence. So, if the explanation/cause comes first then 'tan ni la' to introduction consequent. But if it follows then 'tan ni:' at the end.


6 Oct

Be consistent when talking about people so the reader is not confused; specifically family members: daughter - meli lili mi and wife - meli mi.  'Ice' would be translated as 'telo lete kiwen'.  'Game' sould be 'utala musi'.  Be careful with using a direct object after 'tawa'; if there is a direct object, it means you are moving that object (not moving to it).


14 Sept

'pi' means 'treat the following words as one noun'.


7 Sept

ona li tawa ma. ona li pali e pona. = He goes about doing good  [Should be 'ona li tawa lon ma' = moves about in the country, not travels to the country]

mi mute li wile e ni: mi mute li pali e pona = We should all want to do good


2 Sept

I finished translating all 76 of Eliazar's Spanish TP lessons into English. The English version is available here.


27 August

What I learned today:

Moli means dead; to say someone died, use kama moli.

The idiom 'sona e' translates as 'means'.

The idiom 'sin la' can mean 'yet again' or 'to start afresh'.

To say 'I cry' in TP it is 'mi pana e telo oko'. I emit eye water. The order of 'telo oko' is important.  'oko telo' would be wrong because I can't emit watery eyes!

I speak words. I cannot speak children. I can speak to children.

I cannot speak time (mi toki e tenpo). I can speak words about time (mi toki e nimi sike tenpo).

When used with 'tawa', 'lon' is the location of the action not the place toward which it moves.

I finished translating lesson 56 today. 20 more to go! (plus appendix)


10 August

Excellent overview of TP.


4 August

TP does not allow multiple clauses in a sentence. You can't say "I think that I will get a haircut". You have to say "I think this: I will get a haircut".  To do this you need the 'e ni:' structure.


mi pilin e ni: mi wile moku = I think this: I want food = I think that I want to eat.

mi sona e ni: toki pona li toki lili = I know this: TP is a small language = I know that TP is a small language.

mi wile kama sona e toki pona tan ni: ona li pona tawa mi.

I want to learn TP because of this: it is good to me = I want to learn TP because I like it.


supa can mean any horizontal surface, in addition to furniture.

sinpin can mean any vertical surface, in addition to face or torso.


24 July

I am trying to translate Eliazar Parra Cardenas'  ''TP in 76 Illustrated Lessons' from Spanish into English. I have completed the first 30 lessons.


17 July

There is a general rule to the effect that a transitive verb taken as a noun means the generic for the thing that is the object, 'pali' as noun means something like 'manufactured item,'  'work' in that sense.

Sonja promises that 'esun' is going to verb out as 'buy' and/or 'sell'.


10 July

Still trying to get my head around this zero copula thing with TP.  I have been told that most world languages just say 'me human' or 'mi jan' in TP. I can't use 'lon' in that sentence or it would mean 'I am at a human'.

Be careful where I put 'kin' - it emphasizes the word immediately before it.


5 July

If I say ' tomo tawa kon li tawa lon sewi', I have to include the 'lon' before sky.

I must be careful using 'nimi Dave' and 'jan Dave'. A name is a word; a person (what is named) is not a word.

'kama pona tawa ni' means 'welcome (to) here'.

I need to remember that taso = only and kin = also.


1 July

I have to be aware of comparisons in TP. If I see a sentence end with 'mute' and the next sentence end with 'lili' there could be a comparison lurking there.

The common idiom for bank is tomo mani.

'jo' means contains as well as indicating ownership.

'lon' only means 'in' in a restricted sense of location.  When it comes to locations that have insides, lon may work or it may not. 'lon insa' is better.


29 June

I have to remember the formula for using pi:  noun pi noun adjective. There have to be at least 2 words after pi or else I can't use it. I also got confused when using mi mute and ona mute. I was using mute to stress that it was a group of people (plural). But I mixed up the 1st person and 3rd person a few times. I learned that kulupu (or almost any word in TP) can be used as a verb: to form a group. 'ma lili' can mean state or province.


24 June

I've learned a lot the past two days from a helpful member of the Yahoo TP Group commenting on my TP blog. Some points are:

The basic structure of a tp sentence is Condition la Subject li Verb e Object  Prepositional-Phrase, where P-P is adverbial.

lon when used as a preposition, modifies the verb, not the nearest noun

Be careful when using 'lon' to mean 'on' versus 'using'. If I mean 'using', use kepeken.

After a preposition if you have two objects you need to use 'en'. The separator 'e' is only used after a verb.

Almost every sentence needs the separator 'li' unless the subject is mi or sina.

I need to study the idioms for time.

You cannot say "it is hot" in tp; you have to say "seli li lon".

'ona' is an anaphoric pronoun, it picks up an earlier reference, 'ona' replaces a repetition of a noun phrase already used in the conversation.  If it was never specified in a noun phrase, but only described (say) in the conversation, use 'ni'.

There is at least one exception to this: 'ona li toki e ni:...' "they say that ...' - the indefinite source usage.

kulupu can be used as a verb 'to gather'; sitelen can be used as a verb 'to take a picture'.


1 June

I have started writing on My TP Blog


20 May

Some idioms:

ni li lon = this is true

tenpo sike ni = around this time

ilo nanpa = computer

ilo sona = computer

len pi ilo sona = internet (fabric of computers)

ken la = maybe

tenpo sike pi kon tawa mute = the year of the hurricane

I am just going to start writing in tp and correct mistakes as I go along, just like I would write an English term paper or letter.



16 May

I am making progress at TP. I am learning the additional meanings for words beyond what was given in the basic TP 

lessons. I thought I understood that TP has no word for 'to be' and what that meant, but it has dawned on me that it is really difficult to get my head around this concept. I started with some simple sentences such as 'I am smart' and 'I am a teacher' and tried to translate into TP. I really do have to change my ordinary way of thinking and think outside the box. 

I know li is one of the separators in TP and is used between the third person subject and the verb. But it also does more than that. Li turns the following word into a verb. So it is not just a passive separator; it transforms words too. Thanks to Matthew Martin for this insight.

Clauses: In TP you can't say 'I want you to go away'; you have to say 'I want this: you go away'. Thhis concept hasn't really sunk in yet either.

Today I also rearranged this web page into reverse chronilogical order.


25 April

I was sitting at a mall today waiting for my wife and daughter who were in a store. I was trying to describe/think what I was looking at in TP.

You can't say 'I like something' in TP. Apparently there is no word for 'like'.  You have to say 'something is good to me'. I read this in the lesson, but it finaly dawned on me today.


21 April

One kind vistor to this site sent me a note about Mnemosyne which is a flash card learning program. There is a set of TP cards which can be loaded into the program. Mnemosyne allows the user to grade himself on how well he knows each word and the program uses AI algorithms to determine when to ask the user that word again. I like the porgram and use it while I am at my computer. I stilll have my paper index flash cards that I carry in my pocket when I am away from my desk.


14 April

As I mentioned in my last post, although tp only has 120 words, each of those words can have a lot of meanings. This makes learning how to read and write in tp more difficult than it would seem. I am still finding reading on-line tp posts to be difficult.  In addition to trying to learn all these meanings, I am studying the thematic vocabulary on the tp website to learn common phrases and see how root words are used together.


3 April

I'll be going back and adding additional meanings to the words on my flash cards. The lessons give the basic meanings, but the vocabulary list adds additional meanings. For instance, I knew lawa means 'main, head, to lead' but I didn't know it also means 'to control, to steer'.


1 April

I have now learned 106 words. I am trying to write simple tp sentences each day. Doing this brings up basic questions which I ask help with. Each tp word has multiple meanings. I have just learned the basic ones; now I am learning more of the meanings for tp words. I am also trying to read and translate some tp postings each day. It is very confusing at this point.


31 March

I joined toki lili shoutem.

Afternoon or evening - tenpo pi suno anpa - 'time the sun goes down'


24 March

I've finished studying lesson 17 and my vocabulary is now at 90 words. I'm good on the TP to English flash cards but I need more work going the other way.  I'm finishing up my English to TP dictionary and will post it here shortly. I want to start writing in TP a litle bit each day and the English to TP dictionary should come in handy.  Writing in TP  will also force me to go back and look up how to say things in the lessons.  I also want to do some translating of TP messages on the Yahoo maiing list into English. Now I just have to put in the time to make the language mine. I emailed Sonja yesterday to get notified when her TP book comes out this year.


9 March

I'm studying lesson 7 again. Need to get these prepositions down. I've learned 68 words so far; I'm over half way there!


8 March

I'm getting confused about clauses. TP doesn't have clauses, I read. But it does have prepositional phrases? I need to figure this out. I want to start writing out some sentences, but I need to know more vocabulary before I really start writing in TP. Will need to keep the dicionary / word list close at hand.


Another confusing thing is that the same words can be used for nouns, verbs and modifiers. From the Wikipedia article: "roots do not fall into well defined parts of speech; rather, they may generally be used as nouns, verbs, or modifiers, depending on context or their position in a phrase. For example, ona li moku may mean "they ate" or "it is food"".

My notes on TP lessons 

TP parts of speech


6 March

Made another 15 flash cards today.


5 March

Started lesson 8 today, studying negation and yes/no questions. This is easier to understand than the prepositions. I'll need to go back later after I finish the course and study lessons 6 and 7 again.


3 March

Working on lesson 7. Remember that anpa, insa, monsi, and sewi are not prepositions; they need a verb with them. I have learned 56 words as of today. Suli and sewi are confusing me a bit.


2 March 09 

The prepositions (en, kepeken, lon, sama, tan, tawa) can also be content words.

I need to study the common phrases on the TP website. I read today that it is possible to become fluent in TP in less than a month. Let's see if I can do it! These combined verbs and prepositions are hard to wrap my head around. Let's see if I can list them: kepeken - v use, using, prep using tawa - vi going or going to, prep to or for, vt to move kama - cause or bring about kama tawa - came kama jo - get


28 Feb 09

I created my own TP website. Is this a good word for the internet: kulupu pi ilo sona - community knowledge tool ? (Should be: ilo pi sona kulupu)

TP does not use clauses, so it is necessary to use simple sentences. What is the difference using a prepositional phrase? I guess that is not a clause?

Created a page for my own TP draft sentences.


27 Feb 09

Made another 20 flash cards today. Working on lesson 6 about prepositions lon, kepeken and tawa. I learned the TP words for boat today - tomo tawa telo. Since I like sailboats, I can now say tomo tawa telo kon - constructed thing moving water wind.


25 Feb 09

I have learned 40 words as of today; I'm 1/3 of my way through learning the vocabulary! I have to make some more flash cards tomorrow. Even though this language only has 120 words, it seems most can be nouns, verbs and modifiers, each with a slightly different meaning. It is getting confusing! I know I should concentrate on the roots. I think it would be helpful to me to have an English to TP dictionary. I have started taking the TP to English vocabulary list and have begun to "reverse engineer" it. I will post it here when I am done.


24 Feb 09

I found 3 words that are similar and I was having a heck of a time memorizing them. So I tried some whacky nemonics to help me remember them.

suli big, tall, long, important Sulu on Star Trek was an important crew member
sewi high, superior, sky I say sewi, sewi, sewi to the bird
seli warm, hot, to burn Celsius thermometer


23 Feb 09

I made another 15 flashcards. Presently I have learned 30 TP words. I have completed up through lesson 5 of the online TP lessons. I'm going to have to add parts of speech to my flashcards (transitive verb, intransitive verb, modifier, preposition); this should help me understand the words better. I can see there are a lot of common expressions that I will have to learn as well, although they do make sense.


21 Feb 09

Using my flashcards, I have memorized 25 TP words so far. I have found a lot of great TP links on the net. I found a couple of lists of TP words; one has simple definitions, the other show parts of speech for each word.


19 Feb 09

Joined Yahoo TP group and found some more links to TP info on internet. Bought a package of index cards; made 10 more flash cards today. I have memorized about 15 words so far. I am trying to associate words with real world objects around me.


Found this list of TP words in one place; now I can see exactly how much I have to memorize: a, akesi, ala, ale (ali), anpa, ante, anu, awen, e, en ijo, ike, ilo, insa, jaki, jan, jelo, jo, kala, kalama, kama, kasi, ken, kepeken, kili, kin, kiwen, ko, kon, kule, kute, kulupu, la, lape, laso, lawa, len, lete, li, lili, linja, lipu, loje, lon, luka, lukin, lupa, ma, mama, mani, meli, mi, mije, moku, moli, monsi, mu, mun, musi, mute, nanpa, nasa, nasin, nena, ni, nimi, noka, o, oko, olin, ona, open, pakala, pali, palisa, pana, pi, pilin, pimeja, pini, pipi, poka, poki, pona, sama, seli, selo, seme, sewi, sijelo, sike, sin, sina, sinpin, sitelen, sona, soweli, suli, suno, supa, suwi, tan, taso, tawa, telo, tenpo, toki, tomo, tu, unpa, uta, utala, walo, wan, waso, wawa, weka, wile.


18 Feb 09

I first learned about TP today. I have never been any good at modern languages. I took several years of Spanish in high school but it never clicked. I did take 3 years of Latin which I really liked. TP seems like something I can learn, since it is simple, has a small vocabulary and has no irregular verbs. Learning it would just be a hobby. I might use it to write in my journal or converse on-line. Downloaded pdf lessons and read first 2 lessons. Made flash cards for 20 words.

Pronunciation - vowels are same as in Italian or Japanese - sushi, Mario, kenpo, spaghetti. j is pronounced like y.



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