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.

Design

Toki Pona is semantically, lexically, and phonetically minimalist. The simplest and fewest parts are used to create the maximum effect. The entire language uses only 120 words and 14 letters of the alphabet.

Each word has been carefully selected to cover a broad range of meanings. For example, kili means any fruit or vegetable, which includes turnips, kumquats and even lingonberries. A lipu is any document, whether a printed book, postcard or clay tablet. A jan (pronounced ‘yan’) is any human being, regardless of whether they are Muslim or atheist, black or white, rich or poor.

In many ways, Toki Pona resembles a pidgin. When people from different cultures need to communicate, they must focus on the elements that are most universal to our human experience.

Toki Pona offers a path for semantic reduction. Just as we can rewrite a mathematical fraction like 4/8 as 1/2, we can distill our thoughts to their most fundamental units to discover what things really mean. We can understand complex ideas in terms of their smaller parts.

An inherent idea of goodness is transparent throughout the language. The expression for friend literally means ‘good person’. Happiness is ‘feel good’. Toki Pona itself means ‘good language’ or ‘simple language’.

Although the vocabulary and grammar are very simple, the language does contain a few essential syntax rules to keep a sentence together. For example, the particle li separates the subject from the verb.

Limitations

By being so general and vague, Toki Pona often lacks the ability to distinguish finer shades of meaning. For example, by grouping every possible bird species into the single word waso, we eliminate the need to learn hundreds of vocabulary items. However, we are also left incapable of distinguishing between eagles and chickens. The closest translations might be ‘strong bird’ (waso wawa) and ‘stupid bird’ (waso nasa).

Toki Pona has a rather narrow range of functions. Although it is very easy to meditate and communicate honest thoughts and everyday activities in Toki Pona, it is impossible to translate a chemical textbook or legal document in the language without significant losses. Such texts are products of the complex, modern civilization we live in and are not suited for a cute, little language like Toki Pona.

As an artistic language with limited means of expression, Toki Pona does not strive to convey every single facet and nuance of human communication. Nevertheless, the results we can achieve with so few elements prove to be very interesting, if not spiritually insightful.

resources =

Toki Pona dictionary https://www.amazon.com/Toki-Pona-Dictionary-Official/dp/0978292367

communities ===

Toki Pona Reddit https://www.reddit.com/r/tokipona/

toki pona discord servers

ma pona pi toki pona (~3000 members)
Focus: the hub with the most vitality kulupu pona (~600 members)
Focus: Toki Pona ma toki pona (~100 members)
Focus: Toki Pona only

toki pona project discord servers

lipu tenpo (~300 members)
Focus: Readers and staff of the lipu tenpo publication lipu kule (~60 members)
Focus: Readers and staff of the lipu kule publication

Conlang Critic (~1900 members)
Focus: home of conlang YouTuber jan Misali and many Toki Pona speakers the land of immersion (~150 members)
Focus: Learning languages, including Toki Pona, through immersion

telegram

toki pona Telegram links kulupu sin pona toki pona - jan pi wile pona taso

wikipesija

lipu Wikipesija

spaced-repetition anki flashcards

toki pona alfabet

9 consonants; j, k, l, m, n, p, s, t, w 5 vowels: a, e, i, o, u

words

mi: I, me, us sina: you ona: he, she, they, it li: (between subj. and verb/adj.) pona: good, simple, to improve, to fix ike: bad, evil, complex, unnecessary suli: big, great, important, to grow lili: small, few, young, to shrink kili: fruit, vegetable, mushroom soweli: land mammal, animal :::